I really love vampires #fatfib

The above title was from a retweet that appeared on my timeline recently. It was tweeted by a literary agent and retweeted by another. Why would two people who are prone to receiving fantasy fiction have such a low view of such an important resident of Western fiction?
I got thinking about Vampires and their presence in literature last year when a friend tweeted a link to an this article: Why women love vampires and men don’t.
There are two main points in the article that I’d like to have a look at:

  • Women love bad boys and the chance to change him, writer says
  • Writer says a vampire is a monster, who looks, acts, and talks like a man

Without getting into a debate about what women do or do not love, I’d just like to say that these particular points are somewhat contradictory. No, perhaps contradictory is a bit too harsh. Just that perhaps the second point is so much more significant than the first that the bad-boy-loving women don’t realise how little chance they have of changing the monster.
A couple of years ago, I finally got around to reading Dracula (I love Project Gutenberg). Dracula is (of course) the archetypal literary vampire. A bad boy? Most certainly. Going to be changed by any woman? I don’t think so.
Before we go any further, let’s just make this clear: Dracula is Evil. Not just a bad boy, evil. Flashman was a bad boy. Heathcliffe was a bad boy (or at least became one). Wickham was a bad boy. Not Dracula.
Having said that, I can see how the tendency to move away from the monstrous and towards the sophisticated and beautiful creature of the night started with Dracula. He played the part of a Lord well. He was polite and clever and interesting. He was well dressed. Mysterious. He was also very attractive to women, but that was as much his supernatural power as anything else. But it was all just for show. He only acted and appeared like that so that he could live among his prey.
James Maliszewski reviewed Dracula in his Pulp Fantasy Library reviews. He said in his conclusion:

I find vampires to be both attractive and repulsive: attractive, because the idea of nearly-immortal damned souls stalking the night is a terrifying one; repulsive, because too few people nowadays look on vampires as unambiguously evil … I think there’s still a lot of punch left in vampires but most of that punch comes from contemplating their status as thralls of Hell (whether literally or metaphorically) rather than as forever-young demigods.

Wil Wheaton was a little less polite:

I’m so old, I remember when vampires were scary and awesome, and they only sparkled in daylight before bursting into flames

Before anyone else says it, I’m not trying to say that all vampires should be exactly like Dracula. Vampires (of various varieties) have existed in folklore for centuries and almost as long in literature. Dracula was just the one (thanks to Stoker and also to Bela Lugosi) that captured the public imagination. I haven’t looked far but I haven’t found any serious mention of vampires (recent literature excluded) that are just mostly bad and actually quite good on the inside, like an undead version of the Leader of the Pack.
I particularly like the vampires of the Dresden Files. While there are various breeds of vampires (the Black Court being “Stoker-standard”) they are all monsters. They are all (as Butcher puts it) “supernatural predators” who are basically just out to eat us. On the odd occasion where this is not true (The Brotherhood of St Giles, the odd White Court Vampire like Thomas) they are really just the exception that proves the rule.
My point? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Dracula-stereotyped vampires are cool. They are true vampires. If you want to mess with the archetype, then do so in a cool and original way.
I’ll leave you with another @wilw tweet that was just too good to leave out:

Lost Boys was a little silly but still ultracool, and Near Dark is the best vampire movie ever made. SUCK IT SPARKLEDORKS.

A disclaimer: I have neither read Twilight nor seen the big-screen version. I’m sure I shall one day (and, just like Harry Potter, I will no doubt do so in secret to preserve my precious reputation) but I’m one who tends to avoid pop-culture (of any sort) while everyone is still talking about it.

j j j

Quit while you’re ahead

I watched Terminator: Salvation last night and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought “Enough, already!”

It was an enjoyable enough experience, in a “blokes movie night” (thanks for the company Justin) sort of way. Loads of guns, loud noises, some interesting looking Terminators and a vaguely coherent plot. Unfortunately, there was just too much suspension of disbelief required. As if a jump-start defibrillation wasn’t enough, they went on to do a heart transplant in an open field hospital with that same heart (God alone knows where the anti-rejection drugs were going to come from).

This is all an aside from my real point… Why don’t some people just quit while they are ahead?

Terminator was a fantastic movie. Highly original plot, interesting and not-carboard-cutout characters, Arnold, Arnold not stretching himself artistically, guns, loud noises. What’s not to love? I remember having a discussion with a friend prior to the release of Terminator 2 that the whole concept ran the risk of entering a time-travel paradox of its own: Can’t kill Sarah Connor? Send someone else back to kill John. Or further back and have another go at Sarah?

Any of this sound familiar?

Before I go any further, I though T2 was a good movie too (and not only because of the GnR theme song), but it really didn’t need to be made. Sure the first movie left you with some unanswered questions, but that isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing. Sometimes we can just enjoy things a bit more when our imagination is left to fill in some of the details.

How about I share a small list of great movies (or books, or TV) that really just should have quit while they were ahead:

  • Ghostbusters. Again, I’ve got nothing bad to say about Ghostbusters 2 and I’ll be in line to watch 3 if I get a chance. But, why?
  • Highlander. Oh, dear. Is and always will be my all-time-favourite-bestest movie. Just so long as I forget they ever made sequels. Why, oh why did they forget that “There can be only one”?
  • Red Dwarf. As if seasons 7 and 8 weren’t bad enough, but then they came back for more.
  • Toy Story. Shrek. Brilliant movies that finished their stories. Only one reason for a $equel.
  • The Blues Brothers (you can make a new Bluesmobile, but a new movie? Aargh!)
  • The Godfather (they keep dragging YOU back in?)
  • Comedies like Revenge of the Nerds and Police Academy. All the jokes that needed to be made were made in the originals. Repeated, they are just unfunny.
  • Mad Max (sure the original left the story open for a sequel, but it didn’t need it. To say nothing of more than one.)
  • Rocky (exactly the same story how many times is it now?)
  • Alien.
  • I could probably go on. But won’t.

I’m giving a free pass to Back to the Future (which could have stopped at 1, but at least it looked like the sequels were always planned), Star Trek (could stop at any time, but even the mutliple movies fit like a longer TV series), The Simpsons (because) and Indiana Jones (what pulp fiction character ever stops being awesome just because we get bored?). I’m enjoying The Fixer on SBS right now, but give me a few more episodes into season 2 before I decide that they should have just made a miniseries (how many times can John and Lenny argue over whether he’ll take orders or not?).

And to justify the TILT tag on this post, here’s my list of those movies and such that could easily have kept going, but stopped when they should. I like these (because they are awesome and because they knew when to quit):

  • The Princess Bride
  • Life on Mars (I could rant here about all the shows that the American TV industry feels the need to remake with local accents, but that would take too long)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. They could make a sequel today and it would rake it in at the box office. But they haven’t. Therefore: Awesome.
  • Fawlty Towers. John Cleese, you are the master of comic timing. And a perfect judge of when smacking Manuel is no longer funny.
  • Blade Runner (Am I counting my chickens before they are hatched? They let a sequel novel be written so a film is not out of the question. Please no.)
  • Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog (see above). I’d also like to add Firefly/Serenity here but I think their one series, one movie is more a case of good fortune rather than good planning.

And a couple of parting thoughts:

  • District 9, are you listening to this? No, really. District 10? No. Just, no.
  • Why can’t modern fantasy writers do anything that is not part of a trilogy or longer? They can be good at short stories, but not a single novel?

And before anyone complains, I know that there have been good sequels. Even good sequels that surpass the original (if only rarely). I just like stories that get told, we enjoy and are then over.

Until we read/hear/see them again.

j j j

NaNoWrimo 2008, Won!

I did mention this in my update post, but I thought the news deserved its own post.

I won NaNoWriMo! Yes, after two less-than-stellar efforts (perhaps effort isn’t the right word), I have managed to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

Go me!

I reached the 50,000 word goal on Monday night, with plenty of time to spare and just in time for the official validation engine to start up and have my victory officially recognised. I thought I still had about 10,000 words left of the story to go, but as I was writing last night I realised I was much closer than I thought. So now, not only have I reached the artificial (though still somewhat challenging) target of 50K, I also have a complete first draft of “Conspiracy of Resonance”.

If anyone is interested in having a read and doesn’t mind a story with a certain amount of blood in it, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me in the usual ways and request a copy. Be prepared to wield your red pen a lot in the process.

I’ll post a bit later about how I think I managed to get through this year where I didn’t in ’06 and ’07, but for now I just want to share a post I put up in our regional forum:

What are you looking forward to?

Don’t get me wrong. I have loved (and am still loving) every minute of this sleep-deprived month, but there are a few things that I am looking forward to doing come December. How about you?

  • Going to bed later on the same day that I woke up rather than early the next morning. (As Waldo Butters once said to Harry Dresden: “Sleep is God. Go worship.”)
  • Reading a book. Specifically, I received in the mail a week or two ago the entire Hal Spacejock series by Simon Haynes (wrimo HalSpacejock). I’ve also got the latest Genghis Khan book by Conn Iggulen and The Children of Hurin by (sort of) Tolkien burning holes in my bookshelf.
  • Finishing Neverwinter Nights 2 (once I have recovered from this lot of sleep deprivation and can afford another round.
  • Detoxing from caffeine overload. Fruit juice and herbal tea, here I come!
  • Waiting to order and receive my Nano 2008 Winner’s T-shirt which have been rumoured about!

While I will no doubt be daydreaming about what Nano 2009 will bring, I’m not certain I’m convinced that I will be reading and editing this year’s effort before the end of the month (Jaye’s prediction). I might send it off, warts and all, to a few interested readers who will no doubt love it madly and have nothing bad to say about it.

j j j