I would like to quickly (re)introduce you to Ian Rogers. Ian is the author of the Felix Renn series of supernoirturals, and has had his work published in various collections (including Imaginarium 2012 and Strange World) and markets such as Cemetery Dance, On Spec, Broken Pencil, and Supernatural Tales. His collection of Felix Renn stories titled SuperNOIRtural Tales will be published in November, 2012 and his collection of short stories Every House is Haunted is currently available for pre-order. You can read more about Ian Rogers at www.ian-rogers.com and more about the Black Lands at www.theblacklands.com .
If you have not yet done so, please feel free to check out my Interview with Ian Rogers on Speculating Canada at http://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/interview-with-ian-rogers/ and my reviews of his books by clicking on Ian Rogers in the tags section to your left. I want to thank Mr. Rogers for this exciting revelation into the Black Lands Vampire.
Vamping Things Up
by Ian Rogers
When I started writing stories set in the milieu of the Black Lands — a dark dimension filled with supernatural entities that lies next door to our own — I knew that at some point I’d have to write one about vampires.
So I decided to write it first.
Temporary Monsters is, ostensibly, a story about a designer drug that turns people into monsters. It introduces Felix Renn, a Toronto-based private investigator, his ex-wife/assistant Sandra, and the alternate reality in which they live where the supernatural exists as a matter of course.
When I decided to include vampires in my Black Lands bestiary, I knew I wanted to keep things simple. I wasn’t going to introduce a bunch of wacky new features to make my vampires stand out among the rest. Black Lands vampires are vulnerable to… Lucite! Yeah! And they don’t mind sunlight, but they real hate… uh, fog! Yeah, that’s it! A certain young-adult author has already done that, and her vampires are so different from the norm that some readers don’t even consider them to be real vampires.
Despite that, I knew that I had to be consistent. I wasn’t just writing stories here, I was building a world, and if I said vampires could be killed by a wooden stake to the heart, then I had to be sure to stick to that from then on.
My vampires, which is to say the ones that come from the Black Lands, are fairly standard. I tossed out most of the “magical” properties and tried to make them as real as possible. I tried to look at vampires, as I do all of the entities from the Black Lands, and think, What would it be like if they actually existed? What would a bunch of scientists and doctors make of them?
Black Lands vampires start with a virus. It has a long technical name, but most people in my world refer to it simply as the vampire virus, or VV. And if you think that sounds a bit like HIV, well, that’s not a coincidence. VV operates a bit like HIV, and in my world people are as afraid of getting one as they are of the other.
VV is passed through the blood and is highly contagious. It attacks the immune system, then everywhere else, until it induces a coma-like state. Then it really gets down to business. After a period of gestation, usually between 24-48 hours, the virus reawakens its host as a vampire.
Vampirism as a virus is not a new concept, but it was the one that felt like the best choice for my stories. The science I use is probably a bit wonky, but then I’m not Robin Cook writing medical thrillers over here. I want to make things seem real. I want readers to think, Well, I’m no medical doctor, but that sounds like it could happen. It’s Michael Crichton and frog DNA in Jurassic Park. Yes, a roomful of scientists could probably tell you why it wouldn’t work, but that’s not the point. It’s about plausibility combining with creativity to make fantasy.
Going with a few simple rules allows me to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m not as interested in bloody shoot-‘em-ups as I am about the characters. I like exploring how people live in a world where the supernatural exists. They don’t really understand it, which makes them afraid of it, unwilling to deal with it, but they can’t deny it.
In a story I have coming out this fall, “Midnight Blonde,” Felix Renn meets a woman who has been bitten by a vampire. She comes to him because she knows if she goes to the emergency room and tells them what happened, she’ll be put into federal quarantine.
Again, I tried to think what would happen in a world where the vampire virus exists. What would the authorities do to protect society against someone who was infected? I could see this poor woman locked in a room for observation — a room with a very large window to let in the sunlight, which would be the truest test to determine if she was infected. And if she wasn’t, if she turned out to be one of the lucky few who managed to avoid catching the virus? Well, she’d probably still be detained by the feds, being poked and prodded for years to come, maybe for the rest of her life.
This was the story I wanted to tell in “Midnight Blonde.” What would you do if you had a death sentence hovering over your head? Who would you go to for help? What hopes would you cling to?
Of course, Black Lands vampires aren’t just undead. That would make them closer to zombies (and yes, there are zombies in the Black Lands, but that’s a subject for another time). They have fangs, they crave blood, and they have above-average strength and reflexes. They’re not so strong and fast that I would call them “superhuman,” but you still wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley.
Their strongest feature is their regenerative ability. Black Lands vampires can be injured by physical trauma, and they do feel pain, but their bodies can repair themselves almost immediately. Shooting a vamp or stabbing one with a knife may slow it down, but it won’t kill it.
When it comes to killing Black Lands vampires, I again decided to stick to the common folklore. One way is sunlight. The other is a stake to the heart, cut off the head, and burn them in separate piles. Black Lands vamps don’t melt into goo or disappear in a puff of flame. Just like they don’t turn into bats or mist or summon wolves or sparkle.
For the most part, I’ve tried to keep my vampires rooted in the physical world, while leaving a few things about them in the dark (so to speak). Why are they vulnerable to wood? Why must the heart be pierced if they’re already dead? Why do they need to be decapitated?
Some of these things I know, and will reveal in future stories, while the rest… well, it’s the supernatural. It’s part of the fear. And that’s also part of the fun.