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Friday, January 2, 2009

Why Vampires?

     I've been asked this question by those who have read the stories, and I suppose that it should be addressed at some point. I've always been fascinated with mythology, and the folk tale surrounding vampires are particularly interesting. There are many components to what a vampire is from their strengths to their weaknesses, yet they are still wholly mysterious. I think I have to borrow from Bill here and say this: "What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!/ how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how/ express and admirable! in action how like an angel!/ in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the/ world! the paragon of animals!" Bill speaks truly, and I have to imagine that for this noble man there is a counterpart, a darker side, if you will. Not only does this darker side have the same faculties of man, but is also, in many ways, stronger, more powerful, and even more like a god. So here is an interesting dichotomy to see this world of darkness, with all of its various denizens, coexist with the world people live in. Vampires epitomize this darkness so well, yet without a hideousness that we attribute to evil monsters. Quite the contrary, they are seen as attractive and sensual in their incarnations.
     Of course, this brings me to one of the reasons I decided to seat my intrepid detective in the paranormal. Vampires have become very popular of late, which I don't think is a bad thing, and every one of them has had their own take on vampires, from Blade to Buffy. Now, I certainly respect all of these writers and these works for establishing their own traditions with their own interpretations on the vampire myths, but I've also felt, in some instances, that the core of vampire mythos was being warped, and each new incarnation of vampire story would build upon the last, and take the story further from this core. So, I wanted to do two things with this mythos. First, I wanted to start back from the core, and address the ideas at the heart of vampire myth. Second, I wanted to my own spin on them, and hopefully move them in a different direction than has been done before.
     The next big reason for focusing on vampires and the supernatural is my detective. I wanted a Spade and Marlowe type of PI. However, such a PI who goes solely on his guts and wits doesn't fit very well into the modern world with its CSIs, NCIS, Bones, and several other different highly scientific crime investigation squads. This left me with two choices:
     1) I could do a period detective story where I eliminate the highly scientific processes, and put my detective into the same world as Spade and Marlowe. On some level this appealed to me, but I thought I would be doing Hammett and Chandler a disservice by trying to put my PI into that world. I didn't know that world, and while I could do extensive research to accurately portray it, I didn't think I had anything to add to it.
     2) I could deal with a subject matter that science couldn't explain. The world of the supernatural would very easily defy explanation, rendering the scientific a moot point. A scientist would have no way to explain a person with no body heat, exceptional strength, and a strong aversion to garlic. My PI, though, looks at those things and immediately knows the person is a vampire. A rock that glows with no power source, wires, or anything else is magic.
     I realize that my PI also has to be a bit paradoxical. Hammett's and Chandler's PIs were universally skeptical, taking nothing at face value; however, belief in the supernatural requires a setting aside of that skepticism to a point. A supernatural PI who looks at the glowing rock and dismisses it really will not stay in business long. Other than that one discrepancy, I wanted him to be like Spade and Marlowe, and to look at them as heroes, as what he wants to be. I also wanted a blending of Spade and Marlowe. Spade wasn't afraid of anyone or anything. A gun in his face from Joel Cairo made him laugh. I wanted that type of calm in one respect, but also I realized that no one could remain that cool all the time. Marlowe was more human in that regard, and knew when something was over his head and he had a perfect right to freak out, such as when a tommy gun was pulled on him. So for my PI, I have him be calm when dealing with real people, the ordinary and every day, even when it's a gun in his face or a guy punching him in the gut. That cool, though, doesn't stand up against the supernatural, though. The calm facade is gone in the face of a vampire, witch, or even practical joker mystic. Compared to the supernatural, the prospect of facing down a gun is easier for him to deal with, so the vampires and supernatural allow me to blend the contrasts into one PI.
     Now, all this sounds very analytical, and that I have had the entire thing planned from the start, but the truth is I began writing before I began analyzing these ideas, which is frequently the case for me. the ideas come forth in the writing, and then I realize why I wrote a particular section in that way. Well, I've written quite a bit about this, so I think I'll stop now, but hopefully this will be the first of many such questions I tackle on this blog.
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