My latest work, Ring of the Wizard Vampire, has a little different vampire “world” than you are accustomed to seeing in other contemporary vampire novels and movies. I’m going to tell you why I wrote my vampires the way I did.
Not quite twenty years ago, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was on TV, and I watched it faithfully. Sometime while the show was on, I bought a book, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 2nd ed. by J. Gordon Melton. It was a big sucker—two inches thick, 920 pages.
The book had all sorts of interesting things in it, that I have never seen in any movie.
For instance, how did the vampire folklore come about? In Eastern Europe of several centuries ago, it was the custom to exhume the body of a loved one, after he/she had been dead for a while, and to clean the skeleton (wipe away all the rotten flesh), then to rebury the body. Well, sometimes when they exhumed the body, the body was lying on its stomach, or the body wasn’t decomposed enough. So the Eastern Europeans figured, “This dead body hasn’t stayed really dead.”
Thus the folklore of the vampire was born.
But there was a shortcut to finding a vampire, if you didn’t want to dig down six feet. According to folklore, if a virgin was riding on a horse, that horse woul refuse to set foot on a vampire’s grave. What color of horse made the trick work? In some parts of Eastern Europe, the horse had to be white; in other parts of Eastern Europe, the horse had to be black.
(Please note that I don’t have any scenes in my story that feature a virgin and a horse at a cemetery. I just wrote the above paragraph because it is an interesting factoid to share.)
Eastern European folklore said nothing about vampires having hypnotic powers. However, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula as having hypnotic powers. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula did some kind of mind-whammy on Jonathan Harker, Mina, and Lucy. In most stories created in modern times, vampires likewise can do hypnosis.
For my novel, I went back to the original folklore that says that vampires are unhypnotic. I will explain why below.
The most interesting thing to me, reading Melton’s book, was about the evolution of vampires being killed by sunlight. The folklore is silent on the subject of vampires and sunlight. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula once went around by daylight; but he then had only the powers of a living man. But the movie Nosferatu changed everything.
At the time that Nosferatu came out (1922), Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was still under copyright. The people behind Nosferatu, to avoid paying royalties to Bram Stoker, changed many details. They changed the name of the vampire to Count Orlok; they changed his nationality to German; They made him look like a rat-man, rather than someone who could pass for human; and they changed how he was killed: by sunlight.
In the movie, Count Orlok was sucking on a babe’s neck when he should have been checking the eastern sky. A cock crowed, Orlok realized too late that he had better leave, sunlight hit him, and he faded away to nothing. (Remember that in 1922, “special effects” were primitive.)
Nobody has cared that the idea of “sunlight kills vampires” was not in the original folklore, nor that it was not in Stoker’s novel. The idea makes sense—if vampires are creatures of darkness in the figurative sense, why not make them creatures of darkness in the literal sense, destroyed by sunlight?
So it has come to pass that in my lifetime, I have never read a novel where a vampire could walk around in sunlight, and only one movie (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) where this has been the case. Nowadays, if you have a vampire in a story, daylight is that vampire’s mortal enemy.
In Ring of the Wizard Vampire, I don’t have a vampire-killed-by-sunlight scene, but I do have a vampire character, Elizabeth, linking sunlight and coffins. Basically, a vampire who spends the hours of daylight anywhere else than a coffin, is never seen again; Vampire-Elizabeth theorizes that a vampire not in a coffin “cannot rest” and is “drawn to the light” of the sun, at which time the vampire burns up.
But if I write vampires in the modern sense when it comes to sunlight, I go way back to the folklore when it comes to vampires and hypnosis. In my story, if a vampire bites someone and takes blood—yes, the vampire can hypnotically command that person. But a vampire simply walking up to someone in a bar and working a mind-whammy on that person? Not happening. (At least in my story.)
What I do, as my faithful readers know, is to write soft-core mind-control porn. I’m always looking for a story setup in which a nice guy gets mind-control powers, or he benefits from someone else’s mind-controlling. Well, the only way for my hero to get hypnotic powers in any vampires-are-hypnotic universe is to make my hero a vampire. I didn’t want to write that story. The only other way to write my kind of story in a vampires-are-hypnotic universe is for a vampire to go around hypnotizing hot babes and telling them, “Go fuck that guy Charlie over there.” Well, I could not invent any kind of reason why a vampire would do such a thing. (Not to mention that, even if I came up with a reason, a guy getting sex only because of a vampire’s charity would not be interesting.)
So by elimination, the vampires in Ring of the Wizard Vampire can’t hypnotize strangers. So then how can my hero Charlie get hypnotic powers? In my story, I explain that the most badass of badass vampires was a sorcerer as well as a vampire, and he came up with a hypnotic magic ring. When the vampire dies, Charlie grabs the ring, and voila!
So, speaking of Ring of the Wizard Vampire…