Posts Tagged ‘undead creatures’

Fantasy Race Series: Vampires

This week in our series, we’re going to explore vampires. Love them or hate them, prefer them sparkly or deadly, they’ve been around for a long time and no doubt will be around for a lot longer. Here to tell us more about the undead blood suckers is Margaret Libby, who has seen more than her fair share of vampires and the havoc they wreak.

Vampires

Blood-drinking creatures are a feature in mythology worldwide, from the Greek vrykolakas to Gaelic faery spirits to Mesopotamian Lilitu. The most famous of these, though, are the vampires, popularized by fantasy and paranormal authors since the days of Bram Stoker and his famous Count Dracula.

Vampires, mostly due to Stoker but also with some help from Byron and some of his fellow Romantics, have a reputation for being a little more cultured than their fellow undead. Where zombies are shambling wrecks and werewolves are instinct-driven beasts, vampires are often intelligent and manipulative, or even romanticized (we might be able to blame Byron for that one). Today, in a world that is post-Interview With a Vampire, not to mention post-Twilight, vampires in the fantasy genre are diverse, but for the most part they have three things in common: they’re undead, they can’t go out in the sun, and they drink blood.

That gives some structure, but fantasy authors can and do play around within that framework very easily, and it makes vampires incredibly versatile. They can be everything from terrifying horror-movie creatures (like in the movie Thirty Days of Night, where the vampire’s inability to go out in daylight is the point the whole concept hinges on) to sympathetic and romantic (many of Stephenie Meyer’s vampires, who are superpowered and stay out of the sunlight because they sparkle, not because they turn to dust as common mythology has it) to just as diverse as regular human, with complex cultures and social structures of their own (the supernatural world in the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris/the TV show True Blood), to soulless but not categorically written off (Spike and Angel in the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer). They can even be parodies of their own stereotypes, like Otto Chriek in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (though in all fairness, everything is a parody of its own stereotype on Discworld).

Half the fun of writing about vampires is getting to play around in that sandbox and see exactly where along the spectrum you want to write them, and what you want to do with them. When I ended up writing about vampires, I chose to keep their human personalities after death—the soul, you might say—and kept them sympathetic, if sometimes dark (I figure it’s hard to be cheerful when you’re functionally immortal but weren’t actually born into a species that expects to live forever). It’s all down to personal preference, and down to what part you want them to play in your story and your world. Vampires are useful for their versatility, if a little overused these days, and given their appearance in mythologies all over the place, they make a good addition to a world.

What kind of vampires to you like to read and write about, Squiders?

If you’d like to read (or watch) a little more, these are a few of my favorite things that feature vampires:

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
The Truth, by Terry Pratchett

And if you have a lot of time on your hands, give Buffy the Vampire Slayer a watch.

Margaret Libby tells me that someday she might actually get around to putting a blog together. For now, you can twitterstalk her and encourage her to do more writing, because she rocks.

Fantasy Race Series: Zombies

Starting us off today with both the series and the end of the alphabet are zombies, undead creatures who can infect the living to create more of their own. Zombies are the race to go to, these days, now that we’ve exhausted vampires for the time being. Zombies can be created through magic, through science, through disease, and here to tell us more about the undead menace (do you have your contigency plan ready for when the zombie apocalypse comes?) and how he’s twisted the cliches for his own use is Charles Muir.

Bringing the undead to life

My zombies began as most zombies do, by being dead. And as with most zombies, mine were bad at being dead. And they continued to be bad at being dead. On the plus side, that worked for my ragtag group from O.o.M.f.H. (Organization of Mercenaries for Hire), who needed things to try and kill.

My zombies evolved, devolved, and outright changed from draft one to draft ten. I tried the proper Haitian style zombie control via potions and juju, to the standard “it just happened, deal with it” style zombie, to the latest incarnation for the new age: nanite-controlled, hive-mind zombies.

Infection is via the bloodstream, primarily via a dart gun or syringe, so bites and scratches aren’t too much of a worry. Nanites self-propagate, akin to the Star Trek Borg, but don’t add any implants or unnecessary body mods. Stages start from infection, which effectively kills any living host by consuming the brain and replacing with a computer. Each zombie is then linked to all other zombies, world-wide via a wireless link and managed via a host of controllers in the HQ of E.V.I.L. (Extraordinarily Villainous Individuals League). Full infection takes 48 hours. Up to 12 hours to fully kill the body, then 24 hours to fully convert the brain, and another 12 hours to fully adapt the corpse via nanite-replaced blood.

How does one kill the already dead?

General consensus has been: remove the head and any zombie is effectively no longer a threat. Few writers ever seems to address the necessary clean up afterwards. The bodies still contain infectious materials. Cremation is a viable method of eradicating the infection, although such methods are generally hard to come by in apocalyptic scenarios.

Zombification prevention would logically involve self-defense training, firearms training, and investment in some defensive clothing that allows for movement but will prevent being eaten. If infection is through bodily fluids, generally saliva or blood, then having tear resistant clothing at the least is ideal. You don’t need to be bullet proof (although it wouldn’t hurt), but ballistics nylon-level fabric is your best bet for surviving a hoard of shambling bodies craving your grey matter.

And for those that do become infected, depending on incubation time, your options are either isolation, kamikaze, or acceptance. Isolation prevents infecting more people. Kamikaze is going out with as many infected as possible. And acceptance is biting all your friends so you’re not alone in becoming an undead abomination.

Charles Muir is a writer of sci-fi and fantasy novels infused with excessive sarcasm and author of informational works such as Word Ninja-148 pages of tips, tricks, and testimonials to get your writing written. Word Ninja is available in print and digital at: tinyurl.com/WordNinjaBook