Posts Tagged ‘vampires’

Library Book Sale Finds: The Goldcamp Vampire

Hooray! Another one off the shelf for your enjoyment. Neither my husband or me cop to buying this. I mean, look at the cover.

This has no elements that would entice my husband. It’s bright. It’s colorful. No one is immediately dying. (My husband tends towards darker fantasy.)

But I dislike vampires. A lot. I so rarely pick up any sort of media that includes them, and there one is, right in the title.

(It probably was me. But what was I thinking?)

Maybe I thought it would be a romp. I do like romps.

Anyway! I bought this book at a library book sale in 2015 and now I have read it, and we can talk about it.

Title: The Goldcamp Vampire
Author: Elizabeth Scarborough
Genre: Historical fantasy
Publication Year: 1987

Pros: Occasional fun capers and no one cares about there being a vampire, not even the Mounties
Cons: Wanting to beat viewpoint character over the head with something

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It’s fairly ridiculous, and no one’s fooling anyone, and also no one cares and it’s glorious. But I felt like the prose was dense and I admit to skimming when it got bogged down in description, and I wasn’t too fond of the main character, who often couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

(Goodreads includes a longer title: The Goldcamp Vampire, or the Sanguinary Sourdough, though I’m not sure where sourdough comes into it.)

This is also the second book in the series, the first being The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas. I have not read that book or this author previously.

Pelagia Harper, also known as Valentine Lovelace (author), has recently lost her father, so when his mistress offers her a chance to make a new life in the Yukon, she goes along with it, thinking she’ll at least have a good story to tell. There is a weird addition to the party, however–they’ll need to escort the coffin of the mistress’s new employer’s former partner with them.

By the time they reach their end destination, several people around them have died seemingly randomly, and Pelagia/Valentine has been implicated in at least one of their murders. So the mistress and her employer insist on hiding her in plain sight by dying her hair and making her a flamenco dancer at their saloon, answering to the name of Corazon and speaking no English.

So you can see what sort of book this is. I wish I had liked Pelagia/Valentine better. Besides the name confusion (as she rarely thinks of herself by name, and those around her have practically half-a-dozen names she’s referred to), she’s older (in her ’30s), an author, has dealt with supernatural creatures previously, and isn’t afraid to go to other people’s rescue. I should like her. But I didn’t. Nor was I too wild about most of the side characters, of which there are a couple dozen, which are sometimes hard to keep track of. I did like Larsson, Lomax, and Jack London, and occasionally Vasily Vladovitch. Oh, and the cat.

I dunno. I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars. So not good, but not bad. If you like romps involving the Yukon, the Gold Rush, and vampires, hey, here’s a book for you. There’s also a were-moose.

Read anything else by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough? Would you recommend anything?

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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.

Looking Again at Genre (A Rebuttal to Root Beer)

Early on in this blog’s life, I wrote a post about how genre is like root beer. Long story short, it seems like every story has some element that stuffs it into a genre, no matter what else is included in the story. (For example, if there’s aliens, no matter how small a part, it’s science fiction.)

I’m starting to rethink this a bit.

I’m currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. (Yes, I know I’m a few years behind on this. It’s what I do.) If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is an extremely long, very well researched story, essentially about Dracula and what he’s doing in the modern (if by modern, you mean the 1970s, and I do) day. It’s told mostly from the viewpoint of a teenager, though there are stories within stories – her father’s, and her father’s advisor.

It has vampires. Should it should be fantasy, right? Or at least paranormal, according to the root beer theory.

But I don’t think it is – and neither, apparently, do the people who have reviewed it on Amazon. The top tags for the book are: historical fiction, vampire, mystery. (Both “adventure” and “literature” show up before either fantasy or paranormal do.)

Between examples like this, which could, I suppose, be called “literary fantasy” or “fantastic literature,” if I felt like making up subgenres, and the work I did on the Subgenre Studies last year, I’m beginning to change my opinion. Maybe there doesn’t have to be a root beer in a story. Maybe the author’s intent, and the themes and style of the story, are what determine genre, and not what’s in it.

What do you think, Squiders?

Vampires and Other Creatures that Lurk in the Night

Hm.  Longest post title ever?  Mayhaps!

I recently won a book in a contest.  It’s a collection of short stories called The Poison Eaters by Holly Black.  Some of her novels are on my TBR list but this was my first introduction to her.

I may do a full review on that here at some point, but that’s up in the air as that’s not the intent of this blog.

Anyway, many of her stories played on twists on common urban fantasy creatures – fairies, unicorns, vampires – and it got me to thinking.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not like vampires.  They are one of my very least favorite plot devices.  Over the years I have read several vampire-centric novels – Dracula, Interview with a  Vampire (and The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned), all four and a half Twilights, Bloodsucking Fiends, etc. – and no matter how well written (0r not) the books, nothing has changed my opinion.

Is it something ingrained?  Genetics?  I doubt that, actually, as my mother loves vampires.  She is at the opposite end of the spectrum as me.  Heck, she watches True Blood and she hates overly dramatized sex/violence.

It’s gotten to the point where if the word “vampire” is mentioned in connection with a book I will flee.  There’s really no logic to it.  Even if you count that vampire novels are oversaturated in today’s market.  It’s not that I have read too many vampire books and am sick of them, it’s that I was never unsick.

Shut up, Firefox, I can make up words if I want to.

I’m not terribly fond of other urban fantasy staples, though I do not have the same knee-jerk “Oh God No” reaction to them.  I am willing to try novels about werewolves or fairies if they are recommended to me.  I have no strong opinions about unicorns.  I like angels, am lukewarm about demons.

Zombies are fairly close to vampires, so one could draw the conclusion that there is something about the undead that turns me off.  Perhaps it is an instinct that I have evolved over the years to help me survive the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.

There should be more dinosaurs in fantasy.  Also kraken.

One could ask why I read and write urban fantasy when I don’t really like the staples.  There’s  lots of reasons.  I like the idea of there being a more fantastical world just outside the realm of normal life, one that can be stumbled on accidentally.  I like seeing people I can relate to deal with strange situations.  I like the twists, the plays on life and mythology, the what ifs.

I could just do with less vampires.

Stereotypical Creatures in Fantasy

My apologies for missing Monday’s update and for the fact this is late.  I blame jury duty.  And hockey.  But can you really blame me for the hockey?  It is the landsquid’s favorite sport.

Anyway, onward to content.

It’s come to my attention that you can usually tell whether something will be urban or traditional fantasy just be looking at the fantastical creatures involved.  Let’s test.  Vampires.  Elves.  Fae.  Unicorns.  Kraken.

(Okay, that last one doesn’t count.  I just wish there were more kraken in things.)

Admittedly urban fantasy seems to incorporate anything that looks vaguely human, but for the most part, fantastical creatures in this day and age seem to be pretty well-divided.  You rarely find things like dragons in urban fantasy.  Vampires tend to not to lurk in your more traditional Sword and Sorcery fantasy.  This is not to say that these creatures can’t be found in all types of fantasy, just IN GENERAL they tend to stick to one or the other.

It’s not terribly surprising.  Let’s look at urban fantasy as a genre.  Urban fantasy tends to take place in a modern setting, in a city or a town or someplace where lots of people tend to hang out.  Unless you go the alternative reality route, we are all familiar with these settings, and magic and fantastical creatures do not figure in.  So it makes sense to use magic/creatures that can more easily blend in with what is considered “normal.”

High fantasy, on the other hand, often takes place in a pseudo-historical context, in a world that is quite obviously not our own.  While each world needs to have its own rules that it conforms to, it does not need to take reality into account, so there is more freedom for larger and more blatantly unreal creatures.

You could argue that elves/dwarves/orcs/etc are essentially human-like and therefore would fall more into the urban fantasy category based on my (admittedly very general) guidelines, but there are also subgenre covenants that tend to be followed by the majority of examples of that subgenre.  People tend to read the same subgenre because there are things about that subgenre that they like.  (Some people will, of course, argue that such things are overused and/or cliché and/or are a rip-off of Tolkien, etc, but we will leave that alone for the moment.)

But hey, perhaps I’m full of it.  What do you think?  Do some fantastical creatures seem stereotyped into specific fantasy subgenres?  Do you disagree with my break?