Author’s Note 4: The Vampire

The Vampire

April 2017

The original work, The Vampyre, by John William Polidori is quite brief, only a short story. Yet it was a noteworthy success and an inspiration to future vampire fiction, including Carmilla and Dracula.

I love the tale of how the story came about. As noted on Wikipedia:

The story has its genesis in the summer of 1816, the Year Without a Summer, when Europe and parts of North America underwent a severe climate abnormality. Lord Byron and his young physician John Polidori were staying at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva and were visited by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont. Kept indoors by the “incessant rain” of that “wet, ungenial summer”,[3] over three days in June the five turned to telling fantastical tales, and then writing their own. Fueled by ghost stories such as the Fantasmagoriana, William Beckford‘s Vathek and quantities of laudanum, Mary Shelley, in collaboration with Percy Bysshe Shelley,[4] produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Polidori was inspired by a fragmentary story of Byron’s, Fragment of a Novel (1816), also known as “A Fragment” and “The Burial: A Fragment”, and in “two or three idle mornings” produced “The Vampyre”.[5]

Just look at that list of exalted literary personages. Can you imagine such a collection randomly thrown together like that? And how randomly this story and Frankenstein came about? Amazing!

My desire to work on a revised version of The Vampyre originated with my desire to originally do the same with Dracula. As I was working on Dracula, I became distracted by the story, Carmilla, because it was one of the primary inspirations for Dracula, and so I published that revision first. Getting back into Dracula, I then came across The Vampyre and once again became distracted. I had only intended to write a slightly longer short story, but eventually it grew much longer. The original story is only about 8000 words, this revised one about 60,000.

Why have I taken this old story and revised it? To bring it to the attention of modern audiences and pay homage to our historical culture. But in order to do that effectively, the writing style needed to be updated for modern readers to find it appealing. I, and many others, enjoy 19th century writing styles specifically because it helps one immerse in the period, but many readers today find it too heavy, too literary and difficult to understand.

I also wanted to add my own changes to the story. For example, you’ll notice two very different endings between this one and the original. The anti-capitalism and anti-selfishness sentiments are entirely my own. And, in the original, Aubrey is a weaker character. That makes sense because it is a horror. But I preferred to have him become someone who might be a little more inspiring. Do the changes make the story less of a horror and more of an adventure? Perhaps. But hopefully it’s still entertaining. I strongly encourage readers to go to Gutenberg Press and download the original story for free. It’s worth reading.

You’ll notice some differences between the vampire stories of the 19th century and those of the 20th and 21st. Fear of sunlight was never a thing in the original stories. I rather like that better. While we’re all afraid of the dark, and vampires continue to hunt primarily at night as they are nocturnal predators, sunlight seems a silly and impractical weakness for vampires to have. In fact, it makes them too weak and easy to kill. Better that we fear them in daylight too.

Another oft-cited weakness is garlic. My version of Dracula presents vampirism as a DNA-altering virus. Garlic is suspected by some people to have anti-viral properties. I have portrayed it here as having a strong allergenic affect on the vampires, something adversely affecting the virus within. I think daylight, viral transmission, DNA alteration and the garlic allergy make the vampire a more scientific or realistic creature, or at least more known, yet this should not entirely take away from its ability to terrorize us. It still sees us as nothing more than a food source. To a vampire, we’re just cattle.

As I’ve written vampirism as a virus, I think it’s only natural that life would adapt and evolve a way to fight back in turn. That’s the nature of evolution. That’s why Ianthe’s blood is poisonous and helps to act as a cure. Her body has produced something on a genetic level that counters the vampire virus. Evolution is a wonderful thing.

I’ve also indicated that some vampires use sex to get at their victims. Vampires have long been sexualized. What could be scarier than finding out you’re in bed with a real live monster, when you’re at your most vulnerable? They are also a very deceptive and manipulative creature. I think the fact that they use sex or even false romance to ensnare their victims seems like a good rationale for their sexual interest in a different species. They do it to feed, as well as for fun. Of course, vampires are incapable of breeding in the same manner as humans because they are infertile. They can’t have babies; they must pass their blood, like a disease, to spread their kind. Likely they would also be immune to most sexually transmitted infections after their transformation as well.

Readers may also discover that there are no religious references in the story, particularly Christianity and crosses. There are none in the original, that is a part of the mythology added later, notably in the original Dracula. It is something that I have absolutely removed from all the stories I’m working on. Why? So that these tales may be more universally appealing. Few things divide and antagonize people more than religion. It adds nothing of value to the story, and removing it makes the story something people from any culture can more readily enjoy.

On a personal note, my life underwent some significant changes in the short time that wrote this book. I began The Vampire immediately after returning from my second stint in Japan, where I’d been teaching English. My first foray there had been five years, the second trip lasted about two and a half.

The reasons I’d left Japan were two-fold. Firstly, the job itself was becoming less rewarding. Pay was decreasing and almost the entire education system, from parents to teachers to administration, felt very apathetic to the whole learning thing and the future of their children. People just didn’t care. They didn’t care about making things better, about trying new things, about fighting for the best the children could get, about making their own working conditions better, nothing. I worked at schools where the grade point average for the entire school, for all subjects combined, was below fifty percent, and that was after they’d dumbed down the tests for years and practically spoon-fed answers to the kids. It was increasingly frustrating feeling like much of my efforts were being retarded by that apathy and going completely unappreciated by anyone other than some of the students. Teaching overseas was a wonderful experience in many ways, especially outside the job, and I loved my students dearly, as well as a few very close friends, but I just wasn’t happy anymore and decided it was time to leave.

The second reason I left Japan was a very broken heart. I fell madly, wonderfully, completely in love with S six years previously. She was sexy and smart and beautiful and I thought we were soulmates. We started a relationship, the best I’d ever had. Every moment with her was amazing. Then she cheated on me and started dating someone else for their money, though I didn’t know that was her reasoning at the time. Yet I thought what we had was amazing and worth fighting for. So I loved her, tried to give her the opportunity to earn my trust and love and forgiveness, and fought for us to be together for the next five years.

We essentially dated in secret, lovers and best friends and a couple in all but name, except that we weren’t living together. But nothing I did seemed to win her over to the point where she would leave him and make me official, despite an incredible amount of active love and sacrifice. Despite me being better than her boyfriend in every way but money. In daily things, when it came time to having fun, in that she was perfectly wonderful in every way. But in the big things like career and marrying for money, I couldn’t help but feel that she making a selfish decision. Why else wouldn’t she leave him and give us a chance when we were so good together?

I think part of her intense focus on money maybe came from her parents. I think S was trying so hard not to be the bitter housewife her mom is, a woman who resented her dependence and giving up past dreams. I think S was also trying hard not to marry anyone like her father, whom she saw as undependable because of his unstable career and financial troubles that troubled their family so much. I think she wanted as much money for herself as possible so she wouldn’t end up dependent like her mom. I think she wanted to marry someone with as much money and stability as possible so she never had to feel threatened by the lack of money. But, as much as I want to believe the best in her, I suppose some greed and selfishness must play into it too.

Sadly, I think her highly competitive corporate career and her relationship with the financial guy she left me for, and her entrance into a social sphere of people similarly focused entirely on monetary gain, partially corrupted her. The pursuit of wealth became the most important thing to her, just as it was to everyone around her. The only way anyone in that social sphere measures reputation, self worth and success is by how much money they make. Love, honesty, integrity, loyalty, commitment, all mean nothing. Only career financial success is important, and they prove themselves by achieving raises and empty titles, which gives them status. The system takes the best of people, takes their ambition and twists it so that it’s misdirected and they stop paying attention to love and relationships. They become too competitive, which is antithesis to love and cooperation, which means their attitude completely undermines their ability to actually love and have successful relationships. The more S was immersed in that culture, the more it likely took hold of her and influenced her way of thinking.

I believe that her competitive lifestyle made her increasingly unable to appreciate me over time and so our relationship became increasingly shallow and fraught with arguments. She was taking far more love and support than she was giving back to me and respected me less over time because my income wasn’t growing the ways hers was. She started looking down on me because I didn’t have the career she wanted, even though she was perfectly happy with everything else about me.

Eventually, she became engaged to the other guy, for his money, and I entered a period of deep depression, for I had actively loved her with all my heart for a very long time and spent years fighting for us to be together, only to see that love and effort somewhat wasted. It hurt to see her love fade. It hurt that she just couldn’t appreciate and respect me likeshe used to. I was good enough to be her secret lover and best friend, but not her parter. All because of money. It was devastating.

Unable to take the depression of being rejected by her for what I saw as a very selfish reason, I resolved to return to my family and reunite a bit after being away so long. I also resolved to take advantage of this opportunity of living at home to make my second attempt at a writing career more serious. I’m 37 years old at this point and I need to make a career out of writing or give up forever and find a ‘normal career’. Whatever that means. Apparently it’s what some girls want most in a man though, so I’d better start selling some books or I’ll be alone forever.

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on The Vampire, S and I got into some big discussions about our relationship, something she’d kind of refused to do for a long time. But we have recently been trying to work on healing our relationship into something that might still last after her marriage. After all, neither of us wanted to waste the good that we still had between us; it seemed too precious to waste. Then S finally admitted that she’d been lying to me for the past five years, perhaps somewhat unconsciously.

She had led me to believe the whole time we were together that we might still have a future as a couple, and professed her love constantly. That was why I’d kept fighting and believing in us for so long. But only now, weeks before her wedding to the rich guy she’s been dating, did she finally admit that she had never had any intention of being with me because I didn’t make enough money for her. It was disappointing to hear. I couldn’t help but feel that much of my efforts had been wasted, and that maybe some of her love was also a lie.

She makes a fortune on her own, more than most dual-income families, and doesn’t actually need my money, but she still wants more. She said that she wants someone with a big, stable income and I had been ‘just’ a teacher, so I wasn’t good enough. All the love and effort I gave those kids for seven and a half years, the joy had I had in teaching, my own happiness, seemingly meant nothing in terms of her respect. The love I gave her for six years, the support, the huge sacrifices, all meant nothing. The only thing that mattered to her in a partner was income. It broke my heart. Needless to say, the whole experience has probably clouded my work and will continue to do so in the future. I apologize if the darkness in my heart darkens my writing too. Maybe one day things will change.

On a more positive note, it’s spring. The remains of a late snow dust the ground. Brilliant green grass pokes up and sparrows and chickadees flock to our yard to enjoy the bounty of seeds we have on offer. And – wow – do they ever eat a lot of those seeds! I’d also like to put up a bee hive and a bat house, to further help out the local ecosystem, and both bees and bats are legally allowed in our City of Saint Albert now. They just passed a law allowing bee keeping. That’s pretty awesome. Hopefully, one day, we’ll have a bigger house and be able to keep bees and bats alongside the birds.

Weird, all those start with B. What’s next? Buzzards? Babies? Badgers? Baboons? Basilisks? Bandicoots? Bald eagles? Boa constrictors? Bobcats? Bears? No, that would be silly. Babies? I’d have to have a wife for that.

We’ll start keeping bears. So cuddly, right?