Vampires & crosses

It's a well-established fact that vampires can't abide crosses. There seems to be some confusion, however, as to why this is so.

Vampire-cross I should note here, before we go on, that I believe in vampire stories. I don't mean that I believe these stories are "literally" true — they're not that kind of story. But I believe they are true stories — stories by which we tell ourselves true things so that we do not forget them.

Vampire stories tell us, for example, that any of us can have great power if only we are willing to prey on others. Feed off the blood of others and great power will be yours. This is demonstrably true. It's how the pyramids were built. And Standard Oil.

The stories also tell us that there's a downside to this predatory choice. You become a creature of the night, unable to stand in the light of day.

And crosses will confound you.

Some mistakenly think that this is because the cross is a holy symbol, imbued with religious power. But this is wrong. The symbol, like the thing itself, is powerless. And that's the point. That is why vampires can't tolerate it.

Most vampires don't believe in the cross, but that hardly matters. It's the idea of the thing that gives them fits. The cross confronts vampires with their opposite — with the rejection of power and its single-minded pursuit. It suggests that no one is to be treated as prey — not even an enemy. The idea of the cross, in other words, suggests that vampires have it wrong, that they have it backwards, in fact, and that those others they regard as prey are actually, somehow, winning.

This notion is incomprehensible for vampires. The one thing they're certain of, the thing that drives them and tells them who they are and how the world works and that they've got it all figured out is that the key to immortality is in choosing to be the predator rather than the prey. The idea that this might be wrong is so befuddling, so contradictory to everything they have chosen to be that it forces them to recoil. They can't get past it.

It has become fashionable in modern vampire stories to portray these monsters as unaffected or somehow immune to the cross. Don't you believe it. This confusion arose due to the ridiculous, contradictorily cruciform objects being bandied about these days as "crosses." A filigreed gold or bejeweled cross refutes itself, denying its own representation of powerlessness. Likewise the oxymoronic martial crosses — a problem since at least the time of Constantine — that attempt to present themselves as sanctified symbols of power. Crosses like that aren't the least bit disturbing to a vampire — they merely proclaim vampirism by other means. Vampires have been known, in fact, to have such crosses emblazoned on flags, or even to have tattoos of them etched into their undead flesh.

So the apparent immunity of modern vampires to such crosses isn't what it seems. Sacrificial powerlessness still confounds them, but that idea is no longer quite so effectively signified by this particular symbol. I've heard rumor of a vampire not so long ago being turned away by one of Margaret Bourke-White's photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel. Fortunately I have not had the occasion, personally, to attempt to repeat this experiment.

As for garlic, well, I'm not really sure what that is supposed to tell us, but I'm open to theories.

(What brings all this up, by the way, is that I've just finished reading Jeff Sharlet's excellent book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The central figure in that book, Doug Coe, is absolutely a vampire.)

  • atrophia

    Reading back I see that Froborr did not say “always”, instead it was “by definition”, so my apologies for that oversight. Still, if that is, in fact, part of the definition of rape, it still raises that question in my mind.

  • hf

    IOW, never believe that you don’t need to worry about condoms because the person is “clean” or birth control in general because it’s “not that time of the month”.
    And if an Alan Moore character tells you that he practices a tantric discipline, “so there’s no emission,” laugh in his face.

  • Rebecca

    “It’s entirely about sex, and using it as an offensive weapon.”
    Well, I’m mostly with you there. But the fact that it’s being used as a weapon means it’s much more analagous to other types of violent crimes than to anything good or neutral dealing with sex.

    This. Rape is about sex in the same way that stabbing is about knives or shooting is about guns.

  • Art

    Slightly OT, but still relevant- one of the big things that turned me off of Rush Limbaugh (I actually heard his very first national broadcast, thought he was funny for a while, then I realized the HE REALLY MEANS IT, became ill, and started listening Deep Purple on my jambox at work instead) was that he was constantly whining that “the time-honored act of seduction is now called ‘date rape”.
    Um, yeah, going ahead and fucking someone when they’re saying NO and trying to push you away, and maybe even crying is “seduction”.
    I just can’t help but wonder if there’s a woman, or women, in his past…

    What is publicly known about his relationship history is that it’s been very rocky, with numerous short-term flings, a history of infidelity, and three marriages and divorces thus far.
    It might seem crass to speculate on this, but Limbaugh makes no bones about the fact that he considers the personal lives of public “role models” to be fair game when discussing whether or not they’re *good* role models and/or hypocrites for “lecturing” the rest of us on right and wrong, so it is worth bringing up that this proponent of “family values” does a terrible job of being a stable family man himself — and an intensely fucked-up idea of “family values” (including “seduction = date rape”) is probably a big chunk of why.

  • Tonio

    I think that kilts should be acceptable attire for men in both business and casual situations, and not just for guys who play the bagpipes.
    I have Scottish ancestry, and my last name even has its own tartan. Don’t men who wear kilts regularly suffer from chafing?
    They insist that christiantiy Few fallacies lead to as many people going “I’m bad and I’ve done bad”, in my experience, as that one.
    While I’ve encountered a few causes like that, they did not apply that concept to others. That’s the flip side of the double standard, where they’re harder on themselves than on others. In both cases, it’s not necessarily that they believe in justice for some but not for others. They seem to believe that everyone gets what they deserve, but that what is deserved is different for themselves than it is for others. That concept of deservedness is really what I’m trying to criticize about the JWF. I’ve vented here before about how some JWFers believe that others deserve to suffer. But when some people believe that they themselves deserve to suffer, I share your sadness at such self-loathing.
    *absolutely requires* the rejection of science and biblical literalism, and it’s the *non-RTC* christians whodon’t understand their religion.
    Yes, that can be maddening. I stopped posting to one atheist board because of the fundamentalism on both sides. I was criticized from the fundie atheists because of my rejection of the certainty of belief in either direction. I might understand the anger of the fundie atheist side if their extremism was a direct response to persecution as a minority, but fundie Christians and fundie Muslims target many more groups than atheists. (Sometimes the fundie Christians seem to see Eastern religions as no better than atheism, or don’t even acknowledge their existence as alternatives to Christianity.)
    To be fair, if you don’t know much about a religion, it’s easy to assume that the religion’s holy book is the equivalent of an instruction manual. Perhaps most believers and most non-believers simply come from different parts of the Myers-Briggs system, one side being more intuitive and the other more sensory, with the absolutists on both sides having the same general personality type in that system. Another part of the problem may be that mainstream Christian theology seems esoteric from a common-knowledge perspective.

  • Tonio

    The “While I’ve encountered” paragraph was not supposed to be in italics.
    And to clarify, “fundie Christians and fundie Muslims target many more groups than atheists” was saying that atheists are not the only targets of those extremists.

  • Lori

    What is publicly known about his relationship history is that it’s been very rocky, with numerous short-term flings, a history of infidelity, and three marriages and divorces thus far.
    It might seem crass to speculate on this, but Limbaugh makes no bones about the fact that he considers the personal lives of public “role models” to be fair game when discussing whether or not they’re *good* role models and/or hypocrites for “lecturing” the rest of us on right and wrong, so it is worth bringing up that this proponent of “family values” does a terrible job of being a stable family man himself — and an intensely fucked-up idea of “family values” (including “seduction = date rape”) is probably a big chunk of why.

    This is the reason that it totally chaps my hide that he is still taken seriously by anyone as a person in a position to make moral statements or pass judgment on others.
    I mean really, the man got caught with an illegal prescription for the “little blue pill” coming back from the Dominican Republic, epicenter of the Western Hemisphere sex trade. This is not likely a sign of good things. If one of his numerous enemies had been caught in a similar situation Rush wouldn’t have stopped until he drove the man from public office.

  • Chrissl

    Several things here…
    Re: Islamic vampire repellants: I’d hypothesize that the best choice for Muslims might be something with the written name of Allah on it (in Arabic of course). I’ve talked to a lot of Muslims who treat any writing of that name with a very particular sort of respect — never allowing it to come into contact with the ground, for instance. And apparently jewelry with that on it seems to be fairly popular.
    Creationism: Creationists seem to want desperately for humanity to have inherent importance and specialness, and they choose to interpret evolution as undermining either of these.
    Bingo: that’s exactly it. Unfortunately people will very seldom actually *admit* that’s their motivation, it’s much easier to create a lot of noise and fuss over other issues.
    You are either a fundamentalist RTC and hate science and think it’s evil or you are a scientist that doesn’t believe in God and hates religion. There is no room in either side’s view for any gray areas and most effectively ignore or dismiss them.
    There are certainly atheists who feel that no one can possibly hold a scientific worldview if they also believe in something (God, for instance) for which there is no scientific proof.
    Fortunately, as we’ve seen in this community, not all atheists are like that. I suspect those who are give atheism a bad name in rather the same way as some of the extreme fundamentalists give Christianity a bad name. Hostility is not an admirable trait in anyone.
    I keep wanting to say to hostile atheists: “So, show me the scientific studies that prove that science can explain everything….” or “So, show me the scientific studies that prove that humans cannot compartmentalize their minds and believe different kinds of things at the same time…..”
    But mostly I just think they’re being obnoxious.

  • Jenny Islander

    A side-note, but I’d like some opinions. A female friend of mine was talking about some men she’d overheard slagging off some women’s looks. The women weren’t trying to attract them, they were just in the same bar minding their own business – but she said they guys acted offended, as if the women were actively wronging them by being unattractive to them.
    I think you hit it right there. “This particular subset of humanity exists to get me off, and if I didn’t want to get off, they wouldn’t exist. Therefore, a member of this subset deliberately existing and yet not making me horny? That’s a deliberate affront.” I doubt they would be able to articulate it as such and some people who think that way might even be shocked to realize that they were doing so. But there it is.
    I’ve posted these two stories before, I think. The first is from about five years ago, on a message board set up to discuss the Pennsic Wars, the largest annual gathering of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA supposedly exists to recreate the good parts of the Middle Ages, including chivalry. So this guy (college age, IIRC) is telling a story about the time he stayed with his buddy in one of the public Pennsic campgrounds where small tents are packed close together. The woman in the next tent was apparently a bit new at this, because she didn’t realize that you have to put up some extra fabric if you’re going to change clothes in your tent with a lamp on. Eventually somebody called the constabulary and a female constable let her know why the neighbors were laughing. Out went the light. The reason the poster gave for telling the story? Because he was NEVER camping in one of those packed public campgrounds AGAIN because the woman was NAKED and FAT EW. RUINED HIS PENNSIC EXPERIENCE TOTALLY HOW DARE SHE. With a strong implication that if she had been the type he found hot, he would have been back there next year, same exact spot, hoping she would be too, and that she would have forgotten what she had learned. Truly a flower of chivalry.
    Second, from about fifty years ago: My late MIL happened to be on the other side of a door from some high school classmates she had liked and trusted until that moment. They were discussing her sister’s breasts and saying that there must be something wrong with her because big-breasted girls were supposed to have sex with boys who asked them to.
    Sadly, it’s nothing new.

  • Lori

    With a strong implication that if she had been the type he found hot, he would have been back there next year, same exact spot, hoping she would be too, and that she would have forgotten what she had learned.

    I suspect the implication was actually that if the woman had been hot she wouldn’t have “learned” anything because no one would have called to complain.
    I can’t even even wrap my head around your MIL’s story. The fact that she didn’t beat them with something heavy and sharp means that she had more self-control than I do.

  • YetAnotherKevin

    I haven’t gotten to the end of this yet, so apologies if someone else has already taken this tack and done it better…
    Re: vampires and mirrors. Vampires are literally creatures of darkness. Like black holes, they do not reflect light. (They will of course emit light in the infra-red if they are warmer than their surroundings.) So if you truly saw a vampire, you would see a black humanoid shape. It’s pretty good night camouflage, but it has some drawbacks. First, it makes it hard to pass as human. Vampires can use their hypnotic powers to convince an observer that they (the observer, that is) are looking at a normal person. However, it only works if the observer is looking at the vampire. Reflected images of the vampire are not affected. (Maybe a sufficiently powerful, clever, or experienced vampire can pull off the indirect mojo, but generally not.) The more observers, the harder it is for the vampire, so they avoid crowds.
    The second problem is overheating. Direct sunlight transfers more energy into a vampire than it would into a human because none of the light is reflected. Black-body radiation will catch up eventually, but only after the vampire has died from heatstroke.
    (And yes, I have conveniently left out the use of clothing to alleviate these problems. Maybe vampires are obligate nudists?)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/shiftercat ShifterCat

    Catching up late:
    Kit Whitfield said:

    A side-note, but I’d like some opinions. A female friend of mine was talking about some men she’d overheard slagging off some women’s looks. The women weren’t trying to attract them, they were just in the same bar minding their own business – but she said they guys acted offended, as if the women were actively wronging them by being unattractive to them.
    Does anyone know what’s up with that? We had two theories:
    1. They don’t see the point of women as anything except sex candy; hence an unattractive woman is a worthless human being wantonly polluting their sightlines and using up oxygen to no purpose.
    2. They don’t see the point of women as anything except sex candy; hence the act of being a woman is, to them, inherently the act of propositioning them. And lots of people bristle when they’re propositioned by somebody unattractive. They just couldn’t get their heads around the fact that having a uterus does not translate as ‘Fancy a shag?’
    Anyone got a take on this?

    1 is close, but broaden it to “male-dominated culture believes that women exist to serve men, and part of that means ‘being attractive to the male gaze’”. Feministing had an article a while back on this piece at Spike TV on women who had, in the writer’s opinion, let themselves go. Actual quote: “If you are rich and famous, there is no excuse for being a butterbody. It’s your job to look fit and hot.” The article is only about how he thinks female celebrities exist for his viewing pleasure, but it does reflect a wider social attitude.
    Jeff said:

    Because I didn’t think it was?

    Lori puts my general take fairly well:

    I’m not exactly sure why we need to use any version of this construction. It seems to me to imply that the writer has done something wrong if their work makes me uncomfortable… If the issue is that the work is inconsistent with the original in some important way (like it totally breaks the characters) or is simply poorly written then it seems like it should be criticized the way any badly written work is criticized and that discussion of doing violence to someone’s childhood would be better left out of it.

    Jeff, whether or not you personally liked American McGee’s Alice, the fact remains that the game was clearly (to anyone who’s actually played it) made with a great deal of knowledge of and affection for the original Alice books. Other adaptations of children’s classics — like the example I linked to — aren’t. No longer being a snotty kid, I’ve grown out of the attitude that “not my thing = bad”; I’ve run across reworkings of classics that weren’t quite to my taste, but so long as the artist understood the original and was making a decent piece of art out of their reworking, I not only didn’t slag on it out of hand, but also refrained from such crass, hysterical, and just plain stupid accusations as “raped my childhood”. To sum up: bad example, worse metaphor, you fail, go to the back of the class. All in all, you’ve made an atrocious show of yourself here, and if you continue on this subject, I shall be forced to borrow Izzy’s flamethrower. Consider yourself warned.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    Found on James Nicoll’s LJ
    http://nonotyou.tumblr.com/post/168208983/sexual-assault-prevention-tips-guaranteed-to-work
    Puts the responsibility on the right person!

  • Anton Mates

    YetAnotherKevin,

    The second problem is overheating. Direct sunlight transfers more energy into a vampire than it would into a human because none of the light is reflected. Black-body radiation will catch up eventually, but only after the vampire has died from heatstroke.

    My only problem with this is that vampires usually don’t seem to have trouble with artificial light or heat, even if it’s pretty bright.
    I prefer to give them a UV weakness, due partly to pale skin and partly to the fact that, in order to be superstrong and superfast, they must have tons of some energy-rich and volatile chemical in their body tissues. This makes them highly flammable, and prone to cooking themselves if UV-rich light like sunlight ignites too much of their body’s fuel too quickly.

  • MadGastronomer

    Aren’t you then lending an implicit negative connotation to “sodomize” by inserting into a well known phrase in place of an explicitly negative term like “rape”?
    Sodomy is a negative term. It’s a legal term for illegal sex acts — which are not limited to anal sex, btw — and a religious term for sex acts which are verboten. From its very origins it is negative, bringing to mind hundreds or thousands of people destroyed. People who actually have anal sex or sex with members of their own sex (like me) do not call it sodomy unless they find some humor in using such a negative term.
    That said, any word which indicates or implies sex is inappropriate in the above context. And, really, what Lori said.

    Yeah, but my first reaction to that is “Ooof, that’s no way to live!”
    Which isn’t fair, since plenty of people do live that way and like it, I suppose, but man would it not ever work for me. I mean, I’ve never been drunk enough to do anything I wouldn’t do sober, given half an excuse, but…well, I do kind of like spontaneous casual sex. (With, of course, precautions. I’m impulsive, not suicidal.) The idea of having to stop beforehand and have The Talk (especially the “what this means for our relationship” bit–ye gods, what a mood-killer!) just…eugh, no.

    Oh, bah. I’ve got that conversation down to under sixty seconds. “I’m on the pill, but we’re using a condom anyway. I do bondage, impact play, electrical play, domination. I do not do scat, showers of any color, needles, blood, and you can’t touch my feet. I have mild asthma, if I start coughing give me this. My safewords are green, yellow, red, safeword. The only aftercare I need is cuddling. What are you into?” for a scene. Less than that if it’s vanilla sex. It’s never stopped me from having spontaneous sex, and I’ve been known to have that conversation while tipsy, in the middle of foreplay. As long as I can remember it, I’m in fine shape, but generally by the time I’m too drunk to have it, my attention span is so far gone that I’ll get distracted on the way to somewhere more private. Admittedly, I only get drunk once a year, and I do that on purpose, and plan ahead.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Rape tends to be a crime of opportunity in one way or another and the guy who finds his chance at drunken frat parties isn’t one bit less of a predator than the buy who finds it in a deserted street or an unlocked window.
    You could argue, I think, that such a distinction is a social injustice. Rape being a crime of opportunities, a drunken college student is simply in the position to find his opportunities in a middle-class setting. Why punish the poor rapist but let the rich rapist go?
    We need to break up the term “date rape” and separate the issues of the date part from the issues of the rape part.
    What do you think of the term ‘acquaintance rape’?
    Rape is about using patriarchal ideas about sex in order to oppress, subjugate, and terrify women.
    That doesn’t seem to allow for the fact that men rape men. And I have the impression that women commit sexual assault too, less often but sometimes.
    It seems to me that if rape is a crime of power then it’s often going to be done by men to women because that’s the way power entitlement often goes in this society. But it can be used by a man who wants to humiliate another man, too, and so on. It’s a person-on-person power crime, and in a sexually unequal societies a lot of those will be done by sexist men to women – but that doesn’t mean it’s always about sexism. Just often.
    I have a fairly good friend who has talked to me about the fact that he looks back on a couple of his drunken outings in college with real worries that there’s some girl out there who thinks of him as “That guy who raped me in college”. He would give a great deal to be able to go back and make enough behavioral changes to eliminate that worry. He’s a good guy and I wish that I could reassure him that he’s worrying for nothing, but I have no way of knowing that. Yet another reason that sexist BS does no favors for any decent human being, male or female.
    How does that square with your idea that rape is about power, not sex? Does the guy have power issues, or are you talking about situations where he just wasn’t careful enough to check consent?
    The issue with a drunken rapist isn’t that the blame is placed on the sober victim, it’s that being drunk is trotted out as an excuse. “I didn’t know what I was doing–I was too wasted.”
    I’m pretty much of the opinion that if that’s how you act when you’re wasted, getting wasted in the first place is analogous to drunk driving. You’re drunk in charge of a dick you don’t use responsibly.

  • Tonio

    I keep wanting to say to hostile atheists: “So, show me the scientific studies that prove that science can explain everything….”
    I’ve never heard of anyone who claims that “science can explain everything,” not even the hostilest of atheists, although there may be a very few of them out there. Much more often I’ve encountered fundamentalist believers who use that phrase to falsely accuse science and non-believers of reductionism, of allegedly trying to negate concepts of love and beauty.
    My answer to both types is that knowing that, say, love has a biological basis doesn’t mean we love any less strongly. Even the theory that the moral sense may have an evolutionary origin doesn’t mean we cease valuing right and wrong.
    or “So, show me the scientific studies that prove that humans cannot compartmentalize their minds and believe different kinds of things at the same time…..”
    I know that humans can compartmentalize – I just see it as sloppy intellectual practice. I’ve been guilty of that lapse in discipline myself, and I’ve noticed that I succumb to the temptation out of self-justification. Achiveving that consistency and discipline is more difficult but also more rewarding, like learning to play a beautiful piano sonata.
    it is worth bringing up that this proponent of “family values” does a terrible job of being a stable family man himself
    I’m in the minority on that concept – accusing someone of hypocrisy, even when the accusation has some basis, doesn’t automatically invalidate the person’s political positions. I see that too often with many conservatives and some liberals, where they treat any hypocrisy on the other side as a point for their own side.

  • Hobbes

    Even the theory that the moral sense may have an evolutionary origin doesn’t mean we cease valuing right and wrong.
    On the other hand, it’s easy enough to argue that, even though moral sense must have been a survival advantage for our ancestors, that doesn’t mean that it remains a survival advantage for every human today.
    it is worth bringing up that this proponent of “family values” does a terrible job of being a stable family man himself
    There was a big article about this in Christianity Today last month. And thank you, Tonio, for acknowledging that hypocrisy does not invalidate anything. I see that constantly applied to Christians and Christianity. If Christians have ever gone on a Crusade or burned witches or enslaved black people, the whole religion must be terrible.

  • http://funwithrage.livejournal.com Izzy

    MadGastronomer: Fair enough. And I can see that being especially important if the assumption is non-vanilla. I just tend to go with “I’ve got condoms.” If dude has his own, he can use those; if he objects, he can walk. If he’s a friend, there’ll be some version of the “…so, we’re still just hanging out, right? This isn’t gonna get weird, okay?” conversation; if he’s some guy I met at a party, he should already know damn well that this isn’t Serious Business, and it’s his lookout if he doesn’t.
    So I do have the conversation, I guess, just a dramatically shortened version.

  • MadGastronomer

    On the other hand, it’s easy enough to argue that, even though moral sense must have been a survival advantage for our ancestors, that doesn’t mean that it remains a survival advantage for every human today.

    Really? How? I’m curious. Do psychopaths — defined here as “those who have no moral sense” — survive better today than they did in the past? Are they more likely to reproduce now than in the past? What evidence is there of this?

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    accusing someone of hypocrisy, even when the accusation has some basis, doesn’t automatically invalidate the person’s political positions
    Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the circumstances.
    If, for instance, a fundamentalist preacher insists that being gay is a lifestyle choice that anyone can give up with enough faith – and then goes and has sex with other guys – he’s being a hypocrite. But he’s also being evidence against his own argument. If it was possible to stop being gay, you’d think he’d do it; if faith was a factor, you’d think he had enough. He’s living proof that what he’s saying isn’t right.
    Similarly, if someone goes on about family values in politics, chances are they’re trying to establish themselves as a warm and trustworthy individual in the public consciousness. They then cheat on their spouse, which is not a trustworthy thing to do – so it proves, at least, that talking a good game about family values doesn’t make you a better person. Either that, or it proves that even people who do believe in family values find them difficult to live by, which calls their definition of ‘family values’ into question as with the preacher. Either it proves their talking point is not as clear-cut as they say it is, or it proves they don’t really believe in it. Either way it proves something.
    One hypocrite doesn’t prove a doctrine false. But if a lot of people preaching a doctrine are hypocrites, I think it’s time to start wondering whether the doctrine is any good. You can consider them fallible human beings, but you can also consider them test subjects for their own ideas about how people should live.

  • Froborr

    On the other hand, it’s easy enough to argue that, even though moral sense must have been a survival advantage for our ancestors, that doesn’t mean that it remains a survival advantage for every human today.

    With MadGastronomer: Where’s your evidence?
    Besides, even if the evolutionary forces that shaped the moral sense no longer apply, that doesn’t mean indiscriminate murder is *right*. The evolutionary forces that shaped our taste buds no longer apply — sugars and fats were once very important and difficult to come by, so we found them intensely pleasurable. Now that they’re easy to come by, a significant portion of the population is addicted to them. That doesn’t make them any less yummy.
    Likewise, even if the evolutionary forces that made screwing over your neighbors willy-nilly seem wrong no longer apply (and I see no reason to think that’s changed), that doesn’t make it any less wrong.
    Knowing where a phenomenon comes from does not actually alter the phenomenon.

  • Rebecca

    And thank you, Tonio, for acknowledging that hypocrisy does not invalidate anything. I see that constantly applied to Christians and Christianity. If Christians have ever gone on a Crusade or burned witches or enslaved black people, the whole religion must be terrible.
    I don’t usually see that; I do, on the other hand, find it handy as one of the countless rebuttals to “Christianity is always good and no one has ever cited scripture for an evil purpose.”
    And what Kit said about hypocrisy; I’ll add anti-abortion activists who take advantage of the services they are trying to eradicate. Also, I think someone mentioned it earlier, but people like Craig and Ensign a) get off on gay sex because it’s forbidden according to them, b) are trying to repress gays because they want to make it harder for themselves to do what they believe is wrong but still want to do. Pick one, I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brenda-Biscouto/1168279519 Brenda Biscouto

    Wow, very interesting article. 

  • sid

    Does this mean that Atlas Shrugged is actually the most popular vampire novel ever written? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/angelia.sparrow Angelia Sparrow

    Interesting ideas. I’m finishing up a novel where the vampires ARE Christian. They are post-millennialist and believe themselves to be the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead, baptized into death and raised from it by the power of their Risen Lord. The church would be fine, until they decide to actively bring about the Second Coming, by carrying out the Great Commission quite aggressively.

    I like the idea of the cross representing sacrifical powerlessness and your spin on the myth. These days, vamps are too often the hot dom boyfriend with the weird diet. (Like werewolves have become the sexy nature boy who has three bad nights a month)

    Vampires, before Rice, were a disease metaphor. They die and return to spread their sickness, first to their family and then to their friends. Even Dracula can be read as syphilis, since he is the first of the sexualized vampires. Vampires tend to get goofy or romanticized when they lose the disease aspect. This is why they weren’t big in the 50s (the fears then were nuclear problems), but surged in the 60s (sexual revolution) faded in the 70s to Blacula, and surged mightily in the 80s with AIDS.

    I like the idea that the disease is power. First you harm those you love best, then the local area and then the whole world.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AAWT7KGJATPEGZFFBCF6ER6XBM The Mighty Wombat

    This reminds me of the old World of Darkness vampire roleplay game – apart from the obvious religious undertone of trying to explain how and why it started, it had some pretty good themes on the whole vampire myth. Much better than the nowaday “oh yeah, you have all those cool superpowers, and occasionally you drink blood” trend :) . The idea is that if you got to be one, you, at some point, chose that life. You had a chance, as you lay there dying, to pass on the chance to be one, just… dying. You didn’t. Maybe you didn’t want to die, maybe you thought you had something to live for, but the fact is, you made the selfish choice. Maybe you had the best of reasons – well, now can have an eternity (probably less, you don’t age but you certainly can be killed) to try to stick to them. And every morning, you have a choice of not doing this anymore, not having to harm (and likely kill) people to prolong your own existence. Yet you don’t. Why?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am reminded in specific of the Bloodlines licensed game based off the old WoD.  ”A certain famous gangrel archeologist” poses to the player character a question as to what vampires were and how they fit into the natural world.  Regardless of the player’s answer, he will claim it makes more sense than the common explanation that they are descended from the first damned humans to walk the land of Nod.  

    However, had I been given the option, I would have posed back that such an explanation is not necessarily so unlikely.  After all, their very existence involves things which violate natural law as it is commonly understood, and the old rules do not necessarily apply.  The over-arcing sense of damnation is one I would think that would make a vampire more likely to take up religion, not less.  

    It was a good game.  Plus it had Joe Dimagio playing a bruha pirate/biker vampire, and that is always fun.  

  • Companion

    Late to the discussion but this pushed the right button in my mind to make a post.

    In the 1989 Doctor Who serial “The Curse of Fenric” vampires show up. Or as the Doctor immediately corrected, Hemovores. The serial is a bit of a jumble, with way to many ideas and plot points to be written really well. As such there is some dislike for the short. But I enjoyed it, in particular, one point with the Hemovores made me nod my head and say, “Oh YES!”

    Short back story, the Doctor and his companion Ace end up on a remote northern British island in 1940, noted for its viking legends, where the British government has established a facility to decrypt Engima. Also there are evil, more evil that turns regular people into Hemovores, a previously unmentioned “Great Foe” of the doctor, civilians, an Anglican parish, and a group of Soviet infiltrators. Kinda jumbled, yes. The Soviets are there to try to steal British secrets, but when everything goes bad, they ally with the Doctor.

    The Hemovores aren’t much more than footsoldiers for the main baddie, but, as the doctor informs us, they also have most of the weaknesses of Vampires, inspite of not being Vampires.

    The bit that caught my interest was two-fold. The Anglican priest, having been in WWI, is having a crisis of faith in the face of WWII. When the Hemovores show up, he correctly surmises, his faith will not turn away the Hemovores. So when Doctor and allies are cornered in the church, and need to escape through a tunnel that would lead to the other side of the island, someone needs to stay behind and seal the tunnel, so the Hemovore mob cannot tear though the door and set upon them. The priest voluteers to stay, saying that he is a broken man and it is the least he can do. A soviet captain sends him through the doorway instead, and promises them that they will meet later.

    After sealing the tunnel, the Hemovores overcome the church doors, and encircle the captain, prepairing to rush him at once. The captain stands there, steely eyed, and holds up a closed hand. The mob heasitates, taunting him he doesn’t believe in god, so what does he have. He looks back at where his friends just went through, and then brandishes his Soviet Union pin.

    Turns out, it works just as well. The Hemovores fall away witheringly and the one who attempts to pounce him crashes as soon as it jumps. The captain gets away.

    I have a feeling this was probably controversial in 1989, but I didn’t see it until 22 years later, so I saw it as being, freaking cool. Plus, it does close the plot hole of, “if vampires are real, why didn’t they simply walk all over the communist countries.”

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    I’m sure there used to be an image in this post. Did it get lost in the changeover?

    TRiG.

  • Matthew E.

    Let me just say that this is one of my all-time favorite posts. This is one of my main beefs with a lot of modern vampire stories, really; they seem to misunderstand what kind of creature vampires are.
    As to garlic: to my knowledge, the original Dracula story had garlic flowers, not cloves, as the bane of the titular count — because garlic only tends to stick around long enough to flower in the unspoiled, undeveloped wilderness, and thus represents the correct balance of nature.

  • Guest

    I just found out about this page from http://www.metafilter.com/122129/The-Confused-Notes-of-a-Twilight-Newbie-Forced-to-Watch-Breaking-Dawn-Part-2#4699746 , and I’m impressed!  :D

    Here’s yet another interesting take on the vampire lore: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/274fda232488298d , a review of Robert E. Howard’s short story “Hills of the Dead” (1930).

    “I like the way Robert E Howard presented vampires. As in his story, ‘The 
    Horror From the Mound’, they were NOT sexy, seductive Goth idols that 
    negative-minded teenagers could admire. Howard’s vampires were gruesome,
    silent, single-minded and dangerous; they were walking corpses out to
    steal the life from the living and this gives them a raw potency that
    Kate Beckinsale’s decadent UNDERWORLD cronies can’t match…

    “…We start with Kane meeting his old chum N’Longa. This character is a
    withered, dried-up ju-ju man, a witch doctor of great age and forbidden
    knowledge. Although he usually likes to speak to Kane in a pidgen
    dialect that makes him seem a bit backward, when he switches to his own
    language, his speech is subtle and impressive…

    “…There’s one new detail Howard adds to vampire lore, and it seems so
    obvious and right that I wonder why no writers thought of it before.
    Vultures regard the Undead as prey and go after them as the carrion they
    are. (‘No fool vulture!’ explains N’Longa. ‘He know death when he see 
    it! He pounce on one fellow dead man and tear and eat if he be lying or
    walking!’) I haven’t read many vampire stories since Anne Rice 
    glamorized them, but I wonder if other writers have picked up on this
    idea that vultures are the natural enemies of vampires…”

    In the story, this also explains why vampires hide from daylight and come out at night.  It’s not that the sunlight itself destroys them, it’s not that they sparkle conspicuously in light, it’s just that vultures are awake in the daytime and go back to sleep at night.

  • Saphroneth

    With regards to the question of symbols, in the Mercy Thompson books (which are rather good) the main character carries a lamb necklace instead of a cross one when going to deal with vampires. (It helps her sneak it in, because they only check for crosses – but, well, “lamb of god”.)


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