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Still Digging up Vampires

The Guardian newspaper has an interesting article about the discovery of vampire graves in Poland. It’s at

 
Check it out. Of course, it comes as no surprise to us at the Institute of Dark Materials. We’ve been cataloguing the folklore stories about vampires rising from their resting places for quite a long time. Most are not actual vampires. If you take a look at an interesting book by Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial and Death (published quite a long time ago) you’ll find a range of explanations for the rise of the pre-Dracula vampire myth. It came from the interaction between the way dead bodies decompose, epidemics, and hasty burial practices. Simply, as a body decays it bloats; it then seems to rise out of its grave (if it’s been buried in a shallow pit – which often happens in epidemics) and fellow villagers are scared that the spirit of the departed has returned to infect them! People die (due to the virus not the vampires) and so the belief arises that the dead person has spread the contagion – and sucked blood in the process. To stop the dead returning people used to weigh down bodies, put sharp objects in the coffins (to counteract the bloating – yuk), and even bury mirrors with the deceased so as to capture the restless soul and prevent it from emerging.
 
If a vampire was suspected, then bodies would be dug up, found to have blood on their mouths (it appears naturally due to the decaying process) and a stake would be driven into the body to burst it. Then the head would be removed and placed at the feet, or the whole body would be burnt. Barber explains it all very nicely. His book is worth a look.
 
So, does that mean Vampires don’t exist? Well, we know FangForce are vampires, and they do exist. It’s just that the reality is a little more complex than the myths.
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London: City of Monsters

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in the horrific wake of the Jack the Ripper murders, which took place in London between 1888 and 1891. London might have been one of the world’s major capitals, but it was not a pleasant place to live, on the whole. Unless you were rich, well-connected, or able to avoid the slums and filthy streets, you probably lived in terror of being murdered as you walked in the murky gaslight. The further you ventured into the rookeries and alleys, you more danger you faced. Members of Parliament were garotted as they walked home from lawmaking; gentlemen were robbed; women disappeared to suffer fates worse than death.

All the cliches apply. But did the Jack the Ripper murders influence Stoker? I suggest they did. Rumours abounded as to who might be the killer – everyone from eminent surgeons to members of the roal family were suspected – but there was a distinct possibility that the murderer could have been a foriegn visitor to London, perhaps someone from Easter Europe. Did that fact influence Stoker? Though many vampires were from the eastern parts of Europe, the modern myth-making which led to the vampires we now take for granted hadn’t gained much popular currency. That sense of threat from overseas pervades Dracula – the count is NEVER English. He is NOT a gentleman of the Empire. Again, that’s why it’s fascinating that the new NBC series makes Count Dracula an American. At the time, many English people were AFRAID of Americans. And with good cause: they were taking over the world!

Lots to think about!!

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New NBC Dracula

The new NBC series, Dracula, has an interesting twist on the original Bram Stoker novel. The Count becomes an American entrepreneur who wants to bring new technologies to 1890s Britain, London in particular. You can check out the series at http://dracula.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:LexiLexi/Dracula_Coming_to_NBC

Reading the original book today – as I do, quite often! – you can miss some of the subtleties of the original. At the time Bram Stoker was working closely with a famous actor, Henry Irving; he was his manager, and Irving was fascinated with the United States. It was an emerging power (like China is now) and the British were wary of it. Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show had come to London in 1887 and made quite a splash – with people worrying that Americans would take over the world and undermine the British Empire. But, at the same time, they were fascinated with cowboys and new American technology, and the whole idea of a nation made up of different immigrant groups. The character of Quincey Morris – the gun-toting Texan in the book, was, possibily, based on Buffalo Bill.

 

So, making Dracula American isn’t so absurd. Some English people might think it’s just the usual cultural imperialism of Hollywood – but actually it makes sense. FANGFORCE go to America because that’s where they believe good vampires can thrive. Marius Meno, the Bloodfather, wants to use American inventions to steal everyone’s money. The vampire myth is shifting; from its Eastern European and Northern Gothic roots to a territory that seems to relish not only its potential as spine-chilling entertainment but a way to work through American anxieties.

 

Discuss!!

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Is Evolution a Problem for Vampires?

Humans are evolving. It doesn’t feel like, but in subtle ways were changing. It’s inevitable. Every species mutates, adapts, and (hopefully) survives by finding new ways to thrive and reproduce. Vampires are different. They’re undead. Their human evolution stopswhen they are first bitten. They live amongst us, but don’t reproduce genetically. That means they’re get left behind in human terms. Eventually, so the theory(and the logic) goes, they’ll be outmoded, in human terms. That’s the theory anyway. I saw it in a very interesting book called ‘Paleofantasy’ by Marlene Zuk. She says that we don’t notice human evolution because we’re only around to see two or maybe three generations. Significant change only happens over many generations. We are different to the humans of 1600, but it’s not noticeable because, well, there are no humans left from 1600. At least, not living ones. Vampires from that time are still around – somewhere. And THEY would be different. More lactose intolerant probably!!

Anyway, another interesting angle on Vampires. We’re not sure when the members of FANGFORCE date from, but a look into their genes might prove rewarding for geneticists.  

What do you think?

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Dracula, the Ultimate Predator

Thanks Velouria, you made some good points. I don’t know if Dracula could be described as a ‘rational predator’ – if you go back to the book by Bram Stoker (it was published in 1897) you’ll find that the Count is actually a frontier fighter who has world domination on his mind. Very much like Marius Meno, the villain in THE FANGFORCE FILES. The difference is that Meno wants money as well as blood, and Dracula wants, well, blood, and lots of it. Bram Stoker’s book describes how Dracula has spent centuries fighting frontier wars in the wild eastern territories of Romania and Turkey, and that he’s vanquished many a foe. He wants to go west (cue the song!) and mop up British blood and, eventually, American blood. He’s stopped by Jonathan Harker, his wife Mina, Abraham van Helsing, Lord Godalming, and th curious Texan, Qunicey Morris, whi actually kills Dracula with his Bowie knife at the end and dies in the process.

I think Dracula wanted to turn the world in a vampire planet and didn’t care if there were no humans left to bite. Though he was undead, he didn’t seem to have a long-term plan.

Anyway, let the discussion continue!

 

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Vampires as Predators by Velouria Pucey

Hi, this is Velouria Pucey and Rigor has asked me to comment on his last posting. I always write in purple. Purple is the colour of prose. It makes it really important.

I took a look at the whole vampire-math thing, and while you have to worry that these professors don’t have much to do all day if they’re worrying about vampires, they have an interesting point. One thing that strikes me is the Lotka-Volterra set of equations (sorry, I’m getting nerdy here) – they’re mentioned in that article Rigor cites. They’re used to model predator-prey intractions. They work out how predators and their prey usually (and I ‘usually’ is the operative word) fall into some kind of balance. Predators can’t eat all their favourite food because… well, then there won’t be any of it left, and they’ll die out. It happens when species get too successful; they rise to a peak, gorge on all that carnage, and then find they’ve got nothing left to eat and their populations collapse until (and if) the species they’ve been preying on recover. If it doesn’t, they either adapt (and start munching on something new) or that’s it for the species. Happens all the time.

Vampires are cleverer than that. They prey on humans, turn them into their own species (so increasing their chances of survival) but then restrain their appetites by using human intelligence (they do, after all have human brains) to ‘farm’ humans – i.e. you and me. Ever thought of that? That we’re actually being farmed by vampires? Creepy. The Browns (i.e. FangForce) are more benign than that. They’re a new breed of vampires that have gone beyond their primal hunger for human blood. That’s what makes them so interesting. And also begs the question: do vampires evolve? If they’re undead, how can they? Over to you Rigor!

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It’s Like Big Bang Theory meets Dracula

OK, I know that sounds like a bad pitch for a new movie franchise, but I stumbled across an article by one Dino Sejdinovic of Bristol University in the UK that summarised the work done by some physicists and mathematicians about the human-vampire conflict. It seems that some of the best minds in physics – think Sheldon and Leonard musing over a burger – have worked out that if vampires actually exist (and we know they do) that their hunger for human blood would, inevitably, lead to the extinction of the human race.

How? well, it’s simple maths: when one vampire sucks the blood of one human an extra vampire is created and there’s one less human. Go back to the year 1600 (when a lot of the vampire stories seemed to have appeared for the first time – more on that in future posts) – and one vampire starts to feed. He or she has 500 million humans to choose from (that’s the estimated global population at the time – a speculative figure, at best), and if he or she has one good meal a month (i.e. adds one vampire a month, reducing the human population by one), and if all those new vampires did the same (-1 and +1) then within two and half years the entire population of earth would be… undead.

Clearly impossible. Sheldon would say, “Ergo, vampires are mere projections of the human fear of duality and ultimate death.’ Leonard would muse that vampires are more rational than mere greedy bloodsuckers. He’d posit that they’d begin to act in a rational way and NOT be greedy. This is what some mathematicians, as reported by Sejdinovic, speculated. They came to the conclusion that there’d be an equilibrium; vampires would feed, but not too much. They’d also work out ways to curb their craving for human blood.

And that’s where FANGFORCE comes in. The invention of ‘vampirimins’ by Arnie Brown (head of the elite vampires for good) achieved. Vampirimins are like, well, vitamins; they deliver iron (the kind you get from blood products) direct to the vampire’s body as well as other substances that enable vampires to tolerate sunlight.

So, the math might not add up – but the reality does: it’s an exciting time to be studying vampires!

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The Mist Mystery

At FangForce Vampire Studies we’re interested in everything about Vampires. Of course, as the Brown family ARE vampires, that stands to reason. Their adventure in the first book about their exploits, THE FANGFORCE FILES: JUGULAR ROCKS, compiled by Jerome Vincent and Ashley Pugh (who are not vampires, unfortunately), has some surprising elements within it.

First, it’s not told in the traditional way; it’s a series of files rather than a story that starts with ‘Once upona time…’ – and second, it’s an e-book that looks great. It’s designed to bring you into the action.

Anyhow, I appear in it – me being, Rigor Mortensen, founder of the Coolidge Institute of Dark Materials (my day job), and near neighbour of FangForce. I know a lot about vampires, and I’ve seen just about every vampire movie there is, and read all the books (yes, including those really long Twilight books, which seem to be more about simpering teens rather than vampires, but, hey, I left my teens… err,a few years ago, let’s say).  There’s one thing you don’t see much of in most vampire fiction: the vampire mist.

If you read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ – and there’s a new TV version of it coming out right now (very lush and gothic by all accounts) – the undead have the power to create mist. Count Dracula does it when he sails into Whitby Bay in England. It’s also done throughout the book, not just by the Count.

Why is that particular power overlooked? Does anyone know of it being used in other vampire fiction? It’s in The FangForce Files: Jugular Rocks! I think that’s pretty neat. It’s a great power. I wish I could do it, especially when I want to slip out of a party that’s going nowhere fast, but without my best friend seeing me go. Alas, being alive gets in the way.

If you do know of examples of the vampire mist then send me an email at fangforce10@gmail.com -that would be great.

 

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Welcome to FangForce Vampire Studies

Hi, Rigor Mortensen here. I’d like to welcome you to our new blog – it’s all about vampires, why they’re so popular and how they can do good in the human world.

Actually, I know why they are – they’re just awesome to begin with, and they make us all feel eternal.

I’d like to thank FangForce for allowing me to run their blog. If you don’t know who they are, then check out the first book about them: THE FANGFORCE FILES: JUGULAR ROCKS! It’s available as an e-book on Amazon.

Here’s a picture of them:

fangforce pic june 19

They rescue good and talented vampires from Transylvania and get them jobs in the human world. Jobs they’re good at, and always do well in. But they are in constant danger because Marius Meno – aka The Bloodfather (he’s half vampire and half Sicilian!) – seeks them out and then tries to use them to further his own nefarious ends.

Anyway, I’ll be telling you more about FangForce and their adventures over the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

Also, our guest blogger, Velouria Pucey, who lives right next door to the FangForce family in Coolidge, New York, will also be writing on this site about different aspects of vampires in history and popular culture. So, look out for her ravings, err musings.

Keep an eye out for more… we’re working hard to help vampires do good in the human world!