THE OFFICIAL VAMPIRE LORE STANDARDS
(or OVLS for short)
I: Life, or How Do You Make a Vampire?
Pretty much all the Ancient myths have sinners, drunkards, unbelievers, outcasts, witches, sorcerers, loose women, childless women, people with tails, redheads, seventh sons or other outcasts as possible vampires. Basically, anyone who was in any way considered different was believed to have the potential for ultimate evil. It was kind of an old-timey version of Mean Girls; the “different” person was not only shunned, but also potentially had its corpse desecrated in death. No rest for the weary.
Dracula put forth the notion that one becomes a vampire by being bitten by an existing vampire and then imbibing that vampire’s blood in return. Vampirism spread like a sickness, which played on people’s fears in a world with TB, plague and syphilis, and without penicillin. The main characters are not outcasts or loners or different. In fact, the vampire is slightly seductive and his victims are normal members of society. While probably not intentional, Dracula and its literary brethren were no longer picking on outcasts. Anyone could be a vampire, just like anyone could get the plague.
Today we have penicillin, but we also have modern-day witch hunts. I think society is better off as a whole with vampires being made, not born. We’ve got enough problems with bullying; let’s not re-start digging up the dead and impaling them because they were different in life.
Therefore, in the interest of society we’ll say:
RULE 1: Vampires are sired from other vampires
But, there is a sub-question: Does it take merely a bite or must the bitten also drink the vampire’s blood?
Here, there is a pretty even split: folklore, Twilight, Dark Shadows and From Dusk Till Dawn say that once bitten you are on the road to being a vampire. Dracula, Anne Rice, Buffy and even The Lost Boys all require the bitten to also drink some vampire blood.
I am a big believer in math and this is a supply and demand thing. If everyone bitten by a vampire got turned into a vampire, then there would be a food shortage pretty quickly. It’s unsustainable, like a bad pyramid scheme (wasn’t there an episode of Angel about that?).
So in the interests of good math:
RULE 1a: There must be mutual blood drinking to create a vampire
This guideline also works nicely with both the sexuality theme and the choice theme. The newly-sired vampire (on some level) did choose this life even if they were conned, seduced or mind-controlled into it.
Also controversial, and related: Can vampires breed?
In the end, vampires are evil, and if we’ve learned anything from the folklore, it’s that pregnant women are the pure vestiges of goodness that the vamps of old ate. The biological point of life is reproduction. The price of undead immortality is the loss of fertility (allusions to a “loss of humanity”). It fits more with sexy loner profile. And it establishes that vamp sex is just carnal goodness/badness; not anything symbolizing new life. So, in spite of, among others, Lynsay Sands’s Argeneau vampires, Christine Feehan’s Dark Ones and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, (who can, it seems, impregnate their shellans… and if they’re really lucky, she’ll survive the experience), I say:
RULE 1b: No breeding through childbirth
Vamps will just have to settle for making other vamps the old fashioned way: through biting.
II: Food, or What Does a Vampire Need to Sustain Unlife?
It’s pretty obvious that vampires want to drink blood. I think that is in the definition of vampire. But do they need it to thrive or do they just like it? And how much do they need? And from whom? Must it behuman, or can it be just any ‘ol blood?
Surely all vampires need at least some quantity of blood to survive. In most cases, without blood the vamps go into some sort of coma or insane (because, of course, they can’t die). This harkens back to the shades in the Odyssey needing to drink blood in order to communicate with the living.
Therefore, I think we can all agree on:
RULE 2: Vampires need to drink some sort of blood to sustain themselves
But… how much blood?
In Dracula and Carmilla, they don’t drink so much as to kill their victims in one night. It seems a slow draining of life. In fact, if they had spread their blood-lust around, it appears none of their victims would ever die from a bite. The slow-drain aspect adds to the terror, and haunting, and choice aspect. Many modern vamp romances (there are a lot, see: Dead and Doing It, from Vol. 1, Issue 4 of this very magazine) imply “donors” are willing participants, and if a vamp needed so much as to kill them, well, it would cut down on the volunteers. Also, and we are back to the math thing, complete draining of a victim seems unsustainable. Thus, killing a feedbag can remain “evil” and a “choice” but not a necessity.
RULE 2a: Vampires do not need to kill anyone to be biologically satiated
Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, and Anne Rice all let their vampires consume any type of blood to survive, even if in some cases they then willfully misuse the word “vegetarian”. The Sookie Stackhouse series/True Blood vampires “came out of the coffin” when the Japanese developed a viable blood substitute, and interestingly, J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger boys can only be truly satisfied by the blood of another vamp. But a lot of the romance novels I’ve been reading lately don’t really explain if the blood needs to be human. In fact, in these, the blood drinking is more of a “power” and “better sex” and “intimacy” and “connection” type of thing. Regardless, in most cases, if a human is a “donor” either he/she must consent (or have his/her memory of the event erased); otherwise the paranormal council will get its panties in a bunch. Rogue vamps drink human blood to cement their evilness in the story-line, or, as in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, it is the rogue vampires who drink from a human source, while more “civilized” vampires either drink their human blood from a bag, or not at all.
I can see how having a choice between any blood, and the allure of the tastier, but naughty, human blood, adds a lot of dramatic tension. However, the stakes are raised when the blood must be human. How is a vamp who is striving to be moral supposed to reconcile goodness with a biological need to drink human blood? Think of all the tension an author can spin around that. The recent YA release, The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, actually did a good job on that aspect by having her heroine, new vampire Allison, need to work hard at resisting eating her new friends. Also, think of all the possible sexy bits revolving around the intimacy of “biting” and being biologically sustained by your lover. (Hello, Anita Blake, the later years!)
For the above reasons, the human vs. non-human blood part of the debate is a tough call. However, I think decreeing that the blood must be human really boxes in the story-teller, because then they are forced to address how a vampire gets its blood. Sometimes the story can be told without dealing with that element. I prefer the choice between good and evil that is brought about by having human blood be a much tastier, but unnecessary, snack. Therefore:
RULE 2b: The blood doesn’t need to be human
In summary: vampires must drink some-sort of blood, fortnightly, and don’t require so much as to necessitate the killing of the “donor”. This allows for lots of creative license to hunger after human blood for the power, or the lust, or the evilness. And fortnightly because 1) it’s a cool word 2) it’s a nice round implication that vampires don’t need to feed every night, but also not years at a stretch.
Continued tomorrow, in The Official Vampire Lore Standards, Part 2…