TATB Guest Post: How a Decades-Old Simpsons Gag Became My Least Popular Novel Ever by Stephen Kozeniewski

Today we have one of Novenber’s giveaway authors guest posting on the TATB blog. Please welcome horror and sci-fi author,

Stephen Kozeniewski

 

***

 

There is a certain generation for whom the words “I call it…Billy and the Cloneasaurus” will always have a magical, almost transformative meaning.

Actually, I don’t know if “generation” is the right word.  “Cadre?”  “Cohort?”  Something else that starts with a “C?”  A “group,” let’s say.  Yes, that seems generic enough.

 

For this “group,” this “cohort,” this “Generation Simpson” if you will (he said, immediately negating the premise of his whole last paragraph) the ability to spout Simpsons quotes at one another, both in- and out-of-context was (and probably still is) de rigueur.  For every situation there is a Simpsons quote.  For every quip, a caustic response from Patty and/or Selma.  For every stupid statement, a Ralph Wiggum-ism against which to compare its profound stupidity.  And for every terrible idea there is the sad, unwittingly cribbed brainchild of Seymour Skinner (nee Tamzarian): Billy and the Cloneasaurus.

billy-and-the-cloneasaurus

I don’t honestly know what happened to Generation Simpson.  I mean, I know I’m still here.  And when I must, I can pick up my phone and text “So long dental plan” to any given friend from high school and receive a near-instantaneous reply of (say it with me now) “Lisa needs braces.”  But what of the promise that one day our (completely stolen and repeated by rote) ideas would enter the mainstream?  What of the hope that one day Simpsons quotes would replace Beatles lyrics as the lingua franca of newspaper headlines?

Well, aside from the collapse of print publishing, the answer is “I don’t know.”  (And bonus points if you just read that in the testy tone of Carl Carlson replying to Lenny Leonard’s query “Did I?”)  I just know that it did.  I can recall the exact moment it became clear to me.

The year was dickety-ten.  (We had to say “dickety” ’cause the Kaiser had stolen our word “twenty.”)  This story is 100% true, by the way.  I had been called back to active duty by the army after my honorable discharge two years before.  Two wars were still raging and folks just didn’t feel like enlisting, God bless ’em.  So it fell to veterans like me, people who had been out just long enough to be signing mortgages and birthing dependents, but not so long that we had forgotten which end of the rifle to point forward, to spackle in the holes in Uncle Sam’s service roster.

 

So I’m in Ft. Benning, GA, without a television on a Sunday night, something which has not occurred to me, oh, I think ever.  Not even when I was actually at war.  (Props, it must be said, are to be given to the good people of the USO and AAFES for that, although I was luckier than many.)  So I trudged reluctantly from my billet to the dayroom, and popped into a chair, one of dozens of identically-crafted, low-slung seats, differentiable from one another only by the ghastly color of the faux-comfortable cushions.

Eight o’clock in the postmeridian on a Sunday night.  Or, to use the local parlance, twenty-hundred hours.  Since time immemorial (well, okay, except for that five-year Thursday experiment from seasons two to six) Simpsons time.  And The Pelican Brief was on.

The Pelican Brief.

 

Why anyone would watch this movie in the second decade of the twenty-first century is beyond me.  But to do so while The Simpsons was merely a flick of the dial away seemed a sacrilege of the highest order to me.  I looked around the room.  Every vapid, dead, soulless eye was locked on a young Denzel Washington and an already gone-to-seed Julia Roberts.  It was like they had all forgotten what time it was, and what day of the week.

“Isn’t The Simpsons on?” I asked.

The silence made me ask myself, “Am I so out of touch?”  A moment later someone finally answered me.

 

The Simpsons?  Is that still on the air?”

That moment I died a little inside.  Society had pulled a cruel, mean trick on me.  What I was with wasn’t “it” and what was “it” seemed weird and scary to me.  (Although, still, to this day, I have to wonder…The Pelican Brief?  Really?  The Pelican Brief?)

If you’ll oblige me just a moment or two longer I am, in fact, wrapping this all up.  If you’ll fast forward about a year and a half I was driving home from work and reflecting upon what a miserable piece of work is a man.  We get up, we go to work, we punch in, punch out, all the while knowing that anyone (literally anyone) could replace us.

I think I was wondering at the time what it was, really, that made my boss so much better than me that she could tell me what to do.  And I just didn’t see it.  As far as I could tell we were peers, intellectually, physically, in every way that mattered.  Truly, I felt like every worker was a cog, eminently replaceable.  Pull my boss out and plug me in.  Pull me out and plug in Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo, and the end result would always be the same.

I began to wonder what would happen if we were all literally the same.  Corporations being as they are, might see the value in interchangeable employees, just as Henry Ford had seen the value in interchangeable parts a hundred years ago.

What if everyone were a clone?

This idea, as you may have guessed, was the germ of the novel referenced in the title of this article.  I developed the story, wrote it, and had it published.  From what I can tell from what little feedback I’ve received it’s good.  Groin-grabbingly good, even.  Sharp, witty, good writing.  (I must point out that this is the consensus of others, not my own words.  I’m not some kind of…self-flattering guy.)

Yet, oddly, my novel doesn’t sell.  No one’s moving the paper.  Or, um, shuttling the electrons.  It’s fallen flat.  And I have to wonder why.  Why has my clever little clone story never reached the (admittedly meager) success of my prior work?

And I have to think it’s the title.  I tossed around a couple of ideas for the title.  A World of Jims springs to mind.  (This was at a time when I was considering naming all of the clones “Jim.”)  But ultimately I had to go with my gut, and finally bring to fruition a throwaway gag from a Simpsons episode that first aired in 1994, when Principal Skinner suggested that he would write a Jurassic Park knockoff called Billy and the Cloneasaurus.

My though was that Generation Simpson would rally to my cause.  Who among my middle school friends wouldn’t want to own a real-life copy of Skinner’s preposterously named work?  I even had to fight (well, not that hard, really, because they’re really good, author-centric people) with my publisher to keep the title.  He was worried people would think it was a children’s book, rather than a dark, Brazil-esque piece of dystopian horror.

“No,” I assured him, “I will capitalize on the success of The Simpsons.”

To date it hasn’t happened.  It’s made me cry out to an uncaring universe, “Where my ‘Dils at?”  But I hold out hope.  I hold out hope that somewhere out there lies a vein of untapped potential, a veritable gaggle of cheese-eating surrender monkeys who will finally flock, (flock, I say,) to pick up their very own copies of Billy and the Cloneasaurus.  After all, it’s a perfectly cromulent book.

 

***

Now go check out Stephen Kozeniewski’s website and/or stalk him on twitter and make sure you enter November’s Dystopian Novels Giveaway, which includes a signed paperback copy of Billy and the Cloneasaurus! 

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2

TATB Guest Post: Driving Forward by Greg Hickey

Today we have one of November’s giveaway authors guest posting on the TATB blog. Please welcome dystopian author,

Greg Hickey

***

The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, my father bravely sat in the passenger seat. I was fifteen with a learner’s permit, and I was nervous and hesitant. In one of our first lessons, my father directed me to Forestway Drive, a two-lane road with no traffic signals and no passing that wound through a forest preserve near our house. The speed limit was forty-five, but I barely approached thirty on my first attempt as I crept through the woods with a line of eager cars on my tail.

Over time, Forestway Drive became my personal measuring stick for my abilities as a driver. On each trip, I crept closer to the speed limit and was soon zig-zagging my way through the forest with ease. After I got my driver’s license, I began to take the longer Forestway route whenever I traveled in its direction. I especially liked to drive that road at night, simply for the thrill of hugging those wooded curves in the moonlit darkness, for the pleasure of succeeding at something that had once seemed so difficult.

When I was in high school in the early 2000s, driving remained an act of skill and power and an expression of personal freedom—even for minivans! Take this Chrysler advertisement from 2000, which features similar footage to what you might see in a commercial for a sports car. A fleet of vans cruises along a snaking tree-lined road, whipping around curves and accelerating in perfect unison. The voice-over describes the vans as “luxurious” and repeats the model name “Voyager” twice in succession. These minivans aren’t just for soccer moms; they’re meant for voyages, for taking adventures and doing so in style.

Four years later, Chrysler shifted its Pacifica model name from a minivan to a sportier crossover vehicle. Yet unlike those 2000 minivans, this more aesthetically appealing automobile was advertised for its comfort more than its performance. This 2007 Pacifica commercial opens up much like its 2000 predecessor, with taglines emphasizing “performance” and “style.” But it quickly shifts tone to focus on “security” and “safety” and then “technology,” which refers to a DVD player and satellite radio rather than improved driving performance. Images of the car’s extraneous features replace the fast, powerful, initial driving shot, and the final driving scene is far tamer, portraying the Pacifica traveling at a moderate speed along a quiet suburban street. The transition from driving a car to riding in one had begun.

This year, comedian Jim Gaffigan offered several tongue-in-cheek boasts about his “Dad brand” in a series of Pacifica commercials, such as this self-parking ad.

“I do things myself,” Gaffigan says, as his Pacifica parallel parks itself. “I don’t pass things off, I don’t let anyone or anything do something that I should do myself.”

The advertisement effectively uses Gaffigan’s humor to highlight the self-parking feature of the Pacifica. But who is the butt of Gaffigan’s irony? All of us who claim to be independent, skillful and proactive? In this commercial, Chrysler pinpoints the hypocrisy of modern car commercials that conflate human driving performance with the technological capabilities of contemporary automobiles. But in promoting the Pacifica’s self-parking feature, Chrysler’s apparent solution is that we should either embrace Gaffigan’s hypocrisy or fully adopt the hands-free, effort-free lifestyle.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I rarely had the need to parallel park a car. It wasn’t until I got to college that I became woefully aware of this shortcoming, especially in comparison to my friend who was raised in the city. While a self-parking car could have saved me a lot of hassle, I always felt that parallel parking was a skill that wasn’t hard enough or dangerous enough to preclude the effort needed to learn it.

We are now faced with the next step of automobile technology, in which self-driving cars could fill American roads within a few years. Google unleashed its automated vehicles on the streets around its northern California headquarters last year, and Uber recently rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh with the hope of soon expanding to other markets. In late September, a group of tech industry veterans proposed banning human-driven automobiles on a 150-mile stretch of interstate between Seattle and Vancouver. The same article proposes that human drivers could be outlawed in London and other congested urban settings and on college campuses and airports within the next five years.

I am amazed by the rapid acceleration of automated automobile technology leading to the recent explosion of viable self-driving cars. And I have no doubt that a road without human drivers will be safer for all commuters. Distracted, drowsy and intoxicated drivers could soon become hazards of the past. Traffic might move more freely, and commuters could at least use their travel time productively. But there’s a part of me that will miss zipping through the quiet darkness of Forestway Drive in this new driverless world.

I do not consider myself a technophobe and do not want to come across as one, but the shift from the skill of driving toward automation underlines a concern common to any rapid advance in technology. It bears repeating that we are (at least for now) masters of our technologies. We can use them how and as much or little as we please. In that vein, we should ask ourselves whether we choose self-parking or self-driving cars for safety and convenience, or because we don’t want to bother cultivating the requisite skill to park or drive ourselves. Where driving was once considered an enjoyable pastime and a symbol of humankind’s ability to bend technology to its own devices, we now risk seeing this skill become an antiquated luxury in our continual pursuit of comfort, safety and efficiency.

Contrary to Gaffigan’s words, we no longer do many things ourselves. We do pass tasks off, we do let machines perform actions we should do ourselves. We ought to inquire whether we do so for the sake of public safety or to allow us to use our time more productively or better cultivate meaningful relationships, or simply because we have become too lazy, scared or enamored with personal comfort to act on our own. We should weigh technologies, not only on how they affect our lives in a purely utilitarian calculus but on whether or not they erode the very spirit of adventure, creativity and human agency that made them possible in the first place.

Greg Hickey is the author of Our Dried Voices, a dystopian fiction novel about what happens when humans no longer need to think and create in order to sustain their lives, and a Finalist for Foreword Reviews‘ 2014 INDIEFAB Science Fiction Book of the Year Award. You can read samples of Our Dried Voices and the rest of his written work on his website http://www.greghickeywrites.com/

***

Now go check out Greg Hickey’s facebook page and/or stalk him on twitter and make sure you enter November’s Dystopian Giveaway, which includes a signed paperback copy of Our Dried Voices

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1

TATB Guest Post: A Dangerous Time for Vampires by Dylan J. Morgan

Today we have one of October’s giveaway authors guest posting on the TATB blog. Please welcome horror author,

Dylan J. Morgan

***

Vampires—ruthless and deadly. Born from the depraved desires of a bloodthirsty Romanian warlord early in the seventh century, vampires evolved quickly into the hellish nightmares that mortal perceived them to be. But they became more than that, reproducing and establishing thriving communities not only in Eastern Europe but across the entire continent. Yet they kept to the shadows, hidden from mankind’s gaze, only entering their world to feed. And they were not alone in the supernatural world, sharing their existence with werewolves. Nothing lasts; before long hatred and bloodlust consumed all, and war raged in the darkness.

During the brief standoff a knowing passed between the two preternatural beings: recognition formed centuries in the past, yet one fueled by abhorrence born a mere one hundred years ago. In one fluid movement he flipped his coat-tails to one side and unsheathed the steel blade. He held the weapon back behind his head, feet splayed as he awaited the creature’s onslaught. He had done it many times in the past, and knew if he angled his strike correctly he could behead the hellish creature in one graceful arc.

178786602As war spread and diversified, so did the vampire coven, each member becoming expert swordsmen and relying on agility and cunning in battle against ferocious lycanthropes. Elite battalions, called Enforcers, tackled packs of werewolves in open conflict in the expansive countryside of Europe, fighting tooth and claw with their immortal enemy. In the growing cities of an advancing world, through the Middle Ages and into the Edwardian and Victorian eras, vampires developed a complex civilization, a hierarchy of Elders governing a coven equipped with soldiers and loyal subjects.

Beginning his existence as an Enforcer fighting the war against werewolves, Markus took control of the coven with the death of his grandfather. Using ruthless determination to ensure his race survives, he’s a warrior at heart who gives no quarter and accepts no prisoners. Born nine hundred years ago, Markus now lords over a coven in change.

Mortal life—nothing but fleeting time; as insignificant as a grain of sand in an hour glass. The lifetime of a human did not compare to the experiences Markus had suffered through. He’d been embroiled in a brutal war filled with carnage and bloodshed for the better part of six centuries. He’d slaughtered lycanthropes and hybrid soldiers with a ruthless determination; had borne tragic witness to the massacre and torture of his brethren.

Monsters and Mortals - Blood War Trilogy Book II by [Morgan, Dylan J.]

Their war has changed too. Four hundred years previously the bloodlines were crossed, vampire and werewolf copulating to produce a grotesque mix of both races: hybrids. Enforcers became Eliminators, their sole responsibility to hunt down the perpetrators of this heinous breeding and slaughter every last one—before turning their attention to the hybrids, and massacring each of them in turn. Now, there comes a time for vampires to dilute their hatred of their lycanthropic cousins, to put aside six hundred years of conflict and bloodshed in a combined effort to extinguish that which should never have been born.

Now that the offer had been put on the werewolves’ table he hoped there’d be no turning back. Counsel would have to support him. Besides, the truce wouldn’t remain in effect for long; only until such time as those hybrids were no longer a threat to his coven. Then the lycanthropes would discover just how treacherous he could be.

The Last Stand -- Blood War Trilogy Book III by [Morgan, Dylan J.]

For the vampire race it’s a dangerous time. The supernatural world is filled with treachery, lies, betrayal, and a fragile truce about to be shattered by the most shocking secret of them all.

***

Book excerpts reproduced with kind permission from the author.

Now go check out  website and/or stalk him on twitter and make sure you enter October’s Vampire Novels Giveaway, which includes a copy of The Blood War Trilogy

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TATB Guest Post: The Darkly Vampires by Chloe Hammond

Today we have one of October’s giveaway authors guest posting on the TATB blog. Please welcome paranormal author,

Chloe Hammond

***

In Darkly Dreaming, Book 1 of the Darkly Vampire Trilogy I wanted to create vampires that might actually exist. These are not the undead, or supernatural, they have been infected by an ancient virus, originating from Egyptian times when there were cults that used group blood-letting as part of their worship. To me it is all too easy to imagine a mutation, an infection, a virus that changes the human DNA resulting from these dangerous practices. The resulting evolutionary leap is then worshipped as a God…..

Humans have been through so many evolutionary processes, from fish, to reptiles, to mammals, and finally, to humans. We have sectors of our brains and DNA, still shaped and functioning from these times. Our DNA can be changed by our life experiences, emotions we do not express form proteins on our DNA, changing us forever.

Is it so hard to imagine a vicious virus that can rip through your DNA? Reawakening evolutionary pathways that have been closed down, causing a complete metamorphosis while the victim is in a coma, so that many die, but those that awake are as completely transformed as a butterfly? A butterfly does not just grow wings while it is in the cocoon, its insides turn to mush, and it completely changes all of its organs, limbs, everything. My vampires do the same.

Here the Pride leader tells the newly transformed friends what they have become:

‘You will heal quickly and are immune to all the diseases and illnesses humans suffer from. Although if someone you feed from is very ill, their blood will taste unpleasant,’ Guillaume continues. ‘You will not age. You will not die of old age, but you are not invincible. You are a lot more resilient than a human, but to kill you, someone only needs to separate your head and heart.’ He takes a breath and leans his head back with his eyes closed before he continues to relay his list of changes we need to understand about our new existence.

‘You can ignore the silly stories and films. You can be photographed, and will see your reflection in a mirror,’ he continues. ‘You can go out in the day light, but I recommend you don’t because you look very different now, and the only hope we have of remaining a legend is if the humans who see us up close die immediately. They must not be allowed to acquire photographic evidence. You are not ‘undead’ or ‘supernatural’. You have just been infected by a virus that has caused a physical transformation.’

I use the language of cats a lot while talking about my vampires, they live in a Pride like lions, and I use lots of feline analogies. The transformation has made the vampires strong, lethal, and lovers of hunting, they are beguiling and terrible, just like cats.

After transformation Rae explores her new vampire body in the mirror:

‘As I stand upright again, still a little unsteady as I learn to co-ordinate my newly extended body, I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I check the blind is down on the window, and the door is firmly closed, then I slowly undress and stand naked in front of the armoire and gaze at the transformation.

My brown hair tumbles past my waist in thick, shining pre-Raphaelite curls the colour of conkers. My eyes are huge and instead of their usual muddy hazel colour, they are the shocking yellow green of peridot crystal, and my eyelashes and eyebrows are thick, dark and long. My high colouring, wrinkles and freckles are gone and instead I have the perfect pink and white complexion of a Victorian doll. My lips, blushed a gothic burgundy, are curved in a perfect cupid’s bow, and look like I am about to smile when actually I want to scream. My teeth are new, smaller, whiter and sharper than I had before. I look ageless, inhuman, a beautiful freak

As Guillaume, the Pride Leader explained, vampires all have special powers, extra gifts which aren’t always apparent. The vampires do not know what influences these powers, or why some turn out the way they do. Rae and Layla both happen to be Pretty Ones, which means they can Glamour other vampires, this goes beyond the normal compelling that any vampire can exert over a human, like a weasel over a rabbit. Being a Pretty One means you can exert complete sexual control over another vampire, or a human.

Freshly turned vampires cannot always control their new powers with potentially embarrassing results:

‘Thank you for listening to me.’ As we stand up, my mind is already back up at the house, on Layla. Brian casually reaches his hand to my shoulder and leans forward to give me a friendly peck on the cheek. As he touches me, everything changes in an instant.

My head falls back as my back arches, and his friendly grasp on my shoulder becomes molten. He slides his hand up and cups the back of my head while he is kissing, and licking, and nipping, down my cheek, lingering on my mouth and then down onto my throat. Then back up to bite and tug my earlobe, and back down to the dip where my collarbone meets my neck. At the same time his other hand slides around my waist and down onto my arse, pushing me hard against him. The need in me is as instant and furious as a gas flame; it becomes me. Only where he touches me is the need sweetened and slaked.

Within seconds we are naked enough for him to be inside me, filling me, our eyes locked in the intensity of the moment, as almost instantly I am rocked by my climax, which tips him into his bliss. We are gasping and grasping and… and then as quickly as it all started, I see the need wane from his eyes as quickly as my own vanishes and we are just two embarrassed vampires who don’t know each other very well, stumbling around trying to put our clothes back on, hoping that no one can see us.

‘Well,’ I say sheepishly as I pull my clothes straight. ‘That’s new.’

There is also the Rage, when a vampire feels threatened or extremely angry they experience the Rage, a preparation for battle, which usually includes a swelling of muscles, a lengthening of the limbs, but some vampires, often those who were deeply unhappy when they were infected, develop extreme Rage symptoms:

‘Oh well, darling, if you’re going to be a rude little upstart, you can die first.’ Patrice’s face lengthens and distorts as she moves towards me. Suddenly, Layla is beside me, but I hardly recognise her. Her face is long and her mouth gapes nightmarishly open. Her teeth have become long slender spikes protruding diagonally from her mouth and meshing viciously as she gnashes.

Her steps are rigid and awkward, and her shoulders are wider and have risen unevenly to her ears. Her hands claw in front of her, grasping towards Patrice. Her fingers have extended, the bones protruding from the flesh with her nails long and sharp inches beyond where the flesh ends. Her back has arched like an angry cat’s and her ribs have dislocated so sharp bone spikes are sticking through her skin and clothes all down her sides. Her legs are longer, but not quite even, adding to her lopsided lurch as she lunges across the room towards Patrice, screaming an alien scream, like nothing I’ve ever heard before.’

For me though, the most important thing for me about the Darkly vampire friends is their struggle to retain their humanity, to cling to what is important to them. I hope this is what will entice my readers to fall in love with the funny, feisty friends, and follow their adventures through the full trilogy.

 ***

Now go check out Chloe Hammond’s website and/or stalk her on twitter and make sure you enter October’s Vampire Novels Giveaway, which includes a copy of Darkly Dreaming!

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TATB Guest Post: But Our Vampires Are Different by Stephen Kozeniewski

Today we have one of October’s giveaway authors guest posting on the TATB blog. Please welcome horror and sci-fi author,

Stephen Kozeniewski

***

“My vampires are different, though!”  It’s such an oft-repeated line, there’s an entire portal of pages for it on TV Tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurVampiresAreDifferent).  It’s so common, that I consistently see reviewers say, “No vampires, and yes, I know yours are different.”

 

I guess the ubiquity of that phrase says one thing about vampire authors: at least we take our worldbuilding seriously.  It’s a common lament that fantasy authors will say, “You know, they’re Tolkien- style elves” or, “You know, it’s a Warcraft-type orc” and call it a day.  I guess because vampires are so common and come with so much baggage, vampire authors at least like to lay down the rules for their own work.

 

I find there are two basic methodologies for doing this.  Authors will either treat their vampires like strangely exotic animals whose idiosyncrasies all have a scientific explanation (“The Strain” is a good recent example, or “Underworld” is a slightly older one) or they’ll treat them like nonsense magical creatures who can do whatever the author’s imagination likes (such as in “Buffy” or “True Blood”). 

 

For myself, I mostly split the difference.  I don’t hate the idea of trying to make vampires scientifically plausible, but folks like Guillermo del Toro have already taken a crack at that and I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to add.  I do kind of dislike the whole “vampires can do whatever we say they can do because magic” method.  Because I mean, how, physically how, would a two hundred pound man turn into a six ounce bat?  Exactly how do fangs become hollow things you can suck blood through, and how do you retract them when you’re not aroused?  Where do they go?  Does anything in nature do these things?  Snakes have fangs but they always have fangs, and they’re hollow for injecting venom, not for sucking blood.  And tadpoles can gradually evolve into frogs, but they can’t turn back, and they certainly can’t go from tiny to giant and back again.

 

So I didn’t want to worry about every little aspect of my vampires having to jive with some kind of scientific principle, but I did want them to at least be reasonable physical beings.  Which meant a couple of rules:

 313060241

1.)  Creating vampires is more like giving birth.  You know the old math trick that if you take a penny and double it thirty times you’ll end up with ten million dollars?  This is my problem with easy peasy siring, or bringing across, or turning, or the blood kiss or whatever you want to call it.  In HUNTER OF THE DEAD only very powerful and ancient vampires can grant the Long Gift (hey, I had to come up with a new term, my vampires are different, after all) and they’re not always very good at it.  Sometimes people have miscarriages or their children are born with deformities.  It’s the same way with my vampires.  Sometimes when trying to turn someone they simply die, other times they become subhuman ghouls.  It’s not always just a bite and a turn.

 

2.)  Ditch the fangs.  As I said, fangs are cool, but they don’t make much sense and I feel like writers have come to rely on them as a crutch.  If someone can give me a working explanation for retractable fangs, I will gladly rescind this statement.  So my vampires have ordinary teeth, and when they need to drink blood, they use a razor blade.

 

3.)  No mesmerism.  Like fangs, I’ve come to think of mesmerism as a cheat.  It’s a way to have humans witness a vampire story, then be able to erase their memories later.  It’s a reset button, basically, and I think its crap.  So my vampires do have humans working for them, but it’s not because they’re hypnotized.  It’s because they’re convinced.

 

4.)  Shapechanging is right out.  I intend to at some point in the future tackle werewolves in a similarly reasonable-but-not-too-reasonable manner, and I will probably address the matter of a six-foot man bulking up into a nine-foot killing machine.  But a man turning into a tiny little bat just does not work for me.

 

5.)  Your humanity dies with you.  After a century and a half of literature trying to humanize vampires, we’ve reached a point where vampires are basically just angsty regular people with special powers.  I don’t like that and I’ve never liked that.  I think a vampire should never be mistaken for a human, and vampires struggling to regain their souls constitute a trope so common it’s lost all merit.  So my vampires lose their humanity and it stays lost.  You can appeal to the better angels of their nature…except they haven’t got any.

 

And that, my friends, is just a few examples of how my vampires are…uh…dissimilar.  🙂

***

Now go check out Stephen Kozeniewski’s website and/or stalk him on twitter and make sure you enter October’s Vampire Novels Giveaway, which includes a signed paperback copy of Hunter of the Dead!

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