The Great Vampire Debate by Selah Janel

These days, it seems that everyone has their opinions on vampires. Whether it started with Twilight or that just exacerbated the debate, there seems to be a growing opinion that enough is enough with the genre. It’s seen all it can. Any other changes or dabblings within the genre are only going to wreck it, so let’s all just quit while we’re ahead.
Really? Seriously?
This is a genre that’s been around for hundreds of years, based on folklore that’s been around for thousands. The vampire is not going to just go away, and I seriously doubt there’s a way to wreck the genre. Is it a little saturated at the moment? Sure, but we’re noticing it because a lot of books and films inhabit the same space. It seems that there are romantic vampires or gore-based vampires, and little else. Obviously that isn’t true, but that’s what we’re made to think. If anything, we need to adjust our expectations.
The vampire is an archetype that’s survived because it’s so versatile. It can be violent, it can be seductive, it can be a metaphor for what humans are capable of, it can remind us of how helpless we are in the scheme of things. I, personally, prefer vampire fiction that lets the creature use his teeth. After all, without the feeding aspect, the vampire is just another stock immortal character. Without the conflict of having to prey on those very similar to him, he’s boring. It’s how he or she handles that conflict of interests, how one approaches their unlife that makes things interesting. Bonus points if the vampire in question actually embraces the change instead of dragging us through yet one more ethical debate about whether the vamp is actually a monster or not.
There’s so much possibility in the genre, I think it’s more about us as readers or moviegoers demanding to see different types of vampires. We need to raise our standards and be vocal about it. If you truly enjoy what’s being offered, great! There’s nothing wrong with that at all. There is definitely a reason the modern, seductive vampire works as a romantic hero. I definitely understand that, but I don’t think we should reduce such a powerful creature to just that. Nor should we limit the vampire as a mindless eating machine. After all, vampires used to be human, just like us. They were either forced or willing to make a choice that most of us would never want to be faced with, if we’re being honest.
For those that are fed up with the current vampire trends, instead of complaining, why not try to see what else is out there and recommend it by word of mouth? If you’re a writer or filmmaker, why not look for different sorts of vampire stories to tell?
After all, it is so very hard to kill a vampire. What makes you think the genre’s going away any time soon?

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And if you’re intrigued by different sorts of vampire fiction, feel free to check out the re-release of my historical horror e-book, Mooner!

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Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?
And now, let’s have an excerpt since it’s been so very long…
Nancy shuffled back towards the bar, casting a wary look over her shoulder. “Red, he’s back,” she breathed as she scooped up another tray and fled to the other side of the room. Upon closer inspection the youth realized that it wasn’t a pile of something. It was a figure draped in a patchwork of skins then cloaked with half-torn, moldy furs. Most who passed his way quickly avoided him, though whether it was because of his odd looks or his smell it was hard to say.
Red hissed through his teeth and ran a sweating hand through his thick, flame-colored mane. “Tom Haskins,” he mumbled under his breath for the benefit of those crowded around him.
“I thought he lived on the edge of town,” Jack replied, equally low, and glared down the length of the bar.
“He tried to start a dry good store and it didn’t go over too well. He had it in his mind that he could make up his loss with fur, though he ain’t no trapper. Moved out to the woods weeks ago and comes into town every so often to hang round and get his fix. Just when I think he’s finally died out there he comes round again.”
Not once did the saloon proprietor take his eyes off the body hunched over a table. Every breath made his ragtag cloak shudder and every moldy hair on him quivered.
“You want me to kick him out?” Jack offered, already shifting his weight.
“Nah, let him warm up at least. He doesn’t do much; just pesters everyone for drink now that he can’t afford it for himself. Give him time and he’ll be up to his tricks.”
Bill couldn’t stop staring. The pile of sloughed animals slumped as the man’s head rose. His skin was a cold gray and stretched taught across his face and hands. His hair had all but fallen out, but what was still left of it hung in clumps of long, ragtag strands that were paler than dried straw. His thin-lipped mouth was open and he sucked in air in painful, erratic pants.
“Look at ‘im! Actin’ like a piglet pulled away from its ma’s teat!” Big John sneered. “I bet his clothes are fulla maggots!”
“It’s too cold for maggots,” Ben snorted. “His clothes are thin. Wonder how the hell he stands bein’ out in the woods in weather like this.”
“We do it,” Bill muttered.
The recluse’s head jerked at the sound of his voice. The young man immediately snapped his mouth shut.
“Yeah, but we’re used to it! And younger’n he ever was!” John’s voice was purposefully loud and it carried the haughty tone that won him admiration from the other loggers. “He’s durn crazy, that’s why he don’t notice. All that time on your own turn you yaps, man?”
Tom’s head very slowly shifted towards them and Bill shuddered. There were days he’d survived the logging camp and the extreme conditions by willpower and prayer alone, all the while wondering in the back of his head what it would be like if he didn’t have even that. Looking at the vagrant, he knew.
Ben was cursing behind them. “I saw him not more than a month ago and he didn’t look like that. Solitary life don’t turn a man in that short a’ time! Maybe he’s got rabies or fever ‘n’ ague.”
Tom’s eyes sat so far back in his skull that it was impossible to tell what color they were, though they harbored a steady, unsettling gleam. They roved over the huddled group, searching hungrily for an easy mark. Bill’s heart plummeted to his boots when the hollow glitter locked onto him. He was suddenly as cold as he was when a seventh-year blizzard hit. All the frustrations and hell he’d endured since joining the logging team, all his good intentions and reasons, all that he was trying to move forward to swelled and jumbled together in a brief, howling wind of thought. The two distant stars in Tom’s eyes were the only thing that pegged him as a stable man in his otherwise rotting and dozy appearance.
All around the little group the saloon’s weekend life went on. The distant sound of swearing and dice clattering across the floor mixed with discordant harmonies and a half-hearted mouth organ. But in the area by the bar, all was muffled and still. It was like the snows had come without warning over the forest, smothering everything in their path with chilled silence. Bill shuddered and out of the corner of his eye he noticed Red do the same.
“You want I should knock his ears down, Red?” John’s bravado was the sudden yell that knocked the snow from the treetops, for good or ill. He had the relaxed look of a man who’d been in his cup just enough to throw caution to the wind. “I’ll toss him out and give ‘im a case of smallpox he won’t forget!”
“Leave be, John,” the barkeep muttered. His hand never stopped wiping down the bar and though his head was tilted down to his task, his eyes were set on their target across the room.
“What…what you want me to do for a drink?” At first it didn’t register that Tom had actually spoken. His voice was high and reedy and cracked the way the thinnest ice along the river did.
“Pardon?”
“What you want me to do for a drink?” His lips cracked when his mouth moved. A thin trail of spittle dripped off his lower lip and was quickly caught up by the tip of the derelict’s seeking tongue. The distant gleam in Tom’s eyes burned as his mouth formed the last word. Otherwise, it was hard to say how he’d made it into the saloon; he looked more than a little dim.
The rustle of skirts made Bill look behind him. Nancy had come around once more and was sliding her empty tray on the bar with more hesitation than usual. “Don’t you boys take the bait. Last time he came in here he swallowed a handful of live spiders. I’ve seen him gulp down tadpoles and minnows, too.”
“Why?” Bill breathed, though the word was a vague whisper in his own ears.
“The woods didn’t make him picky, that’s for certain,” Nancy muttered.
“I’ve seen him bite the heads off rodents, and even a chicken. The body still wriggled for a good minute after,” Red agreed. “When he says he’ll do anything, he means it.”
John’s rugged, dirty face lit like a beacon that was up to no good. “Will he now?”
The vagrant scratched himself somewhere under the skins and let himself be regarded by the knot of loggers.
“Whatever you’re planning to do, leave be!” Nancy hissed. “Red, can’t you just pour him somethin’?”
“If I do that for him I’ll end up startin’ a riot.”
“Then we’ll settle this like men,” John breezed, rolling up the sleeves of his mackinaw to show the lines of scars received as proof of his time on skid road. “So what, exactly, will you do for a shot of ol’ Red’s firewater, huh Tom?”

0908_Selah_Hedshots_60CSelah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield. Olde School is the first book in her new series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, and is published through Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.

Selah’s Links:
Blog       Facebook author page      Twitter
Amazon Author Page      Goodreads

Meet Selah Janel Geek extraordinaire

There are so many topics I could write about, but let’s just get the big one, the mega one, the one that’s near and dear to my heart out of the way. I’ve tried through the years to develop into a somewhat mature human being and to keep getting better at the writing craft.

None of this takes away from the fact that I am a giant, undiluted, unrepentant geek. I’m a geek in my interests, a geek in my writing, and although I may change and grow, I doubt that’s going to go away. Why bring this up at all? It intrigues me that with so many fan girls and boys of various books and series these days, writers of the speculative genre are still pushed into a far corner of the room by the more literary crowd.

This irritates me.

Granted, I get that what’s popular isn’t always good, but I feel that sometimes people heap horror, sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, and all the rest as things that are for strict entertainment. And there’s nothing wrong with that; I don’t mind being entertained and there’s definitely a market for it. As a writer, though, I feel like a lot of people and critics are missing the point. There’s an opportunity with genre fiction that I’m constantly tempted by as an author. It’s not just about zombies, vampires, aliens, telepathic powers, or suddenly finding that you’re being stalked by a time-traveling cult. Sure, these are fun and intriguing, but I think sometimes people forget that speculative writers have a lot of room to work with metaphor. Comic titles like Walking Dead and Batman are about more than the fantastic set-up; they’re about how certain types of people deal with loss, with survival, with obsession. Sometimes putting these heavy emotions into a fantastic setting makes it easier for us to talk about them, to make us wonder what we would do in similar situations.

Like or loathe how vampires have been portrayed lately, they can be a great metaphor for a lot of things. They can be the ultimate predator, a version of Nietzsche’s supermen turned into a nightmare because they break all the rules on the food chain. They can represent the longing a lot of people repress (though whether the longing is sexual, romantic, or to be able to get away with lashing out, that’s up to the reader to interpret).

Look at Ray Bradbury, who put a huge amount of human emotions on Mars. Not only did he get us wondering about space, he also makes us feel for the struggles his characters experience as they get used to their situations. Look at Neil Gaiman, who has not only introduced mythology in new forms to readers who may not care otherwise, but who explores those stories and characters in ways that really get his readers thinking.

As a writer, I want people to enjoy my work and be entertained, but I also hope it sticks in their minds. I want them to think about why rock stars might be tempted into turning into demons and what it means to want something so bad you’d do anything for it. I want people to take a good look at everyone around them and wonder ‘what if…just what if they’re something else and I’m taking that for granted?’ As entertaining as genre fiction can be, I think writers of it have a unique opportunity to not only give people the chance to dream, but to also wake them up and get them thinking.

If that happens to take fairies, spaceships, elder gods, and mutant zombie vampire hybrids, well, so much the better.

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Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.

 

She has the holiday e-book Holly and Ivy released through Mocha Memoirs Press and four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including her first novel In the Red, the historical vampire story Mooner and the contemporary short The Other Man.  Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology Bedtime Stories for Girls. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.

Catch up with Selah and all her ongoing projects at the following places:

Blog

Fandom Scene Column

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Book Page 

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

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