Regarding all pseudo-scientific names in Bestiary-style posts: please note that while I did study Latin at university, I was never very good at it (tri-weekly mortification hour, as I knew it) and I haven’t done any revision in the five or so years since I graduated. I also, unfortunately, am not overly familiar with the rules governing the grammatical form of all types of scientific classification. As a result, if anything is erroneous (either by the rules of classification or because my Latin is ungrammatical – or because that word does not mean what I think it means inconceivable) please do mention it. Furthermore, as dividing creatures by scientific strata can be complicated (should a vampire be classified as undead, sub-type magical person or magical person, sub-type undead? etc) any sensible opinions on that would be much appreciated. But don’t get too worked up over it, given that it is primarily a joke. I also suspect that proper academic folklorists have a system for classification which I have simple not been able to get my hands on. If there is such a thing, I would very much like to have a copy of it, although I would probably end up using both that and my method for classification, because mine seems likely to be more amusing.
V is for Vampire Part Three: Modern Vampire
Common Name: Vampire (also: Modern Vampire, Literary Vampire)
Species: S. Stokerii
Binomial Name: Strix Stokerii. Sub-species: Horror Vampire (S. Stokerii Stokerii), Paranormal Romance Vampire (S. Stokerii Verpa), Child Friendly Vampire (S. Stokerii Sesame)
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Range: Modern Vampires are found worldwide, although this is because many of them have migrated from their native Britain and United States, where they are still found in over-abundance.
Habitat: This differs per sub-species. The Child Friendly Vampire typically inhabits children’s entertainment of all formats (television, film, stage and book) as well as advertisement campaigns and Halloween decorations. The Horror Vampire is all but extinct on stage and a rare sight in books, however in television it can occur with reasonable regularity and it is still the dominant species in film. The Paranormal Romance Vampire is massively overpopulated in books, appears regularly in television, is occasionally sighted in film, and is completely unheard of on stage.
Evolution: Despite the term Stokerii, the Modern Vampire began to evolve before Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, although it is certainly when the species’ defining traits became pronounced enough for them to be viewed as a separate species to their Traditional forbearers. The Modern Vampire first began to evolve in 1819 – in Dr. John Polidori short-story The Vampyre. Polidori’s Lord Rutherford can, in fact, be viewed as the missing link between the S. Strigoi and the S. Stokerii. Various other proto-forms of the Modern Vampire followed, but by 1922 they had developed into a fully-fledged species of their own; the better known cousins, and descendents, of the Traditional Vampire. After this the Modern Vampire went largely unchanged for several decades, before the wild diversification of the late 20th century resulted in the three key sub-species of Modern Vampire: Horror (S. Stokerii Stokerii), Paranormal Romance (S. Stokerii Verpa) and Child Friendly (S. Stokerii Sesame).
It is worth noting that the original form of the Modern Vampire – the typical high collard, be-cloaked, pale aristocratic Count (never a Viscount) – was originally viewed as horrific, hence the Horror Vampire also being called the True (Modern) Vampire – but in later years has only been retained by the Child Friendly Vampire, which is the smallest, weakest and most docile of the three sub-species. It is believed that the evolution of the three sub-species was jumpstarted by the advent of cheap, colour, television and higher literacy resulting in higher rates of utter garbage being written and sold. It is also believed that the Paranormal Romance Vampire’s population explosion in the last few decades may be the result of cross-breeding with beings from the Scientific Kingdom of Pop-culturia (as opposed to Fokloria, Animalia, et cetera), and a plague of Wasting Angst Disease. It may also be on part to do with a delusion among modern humans that “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up” (this has empirically been proven to be untrue on the grounds that I am not a turtle) and that “Writing is easy: everyone can do it”.
Nevertheless, on occasion truly remarkable and admirable specimens of S. Stokerii Verpa have been sighted and they fill a pseudo-ecological niche which might otherwise be filled by (and is being encroached on by) Paranormal Romance Zombies (Braaains Braaains Diiick).That, in none-pseudo-academic phrasing, is to say that while a vast amount of people are convinced that they are writers nowadays because they excuse a complete lack of ideas as “writer’s block”, a complete lack of talent or skill with “there’s no such thing as bad writing” (which is complete nonsense) and a complete lack of willingness to put effort into improving their work with “but that’s haaaaaaaaard”, they are a problem that affects all genres and while they are over-common in Paranormal Romance (because they can simply change names and regurgitate), it would be wrong and unfair to say that all Paranormal Romance was like that. Some Paranormal Romance (both published through publishing houses and self-published) is, I am given to understand, of a very high quality – provided you like that sort of thing. But I digress – and ought to stop digressing, before it gets so rant-y that I need to file it under (Rants) On Writing, instead of here in the On Folklore (Bestiary). But I’m sure those of you who do like Paranormal Romance must get sick of having to slog through crap to get to the quality works, given that so many people think of it as the “easy, money-maker” genre and don’t have their hearts in it.
Physical Description: Unlike their more traditional forbearers, Modern Vampires are beautiful™. (This, of course, has the occasional exception in the form of S. Stokerii Sesame, which – although never unpleasant looking – can occasionally bear a strong resemblance to felt or chocolate cereal.) This is notable as one of the major evolutionary traits which separate them from their ancestors – the Traditional Vampire (S. Strigoi). In the event that you (in your perusal of stage, page, film and television) should come across a vampire that is always hideous – rather than just occasionally horrific when deliberately being scary – you are actually dealing with a Traditional Vampire (S. Strigoi) which has somehow managed to survive into the modern era. You should also run like hell, because those types are much harder to domesticate.
Although the Modern Vampire started out uniformly “aristocratic”, this has become less specific of late – vampires are almost uniformly described as beautiful (albeit “unnervingly” so in the case of the Horror Vampire, which is a rare species and tends to cross breed with various forms of S. Strigoi). This beauty, in turn, is always of the pale, high cheek-boned and suspiciously Western European Upper class kind (which has some interesting implications). Occasionally they will be “deathly” pale, yet still they will look good – with a distinct lack of physical imperfections, which are the norm among real humans, and absolutely no rot or rigor mortis in evidence.
All Modern Vampires are distinguishable from their Traditional relatives by their elongated upper (and sometimes, but less often, lower) canine teeth (“fangs”), through which they somehow suck the blood of their prey, indicating that these tooth-like structures must be hollow and that the connection of the throat to the oesophagus is an unnecessary accessory.
The Modern Vampire is typically a humanoid, which can shape shift into various forms – although typically the bat-form and only the bat-form will be in evidence. The Modern Vampire is always undead, as is made evident by a lack of heartbeat and breathing (but, oddly, not a lack of ability to have orgasms or erections). Although the Child Friendly Vampire (S. Stokerii Sesame) still wears the original Victorian Era white tie outfit plus black cloak, the other types of Modern Vampire (S. Stokerii Stokerii and S. Stokerii Verpa) have taken to wearing clothing appropriate to the culture and era they find themselves living in (a trait which the original S. Stokerii also had: they simply found themselves in the Victorian Era, at events which were white tie).
Strengths: Since they first evolved the strengths of the S. Stokerii have continued to develop at an alarming rate – they have quickly become overpowered and overdeveloped. They have developed (or possibly retained) an ability to avoid decomposing. They have developed supernatural speed, strength, and astounding Parkour abilities. As well as capable of humanoid-form flight, they are immortal and super-durable (leather made out of vampire-hide would likely be better than Kevlar), as well as eternally youthful. Oddly, they have mostly lost some of the strengths of their Traditional ancestors (such as poltergeist-ing, the ability to interbreed freely with humans, most shape-shifting and being demons possessing human corpses which can be driven out but not necessarily killed). Control over the weather, although present in the earliest S. Stokerii, seems to be completely lost to the current variants. A strength which the S. Stokerii has gained of late, on the other hand, is almost superhumanly good fashion sense.
Weaknesses: As with strengths, the Modern Vampire has both gained new weakness and lost many of their ancestral weaknesses. Among Traditional Vampires, most things that would kill a human (fire, drowning, decapitation, stake through the heart) were fatal (although to some Traditional Vampires the stake only stopped them moving around), however only the stake remains effective against Modern Vampires. In fact, the most common traditional weaknesses and apotropaics – garlic, water, silver, stakes, religious symbols and holy water – are utterly hit and miss on a case by case level with Modern Vampires, while less known Traditional Weaknesses and apotropaics (mustard seed, running water, hawthorn, wild roses, telling the night time invader to leave and come back with fish I kid you not, disorientation at crossroads, and OCD-like tendencies when confronted with messy knots and small countable things) have all but completely ceased to affect the Modern Vampire. S. Stokerii Sesame seems to be the sole exception in this case, as obsessive counting is a habit of his. Modern Vampires, however, have developed a bizarre allergy to sunlight. In some cases it can be quite explosive. They also typically lack shadows, reflections and the ability to be heard over a mobile phone or have their passport photos taken. Finally, and least notably, they may be unconvinced by their inability to blend in completely thanks to their unnaturally good fashion sense and apparent ability to physically repel dirt.
Diet: Blood (human). Blood (animal, excluding human). Blood (artificial). Life energy. Mental energy. Emotions. Whichever of these, or combination of these dietary options, the vampire prefers, one thing remains common; they gain their food by “sucking” (oddly, vacuum cleaners are not granted status as vampires despite feeding by the same method).
Reproduction: It is generally agreed that, despite being regularly treated as a metaphor for drug addiction rather than the more logical option of being a metaphor for eating disorders, Modern Vampires are viral. This they have in common, to some degree, with their Traditional ancestors. Unlike their ancestors, however, Modern Vampires seem to be exclusively viral. (Traditional Vampires were more diverse about their reproduction.) Child Friendly Vampires (S. Stokerii Sesame) appear to go completely without reproducing, and spawn fully formed as single individuals in children’s television, toddler’s storybooks (in this case they will likely be fluffy animals as well) and advertising campaigns. Meanwhile, the Horror Vampire (S. Stokerii Stokerii) and Paranormal Romance Vampire (S. Stokerii Verpa) almost exclusively reproduce by biting and transforming suitably attractive humans – although the exact details of the method differ on a case by case basis. Certainly they do not reproduce (except on very, very rare occasions) by sexual reproduction, despite how much rampant unprotected sex they (especially the Paranormal Romance Vampire) tend to have. The Horror Vampire rarely gets to go through with raping their victims before the heroes arrive to save the day and often are more interested in eating from them anyway. The typical method for transforming a human into a Modern Vampire seems, on average, to be: biting them, drinking from them, and then making them drink from the vampire. Apparently it is this last which differs them from bite-induced-mind-slave status and status as late lunch.
Behaviour: The behaviour of the S. Stokerii differs vastly per sub-species. The Child Friendly Vampire almost never is shown engaging in vampiric behaviour (or will only hunt vegetables and chocolate milk) and typically will be a goofy, friendly eccentric. Meanwhile, the Horror Vampire (an increasingly rare breed) typically hunts – menacingly, from the shadows – at night and prefers spooky, environments with lots of jump scares. It has been having increasing difficulty finding suitably eerie places to hunt unwary humans in modern times as smartphones and city living do not often blend well with the creeping dread it likes to associate with. Occasionally, it will adapt well to this environment and disguise itself as its cousin – the Paranormal Romance Vampire – until it is too late for the victim to fight back (in the event that the victim is a blonde teenage girl, this is unlikely to go well anyway, but they try). The Paranormal Romance Vampire is tends to prefer either small towns or big cities, especially nightclubs, and is usually the vampiric equivalent of a health nut on a vegetarian or vegan fad (as opposed to actually being consistently vegetarian or vegan). Sadly, most Paranormal Romance Vampires, although fighting their dietary requirements (often with copious, unnecessary, angst), still take their hunting methods from their cousins the Horror Vampires, which can often result in problems (or meta-problems) given that those methods are suitable for killing, not wooing.
Competition: Primary competition differs per subspecies. The primary competition of the Horror Vampire is the Zombie (Braaains Braaains). The primary competition for the Paranormal Romance Vampire is the Paranormal Romance Werewolf (Lycaon Verpa), although it should be noted that the L. Verpa almost always loses its prey to the S. Stokerii Verpa unless it is hunting in a location free of its competition. The S. Stokerii Sesame has no known competition as it is friendly and gets along well with everyone, except the large purple dinosaur (Barneus Makeitstopus) which all creatures in their native habitat live in fear of meeting.
Pros and Cons in Television:
Pros: If you’re looking for a single-episode or arc villain, a Modern Vampire is an excellent choice on account of the fact that the basic rules and their variations are near universally known. As long as you don’t stray too far from the way everyone does them, your audience will have no difficulty understanding what is going on. Child Friendly Vampires can make good reoccurring minor characters in children’s television, while Horror Vampires can get away with fudging how they get around in their modern environments. Paranormal Romance Vampires can be good love interests, although it often becomes a case of “of course they’re going to win the love triangle”. In all of these cases, the makeup can be easily handled and special effects of that type are commonly enough done that they should not be difficult to figure out.
Cons: Modern Vampires are so common that within the first five minutes your subtle clues will have the audience screaming at the characters for being idiots because it’s “obviously” a vampire. Child Friendly Vampires must either have some alternate source of sustenance than blood or remain largely unexplored background characters else the moral guardians will complain. Horror Vampires can be difficult to pull off in most settings, so extra care must be taken to make them scary (and just adding more gore won’t necessarily cut it – besides, fake blood and all those effects will add up to huge costs if left unchecked). Meanwhile Paranormal Romance Vampires can make a show suffer from severe arc fatigue and create in story paradoxes if they behave more humanely, due to being a love interest, than the rules of the show imply are possible. Finally, given that everyone and their grandmother do vampires, the special effects have to be damn good and that’s expensive – especially if the vampire is a reoccurring character or, worse, on the main cast!
Pros and Cons in Film:
Pros: Modern Vampires are well known enough that a film dedicated to them can take the time to thoroughly explore the concept and get creative. Horror vampires tend to thrive in this environment and a film budget often has more room for good looking special and makeup effects. Many of the things which have become cliché in books and television have gone mostly unexplored in this medium and therefore will seem fresh and new.
Cons: In all Modern Vampire films there can be an overdependence on special effects and clichés (werewolf/vampire war with tragic star crossed lovers, anyone?) Horror based Modern Vampires in film are beginning to run out of new things to do with themselves, consequently most audiences can identify what is going to happen and when and thus cease to be scared. A feature film length time spent on a Child Friendly Vampire is nigh on impossible without offending the supervising adults somehow. Paranormal Romance Vampires have difficulty adjusting to a medium where their irresistible attractiveness can be judged by a viewing audience rather than described vaguely and left to the imagination. As filmgoers still associate the vampire in film with horror more than romance, there is considerable difficulty in being taken seriously – a fact which even romantic comedy setups cannot necessarily fix, as Paranormal Romance Vampires hunting-turned-wooing techniques can be much harder to portray as romantic rather than horrific sexual assault when you cannot climb into the character’s head (attempts to get around thins with voiceovers generally just make it worse).
Pros and Cons in Theatre:
Pros: Modern Vampires are exceedingly rare in theatre, with the exclusion of a musical or two specifically focused on them and an uncommon performance of Dracula, and so can be an unexpected enemy, background puppet, or dark secret for the love interest. The preference for large makeup on stage can also allow for more exaggerated or traditional costume and make up to not look as ridiculous as it would on screen. Again, the vampire is so well known that very little effort is required to ensure comprehension on part of the audience.
Cons: As the black cloaks originally used to make them disappear on stage have become standard vampire wear, other – more expensive – special effects are now required to allow vampires to seemingly vanish on stage. Actors with fake fangs – especially those large enough to be seen from the audience – will have a bloody difficult time enunciating clearly enough that the audience will be able to understand them. Fake blood is an absolute bugger in live performances, no matter how large your crew of stagehands are and often must be replaced (expensive) every show because you’ll always loose a significant amount to the floor.
Pros and Cons in Books:
Pros: Modern Vampires are exceedingly popular in fiction at the moment, which means you have a pre-made audience. Modern Vampires can work in just about any genre – from storybooks to horror to romance to detective fiction, et cetera – and the benefit of the written word is that you can get more rule and lore building done for your specific vampires than you could get away with in the long speeches which other formats would require. Vampires are also cheap in fiction, as you can get lavish with things that – to produce in a visual medium – would require massively expensive special effects.
Cons: No matter what idea you had, no matter how original, it’s already been done. The Modern Vampire is not yet one hundred years old and yet everything has been done. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it again, and possibly do it better, but it’s been done. Many people are sick of vampires and wave all of it off as “teen porn”. That being said: as of the last two decades; if you are writing any genre that is not Paranormal Romance and it isn’t obviously a storybook for toddlers, you will find your work being misplaced and mislabelled as Paranormal Romance. If by some miracle it is put in the right genre (or you are writing in the common genre) the chances that anyone will actually read your work are slim because they will have to wade through ten billion other books with the exact same premise to get to it.
URGH. That was an exhaustingly long post. Sorry.