Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From Formspring: Can the vampires you write about ever die from old age? What happens if they don't drink blood, do they starve to death?

Great question! Thank you! My books are mainly about the dragons, but the vampires play an important role as well. As such, I had to really come up with a new angle for vampires. I probably failed. BUT...I tried. Again, the books are really about the dragons. Max's spin-off series deals with the vampires more...at least the first one does.

In point of fact, the vampires in my books drink plasma. Blood just happens to contain plasma. They can live off plasma alone (like what they take out of your blood during a plasma donation) but it doesn't taste as good to them. The blood gives it flavor, whereas the plasma is just nutrition. Imagine the difference between a steak and salad dinner, and a cube of unflavored tofu. However, since most vampires get their plasma by drinking blood, I'll refer to all vampire food as "blood" during this answer.

For the record: no, the vampires in my books can't live on animal blood. It must be human. However, some vampires prefer (or need) the blood of other vampires, and there are rumored to be vampires who feed on things other than blood/plasma.

The vampires in the Dragon's Blood Chronicles don't really age per se, but they do change. In the first book, an ancient (by vampire standards) vampire named Zol makes an appearance. He plays a much larger role in subsequent books. Zol is described as very inhuman looking, with parchment-thin, yellowed skin and a mouth full of sharp teeth, among other characteristics that make it impossible for him to pass as a human without a disguise.

The vampires kind of have their own spiritual beliefs set up around their existence, often incorporating whatever religious or spiritual beliefs they held before being turned. So, vampire Christians incorporate Christianity into their beliefs, Muslim vampires mix Islam with being a vampire, and so on. As a result, many religious vampires believe their existence as a vampire is a gift from God or Karma or whatever...and that it is the next step in their spiritual journey. Vampire Christians, for example, believe that Christ was a vampire who survived crucifixion because of his vampire nature, then ascended bodily into heaven and a higher plane of existence. Many vampires believe they can accomplish this by weening themselves off blood, like Jainist monks do with food and water. They believe if they can survive the fasting they will ascend, like Christ--or, whatever religious icon they identify with.

Obviously, adherents of these respective faiths who learn about the vampire's beliefs find them amusing at best, offensive at worst. There is a scene in one of the later Dragon's Blood Chronicles in which a Christian character is talking about vampires with a professional monster hunter. When he tells her about vampire Christians, she laughs at the idea and says it's stupid. The monster hunter plays devil's advocate, to which the character offers to retrieve a Bible and demand that he find a single verse where Jesus ever bit someone and sucked their blood. He finally concedes that yes, it is stupid to believe Jesus was a vampire. However, this is what people do: they adjust their world-view (including their faith) to whatever their situation is. I wouldn't expect a religious person to stop being religious just because they became a vampire.

The problem is, very few vampires live long enough to die of old age. Vampires, young ones in particular, are psychopathic and prone to poor impulse control. The demonic virus in their bodies makes them very violent and careless, especially around blood. Kind of like sharks. As time passes, a few out-grow these impulses, or learn to keep them in check. The ones who don't wind up getting killed, either by another vampire, a monster hunter, or another creature (like, for example: a dragon). Or a social worker with a shotgun.

As to the fasting...while vampires can deprive themselves of blood willingly, in those instances they still have access to blood and can end the fast at any time. As a vampire ages, his dependence on blood wanes. In theory, at some point it will vanish all together. This is when the alleged "ascension" is believed to occur. Some vampires try to hurry the process along by depriving themselves of blood. Eventually, the need kicks in with too much power and they go looking for some; and hope they can hold out longer the next time.

A vampire who is deprived of blood with no way to get more...that is a different matter. This is actually addressed in one of Max's books. The demonic virus turns the human into what it believes is the most efficient hunter possible. It makes the human stronger, faster, meaner, erases their moral reasoning, give them regenerative abilities, and make their body hunger for the substance the virus needs to survive: plasma (from human blood). If the vampire is starved, eventually the virus concludes that it's host isn't a good enough hunter. It then kicks it up a notch...resulting in an even more horrible vampire. He becomes stronger, meaner, bigger, faster, scarier, and so on...unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on your perspective) the human brain can't handle this level of the infection, and so the vampire becomes insane. Essentially, the virus turns them into a monstrous killing machine. While still sapient, this new uber-vamp is highly unpredictable and difficult to manage. Few vampires wish to volunteer their sanity for this, as most other vampires consider such creatures anathema and kill them on sight. However, there are some psychopaths who have uses for them...like capturing a vampire and burying him in a cave outside a village. After three or four months, the psychopath pays a group of villagers (almost said Village People...got that image in your head now?) to dig up the hole, whereupon a ravenously hungry vampire-monster breaks free and does what he does to the entire village. Of course, the critical failing in this plan is that NOW there is a blood-hungry superbeast on the loose, with a vague memory lodged in his infected gray matter of a certain someone who once buried him in a cave...

Left unattended though, the vampire will die of starvation. The virus wants to live, and it is the only thing keeping the body alive. If kicking things up a notch doesn't help (i.e. making the vampire meaner didn't make him a better hunter) the virus either dies or (more often) goes dormant. In either case, the human host dies. In the latter case of a dormant virus, the vampire can be revived by supplying the remains (if well enough intact) with plasma. Unfortunately, the vampire isn't likely to be very well off when he awakes.