Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"The Vampire-as-Good-Guy Story
as Intimate Adventure
Part II "
|Obsession, Berkley Romance, 1991; Possession,
Berkeley Romance 1992, Confession, Berkley Romance, 1992, all by Lori Herter.
The Making of a Monster, Dell Horror, 1993, by Gail Petersen
The Golden, A sensual Novel of Vampires and Bloodlust, Bantam, 1993, by Lucius Shepard.
The Undead, Zebra Horror, 1993, by Roxanne Longstreet.
Darkness On The Ice, Pinnacle Horror, 1993, by Lois Tilton
The Gilda Stories, Firebrand Books, 1991, by Jewelle Gomez.
That's Not What I Meant, Ballantine Books Trade Paperback, 1992 by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.
In my first two columns for Monthly Aspectarian I identified a genre which has escaped notice because it spans genre boundaries and doesn't seem to be a genre. I called it Intimate Adventure because the substance of the story material lies in getting to know another person in a way that is often prevented by the advent of a sexual relationship.
Throughout these columns, I've offhandedly mentioned the Vampire-as-good-guy Novel, and last month, I surveyed the field of the vampire novel, promising you more on vampires this time.
Intimate Adventure has penetrated the horror genre as it has every other genre I've surveyed. A novel that has any vampire element is generally published as Horror -- even if it is intimate adventure and the vampire is the hero. The vampire-as-good-guy story asks whether even an Initiate, sworn to the Light, must yield to the darkness without question and without struggle. In Intimate Adventure, the answer is a resounding, "No!"
But very often, to get into print at all, a new author must disguise his or her story and make it look typical of a genre.
As I've mentioned before, Lori Herter has done this with her three Berkley Romances, Obsession, Possession, Confession. I believe there's a fourth one due out in '93. She has escaped the Horror label by creating a plot that could only be published as Romance. In the first book, Herter's vampire becomes obsessed with a mortal woman who is too innocent, too immature to make her into an immortal companion before she's tasted enough of life to make an informed decision. But in the second book, his resolve weakens, and he possesses her -- establishes a telepathic link that foredooms them -- yet he parts from her to force her to find herself a mortal husband, to have children and a career, to become herself.
In the third book, they are drawn together by a possibility of a cure for his vampirism, and in the end he risks everything for the chance to become mortal. I can't wait for the fourth book! I don't generally read Romance genre but this is more Intimate Adventure than Romance and the plot is the solid, classic fairy tale of the ultimate sacrifice for love -- I'm a sucker for that one.
Anyone who is determined to advance on the Initiatory Path would do well to study Jungian Archetypes until they can spot them operating in daily life. One of the easiest ways to attain this mastery is to study fiction -- from the fairy tale, through the Disney cartoon, the tv commercial, the tv series, and into the novel.
Any piece of fiction depicts a set of philosophical axioms and postulates about the nature of Reality, The Purpose of Life, the Purpose of Death, the Nature of God, and the relationships between these topics. If a piece of fiction moves you emotionally, you would do well to assume that its axioms and postulates are congruent with your own. By studying that piece of fiction, you can discover something about yourself that you didn't know before. (This is particularly effective during certain heavy Pluto transits to your natal Sun, Moon, and Ascendant.)
Most people stumble through life without developing a meticulously derived philosophy -- they operate on bits and pieces of other people's philosophies, which may or may not form a cohesive whole.
A Magician, however, must learn to visualize the intended result of any magical operation. He or she must bring energy down into manifestation through a series of connecting linkages -- through his or her own personal visualization of the universe. If that visualization is based on mutually contradictory fragments of other people's philosophies -- other people's epistemologies -- the magician will fail. Such failure can be a great tragedy.
And so it is crucial for anyone who essays the Path to discover not what they ought to think or believe -- but what they do, in fact, think or believe about the universe, about good and evil, and what makes us human.
The Lori Herter novels have a lot to say on this topic, but there is a newer, less experienced writer who has also given us a vampire novel to savour. Gail Petersen is not the first to have cast her vampire as a musician -- and no, Anne Rice wasn't the first either -- but Petersen has taken the advice so often given in writing classes -- write what you know.
According to the back cover, Petersen has been a professional musician. Whether she was given the classic writing advice or not, she set her vampire novel in the world of professional music and thus made her vampire believable.
This vampire starts as a mortal woman living through that slackwater time in life just after marriage but before children -- when the first flash of hope for a meteoric rise in career has been dashed by a new husband's forcible relocation across the country and into a strange land -- Los Angeles.
She takes an acting class, meets a vampire, is seduced, succumbs, and wakes up tormented and damned. Now what?
She works through empowerment -- giving herself permission to live -- and the kindling of ambition. She uses excess force -- killing her rivals -- to make a place for herself in the music world, and has her adventures and lessons learning to cope with the results of her handiwork.
This novel is not my classic Intimate Adventure since it is not about the exploring of another person's psyche. The hero is the woman who becomes a vampire and thus is forced by her blossoming nature to explore her own psyche. The Adventure is in daring to become herself.
This is a woman's book, a woman's tale, only insofar as it starts with the psychologically crippled condition that so many women suffer simply because they are female in twentieth century America. It is horror genre, with long unabashed sections of pointless, ugliness prolonged beyond the artistically necessary length. It is recommended because it really is the story of The Making of a Monster, not because it is original in its approach to the topic of vampirism.
Another one that leans a bit on Anne Rice's theory of vampires but adds several interesting original ideas is The Golden, by Lucius Shepard. Shepard has his elder vampires conducting multigeneration breeding experiments with mortal humans to create a human whose blood has specially intoxicating and delightful properties.
The central point of view character is a relatively young vampire who was once a Paris policeman and who is now appointed by the eldest vampire to solve the murder of the human who had been the culmination of the genetic line, the human called The Golden.
Shepard has also proposed a condition in which a vampire can be forced to become an Oracle and accurately foretell the future. He calls this process Illumination, and it invariably results in the permanent death of the vampire who undergoes it.
Shepard uses a bit of fantasy-magic, opening a gateway into another dimension called The Mysteries -- and it's never exactly clear what that is all about. And he postulates that in the 1860's the Family of vampires feels that the world is changing in such a way as to threaten their secrets. One faction among the vampires wants to flee to the Orient, and another is developing an elixir that allows them to walk in the sunshine again thus making them less vulnerable to discovery.
With these ideas, Shepard weaves a classic 19th century murder investigation set entirely within a mythic castle which couldn't have been constructed by any method of engineering known before that time.
The murder mystery tends to bog down in political intrigue, but the main characters -- the detective and a vampire woman he becomes lovers with -- carry us through to a satisfying conclusion. Like any good mystery, the solution depends on understanding the character of each suspect, and thus it is almost by definition Intimate Adventure. The two main suspects are the vampire who made the detective into a vampire, and the woman who made him feel like a virgin all over again, and so the resolution depends on his insight into human/vampire nature.
Honorable Mentions this time goes to two Horror Genre entries. This first one deserves a sequel. The Undead by Roxanne Longstreet -- who cites P. N. Elrod in her dedication. The Undead pits one relatively personable vampire against some ugly ones -- and the good guy loses in the end, but perhaps not forever. Though this is not constructed as Intimate Adventure, it has enough relationship in it to keep me reading and make we want to read the sequel.
Darkness On The Ice by Lois Tilton is the second vampire book I've seen by Tilton. The first was so much a pure Horror genre entry that I really didn't like it very much -- it was titled Vampire Winter and dealt with one of my least favorite situations -- nuclear winter. But it hinted at what the author could do with Intimate Adventure and I remembered the byline when I saw it again.
Darkness On The Ice is likewise not Intimate Adventure. The point of view character is a vampire sent by the Nazis during World War Two into the Arctic winter to protect a weather station from Americans. His problem is to get out before the sun rises or before he kills all the living humans within reach. Like The Making of a Monster this book explores one individual's psyche at depth. Only in the end, when there is only one human left alive and dawn is coming do we get any relationship elements driving the plot. But it's not Intimate Adventure.
I can't conclude without mentioning a book I couldn't finish reading but which might appeal directly to some readers who wouldn't like my favorites. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez struck me as lacking the specific craftsmanship details that I judge a book by, but that may be because I wasn't getting the emotional payload. Firebrand is a publisher that aims specifically at the gay and lesbian community, and this vampire novel may have something important to say to those who can't connect with the material Lori Herter addresses. Try it even if you're not part of that community. There's a lot to be learned here.
And speaking of learning, an aspirant on the Path must also be a scholar as well as a practitioner. Since The Word is the most important tool of a Magician, or of a writer, or of a reader, it's a good idea to study language.
Deborah Tannen has written an illuminating essay on "How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships," titled, That's Not What I Meant! It's about cross-cultural communication, especially across the chasm that divides twentieth century American men from twentieth century American women. It is really about the most intimate adventure of all -- communication at nearly psychic depths.
Books for review in this column -- which contains no negative reviews -- should be sent to Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, New York, 10952.
Find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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