Monthly Archives: February 2015

Vampires Are Not Sexy

Most fans of dark fiction and/or horror will have heard of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (now a TV series). This is a great series with a great mythos and some true horror. It’s a well-told story of an epic battle for the survival of humanity as seen through the eyes of some key fighters, and not a little part of the horror is that the success of the enemy is due to damage-control-PR exercises by politicians who didn’t want to cause a panic.

The following may contain spoilers, but not huge ones.

The main thing I liked about the series was that it treats vampires as the monsters they are, rather than humans with pointy teeth and less moral compunction, or sparkling eye candy. Specifically, the books treat the vampires as a virus, which is what I think this particular monster represents, historically.

If you look at the old vampire mythos (and Bram Stoker is a good place to start) you can clearly see the analogs with disease-causing viruses.

Vampires never used to drain people dry overnight, or go on the hunt murdering people. They snuck in at night, draining a little bit each time, so the victim got weaker and weaker over a period of days, weeks, or even months. A slow decline, no obvious reason, strange marks on the body, unable to be prevented by brute force, usually ending in death.

— Vampires are killed by sunlight; the UV kills virus DNA strands (although not as dramatically as portrayed in The Strain)
— Vampires can’t cross running water; simple washing is a great first line of defence against viruses.
— Vampires are associated with rats and bats, known vectors of disease, especially the black plague.
— Vampires can even become a mist, a recognition of airborne diseases.
— In Bram Stoker’s novel, the vampire came from the East, from Europe, the route of the black plague.

Finally, for those who eroticise vampires, Bram Stoker did it the most accurately. He had female vampires, lovely of form, but inherently repulsive. There was something unseen about them that generated disgust despite the luscious bodies…those are your sexually transmitted diseases. Remember, if you ever fantasise about sex with a vampire, you’re masturbating over syphilis.

So, I was pleased that del Toro and Hogan went back to the concept of vampire as monster, of vampire stories as horror stories, updated to the modern era with the threat of pandemic taking down society because political issues trumped scientific and health ones.

There are reasons humans write about monsters: To remind us that they exist, and to prepare us psychologically and socially should we ever actually encounter them. We can pretend they don’t exist, that science has killed them, but it hasn’t – and they’ll be back one day, in one form or another.

Finally, and back to The Strain Trilogy, I was pleased that the writers (this could be quite a big spoiler, depending on your definition) tied up so many loose ends by making the origin of the vampires supernatural. There were simply too many points that were integral to the story but didn’t make “scientific sense” for the books to succeed as science fiction, but the revelation of supernatural origin tied everything together in a neat and logical way.

The Kindle version is very reasonably priced at a couple of dollars.

Review: Marcianito Witbier

Marcianito WitbierI quite liked the movie John Carter, despite the illogical twists, but I couldn’t get past the animals that inhabited Mars; so low to the ground, such powerful legs, exactly what you’d expect from animals that evolved in a higher gravity than Earth. However, of course, Mars has a lower gravity, so the animals didn’t really match. The Tharks fit, for what that was worth. Still the red planet has done more than inspire dodgy sci-fi, it has also inspired a wheat bear from the Talavera Brewery in Puebla.

Marcianito Witbier is tangy yet slightly frothy, and has a fruity taste. This might be explained by the orange peel and coriander used in the brewing process. As with certain DC heroines, I imagine this beer is best enjoyed outdoors on sunny day, maybe lounging beside a pool, perhaps playing cards (but not to win), wondering if drinking more will remove that slightly off-putting aftertaste.

It’s probably worth drinking one or two and then switching to a cheaper outdoor-refreshing beer. The 5% alcohol content won’t be distracting you too much unless you chug it (and you don’t chug artisanal beers, you heathen).

Miss Martian cosplay by Tailstastic

Review: Memory’s Wake

Memory’s Wake is an otherworld fantasy novel by Selina Fenech; she’s an artist and the novel is illustrated with several of her pieces.

This is a YA novel, with the main characters all appearing to be in their teens, and there’s a fair bit of focus on wistful glances and teenage angst. Of course, there’s also plenty of majestic dragons and fickle fairies and powerful magic; this is an action packed novel. The handsome savage, the elegant rogue, the beautiful princes, the girl with no memory but mysterious powers, all the familiar tropes make an appearance and are used to good effect, creating an internally consistent world and sympathetic characters. The writing is lush and descriptive, painting a very clear picture not only of the characters but of the clothes they are wearing at all times.

My main criticism of the story would have to be the title character Memory and her forays into the near impossible and sudden competence in subtle and powerful magic. Those times when I thought “hold on, that just doesn’t seem like something she should be able to do” threw me out of the story. They were partially explained, but not sufficiently enough – although there are two more books in the trilogy, so perhaps they’ll be expounded upon later.

The basic plot: The title character is pulled into existence by another girl, and they are both hunted by armed and armored men, and a dragon. They flee, of course, and escape, with the help of a mysterious half-naked man, and meet up with a thief who decides to help them after stealing from them. Then they seek safety and the secret of Memory’s identity, and the means to defeat the evil villain who wants them dead.

Verdict: Worth the Kindle price (especially free ’til the end of February 2015), and if you like it there’s more to follow.