The Things About Vampires
by Carmilla Voiez
During my planning for the “31 Days of Halloween” event I opened the doors to some guest writers. And the amazing Carmilla Voiez joins us to talk about vampires, and share a sample of her work.
* This article was first published on carmillavoiez.com
Over To Our Guest
Vampires are both elusive and seductive. They look like us, but they are not us. They can be monstrous or they can be liberating. But the real attraction of the vampire genre for me and the reason I wrote Basement Beauty is how much these undead creatures say, historically and currently, about the world we inhabit and society. Vampires have been representing political tensions since the 1800s. The fears their lore reflects are as relevant today as they were over a century ago.
The Classic Struggle
An aristocratic vampire feeds on peasants who inevitably rise up led by the middle-class hero (Van Helsing for example), to finally destroy the predator. This storyline could have been lifted from Marx or Stoker equally. Or the fear of immigration: Dracula comes to England from Romania, bringing terror and destruction, a narrative that British fascists UKIP are fond of repeating. Or the empowerment of women v the destruction of rational men: the female vampire, frequently portrayed as lesbian (as in J Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla), embodies a fear of female agency and female sexuality that is not controlled by men. The female vampire penetrates the male (or female) victim with her mouth, this vampiric sexual organ is both a soft, inviting hole and a phallus (penetrating and dangerous fangs), the ultimate vagina dentata. I doubt the emergence of lesbian separatism and the prodigious rise of the female vampire in cinema during the 1960s and 70s are unconnected. Movies empower the male viewer with the presence of the vampire hunter (Helsing) or the male narrator (in the Vampire Lovers) to help contain the genre within a box guarded by the rules of patriarchy. So whether class, immigration or feminism, the vampire is representative of the “other” in popular fiction, the one that is not us. A force that preys on us and that we feel both seduced and repelled by.
I am fascinated by the current shift of the fictional vampire from monster to romantic hero/heroine. I suspect this is indicative to the shift of attitudes toward sex and sexuality in modern society. In Twilight, for example, the vampires’ humanity and vulnerability is part of their attraction. It is as though we have begun to defang these monsters.
All this is the background noise in front of which I wrote Basement Beauty (the novella featured in Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales). In my book the vampires believe they are a superior race and are separatists using humans only for food. One rogue vampire disobeys the clan and dares to mix with filthy human pigs. His behaviour is seen as a threat to the other vampires that must be destroyed. The fear and hatred could reflect homophobia or Nazi style racial purity. Weaved into this story of hatred and eugenics, is a human story. Heroes, not victims the two tales merge until, hopefully, the reader does not see any one as the other, but instead as individuals and forces to be reckoned with. The political struggles are personal struggles for survival rather than something abstract that cannot be understood.
About Carmilla Voiez
Carmilla Voiez is a proudly bisexual and mildly autistic introvert who finds writing much easier than verbal communication. A life long Goth, Carmilla lives with a daughter, two cats and a poet by the sea. She is passionate about horror, the alt scene, intersectional feminism, art, nature and animals. When not writing, she gets paid to hang out in a stately home and entertain tourists.
Follow Carmilla Voiez
Excerpt from Basement Beauty
(in Broken Mirror)
~ 1 ~
‘You’re too beautiful to be killed, Tay,’ Lynsey assured her, brushing a manicured hand through freshly lightened hair.
‘What the fuck do you mean?’ Amalthea shook her head, jostling afro curls and revealing a petulant frown that drew her plump cheeks inwards.
‘Aint you heard? All the victims were ugly. Aint gonna happen to you, kiddo.’
Amalthea gazed at the empty pint glass in her hands. ‘Ugly?’
‘Yeah, not grotesque freaks or anything, just plain ugly: big noses, crooked teeth, greasy hair, you know. When I went to the dentist this morning they told me everyone and their f’in dog’s booked in for cosmetic work.’
‘Isn’t that odd?’ Amalthea rotated the glass this way and that between caramel fingers.
Lynsey shrugged. ‘Dunno.’
‘I think it’s odd.’
‘Whatever, girl. Just stop stressing, okay. You’re too beautiful to die.’
Amalthea glanced over the bar at the almost empty nightclub. ‘Seems quiet tonight.’
‘Yeah, well it’s still early. Heard there’s a gig on. Lots of people probably there. They’ll lurch in here eventually.’ Lynsey wiped down the dark wood counter with a damp, blue cloth.
‘Hope so. Drags when it’s this quiet.’ Amalthea placed the clean glass on a shelf at knee level. ‘Makes me want to open a book.’
Lynsey nodded. ‘Why don’t you? Hey, you alright for a minute if I pop out for a ciggie?’
Amalthea nodded toward the dimly lit room and grimaced. ‘Uh yeah. I think I can manage these three alone.’
‘Cheers, babes.’ Lynsey kissed Amalthea’s cheek and exited through a door between rows of optics.
Amalthea dried another glass from the crate and set it on the shelf. She repeated the action until the crate was empty without being disturbed by customers. When she looked up again she noticed a young man had entered the club and was strolling towards her. She recognised him from poetry nights. As always, he arrived alone. This evening he carried a slender book. She tried to see the cover, but it was angled away from her.
‘Hi,’ she said as he sat on a stool.
He smiled warmly. He was pretty, for a white boy. His skin seemed to have the soft glow of health that was rare in young men from this Scottish city. He reminded Amalthea of the father she hadn’t seen in over a decade, except this lad was even paler and his eyes resembled emeralds held in front of a flame.
Amalthea nodded. She had never known him to order alcohol. Most of the patrons were ardent drinkers and this boy… man stood out for his lack of inebriation. Was he was still too young to drink or was he a recovering alcoholic? Would he frequent a club if he had a drinking problem? It was more likely that he simply found other ways to relax – those words clutched in his hand or the ones in his head? He fascinated her, although she wasn’t sure why. Physically, sexually, he wasn’t her type at all, but there was something about his gentle calm that attracted her and what better time to strike up a conversation than a quiet night like this?
She switched on the coffee machine and poured in freshly ground beans.
‘Seems quiet,’ he said.
‘Very,’ she answered. ‘What brings you here tonight? I normally just see you on poetry nights.’
‘You notice?’ he asked and his eyes gleamed brighter.
She stepped back and swallowed. Not another one? This club was full of would-be creeps and admirers. It was often hard to tell the difference between the two from this side of the bar. She hastily backtracked. ‘Sure. I know all my regulars. Do you write poetry?’
‘I’m not sure it’s any good.’
‘Ahhh, you should perform a piece here one night. It’s a friendly crowd. They won’t bite.’
Do You Agree With Camilla?
Do you agree with Carmilla’s thoughts on the politics of the vampire? Do you have any other thoughts of your own as to why they are so important to our popular culture?
Who Else Is Dropping In?
“31 Days of Halloween” is a collaborative effort, and I really couldn’t put out 31 posts in 31 days without help.
While I’ve personally filled many of the slots for the event, I also have some amazing guest posts, from some wonderful folks.
Want to see what else is happening?