Archive for the ‘True Blood’ Category

Twilight Saga -Breaking Dawn - "End & Beg...

Yesterday, I wrote about fan fiction. While updating the post, I stumbled across a strange and wonderful world of fan art. They range from Twilight and Southern Vampire Mysteries fan fic banners. While I’m familiar with these, I also encountered fan art inspired by Spock and Kirk, most of which were inspired by a scene in Star Trek.

This scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture ...

The enthusiasm that Star Trek fans  have for a Spock and Kirk pairing is such that a weird and wonderful world exists out there where the Spock/Kirk pairing have inspired ‘slash’ homoerotic fan fiction and assorted fan art.

Cowboy Kirk and Indian Spock

Cowboy Kirk and Indian Spock (Photo credit: joeltelling)

Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries have also inspired thousands of fan fiction on fanfiction.net.  The banners that accompany these stories are some of the most accomplished I have seen. These banners and SVM fan art give professional graphic designers a run for their money.

Eric Northman - beautiful undead

Eric Northman – beautiful undead (Photo credit: katmary)

Eric & Sookie "My Biggest Regret"-Tr...

Eric & Sookie “My Biggest Regret”-True Blood Fan Art Wallpaper (Photo credit: Mystic Soul Fan Art)

Here’s an example of the talented banner maker, Ange de l’aube.

Which is your favourite fandom? Your favourite pairing? Your favourite banners and banner artist? Let me know!

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Here comes the bride: fan art of Edward and Bella
Picture source: twitarded

Lately, Fan Fiction is in the spotlight because EL James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, admitted that she learned her writing chops writing Twilight fan fiction before she converted the names Bella and Edward to Anastasia and Christian Grey. What happened next is a publishing phenomenon which has taken trade publishers and Twilight fans by surprise. Judging from the number of fan fiction authors who have been published recently, for example, Tara Sue Me who is the latest example, publishers appear to believe they have found in fan fiction a new route to increasing their profit margins and are now no doubt scouring the slush piles in sites such as fanfiction.net for the next big thing.

But we should not forget that fan fiction is a craze that’s almost as old as writing itself. Just think The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, for instance.

One does wonder how those readers who still read books regard fan fiction. Are they sneery about these sites?

However, it is undoubted that  fan fiction – particularly its erotic-heavy along with its slash fiction strands – is a self-publishing phenomenon where amateur and aspiring authors write stories about the characters they are obsessed with. Just looking at the numbers of Twilight fan fics that are and have been published and the plethora of slash fan fiction that are written, for example, in homage of Spock/Captain Picard, it’s a phenomenon. If trade publishing is the tip of the iceberg, then fan fiction must be the vast unexplored world of a self-publishing phenomenon.

Desert Heat – Spock and Kirk by Gayle Feyrer Picture source: guardian.co.uk

It is a dark genre where Eric Northman and Sookie is depicted in bdsm Southern Vampire Fiction fics  and where Spock and Draco are ‘shipped’ in Alternate Universe slash fics.

Despite the successes of EL James and others who are following in her footsteps, a misconception remains that fan fiction is just silly girls’ fantasies scrawled on the underbelly of the internet. I suspect Fifty Shades of Grey has done little to rescue the reputation of the genre.

But here’s the counter-argument: most fan fiction is a rejection of the normative version of sexuality. Fan fiction offers a more honest way, if sometimes radical and wayward platforms to engage with and negotiate relationships, sex and gendered power relations.

Perhaps, another way of viewing fan fiction is that it offers a test bed to cut one’s teeth in writing. It offers anonymity and help aspiring writers to become better writers, and allowing them to explore sexuality in a ways which depart from the norms dictated by the Hollywood industrial complex, light entertainment industry and dominant forms of popular culture.

What do you think of fan fiction? Let me hear your thoughts!

Picture source for Twilight fan art : twitarded 

Picture source for Spock/Picard fan art: guardian.co.uk

 

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When Polidori wrote The Vampyre in 1819, he spawned two branches of vampire fiction: an aristocratic romantic hero of Gothic fiction, and the vampire as undead monster. But if Polidori spawned the vampire, the most well known vampire was created by Bram Stoker in 1897. However, before Polidori, Heinrich August Ossenfelder published the German poem The Vampire in 1748. Even Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights made a reference to the vampire when the housekeeper suspected Heathcliff of being a vampire.

Unsurprisingly to us, at least, it seems that our gorgeous blood sucking friends have long dwelled among us; a highly adaptable species, they have changed with the times and have moved into the 21st century barely recognisable from their original incarnations. Originally regarded as an alien nocturnal species, sleeping in coffins, living in the shadows, drinking the blood of humans in secrecy, vampires are too easy to stereotype, but it is their variety and adaptability that makes them survivors.

They may seem to be creatures living on the margins of society but they have been central to the stories humans tell each other and these stretch back through to ancient folklore. But as long as there are beliefs in the existence of vampires, there also exist beliefs in methods of protecting ourselves against the undead. In some folk legends, for example, it was believed that eating blood bread, a bread made from vampire blood and flour, would give immunity against vampire bites. And as long as people believe that the undead walk amongst us, they also believe that there are ways and means of hunting down the vampire.

In some folklore traditions, it is said that the killing of the vampire can only be performed by vampire hunters, priests and monks. In the folklore of the Balkans, for example, the tales of the vampire hunters were as much part of the Romani beliefs about the vampire. Referred to as a dhampir in Romani or a vampirovic in Serbian, these folklores depict the vampire hunters using other less well known methods to entice the vampire to their traps. Aside from the well known methods of execution, such as staking, decapitation, crucifixes and holy water, it was also believed that vampires can be drowned in clear flowing water.

In literary fiction, the most well known vampire hunter is Professor Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But now that the undead are returning with a vengeance to walk among us again, a new generation of vampire hunters also stalk among our midst. When thinking of a vampire slayer, Buffy and Blade no doubt comes immediately to mind.

Judging from their portrayals in Blade, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and From Dusk till Dawn, the arsenal of the modern day vampire hunter usually includes holy water, firearms with silver ammunition, silver nets, the appropriate religious symbols, crossbows that fire wooden stakes and even waterguns filled with holy water.While predominantly human, there are also other examples of vampire hunters. Blade, the eponymous hero of the movie and comic books, is said to be a hybrid, half human and half vampire.

In HBO’s True Blood, we encounter a particularly vile species of the vampire hunter in the first episode of Season 1. They are the Rattrays. From the minute Sookie Stackhouse lays eyes on Vampire Bill, her curiosity is piqued. Her friend Tara is not amused: “That’s trouble, looking for a place to happen. Tall, dark….and dead”. And Tara is right. Within half-an-hour, panic ensues in the vicinity of Merlotte’s bar when there’s an attempted murder and people are being beaten up. Sookie, the feisty heroine, played by Anna Paquin, comes to rescue Vampire Bill from the Rattrays, vampire hunters who are draining his blood to sell on the black market. “Low rent backwoods trash”, Sookie hisses as she sends them running with their tails between their legs. The Rattrays don’t take too kindly to Sookie‘s disruption of their draining of Vampire Bill; inevitably they return to seek their revenge.

In Alan Ball’s hands, the True Bloodvampires are unlike the crucifix-fearing vampires of legend and folklore. Having emerged from the coffin and with the synthetic blood Tru Blood designed to satisfy their thirst without having to resort to draining humans, the vampires of True Bloodshatters the traditional mythology of the vampire. Based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the vampires of True Blood reveal that they have been tricking humans that the traditional vampire mythology is true when they actually aren’t at all. Now, our vampires can pick up a case of True Blood at the local Wal-Mart and pop a bottle of ‘O’-positive in the microwave to satisfy their hunger. They own businesses, like our very own Eric Northman, the 1000-year-old Viking vampire who owns Fangtasia; they pay taxes, they go to bars and they are highly fashion conscious denizens of the night. There are tourists who go to vampire bars; ‘fangbangers’ who lust after vampires and long to be used by these creatures and there are the ‘drainers’ who hunt vampires for their blood because of its extraordinary properties. And then there is the Fellowship of the Sun who believes vampires are an abomination and should be destroyed. It doesn’t take a genius to see the clever socio-political themes lying just beneath the surface of HBO’s True Blood. In Ball’s hands, a new vampire mythology emerges, particularly the energising side effects drinking human blood has on the body.

Vampire killing kit (walnut case) circa 1800

This brings us to the question as to whether these antique vampire killing kits, recently up for auction, are capable of harming our Louisiana vamps. Some of these kits are incredibly well-designed and beautiful objects. Made out of rosewood or mahogany, these beautiful ornate cases come complete with the usual assortment of items designed to kill vampires. They include silver daggers, wooden stakes, garlic powder, a syringe (for injecting a garlic solution), an ivory crucifix, metal teeth pliers, and revolvers with the requisite silver bullets. These are definitely not cheaply made plastic novelty items; they seemingly tap into our utmost primal fears and fascination about these creatures of the night. Dwight Stevens, of Stevens Auction Company, has sold four vampire killing kits in twenty-seven years as an auctioneer, most recently in Natchez, Mississippi, for $14, 850. He states:

“I don’t believe in vampires – I’ve never met one. But somebody believed in them, something drove people to believe […] From New Orleans to Vicksburg, these old boxes remain”.

 

Apparently, some of these kits date to circa 1880 Romania. Another was supposedly a Victorian kit, and was purported to have been sold at The Great Exhibition in London 1851 for $12,000. Tapping into our primal night-time terrors, these kits capture our fears of the undead originally evoked in those early folklores and legends, and there are indeed several of these kits in existence. One was seemingly made by a Professor Ernst Blomberg and was believed to be genuine. However, a man named Michael de Winter has stepped forward recently, claiming that he created these kits and made up the name of Professor Blomberg.

And while hoax and urban legends seem to pile up whenever the vampire is concerned, one does wonder if these vampire killing kits are even capable of harming our modern Louisiana vampires. Could they harm our quixotic, cunning 1000-year-old Eric Northman? Or will our Viking see them off easily? And if the drainers come armed with these vampire killing kits, is Edward Cullen capable of protecting himself? Will Vampire Bill require the services of our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse?

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The blood suckers are everywhere. Everybody is talking about vampires these days; in books, movies, magazine covers, TV and the Internet – lately, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that these pale skinned creatures are stalking us.

Those who aren’t enamoured with these fanged creatures of the night would no doubt wonder what it is about these creatures that inspire the current fascination. Similarly, those who are au fait with literary and cinematic vampire mythology are probably wondering at what point 2011 became the Year of the Vampire. Vampires, a seemingly highly adaptable species, can now be anything and everything. From the highly sexual charismatic vampires in the Southern Gothic universe of HBO’s True Blood, to the guilt ridden vampire John Mitchell in Being Human to the chaste sparkly creatures of Twilight, it seems that the modern vampire is quite comfortable being the trendy hero on our screens.

But was the vampire always thus? Undoubtedly, vampire like creatures have been around for some time, but much like fashion trends, undergo phases of popularity. Dating back to ancient folklore, most cultures have their own tales of some form of soul-sapping, life-drawing creature in either human or animal form. But it was Bram Stoker’s literary vampire, Dracula, which discreetly used sexual metaphors to sexualise the vampire into a male predator stalking a virginal maiden. Consequently, since Bram Stoker unleashed Dracula in 1897, this literary vampire has come to epitomise our impression of what a vampire is. The traits commonly associated with this alien nocturnal species include, for example, sleeping in coffins, sleeping by day and walking by night, and drinking the blood of humans.

Now that vampires have become very much part of our popular culture, it is tempting to ask if these creatures really do exist. As hard as it is to believe, some people do claim that real vampires actually do exist. Apparently, there are some medical conditions that mimic traits commonly associated with vampirism, for example, porphyria and catalepsy.

Those who suffer from porphyria, a condition often associated with vampires, are highly sensitive to light. Consequently, as a result of an imbalance of heme, porphyria sufferers also exhibit other signs associated with vampires, such as having bleeding gums and blood-stained teeth.

Catalepsy, a condition which affects the central nervous system, causes the patient’s heart rate and breathing to slow down to the point whereby the body become so immobile that they appear to have died. Before the advances made in the medical sciences, the unfortunate sufferers of this condition were often mistakenly assumed to have died and were either buried or embalmed.

Both of these conditions, while extremely rare, do not account for either the sexual terror or sexual anarchy associated with the vampire. For example Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare is the consummate image of sexual terror.  Ever since it was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1782, Fuseli’s The Nightmare has become an icon of sexual terror and the night horror. The painting depicts a young woman lying in a restless sleep while an imp sits on her stomach. The Nightmare made Fuseli’s name as an artist and established his name as a painter who delighted in shocking his audiences.

Fuseli’s The Nightmare has, for example, inspired writers, artists and film-makers from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) to Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986). The Nightmare has also provoked discussion about theories of sleep paralysis and nightmares. For example, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s International Classification of Sleep Disorders, isolated sleep paralysis, accompanied as they often are by terrifying hallucinations of demons and vampiric visitations, occur at least once in a lifetime of 40% to 50% of normal subjects.

The Nightmare has also provoked contemporary discussions about the veracity of those ancient folktales about our nocturnal vampiric visitors who prey on young maidens. 

Although sleep paralysis might provide an explanation of a variety of supernatural occurrences, providing the grounds for a number of beliefs about the supernatural, this phenomenon, along with the medical affliction of porphyria and catalepsy, this still do not explain how the vampire has evolved to a creature associated with uncensored sexuality of pure impulse and appetite or the Gothic Romantic idea of the troubled isolated and mysterious stranger who beckons to us from the margins of society.

But if I were ever forced to choose between having a real visitation of sleep paralysis and a visit from the True Blood vampires, I would unhesitatingly choose a visit from a particular vampire. Guess which one?

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A version of this article originally appeared in truebloodnet.com

 

Vampires seem to be, to borrow a phrase from the fashionistas, the new black right now. Unsurprising, really. They are hot, they don’t age, don’t need botox and judging from Twilight’s Edward Cullen, and the raunchy HBO True Blood’s Eric Northman and Pam, they look good in anything – from a grey pea-coat to black and leather.

The word vampire has almost become synonymous with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of the best-selling books of all time. Stoker’s Dracula is said to owe something to Vlad III of Wallachia who lived in the 15th century and had a habit of impaling his victims on stakes. But Stoker’s conception of the vampire has shape-shifted and fragmented throughout the world in ways he would barely comprehend, and probably not even recognise.

Indeed, the vampire may seem to be a creature living on the margins of society, but we’ve always had a contradictory relationship with the vampire. Central to the stories humans tell each other, these creatures exist in folklore that stretch back through to ancient times. Almost every culture appears to have some sort of legend about vampires or hungry ghosts who feed on the energy of the living, in one way or another. Yet, very few of them bear any resemblance to Bela Lugosi descending the staircase, holding a flickering candle that improbably lights the cavernous great hall of his castle for the legendary cinematographer Karl Freund. And while some of these other folklores around the world are similar to the traditional Central European myths that have been incorporated into Gothic literature and cinematic lore, there are quite a few which depart from the traditional vampire lore.

The earliest account of these creatures of the night derives from Mesopotamia. Lamatsu was a serpent demon who reportedly stole children from their homes and devoured them. Another incarnation of Lamatsu appears later, in the guise of Lilith. In early Hebraic writings, Lilith took the form of a winged demon with the body of a woman with owl-like talons for feet. She was reported to be the first wife of Adam (before Eve was created). Lilith was formed of the same earth from which Adam was created, therefore she considered herself his equal. That being the case, Lilith refused to be submissive. She was subsequently banished to the demon realm. Lilith’s offspring were damned to become demons with Lilith taking the title of “Mother of Demons.”

In China, a vampire is created when a recently deceased corpse is possessed by a demon, usually after suicide or a violent death without a proper burial. Unlike the vampires in the West, the Chiang Shih (also known as Jiang Shi) is said to be covered with white or green hair over its entire body. It is also said to have long claws, teeth and glowing red eyes. I think it’s safe to say that it is hardly an attractive specimen when compared to the highly decorative vampires of True Blood. Breathing the Chiang Shih’s breath can be lethal but apparently, it can be repelled by garlic, salt and barriers of rice, thunder or a bullet.

In the Philippines, we have the Aswang. Apparently, the Aswang appears as a beautiful woman but at night, it is compelled to seek victims. It attacks by using a long tubular tongue to drink their blood. After feeding, it appears pregnant. One of the most fearsome creatures of Malay folklore is the Pontianak, a vampire like entity, she (the Pontianak is always female) is characterised by ear-piercing shrieks, long flowing hair and a penchant for the blood of children.

In Japan, we have the Gaki. Similar to the vampires in the West, it drinks the blood of corpses and appears pale-skinned, cold with hollow features. The can also shape-shift, transforming into animals or impersonating living people. Some of the oldest can stalk their prey invisibly. In Scotland, we have the BaoBahan Sith that usually disguises itself as a beautiful maiden who preys on young men, lured the victims to their deaths through song and dance. In folklore, it is said that this vampire always dresses in green to hide their cloven feet.

 

The Dearg-Due is a dreaded creature of Ireland whose name means blood sucker. An ancient vampire who dates back to Celtic times, it is still feared. The only way to curb its vampiric activities is to pile stones on the grave of any who might be suspected of housing such a beast. On the other hand, the Upier, a Polish vampire, is said to sleep in blood, rise at Midday and go to sleep at Midnight. It is also said to have a barbed tongue with which it consumes large amounts of blood. The Asanbosam, West African vampires, are unlike their European cousins, preferring to live in trees rather than coffins.  They take human form but instead of feet, they have iron teeth and hooks. 

Let’s face it: unfortunately, the vampires of folklore pale in comparison when compared to The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ Viking vampire, Eric Northman, who is really interesting. In Eric Northman, we have a powerful, dangerous, yet captivating 1000-year-old, leather-wearing, club owning vampire. Compare to these other loathsome creatures, what’s not to like about this particular Viking vampire?

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A version of this article originally appeared in truebloodnet.com