Thursday, December 03, 2009


Over Thanksgiving weekend, Friday through Sunday, we attended the Darkover Grand Council north of Baltimore. It’s a small con, just a few hundred people, slanted heavily toward panels of interest to writers. Some topics this year included “Writing and Editing: Can (or Should) You Do Both?”, “What Do Authors Owe to Their Readers?”, and “Ultimate Evil,” as well as the usual sessions on food in fantasy, religion in fantasy, and research. The musical track has thinned somewhat in recent years, but there are still several regular performers singing throughout the weekend as well as the big Clam Chowder concert on Saturday night. Clam Chowder also leads a group sing of the Hallelujah Chorus in the hotel atrium at midnight on Saturday. We could see and hear them from our room. Sadly, competition in the costume contest has shrunk so much in recent years that it was discontinued. The Friday night substitute was a “costume optional” ball that, for the few minutes I looked in on it, didn’t draw many participants.

I participated in two sessions on vampires. With Scott MacMillan, I took part in a discussion of whether vampires can be good. Several people in the audience maintained that a vampire’s superiority over and distance from human beings, even if the vampire started out human, would inevitably lead him to think of us as mere prey animals. I tried to uphold a more optimistic viewpoint, especially in opposition to the implication that because they belong to a higher species, it’s OKAY for vampires to use us however they want. Would we consider a more advanced extraterrestrial species justified in treating us that way? Would most of us think it’s all right to eat dolphins if it’s eventually proven that dolphins have intelligence and self-awareness equal to ours?

My other panel was a group discussion on “The Twilight Phenomenon.” The panelists and most of the people in the audience agreed that there are lots better samples of vampire fiction (and vampire romance) out there but discussed reasons why this particular series has such a powerful appeal to its target readership. I’m still a bit bemused by the phenomenon; the Twilight series caught on with readers under its own power, not (originally) by way of publisher hype. Yet there are equally good (or better) YA vampire series that haven’t enjoyed such mega-popularity. L. J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series, for instance, has been around a long time but didn’t get its well-deserved acclaim from the general public, including a prime-time TV show, until the Twilight craze paved the way.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. If you come at vampires from a Science Fiction point of view, then they are merely another humanoid species resulting from a procreative act unlike our own. Considering this, vampires are not inherantly evil.

    Even if they are more intelligent and more powerful, that doesn't mean they would necessarily view humans as prey.

    I'm an ominvore. I eat both meat and vegetables, but I don't eat mice. Do you?

    Also, it seems to me vampires would need to *learn* just like any other humanoid, regardless of i.q. In other words, getting turned into a vampire doesn't make a person a genius overnight.

    If they're the result of a procreative act unlike our own, there still must be a process, a birth, a childhood, an attaining of maturity. How would a new vampire be 'parented?'

    As far as I've seen from listening to readers, the success of Twilight has little to do with vampires and everything to do with nailing the target readership's needs to the wall. Did Stephanie Meyer come by this intuition naturally or did she learn it somehow? I don't know, but I think it's a good idea to try to do the same.

    'See a need, fill a need.' That's the motto from the children's Science Fiction cartoon movie, ROBOTS.

  2. Parenting of vampires: Mine are a different species, so they are born that way. However, they don't grow into need for human blood until their teens. Before that, milk and animal blood suffice (and remain part of their diet throughout life). A baby vampire stays with the mother (with the father nowhere in sight -- mating is an intense one-night marathon with no emotional attachment) until weaning, at 3 or 4 years. Soon thereafter, maybe a couple of years later, the child goes into the care of the mentor who will train him or her up to adulthood and serve as guide and adviser for as long thereafter as necessary. It's preferred to be the mother's sibling, but it can be any vampire mature enough to be considered an "elder." In adulthood the mother-offspring relationship is little more than a long-distance friendship for most vampires. After all, they have the potential to live for thousands of years, of which childhood is only a small fraction.