(Mostly) Heroic Vampires

This weekend finds me at CoKoCon in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the third weekend in a row that I’ve attended a convention. In between conventions, I took my youngest child back to college and worked my first night shift at Kitt Peak National Observatory since we had to leave for a wildfire back in June. Fortunately, all the scientific buildings and equipment seem to have come through the fire fine. The observatory did lose and suffer damage to a couple of support structures. We also lost utility power to the site and internet. The internet has been partially restored thanks to a satellite linkup and we’re running on generator power at the moment. The last of the monsoon rains continue to cause mudslides, which occasionally close the road. Still, we’re making progress toward opening back up for regular operations. As I’ve mentioned in some other posts, my work at Kitt Peak helped spur my interest in vampire fiction, since telescope operators are only seen from sundown to sunup. With that in mind, another thing that happened in the midst of all my travel is that my list called “Books about Vampires You Want to Root For” has been published at Shepherd.com.

At Bubonicon, I read from my story “Horsefeathers” which is scheduled for release before the end of the year in the anthology Staring Into the Abyss coming from Padwolf Publishing. It’s a somewhat dark story that mixes witchcraft, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and elements of the Arabian Nights. After reading the story, author Jane Lindskold asked what I’m working on now and I discussed my novel-in-progress Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. She further asked what it is about dark, underworld characters such as spies, vampires, and pirates that attracts an apparently upstanding and moral person like me. We’ve discussed the topic before, especially as it relates to pirates, but this time I had the opportunity to discuss the topic more generally.

I think an answer can be found in the books in this list. I find it interesting to meet characters who aren’t intrinsically moral and discover how they became more moral and ethical creatures. In books like Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut, Irina is fundamentally moral and ethical, just misunderstood. Of course, all of us feel misunderstood from time to time and I enjoy stories about how people better understand one another. That seems an especially prescient lesson these days. In books like The Vampire Tapestry or The Vampire Lestat, you could argue that Dr. Edward Weyland and Lestat do not always make moral and ethical decisions, but their examination of their own natures is fascinating to me. These characters may not be traditional heroes, but they do their best to navigate an existence through a world of humans.

So please, go check out the list. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite vampire novel and what you find appealing about it. Is it a story about a vampire protagonist trying to make sense out of the world or is it a story where the vampire is pure evil and the appeal is the hero defeating that evil? I’d also be delighted if you looked at the list and found a new favorite book! Meanwhile, you can find my own novels featuring vampires you want to root for at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

When Steampunks Discover Black

“Steampunks are Goths who discovered brown,” is a quote attributed to author Jess Nevins that was popularized by Cherie Priest. The quote holds at least a little truth from my personal perspective. I started writing short vampire fiction in 2000 and then published my first vampire novel in 2005. Although I wrote and published my first steampunk story in 2001, I really didn’t really appreciate it as a subgenre separate from historical fantasy until I was introduced to Cherie Priest’s novel Boneshaker in 2009. I was delighted to meet Ms. Priest at the very first Wild Wild West Con in 2011 just before my first steampunk novel Owl Dance was published.

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Although Cherie Priest is well known for her steampunk work, I knew she’d also written Gothic fiction, including vampire fiction. Her novel Bloodshot was published in 2011, the same year I met her at Wild Wild West Con. Given my interest in returning to my Scarlet Order vampire series and given that this week, I’ve been proofreading the new edition of my steampunk novel The Brazen Shark, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Bloodshot.

Bloodshot is a mystery thriller that tells the story of a vampire thief named Raylene Pendle who is hired by a blind vampire named Ian Stott to find and steal records that should help a doctor restore some, if not all, of his sight. The military had captured Ian and experimented on him and other vampires to find ways to develop biotechnologies that could improve the fighting skills of soldiers. Right after her first meeting with Ian, someone breaks into Raylene’s warehouse in Seattle where she keeps the stolen goods which didn’t find a home. Soon after that, she manages to open some top secret documents, which trigger the government to come hunt her down.

Raylene makes her way to a facility in Minnesota where records are literally put on ice. She breaks in and gets a lead that sends her to Atlanta, but not before she attracts even more unwelcome attention from the government. Soon, she’s working with a drag queen whose sister was a vampire in the program with Ian and wants to get to the bottom of who ran the program so he can shut them down. There’s a lot of great action along the way. Raylene is the story’s narrator and she presents herself as a loner, but reveals herself to be a little lonely and someone who cares for the other people in her life, including the homeless kids Pepper and Domino who have made a home in her warehouse.

I’ve often found it interesting how two different authors can develop similar ideas in parallel without being aware of the others’ work. Clearly Cherie Priest and I share a number of common interests and I think it’s interesting that we both wrote about a government program existing to investigate and adapt vampire abilities to soldiers. We also both explore the idea of a vampire thief. Still, there are distinct differences. In Bloodshot, it’s not clear the program actually accomplished much through its experiments. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the government did create a kind of vampiric soldier to horrific results. Cherie Priest told her story in first person. I used an epistolary narrative, which allowed me to retain first person intimacy, but explore multiple points of view. Bloodshot and Vampires of the Scarlet Order are by no means copies of one another, but it’s interesting that our related interests led us to explore a few similar ideas in our own unique ways. So now, I need to move on and read Bloodshot’s sequel, Hellbent.

You can learn about my Scarlet Order vampire novels at http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order. If you’d like to get some sneak peeks at the new book as it develops, if you just like this blog and appreciate its ad-free experience, or if you’d like the ebook of The Brazen Shark as a bonus when it’s finished, please consider supporting my Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers