Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest: Suzy McKee Charnas

VampChix is thrilled to feature the award-winning Suzy McKee Charnas today.  I will refer you to her website for her long list of distinguished awards and stories.  Long before vampire romance and Twilight became popular, she offered us a unique look into the realm of the vampire.  Please do visit her at:

 It can't just be the sexiness.  I mean, they've got irresistible attractiveness, magical powers, and the glamor of wealth 
going for them (how many ugly, helpless, poor vampires have you read stories about?).  Is that why I can't seem to stay away from writing about vampires?  My first vampiric tale, "The Ancient Mind at Work", was written in 1978 and became the first chapter of a novel, "The Vampire Tapestry".  The most recent story I've written, "Late Bloomer", just came out last year in a collection called "Teeth", about guess what. That's -- thirty-plus years I've had vamp-ideas simmering in the old brain-pan (although lots of other kinds of fiction got written meanwhile}.  What *is* this vampie thing, anyway?

Sexy?  Dr. Weyland, the predatory protagonist of "Tapestry", was designed specifically as an antidote to the smooth, seductive vampires already beginning to overwhelm the vampire genre then. He's not young (in reality or appearance), isn't only interested in girls or anybody else, especially -- strictly an equal opportunity snacker), and works for a living (he's a professor).  True, he  attracts prey with his rather austere good looks and calculated charm; but that's all just bait in his trap.

Although, I should add, readers have told me that they find him extremely sexy, the way the hard-to-get can be . . .

But he has no magical powers, apart from being extra-strong and gifted with animal-sharp senses.  Oh, and he can sleep for decades and wake refreshed (and VERY hungry) in a completely different time period; but there are primitive organisms, including viruses and a few fish, that can do this too, so . . .

The other vampire figures that have caught come to me with stories trailing after them are a nice Jewish grandma, a French lady with a sharp eye for a bargain in antiques, an African-American teen-aged girl doing teen-attitude to something of an extreme, and a good old fashioned eastern European nobleman from the 14th century.  He's more traditional, with extra strength and even a sort of blood demon as a kind of supernatural familiar, but he still can't turn into fog or summon wolves and sure enough, he works for a living.

I prefer no special powers in my vamps beyond the power to live a long time without being detected or killed, and that means -- they are smart.  That's a big attractor, for me as an author.  I like 'em with good-sized brains (now I sound like a zombie) and plenty of experience to draw on, which I guess is how I like think I myself would lead a successful vampiric life.  They're not rich: wealth makes life easier and smoother, and I like my vampires engaged in the world, not just skating through it in smart black outfits (though I like a bit of flair, too).

It's friction that makes an interesting story -- conflict with circumstances, surroundings, or other characters.  The conflict between what she wants and what's keeping her from getting/having/keeping it is the point where swords cross and sparks fly -- and the life of a story is in those flying sparks.

Vampires keep coming back for me as a writer because they have minds interesting enough to play with, plenty of friction (with a world that's not really theirs but ours) to throw good sparks of story, and, most of all, amazing variety -- because every writer goes after those sparks of story-life in her own way.  What's not to like?


roh morgon said...
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roh morgon said...

One of my favorite vampire authors! (Hello, Suzy!)

I don't know what it is about vampires, but I seem doomed to be eternally haunted by them as well.

As for Weyland, there is something about him and his air of unattainability that makes one want to...well, attain him. :) Though he holds himself aloof and above humanity, we do see an occasional flicker of something human-like in him (even though he's never been human).

I highly recommend reading The Vampire Tapestry if you haven't read them. One of the chapters, The Unicorn Tapestry, won the 1980 Nebula award for best novella.

Better yet, go look on the internet for the radio recording of The Unicorn Tapestry, the stage play Ms. Charnas wrote about a psychiatrist's encounters with a mysterious professor who leaves her doubting her own sanity.

(this is re-post of my previous comment which contained a glaring typo :) )