Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sins of the Blood

SINS OF THE BLOOD (1994), by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has a unique take on the familiar motif of a pair of vampire siblings, one “good” and one “evil.” The novel takes place in an alternate version of contemporary America where the truth of vampirism has been publicly known since the early twentieth century. The young heroine, Cammie, works for the Westrina Center, specializing in vampire investigation and eradication in one of several states where destroying vampires is legal and considered admirable. Cammie and her younger brother, Ben, are cut off from the truth of their own past, their early childhood memories buried under layers of trauma. Cammie gradually unearths the memory of driving a stake into the heart of her vampire father to save her brother's life. After their father’s death, she was trained as a vampire-hunter by the Westrina Center, while Ben was placed for adoption in a distant city.

Ben's life changes when he becomes aware that he has inherited the vampire condition. This novel frames vampirism partly as a disease and partly as an addiction. For example, vampire victims not killed outright often become "codependents” who feed the vampire by night and protect him or her by day. Since these "codependents" are often the vampire's own children, motifs of child abuse and incest also overshadow the novel. Besides its infectious phase, this kind of vampirism also takes a hereditary form, for a male vampire can father children for a short time after his transformation. Ben, as a hereditary vampire, has potential powers that the others envy. Now a recent college graduate, he discovers his bloodlust in a sexual encounter with his lover, Candyce. He begins with a stereotypical image of vampires as "derelicts with a taste for blood" and "weak people who had been seduced by other weak people." Mikos, his mentor, replaces his concept of vampires as diseased addicts with a vision of them as a superior race. According to Mikos's social-Darwinian perspective, the "weak" vampires die off quickly, leaving the strong and intelligent, such as himself.

The vampiric attitude toward their human prey is epitomized by the "cow bars," where people addicted to the sexual high of the vampire's bite offer themselves as willing victims. The vampires refer to these individuals, whether men or women, as "cows," “dessert,” or “dinner.” Ben adopts Mikos’s philosophy and rejects all the values instilled in him by his adoptive human parents. Toward Candyce he becomes alternately brutal and manipulative. He comes to think of her as just another "cow," important only as a vessel for his unborn child, the potential future of the vampire race.

Cammie has a radically different reaction to her latent vampiric tendencies. At first, when her suppressed memories of childhood resurface, she takes refuge in denying the evidence that vampirism is inherited. Her training as a vampire-killer has imbued her with loathing for the bloodsuckers, so if she sees herself as one, she will be required to hate and destroy herself. She displays contempt for Dr. Brooker, an expert she meets in Oregon, which does not allow the eradication of vampires. Brooker disapproves of institutions like the Westrina Center that "treat vampires like criminals instead of like people with an awful disease.” Cammie dismisses him as soft on vampires and clings to her belief in eradication as the only solution. The argument parallels real-world controversy over methods of combatting illegal drug traffic. Later, when Cammie finds Ben, she awakens to the bloodlust within her and barely stops herself from draining a man to death. When Ben reassures her that she will soon come to enjoy feeding, she reflects, "That was what she was afraid of...Someday she would think it all right to take a drugged man's life because he offered his blood to her.” Ben tries to seduce her with the promise of power. For Cammie, however, indulging her bloodlust doesn’t make her feel powerful but out of control. In the end she recognizes that she and her brother have become so different they are permanently alienated from each other. Despite her love for Ben and even her long-dead father, she hates vampires. In the final scene she flees alone to the nearest rehabilitation center, determined to fight the craving and preserve her humanity. Through her viewpoint, the disease or addiction model of vampirism finally prevails over the "superior race" model.

I discuss this work and many other novels and stories in greater detail in my nonfiction book DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN, available in e-book and trade paperback editions:

Different Blood

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

SkyRhino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.