Today marks the fourth day in the blog tour for Mark A. Latham’s second book in his series The Apollonian Case Files with novel The Iscariot Sanction; a fantasy series set in Victorian London that brings to the reader a whole host of thrills and mysteries to keep you turning the page! As part of the second books release, I am pleased to be hosting today’s event which will be a piece written by Mark Latham on the importance of ‘Making Vamps Scary’ within The Iscariot Sanction.
I hope that you enjoy this piece, my review for the first book will be up tomorrow (September 24th) and will follow shortly with my review for the second. It is a series worth reading if you’re interested in alternate worlds and strange twists and turns that leave you questioning everything you’ve read previously!
“Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and work only at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes…”
– Stephen King
Vampires. Once upon a time, they represented the darkest fears of a society for whom the foreign and exotic brought with it unknown terrors. Grotesque creatures, such as Varney the Vampire, preyed on the flower of nineteenth century society. Debauched immortals, like Carmilla, inspired moral panic in the reader. Undead masterminds, like Count Dracula, could change form at will, yet could not disguise the malevolent evil at their core.
Then it all went wrong.
One can probably point to the popularity of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles as the start of the de-fanging of vampires. Sure, her vampires were powerful, and cruel, and often pretty miserable. But they were also rock stars, anti-heroes, fallible creatures of passion and needs. It was a brave attempt at reinventing the vampire genre. The books were fantastic, but they sparked a whole wave of imitators, which took the idea of vampires as heroes and ran with it, until, within the popular imagination, vampires weren’t bad, they were just misunderstood. The books of Charlaine Harris made vampires hip and cool. The books of Stephenie Meyer made them teen-friendly, angsty romantics who glitter in sunlight. On television, Angel and even Spike became more popular than the slayer who fought them.
Don’t get me wrong, there’ve been some bold attempts recently to put the horror back into vampire fiction. Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan did a sterling job on The Strain, tapping into modern-day contagion-panic and the popularity of zombie tropes. Special mention must also be made of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. In film and television, Penny Dreadful, Blade II, and Let the Right One In have featured what I would consider ‘proper’ vampires: stone-cold killers, with a morality bypass.
The Iscariot Sanction brings vampires front and centre into the world of the Apollonian Casefiles. On the Otherside, the wampyr have long been a threat to the rule of humanity – alluded to at the end of The Lazarus Gate by Ambrose Hanlocke). Given my feelings about misunderstood romantic vamps, here are three ways the vampire’s in The Iscariot Sanction aren’t your typical bloodsuckers…
Vampire Reproduction Isn’t Seductive.
Nope. Not at all. In fact, it’s… icky. On the Otherside, vampires reproduce just like humans. They’re a biologically viable species, to an extent. Unfortunately, vampire women cannot bear children, on account of them being mostly dead, and so the men have to breed either with half-bloods (at a risk of furthering inbreeding and degeneracy), or with human concubines (an act they find revolting, due to their superiority complex, and the fact that they view themselves as a distinct species). When a halfbreed is born, a decision must be taken – transform it into a pureblood, or leave it as is. Those who are left are further divided into two groups: the females become future concubines, while the males are thrown into dungeons where they become mutated, flesh-eating ghouls. This horrific, brutal regime is at the heart of wampyr society, and makes the entire species callous and monstrous.
There is one other means of reproduction – the ultimate blasphemy in vampire society. But that would be major spoiler…
Vampires Ain’t Pretty
Oh, some of them can pretend to be handsome or alluring, but it’s a serious sham. They’re dead. Their skin is rotting, and is only held together by surgical procedures involving formaldehyde. They smell of death. They’re practically immortal, but the older they get the more they change. Their skin sloughs from their bodies. Their teeth fall out, and they have to feed through rubber hoses, which they clamp on to their victims so they can drain the blood faster. Their pain threshold increases, until they can feel practically nothing. The really ancient vampires take on a secondary stage of mutation. Only one wampyr alive is known to have gone all the way, and he is not a pretty sight…
Vampires are Cruel
To themselves, to each other, and definitely humans. As long-lived creatures that feel no pain, and gradually lose touch with emotions to boot, their society has evolved into one of debauchery and sadomasochism. They scarify themselves, carving their dead flesh and pushing lumps of metal through their skin just to try and feel something… anything. To feel even a flicker of emotion they must inflict or receive the most extreme cruelty imaginable, and this extends to their prey. They make humans suffer emotional torment before feeding upon them, taking some small (but tragically fleeting) delight in the agony of their victims.
These are not the vampires you might offer yourself to as a romantic snack. These are not the vampires you ever want to meet…