Do you like your vampires scary? Do you want them devious and dark? Do you want vampire fiction to take a real bite out of you?
Welcome to the world of V-WARS, edited by yours truly, from IDW Publishing. (In hardcover at your favorite bookseller; in e-book for Kindle and Nook. Coming soon on audio from Blackstone).
V-WARS is a shared-world anthology –all of the stories take place in the same troubled world, with some characters and themes that overlap. I gathered together the eight writers (including me!) to discuss how the book was written and to talk about the enduring mystique off the thirsty undead. Our answers are in the order that our stories appear in the book.
Click here for a free excerpt of V-WARS.
Click here to buy V-WARS, or pick up a copy at your local independent bookseller.
NOTE: Contributor Yvonne Navarro was not able to join us for this panel discussion.
QUESTION 1: Industry wags keep saying that vampires (as a viable genre) are dead, and yet they always seem to come back into popularity. What’s your take?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Vampires, as a cultural phenomenon, have been with us for thousands of years. There are vampire legends in Mesopotamia, ancient Rome and Greece, all through Asia. Everywhere. From a scientific standpoint, we can look back and see that many vampire stories were created as a way for people in less scientifically-advanced times to try and make sense of certain kinds of disease –like rabies, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), catalepsy, catatonia, and many others. Vampires have long been connected with the spread of diseases, plagues and mass deaths. If you translate the name most commonly associated with vampires –nosferatu—it means ‘plague carrier’ (not ‘undead’, as Bram Stoker suggested in his novel, Dracula). The vampire stands as an enduring symbol of some dark force that wants to take something vital from us –blood, breath, life force, or some other crucial element. Fear, disgust and abhorrence of that is not something that’s ever going to go away. That’s why the vampire genre keeps coming back –it reflects something that we, in every culture and every generation, feel.
NANCY HOLDER: Industry wags have been saying vampires as a viable genre are dead ever since I started writing. For all the huge hits we have had (TWILIGHT, Anne Rice, SALEM’S LOT, and a whole host of excellent novels out now) there’s alway some rationalization for why that specific vampire novel is a success, while others surely can’t be, because vampires are over. As if these books are coincidentally about vampires, and are some kind of fluke. Last week i was the guest of a vampire book club in San Diego. That’s all they read. Vampire novels. I know I’m not tired of reading about vampires. And I’m not tired of writing about them, either.
JOHN EVERSON: There is really no other physical monster that combines the elements of sexuality and danger as the vampire. Except maybe the Siren… but for some reason, most people don’t write about those (well, I did, but… that’s another story)! Zombies may be dangerous, but they’re not alluring… and they don’t offer the promise of eternal life as one of the undead. And werewolves? I dunno, I’m just not into dogs! But the vampire… they’re like the leather-clad bad-boys of horror. The girls all swoon and want them, even though they know they shouldn’t. And the boys? Well… we’d like to live forever and party all night, right? So yeah, while the vampire frequently reaches the point of oversaturation, it will never go away. It’s the villain we all want the freedom to be.
SCOTT NICHOLSON: Vampires have a timeless appeal because they strike at the very heart of our biggest mysteries–life and death, and that cool netherworld where they overlap. Vampire legend offers us a relatively safe way to explore the cost of immortality, or at least an immortality bound to the flesh. Those myths were around long before commercial fiction and will be around long after commercial fiction.
JAMES A. MOORE: I think the vampire sub-genre is probably never going to go away. It’s like the tide, It will ebb and it will rise but I don’t think it’s going anywhere, because there is simply too much interest in the Undead in all of their forms. Let’s be honest here, Twilight, Interview With the Vampire (and Anne Rice’s entire vampire series), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula alone would probably keep the sales high enough to make publishers look at the sub genre and consider it at least moderately viable. Add in Hollywood’s influence, the occasional Role Playing Game and the simple culture of people who are fascinated by the legends of vampires and there’s no real reason to believe that the vampire (in genre) will be going anywhere anytime soon. More than one writer has made a career on vampire stories alone.
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO: Subgenres never die, they just go comatose for a while. And
vampires have never really not been popular since the 19th century — not just DRACULA, but CARMILLA and VARNEY THE VAMPIRE. Just thinking of the last 30 years — it was “dead” in the 1970s, but then INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE came out. It was dead in the 1980s, but then LOST BOYS came out. It was dead in the 1990s, but then BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER came out. It was dead in the 2000s, but then the TWILIGHT books came out. Every time it’s declared dead, someone — Anne Rice, Christopher Golden, Laurel K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Stephenie Meyer — pulls the stake out of its heart.
GREGORY FROST: Well, of course, vampires are UNdead, so clearly the industry wags have not thought any of this through very well. My take is, they should shut up and stop trying to predict something as ingrained in the western psyche as the vampire. Why, just this afternoon I stopped by a comic store and, as I browsed, found Mike Mignola’s Baltimore series and dozens more examples of the vampiric glorifying the shelves. They aren’t going away soon.
QUESTION 2: Talk about V-Wars and your story.
JONATHAN MABERRY: I had the pleasure of creating the world in which V-Wars is set. It’s really our world –if things went horribly wrong. I used my story, “Junk” to set the stage. We learn that a virus (I1V1) was released from ancient arctic ice by global warming, and as it spreads around the world it causes flu-like symptoms that don’t appear to be very serious. However that virus triggers dormant genes (Junk DNA). These are the genes that once created the human genetic anomaly that came to be known as vampirism. Just as DNA changed with the movements of populations as many evolved, the vampire gene changed to, and so there are hundreds of different variations on it. This accounts for the differences in vampire descriptions in various world cultures. The vampires of France, for example, are very different than the vampires from Scandinavia, Poland, Peru, China, Senegal, and so on.
Over the centuries, people with the active gene were hunted down and killed –that’s the basis of vampire hunter legends.
Now we roll to modern times and the gene becomes very active –fiercely active—and people all over the world start changing into whatever kind of vampire is closest to their ethnic/genetic roots.
In “Junk”, we meet Michael Fayne, a Starbucks barista who was the first person to become infected and the first to manifest as a vampire. He has no idea what’s happening to him. He’s terrified, and he’s very dangerous…but he’s largely unaware of the awful things he’s doing.
We meet Fayne through flashbacks and through interviews with Luther Swann, the world’s leading expert in vampire folklore. Swann is brought into the case as a consultant for the NYPD. Things go very bad from there…
Like most of the stories in V-WARS, “Junk” is told in sections, intercutting it with the tales by the other seven authors.
This was done to give the book a sense of immediacy –all of these things are happening at once. It’s breaking news, and the eight writers are reporting from the trenches of the first vampire war.
NANCY HOLDER: “Roadkill” came out of reading so much about what’s been going on along the US-Mexican border. I also started a novel about a former San Diego Border Patrol agent who is recruited to guard the Pale from the Erl King (as in Goethe’s poem.) Being a Border Agent is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I live 40 minutes from the Mexican border and my God, I wish things were better in Mexico so that people didn’t risk their lives getting to El Norte. In my story, a biker club (“gang,” if you prefer) is trying to police a section of the desert because the Minutemen have left. I just came home from a road trip through the very area I wrote about–desolate, hot, thirsty.
I loved getting a chance to work in the V-Wars universe. I hold Jonathan Maberry in the highest regard and I was so proud to have a chance to contribute to this book, along with stellar writers who had done remarkable work. Jonathan’s “what-if” is proving to be accurate in that while Antarctic ice is melting, long-dormant viruses are being released into our world. Can fangs be far behind? I was also thrilled to be published by IDW, which has been a life’s goal. I used to go down to the Wildstorm offices, first in Scripps Ranch and then across from the Hard Rock Cafe in La Jolla. It was so cool there. I wanted to get published by them. IDW is a dream come true.
JOHN EVERSON: When Jonathan came to me with the idea for V-Wars and the concept that vampirism is a genetic, not a supernatural, mutation, I absolutely loved it. But then I had to find the right mutation for me to work with. I started doing some research, and in all honesty, I never had a clue before this book that there were so many different cultural variants of the vampire. I was raised on Bram and Anne… who knew there were vampires who had “stingers” in their tongues rather than teeth? Or vampires that could only hop (probably thanks to rigor mortis). But when I found that the Russians had a Wurdulac vampire that could only eat those that it loved… now that interested me. It’s the ultimate in self-defeating, emotionally horrific mutations, but it also could pose one of the most interesting challenges to overcome for a self-obsessed modern career-oriented type. And who better to be ego-absorbed and have very few family / friends to rely (feed) on than someone obsessed with the camera… like a tabloid style anchorwoman? I had a blast working with Danika (my anchorwoman), who is the ultimate example of a “girl you just can’t keep down.”
SCOTT NICHOLSON: I enjoyed the opportunity to explore a different side of vampire legend, one that plays on scientific possibility, as well as to work with other noted writers of the fantastic. I was able to take the big, worldwide crisis of outbreak and bring it to the Appalachian region, in a quiet, rural corner away from the larger chaos.
JAMES A. MOORE: When Jonathan Maberry invited me into the V-Wars anthology I was delighted. Not only because Jonathan is a fine writer and a nice guy, but because the concept was brilliant. We were allowed to play around with vampire legends from around the world and that was exactly what I wanted to do. In this case I chose to focus on a couple of the vampire legends from Asia, because they are so very different from what everyone got used to in Hollywood’s adaptations of classic vampire tales and because the legends are just plain fun.
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO: “The Ballad of Big Charlie” comes out of my love for my home town of New York City in general and the borough of the Bronx in particular. It also comes out of my interest in politics. When Jonathan came to me with the premise of the anthology, my first thought was, “Well, okay, what happens if someone running for office gets the virus?” The specifics of how the story plays out was at least partly inspired by the 2010 midterm elections, where a lot of candidates who you know would never last two seconds on the national stage are able to get elected because they’re loved in their small community. And also generally, I wanted to show someone trying to represent the vampires in government.
GREGORY FROST: My story, “Vulpes,” isn’t even a story about a vampire as such. It would be a spoiler to tell you what it’s about instead, but suffice it to say that, as in the premise there were such predators as vampires in prehistory, there were as well enemies of those predators, also fallen into supernatural lore. As it happened I’d read a non-fiction book about vampires that gave me the idea for “Vulpes.” Plus, I’d always wanted to place a story in the catacombs of Paris, and this was my opportunity.
QUESTION 3: What’s your favorite vampire book? (Why?)
JONATHAN MABERRY: Hands down it’s I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. He gave me a signed copy of the original 1954 edition when I was a teenager back in the early 1970s, and I’ve probably bought and read forty copies of it. It was the first major crossover of horror and science fiction, and V-WARS owes quite a lot to Matheson and that amazing book.
NANCY HOLDER: My favorite vampire authors are Anne Rice, Kim Newman and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I can’t pick a single book from among their works. They are geniuses. When I met Chelsea Quinn Yarbro for the first time, I didn’t know what to call her. I knew her intimates called her “Quinn” but I wasn’t one of her friends at that time (happily, I am now.) So I called her :::mumble mumble mumble::: nothing for a long time.
JOHN EVERSON: The Vampire Lestat stole my eyes like no other vampire novel has before or since. I loved Interview with a Vampire, but Anne Rice’s second novel? That’s where she really came into her own. Her interweaving of history, gothic fantasy, seductive evil… it’s a tour de force that modern vampire authors have been trying to repeat ever since.
Lestat’s wrestle with his loss of humanity, and his search for both his kind’s origins and his own place in the world are seductive and riveting not because he is a monster, but because his search is universal. On the opposite extreme, I have to mention P.D. Cacek’s Night Prayers, a fun, frolic of a debut novel that takes place in a cathouse. No deep philosophical, historical dives here, just a lot of fast-talking fun.
SCOTT NICHOLSON: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King remains my favorite because I love small-town horror and the idea of the “evil next door.” That makes vampires seem so much more plausible and scary, away from the Transylvania castles or big-city anonymity. After that, I would go with classics like Carmilla and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
JAMES A. MOORE: That changes from week to week. I’m rather exceedingly well-read on vampires as a result of the books I did on the subject. I tend to believe that research makes all the difference. Not because I want to follow the rules established by legends and other writers, but because I want to make sure I’m doing something that is different. Currently I’m reading IN THE SHADOW OF DRACULA, Edited by Leslie S. Klinger and published by IDW, which is a collection of stories that preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula and often very obviously influenced the same. It’s a delightful book. Also, frankly, Salem’s Lot is always going to be a favorite, simply because it’s Stephen King doing some of his best writing in my honest opinion.
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO: I’m going to go with a graphic novel, published back in 1985: GREENBERG THE VAMPIRE by J.M. DeMatteis & Mark Badger. It’s a hilarious, delightful, ridiculous, entertaining piece of work about a horror writer who’s turned into a vampire, and it plays merry hell with his muse.
GREGORY FROST: I believe it remains Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. In over half a century I don’t think anybody’s come up with a more clever use for the vampire as social commentary, or a more compelling story for that matter. The genius of Matheson’s story is how he rolls the story over on you–which, by the way, not one of the film versions has ever managed to do. The book, effectively, remains to be filmed.
QUESTION 4: What’s your favorite vampire movie? (Why?)
JONATHAN MABERRY: That question gets a different answer all the time from me, because my tastes shift with the wind. But there are three vampire flicks that I guess are evergreens for me, ones that I always come back to. THE HORROR OF DRACULA, with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Dracula. Brilliant and powerful. That was the first Hammer Horror film I ever saw. And the 1977 Louis Jourdan BBC production of COUNT DRACULA was superb. Of the non-Dracula flicks, the clear front-runner is NEAR DARK, written by my buddy Eric Red (with director Kathryn Bigelow). Fierce, fresh and dynamic.
NANCY HOLDER: My favorite vampire movie is NEAR DARK. I frickin’ love that move. When I saw Adrian Pasdar in HEROES my jaw dropped. My second favorite is LOST BOYS, and my third is INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. I thought Tom Cruise did a great job. People malign him as an actor but I think he’s wonderful. That movie stirred me. I write to the soundtrack often. I was very disappointed with Coppola’s DRACULA but it’s grown on me. I write to that soundtrack, too. I was just in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Parts of JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES were shot around there and it was a thrill to be there. Bring on the vampire movies!
JOHN EVERSON: My favorite vampire movies come from low budget French director Jean Rollin. As a filmmaker (at his most popular in the ‘70s-‘80s), he was obsessed with the themes of vampires and female twins (and frequently, female vampire twins!). Two of his best films, Living Dead Girl and Fascination both deal with vampiric acts, but aren’t strictly vampire films (the “Living Dead Girl’s nature is never explicitly tagged, but she is probably more ghoul than vampire; nevertheless, she’s a seductively tragic figure). Of his overt vampire films, I probably would have to pick Lips of Blood (Levres de sang) as my favorite. I just watched it again a month or so ago, since it’s just gotten a Blu Ray release, and the story is a beautifully dark fairy tale of a film – a grown man sees a picture that brings back forgotten memories of his youth, when he got lost and spent the night in the castle of a mysterious woman. But now, his curiosity awakened, the more he tries to find his way back to that place, to rediscover his lost memories, the more barriers are thrown in his way. And then he begins seeing the woman from his youth again, and she doesn’t appear to have aged at all. The film is certainly dated, and suffers from its low budget exploitation cinema trappings, but it ends with one of the most poetically stirring, melancholic moments in the oeuvre of fantastic film.
SCOTT NICHOLSON: Let The Right One in, the Swedish original, because it exquisitely combines horror with poignancy. I think horror has a lot of potential for poignancy but those opportunities are usually lost in a gout of gore and violence. The best horror tales do more than shock or entertain–they tackle the bigger mysteries of life that horror is perhaps best equipped to face.
JAMES A. MOORE: Either NEAR DARK or THE LOST BOYS. NEAR DARK is different and fun and moody with some really great sequences of all out violence. LOST BOYS is just plain fun. A solid story, good acting and a refreshing take on the vampire tale. For an exciting change of pace the woe is me I am eternal and beautiful aspect got thrown to the side for some nasty critters. I rather like when that happens.
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO: Okay, it’s a terrible, terrible, =terrible= movie, but I love the world-building behind it: DAYBREAKERS. While the movie itself is a steaming pile of excrement, I adore the premise. Vampires have become the dominant species, to the point where the world now functions at night, with lunchtime being midnight and clandestine meetings happening at noon. The vampires are also in danger of dying out because they’re running out of food as more and more humans become vamps. It’s a brilliant premise — too bad it’s behind a truly awful film.
GREGORY FROST: That’s maybe a little tougher. I remain extremely fond of Near Dark. Lance Henriksen’s gang of itinerant blood-drinkers is unsurpassed for embodying the insanity of creatures living such a life. But I also adore the Swedish film Let the Right One In and Guillermo Del Toro’s Cronos, both of them startling and original takes on the vampire theme.
Click here for a free excerpt of V-WARS.
Click here to buy V-WARS, or pick up a copy at your local independent bookseller.
MEET THE V-WARS CONTRIBUTORS
JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. His novels include horror, adult thrillers, youg adult post-apocalyptic adventures; and his nonfiction explores subjects ranging from vampire folklore to martial arts. Since 1978 he’s sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, and poetry. He teaches the Experimental Writing for Teens class, is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse, and co-founder of The Liars Club. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara and their dog, Rosie. www.jonathanmaberry.com.
NANCY HOLDER is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of over 80 novels, including tie-in material for Buffy, Teen Wolf, Angel, Smallville, Saving Grace, and many other ‘verses. She also edits and writes comic books and pulp fiction. Visit her at www.nancyholder.com, @nancyholder, and https://www.facebook.com/holder.nancy
JOHN EVERSON is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant, as well as the novels Sacrifice, The 13th, Siren and The Pumpkin Man, all in paperback from Dorchester/Leisure Books. His sixth novel, NightWhere, an erotic horror descent into dark desire was released by Samhain in June 2012. John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations and a large stuffed Eeyore. For more information on his fiction, art and music, visit www.johneverson.com.
YVONNE NAVARRO is the award-winning author of twenty-two novels and
hundreds more that she plans to write. She lives in the desert southwest,
where she also paints and supervises a husband, three Great Danes, and a
parakeet. Visit her at www.yvonnenavarro.com or look her up on FaceBook.
SCOTT NICHOLSON is the international bestselling author of more than 30 books, including The Red Church, Liquid Fear, and Disintegration. His website hauntedcomputer.com features articles, fiction, and comics art. He’s also a partner in eBookSwag.com. http://www.hauntedcomputer.com
JAMES A. MOORE is the award winning author of over twenty novels, thrillers, dark fantasy and horror alike, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) and his most recent novels, Smile No More and Blind Shadows (With co-author Charles R. Rutledge). He has also recently ventured into the realm of Young Adult novels, with his new series Subject Seven. In addition to writing multiple short stories, he has also edited, with Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, The British Invasion anthology for Cemetery Dance Publications. www.Jamesamoorebooks.com
KEITH R. A. DeCANDIDO is the award-winning, internationally best-selling author of almost 50 novels, tons of short fiction, a mess of comic books, and lots of blog entries, ranging from tie-in fiction (Star Trek, Farscape, Kung Fu Panda, Leverage, World of Warcraft, Doctor Who, and tons more) to his own universes (the high-fantasy police procedural novel Dragon Precinct and its two sequels, the Super City Police Department series about cops in a city filled with superheroes). www.decandido.net.
GREGORY FROST is a writer of best-selling fantasy, supernatural thrillers, and science fiction. He has been a finalist for every major fantasy, sf, and horror fiction award. His most recent work includes the YA-crossover duology, Shadowbridge & Lord Tophet, voted “one of the four best fantasy novels of the year” by the American Library Association. Find him at www.gregoryfrost.com or on Twitter at @Gregory_Frost
Click here for a free excerpt of V-WARS.
Click here to buy V-WARS, or pick up a copy at your local independent bookseller.