Reviews: Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampires

Posted: June 23, 2009 in Braak, reviews
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I have watched with joy and dismay as my friend Joe Laycock, with whom I attended Hampshire College, by dint of research and training, rapidly exceeded my own ad-hoc and eclectic folkloric knowledge.  Joy because it’s good to know a guy that knows about this stuff; dismay because I hate the idea that people are better at things than me.

Joe’s book, Vampires Today:  The Truth About Modern Vampires, is a piece that I could have never written.  It is an ethnographic study of modern, self-identified “vampires,” and it is exhaustive, clear, intelligent, and wholly non-judgmental.

[UPDATE:  Another review about the book, this time from a community insider, here.]

This is about all there is to say about it because, like I said, it’s an ethnographic study.  Exhaustive, clear, intelligent, and wholly non-judmental are the four categories by which an ethnographic study is evaluated, and there you have it.

(Just to be clear:  I could probably do the intelligent part, but exhaustive?  No way.  Joe, you are a better man than I am.)

Do you want to know what modern vampires are like?  You’ll probably be disappointed to discover that they’re basically like regular people, only slightly kookier, and more committed to their lifestyle than you are.  And, in fact, they’re not even that much kookier than, say, die-hard Phillies fans, whose obsession influences their style of dress, behaviors, and makes their lives rife with superstition.  (No doubt once the Phillies won the pennant, ten thousand new post/propter fallacies were given validity, just like with Skinner and those pigeons.)

The two things that especially fascinated me (in light of a post I’m going to do this week about my first zazen session) were:  1) the technology of self.  2)  Self-narrative.

Actually, wait, let me do (2) first.  Joe offers up a theory that modern self-identified vampires are participating in a kind of self-directed autonarrative:  that because we live in a world in which our positions are not defined, expectations are unclear, our faith in authority has waned, and our experiences are not always satisfactorily explained, modern human beings must create a narrative of self-identity themselves.

The process appears to work both ways.  A person has an experience, chooses the cultural context from “the vampire millieu” (for whatever reason), and in turn continues to define and refine their experience according to those terms.  It’s a process that seems to lend itself to an oscillation between conformity and radical individualism, as contextual elements are reinterpreted according to individual elements.

What’s doubly fascinating, of course, are the circumstances of psychologists trying to define the “vampire condition”–using the word “vampire” in a new context to describe individuals who have repurposed the word “vampire” to be commensurate with their own context; which word itself was coined to describe a different condition entirely.  Civilization is revealed to be a series of increasingly elaborate metaphors designed to explain the failures of the previous metaphors.

It’s interesting to look at vampire self-identification as a kind of pathology, though not really fruitful, as most self-identified vampires don’t appear to be pathological.  I mean this in a very specific sense, I guess–a fear of spiders isn’t a psychological disorder; spiders are weird, and sometimes dangerous.  Arachnophobia–an uncontrollable, paralyzing terror of spiders–is a psychological disorder, because the fear is not commensurate with the reality (spiders, after all, aren’t that dangerous).

Self-identifying as a vampire, I think, probably is a kind of escape-fantasy, but not a pathological one–it’s no different than any of the many, many, many fantasies we concoct for ourselves to divorce our personal narrative from the reality of the world.  The process of needing to identify ourselves as individuals with special characteristics and with commonalities with other individuals is a natural, native human tendency, and the combination of Internets, the Age of Enlightenment, and Universal Pictures has just made it possible for that tendency to find expression in vampirism.

However, one of the interesting things about being a vampire is how it leads back to (1) the technology of the self.  That is this:  we build ourselves.  In the old days, we probably didn’t have to as much; because there were fewer choices available to people about EVERYTHING, the need to know about and have opinions about things was much lower.

But now not only do I have to decide what church I’m going to, I’ve got to decide what shoes I’ll wear, what music I like, what movies I’ll go to, who I want to date, where I want to live, what my favorite kind of sandwich is, do I want coffee this morning and if I do WHAT KIND?

All of this yields to a correspondingly-greater need for a specific individual identity.

Moreover, there’s also an innate human need for (or, at least, satisfaction in) self-improvement and self-discipline.  The modern vampire social context provides a vast array of tools with which to build self-identity at a psychological, emotional, and even physical level.

I like this idea of the technology of self, it is fascinating to me; a kind of personal alchemy that underlies all of those old esoteric lodges and your church sleepaway camps and martial arts and self-help books and Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha.  In virtually all respects, the commitment is more important than the object of that commitment.

So, good on you, modern vampires.  You have found the thing that I haven’t invented yet.

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Comments
  1. It would be useful to study how many self-described vampires eventually stop describing themselves that way, and drop the trappings. That is to say, do they grow out of it? If, at the end, there are no or very few 65-year-old “vampires” sitting around, then you can probably write it off to a transitional stage of selfhood — like how I stopped pretending I was a robot by the time I was 12.

    I’m inclined to view it as a community of interests, where “vampire” is just an umbrella group for people interested in the occult, theater, maybe certain vamp-identified sexual kinks. If that’s what it is, then it begins to qualify as a lifestyle, not merely an affectation or a fantasy construct inhabited along the way to maturity.

  2. braak says:

    Well, it’s interesting. Because I want to be clear first off, that we’re really talking about people that self-identify as vampires (in some cases). I.e., they genuinely believe that they are sustained by blood, or by siphoning of the psychic energy of others, &c. Now, I personally believe they are mistaken (victims of 2nd epistemology, which I shall one day explain using my BRILLIANT variations-on-the-blind-men-and-the-elephant description), and it’s probably right to say that for many of them, this is a phase of self-identity.

    But it’s a little more problematic than that. First of all, this is a rigorous condition for many of them–does it get easier or harder as they practice it? As with religion, presumably repeated practice actual yields increased ease; so, rather than tiring of it, they’ll actually get more accustomed to it–though, again as with any belief system or self-identity, probably a whole bunch will drop out along the way.

    Again, I’ll liken it to Phillies fans: as you grow older, and have more years of experience of self-identity as a Phillies fan behind you, are you more or less inclined to discontinue your fanhood?

    But also, are we talking about “maturity” as an arbitrary, “real” condition? Or are we talking about it as a culturally-established condition? I.e., we know that we’re mature, because society has told us that mature people have the following characteristics, and we have moved to possess those characteristics? If that’s the case, then there is no arbitrarily superior “mature” condition with which to replace the “vampire” condition–it’s simply a different illusion eventually adopted for the sake of social conformity, and no more or less valid than the vampire condition.

    That said, I am also interested to see how many seventy-year-old vampires there are in the next few decades (it’s kind of a pretty new phenomenon, so you wouldn’t expect to see any really old vampires just yet).

  3. Moff says:

    McLuhan said that people would trade jobs for roles. This may have been the sort of thing he meant (in this case more readily apparent than is usual).

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  5. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Some lifestyle choices can biologically sustain you—some can’t. I’m reminded of the woman who sincerely believed that if she sat out in the sun for long enough, her body could perform the process of photosynthesis—despite the (commonly agreed upon) biological reality that her body wasn’t equipped to do so. However, unlike someone who believes they are “Aquaman”, she’ll be able to survive such sessions; at least, until her body requires nourishment.

    People who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa are under a similar delusion; except in the case of Anorexia, an individual believes they can continue living without food. It’s possible to reach a point of euphoria from such denial, where the body uses all stored energy before releasing dopamine and adrenalines in an attempt to give the energy kick needed for long treks in search of food. An ill individual can feel a chemical “high” from starvation. “Vampirism” relies on the same principles of control and denial, where the body is kept alive from ingesting blood, but becomes malnourished, releasing the same “invincibility” chemicals that give Anorexic individuals their sense of intense hyper-realism; the body is in panic mode and gearing up to battle for survival, but to some, this experience becomes spiritual or mystical (Siddartha felt the same thing, no doubt, while chilling in the desert and growing grubbier by the day).

    Couple all that with an aesthetic that’s rewarded (Anorexia on the runways; slinky, heroin-chic “Vampire” looks lurking in indie clubs) and you have the kind of dangerous beauty that holds allure for many; in particular, creative types who might embrace the idea of molding themselves into living artpieces (Don’t just tell me you’re suffering for your art–LOOK like it, dammnit! Ballerinas must be skinny! Artists must look like they were lifted from anime or a Waterhouse painting! Poets aren’t supposed to look happy and well-fed; they must be androgynously thin and angsty!) I return to my firm opinion, that if vampires weren’t painted as so damned sexy time and time again, noone would care to adopt the “lifestyle”. I doubt there is as tight a following for, say, people who believe they are Fraggles, therefore sustaining on a sole diet of radishes.

  6. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Oh my, I’ve just had an excellent idea for a character; a washed-up vampire who resembles someone like Carl Brutananadilewski from “Aquateen Hungerforce”…and he interacts with his sexier vamp peers. They all get on him for letting himself go…

  7. V.I.P. Referee says:

    It might be interesting to see studies involving people who identify with traditionally dumpier, less glamorous other-beings (those other than the “sexy beasts”) ; it seems traditionally ethereal, romantic and/or powerful figures are most commonly identified with in such circles (Vampires, Angels, Elves, Werewolves, Wizards, etc…).

    If Vampirism is considered by some to be a metaphysical experience that rises above basic physiological and biological principles, how is science considered relevent enough for some to use it in defining Vampirism as a “medical disorder” similar to diabetes? Maybe they’re just struggling to find the best way to describe their vampiric experiences/self-perception to others? I suppose vampire-identification could be investigated in the same way gender perception is (What makes you, you? What options does society allow in defining “you”? How relevent is your biological cargo/physical person in defining “you”?). The greatest fears people have, I think, regarding Vampirism, might not necessarily be tied to religious “rightness”, aesthetic manifestation or Occult associations; I think many cringe at the idea of any individual or group that acknowledges a heirarchy that considers most humans little more than bundles of energy awaiting a vampire’s next opportunistic drain–necessary casualties–or less able and “special” beings to the other-ens, therefore, worth less; even if Vampires don’t act on it, by defining themselves as such, they acknowledge there is an “us and them” delineation that—nomatter how internal the conflict may be—requires distinction between the “user” and “the used”.

    (A little bit of remotely relevant trivia: Mary Astor, a famous silent film star, grew up under two of the most famous and influential Theosophists in pre-war Hollywood; Otto and Helen Langhanke. Both claimed material goods held no significance to them and that their fantastic estate was to be a place of enlightenment and self-discovery–a place to channel and interpret energy. Barely 20 years after the start of her career, Mary Astor was financially cleaned out by their overindulgent lifestyle, while they continued to claim they were entitled to more of her income and were backed by many members of the Theosophist Society. A “user and the used” predicament, possibly arisen from philosophical identification? You be the judge…)

  8. braak says:

    Well, to be clear, in Joe’s book he does not describe having met anyone that self-identifies as a vampire who intends to subsist only on blood. There are sanguinarian and “hybrid” vampires who feel listless and malnourished without small amounts of it, but no one seems to think they don’t also need regular sandwiches. Furthermore, a fair percentage of them describe themselves as “psychic vampires,” who require psychic energy to keep their souls healthy, but also regular, old fashioned food to keep their bodies healthy.

    As for whether or not people identify with dumpier characters, I’m not sure why anyone would. I mean, look: we all decide who we are based on who we would like to be; who chooses something lame and gross as their aspirational model? Of course people want to be vampires because vampires are sexy; that’s the same reason why people want to be Gisele Bundchen or Bruce Willis, and why no one’s identity model is Danny Devito.

  9. braak says:

    Actually, also, you’ve got a number of good points there, all of which are addressed in the book. The “vampire community” seems to have evolved precisely to address those considerations, and has moved well away from most of the things that we perceive as being true about it (i.e., that all of the vampire community is organized and believe precisely what it says in Vampire: The Masquerade).

  10. Moff says:

    I went back and reread the post a bit more closely, and I’m pretty confident that what you’re saying about the technology of self is exactly what’s meant by roles vs. jobs. With so many choices available, we kind of need to adopt a framework by which to build ourselves, or a lens through which to view our sense of self. It can’t be too specific — if it were, it wouldn’t be a practical framework so much as an exact blueprint, and too painstaking to be useful as a time-saving device — but obviously needs to have some distinguishing characteristics.

    Also: I’m pretty sure I couldn’t beat up a real vampire. So if I found some modern vampires and beat them up, would that invalidate their sense of identity or would they just write a sad LiveJournal post about it?

  11. braak says:

    I think the other problem with a too-specific role is that the need to identify and find commonality with other human beings is probably instinctive. A hyper-specific role, the distribution of which resulted in 4.5 billion absolutely unique, distinct, and unrelated people, would lead to a profound sense of loneliness.

    Though, in the case of the vampires, that loneliness itself just ends up being a commonality–they’ve established a community in part based on the feeling like there’s nothing like them.

    (The true virtue, of course, is accepting that all roles are illusory, and that there is no one at all like you, but that’s okay, because everyone is the same anyway.)

    Man, don’t beat up some vampires. They are just regular folks who are trying to live their regular, kind of weird lives. It’s not their fault they like Livejournal.

  12. Moff says:

    Aw, nuts. What about my self-identification as a vampire hunter? HUH?!?

  13. V.I.P. Referee says:

    The only reason I brought up the hot creature vs. yucky one issue, is that the idea of “vampire” has to be a reaction to a creative construction–an ideal, similar to ideas of “man” and “woman”; except, in the case of vampires, they are shrouded in a living, human body that is either male, female or some combination of the two and society will attempt to dictate to them which-fits-what—how do they arrive to the conclusion that inside, they are vampires; although, they don’t follow many laws of vampire existence as described over centuries or, they claim to be a different kind of creature altogether? Why not redefine yourself as something new–a new type of being, especially if you don’t consider Vampirism a religious experience and/or wouldn’t consider it something branched off something else? If being a vampire was something you always were, not something you aspired to, then more people would realize they were always Gnomes or Yetis. But I supposed that’s not the point here, is it—-it’s about pulling things together in order to define oneself and utilizing the limited tools we have to describe the experience. I’ll just have to read his book and get more info on the vampire perspective. I would still like to see studies about groups of people who internally define themselves as ogres or swampthings, especially if they considered it a positive aspect of their being.

  14. braak says:

    Why not redefine yourself as something new–a new type of being, especially if you don’t consider Vampirism a religious experience and/or wouldn’t consider it something branched off something else?

    Well, first off, some do–Joe mentions, though doesn’t really get into, the concept of “otherkin,” a whole mess of folks that identify as all kinds of crazy (though inevitably somehow awesome) things.

    And secondly…well, there’s two ways to look at this. Me, I don’t believe these people are vampires; I believe that they are subconsciously attempting to fulfill aspects of their psyche by filling an identity gap with things that they like. I don’t think this is bad, or delusory–I think it’s exactly the same thing that everyone has always done, when they create characters and roles and occupations, and then set about trying to conform themselves to that identity. So, consequently, there’d be no point in defining yourself as something “new,” because the point of self-identification like this is to find a context into which you fit.

    But from the subjective perspective of the individual, there’s no choice taking place. The question “Why do you suppose you identify as a vampire, and not as, I don’t know, a nuckelavee?” is largely meaningless, as the answer to it ends up being of some combination of, “1, because I’m a vampire, 2, because there’s no such thing as a nuckelavee.” The existence of vampires doesn’t presume the existence of all supernatural things, and any self-identification is a self-individuated event, and therefore not really subject to general trends. So, the identification as something “new” doesn’t happen very often, because the identity isn’t made up–it’s part of a world that has only provided a limited number of identities in the first place.

  15. Moff says:

    I’ll buy not thinking it’s bad, because, hey, as long as no one’s getting hurt, whatever. But why don’t you think it’s delusory? Call it copy editor nitpickiness, but I’d say there’s a brightish line distinguishing the belief that, say, I’m a Noble Righter of Wrongs and Rectifier of Substandard Thinking out in the comments sections of various blogs from the belief that I need the blood of others to survive.

    I mean, sure, everyone’s deluded to a certain extent. But we apply the word to folks whose delusions go beyond a fuzzy but probably still definable standard.

  16. braak says:

    Well, it’s because I consider that everyone is deluded to some extent (1), that I generally only want to call it a “delusion” when it specifically contradicts observable reality (2).

    In the first place, while I don’t believe that these folks need blood or psychic energy to survive, I don’t know and can’t prove that they don’t. And, in the second place, if there is at the least a psychosomatic response that results in them being listless and depressed when they don’t get blood or psychic energy, then the belief that they need it to sustain themselves isn’t completely delusional.

    Or, rather, I suppose it’s delusional in a very different kind of way. But whatever; I tend to fall back on the old psychosis/neurosis distinction: if it interferes with your capacity to function in the world, then you’ve got a psychosis and should seek help; if it doesn’t interfere with your ability to survive in the world, then it’s a neurosis and you’re weird.

    Especially because the problem of excluding the need for psychic energy as “a delusion” leads us to what many people would find uncomfortable necessary corollaries.

  17. braak says:

    Oh! But also, in the previous comment when I said that self-identity with a vampire isn’t necessarily delusory, I should point out that not all self-identified vampires believe that they require blood or psychic energy to sustain themselves in the first place. Therefore, even if the need for blood is a delusion, that someone who believes they are a vampire is deluded does not necessarily follow.

  18. Moff says:

    Well, I see what you’re saying. But I’m reminded of my comment awhile back about Paul Tillich’s definition of “religion” and your opinion that it was too broad to be at all useful. I’d argue that it’s more reasonable to define “religion” as “the depth in total of one’s experience” or something like that (since “religion” in practice encompasses a very broad set of beliefs and activities, but generally refers to how those beliefs and activities affect every aspect of one’s life) than to sign off on “vampires” who don’t need blood or psychic energy to live, aren’t killed by prolonged exposure to sunlight, etc., etc.

    I mean, I get antsy if I come home from several hours offline and can’t check my email right away. The irritation manifests itself psychologically and physically. Do I get to define myself as a vampire who feeds off of “Internet energy”? Can I call myself a “Web cowboy,” and say I’m exactly like a cowboy, except that I need to chase down and rope blog posts? If I believe it hard enough, is it true? I guess I don’t care about self-identified vampires’ behavior, but the nomenclature irritates me — much as I was irritated many years ago by a woman I was waiting on who said, “Well, I’m a vegetarian, so the only meat I eat is seafood.”

  19. braak says:

    Do I get to define myself as a vampire who feeds off of “Internet energy”? Can I call myself a “Web cowboy,” and say I’m exactly like a cowboy, except that I need to chase down and rope blog posts?

    I don’t see why not. Every description of everything is at best a metaphor, and therefore at least a little wrong. Sure, we strive for accuracy and precision, but that accuracy and precision is confirmed according to whoever it is we’re communicating with. To put it another way, if calling yourself a “web cowboy” accurately conveys your meaning to another listener, then isn’t it appropriate to define yourself as such?

    Especially considering that even the word “vampire” by classical definition, doesn’t actually have any particular standard. Dracula, after all, could go out during the day just fine.

    And in fact, there are numerous elements that, beyond blood-drinking, sunlight, and undeadyness, vampires do share in common. An aesthetic sense, for example–so, we end up with several overlapping Venn circles that make a kind of a daisy chain of different sorts of “vampires.” Some are lifestyle vampires, some drink blood, some suck up psychic energy. The rubric “vampires” covers all of them because in each group, there is some aspect of their self-definition that is “vampiric,” even though it’s not always the same aspect.

    Is this imprecise? Yes. Though I think debatably less imprecise than “religion is the depth in total of one’s experience.” “Vampire,” for as individual a definition as it is, can still be defined against “Not Vampire,” so at least it can be defined negatively. “Religion,” by that definition, doesn’t suggest that there’s any kind of human experience that isn’t religion, and so you end up with negative definitions like, “Well, Chevys aren’t religion. Though, I guess they could be the subject of religion.”

  20. Moff says:

    But “Web cowboy” doesn’t accurately convey what I mean to someone else, at least not without so much explication that the original term is practically useless. If I say to someone, “I’m a Web cowboy,” there’s little to no chance they will think that I mean by it that I’m a person who reads blogs. Similarly, if someone says, “I’m a vampire,” but upon further interrogation reveals that they just like to wear a cape, I don’t think I’m being unfair if I call them deluded.

    And how do you define “not vampire” if someone can just say, “Well, no, that is a kind of vampire, actually. I’m that kind of vampire.” (I’m not going to get deep into the religion question here, because defining the word is obviously enormously problematic, but my point was that it doesn’t bother me that such a loaded and historically problematic concept is hard to define precisely, whereas it does drive me a little nuts when people take liberties with a more straightforward term, like “vampire.”)

    I get the problem. But y’know, you were the one who got annoyed with the io9 commenter who posted as if he were a dog. Is he deluded if he self-identifies as a dog? And if so, is that just because “dog” is more empirically definable than “vampire”?

  21. braak says:

    Hey, now. That guy didn’t post as if he was a dog because he thought he was a dog. He posted as if he were a dog in order to piss me the fuck off. And also to avoid having to justify or explain any of his positions. But let’s say he DOES think he’s a dog. Is he deluded? Well, that depends on how he thinks he’s a dog. Does he think he has dog hair on his body? Big dog teeth? Let’s say, also for the sake of argument, that I can actually see him, and I can see that he doesn’t have big dog teeth. If that’s the case, then I can rightly say that his self-delusion is a bigger one that most, because he clearly doesn’t have dog teeth.

    But does he think that he’s the soul of a dog in the body of a human? And if he does, can I say that he’s deluded? Well fuck, I don’t know. I don’t really believe in souls in the first place, so I’d have to say that, yes, according to my standards of reality, he is technically deluded. But I can’t accurately say that he’s any more deluded than a person who believes that they have the soul of a human in the body of a human. Out of politeness more than anything else, I don’t consider people who believe that they have souls to be “deluded” per se, in particular because I reserve “delusion” for things that are actually operatively interfering (though, to be fair, the belief in a soul could, hypothetically at least, lead to some pretty antisocial behaviors). If I don’t consider those people deluded, I guess it doesn’t really make sense for me to call a person who believes he has a dog soul, or a vampire soul, deluded either.

    And, you know, self-identity concepts change and evolve. “Web Cowboy” doesn’t mean much now (though it kind of is suggestive of what you’re saying, now that you mention it), but if you used it that way long enough, and under enough circumstances, then it would mean something. Now, I get why that might piss a person off–I get really mad when we start inventing words for things that we already have words for. But really, the concept that you’re talking about isn’t something that we already have a word for, which means that inventing the term for the purpose of self-identity is actually imperative.

    In a similar position are self-identified vampires. They know that they are something, and they know that other identity terms don’t seem to fit them, so they grasp at those terms that seem to make the most sense. And “vampire” for a lot of them, makes sense–and can furthermore be defined negatively. Even though it is a broad term, it’s certainly not a universal term; there are plenty of people that don’t consider themselves vampires, and aren’t considered vampires by anyone else.

    I mean, I think I get the problem here: “vampire” as a term, isn’t generally very specific. But that’s okay, because most self-identified “vampires” have more specific terms that they use to define themselves: lifestyle vampires, sanguinarian vampires, hybrid vampires, psychic vampires. These terms are largely meaningless to you and me, but they aren’t meaningless to them, and since these guys aren’t talking to us, I think social meaning is all that’s really necessary in this case.

    As to whether or not “deluded” is an appropriate term to apply…well, let me modify it. All forms of self-identity are delusional, and therefore everyone’s at least a little deluded. Some people are more deluded than others, but the level of psychotically deluded vampires (i.e., people whose delusions move beyond weird and into anti-social) doesn’t seem to be any higher than the rate of pyschotic delusions among any other identity group. So, when I say that I think that self-identified vampires aren’t deluded, I really just mean they aren’t particularly dangerously deluded compared to everyone else.

  22. Moff says:

    That’s all fair. I have to admit, a big part of the issue here is probably that I do kind of want to beat up people who say they’re vampires. I don’t know why. They’re like guys who are emo, or dudes who think owning a jet-ski is a truly laudable achievement and say, “I just wanna have all the toys, you know, brah?” They just piss me off.

  23. braak says:

    @Moff: I can understand that position. I kind of feel the same way about most io9 commenters.

  24. braak says:

    Oh, and look at this. It’s an analysis of the book from inside the community, which gets at a lot of points that I didn’t.

    This is really a great ethnography. Congratulations again, Joe, if you ever bother reading this.

  25. braak says:

    @Moff: A here, and look at this, from an interview with a self-identified vampire, that explains it better:

    “Many casual treatments of the Vampire Community by the press and pop media gleefully ignore the metaphoric use of the word “vampire” and leap to cinematic conclusions about those who identify themselves as vampires. Of course, they never really firmly establish what a “vampire” is, much less the details of the vampire delusion. This is because members of the Vampire Community don’t really “think they are vampires.” The label has been taken as a statement of identification, not with myth or fiction, but with one another, and the experiences that real vampires seem to share.

    The emphasis is mine, there, but that’s what I’m trying to get at it terms of the label.

  26. Moff says:

    What these kids need is a few days of hard work, and maybe a wallopin’ with the ol’ belt or two. Can’t they just play football, or baseball? Those are normal, healthy pursuits.

    No, that quote spells it out pretty well. And the self-ID’d vampires sound far less annoying, on average, than everyone I’ve read who doesn’t think the new Star Trek movie is any good.

  27. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …a shared/collective “vampire” experience as filtered through literary and cinematic artistic interpretations. They cannot deny their predecessors; seductive “vamps” and anemic-looking Absinthe drinkers. How can it be disregarded that the idea of “Vampire” is purely a creative construct and a term that wasn’t invented for purposes of practicality in communication (snake, dirt, baby), but as a means to characterize a kind of fear that had no name on it. Is that what vampires consider their souls to be composed of—fundamental fear? Sans the fancy garb, hundreds of years of vampire lore (mythology and defined perspective; i.e., vampire type and nature, classifying vampires) and artistic renderings, they would just be people with an overwhelming, unexplainable desire to morbidly possess, manipulate and utilize others to satisfy their own needs and desires. Maybe defining oneself as a “Vampire” is a way of organizing and controlling sociopathic tendencies? (Chris is gonna CUT me…)

  28. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Ok, I meant: “Goth” culture could be considered an outward manifestation of conflicting, internal tensions, by way of aesthetic uniqueness and provocative social presentation. Remove “Vampire” history from “Vampire” culture and the result is something very similar to Goth culture. But, I guess, the difference must feel significant enough, if being a vampire is about a “feeling” or a state of being that might not be comparable to “Goth” perspective…

  29. braak says:

    Meh. What does it mean to be a knight? A lover? A class clown? What practical reason is there for the distinct creation of the “writer” identity, as something separate from the action of writing?

    The point of literature is that it gives us tools for self-identification. That’s what it’s for–received morals, cultural norms, expectations, identifications. The problem here is that, firstly, you’re mistrustful of it because you know when it was invented (roughly), and secondly because you’re using a really narrow definition of it.

  30. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Oh, fine: Dog-people, vampires, Joe Laycock and Chris Braak (in that order) are all far better and cooler than I’ll ever be.

  31. braak says:

    Correct.

    Don’t be ashamed, though. We’re cooler than everyone.

  32. Onyx Rose says:

    It has long been proven that it is human nature to “dog” “bash” or otherwise put down things that are not understood even to the extent of fearing the same which can manifest as something so benign as a put down and in some extreme cases as hatred and even “hate crimes” being perpetrated on those whom are deemed to be different from the “norm” . I have sat here and read all the comments on this thread and while it started out as a fairly decent review of a book that I will admit I have not yet read in fact I only became aware of it a few days ago, however I do intend to read in the very near future. I will say that it saddened me to see the further down the thread I went how the discussion degraded into an attack however mild on those in the community. There are those who do go all out to “dress up” and look the part of a vampire, the term for such people is “lifestyler” who may or may not actually feel that they are psychic or sanguine vampire. I am not going to sit here and claim that I understand the sanguine aspect of the community because I don’t. I will however speak to my own experiences, I have a myriad of health issues that are as yet undiagnosed that fall very well into the realm of those complaints voiced by others in the “psy” community as near as I can figure from the research that I have done for my own personal benefit. I do identify with the label of being psychic vampire and on the rare occasions when I do unconsciously and rather instinctually take energy from another person my symptoms do improve somewhat. I do make a conscious and concerted effort not to “feed” however much I am certain that it would greatly improve my health if I did and the reason for that is simply that I was fed upon for a long time by a very unethical psy vamp who simply took my energy without my knowledge or consent and I choose not to do the same to other unwitting individuals. Also that I am far from being ready to come out enough to try to explain to someone that my own body does not create enough energy, on its own to supply my needs so therefore “can I have some of yours”?

    A point I want to make is that I was “born” this way I was not “turned” into a vampire, the awakening began when my own energy was taken down to a level where I began to realize what was happening and with the help of a few friends who tried to tell me what this person was, one of them whom could see the holes in my aura from the feeding of this other person. Mind you that at the time the term psychic vampire to me was nothing more than a very heinous slur against a person’s character and or personality, it was right around that time when I happened across a link to the Shadowdance Podcast website and I started listening to some of the shows and found episode 10 which there is a link for below and lo and behold some of what was discussed sounded like me and spurred me to look further, I then found Immortal Covenant which the name irritates me for the fact that it seems to perpetuate the stigma of those whose actions and or attitudes would do damage to the vampire community, those who dress all up in the whole Count Dracula costume and change their names to Lestat or Vlad, and believe that they truly are the undead, still it is a resource site designed to help those within the community and as such has many informational links, and my search went on from there.

    I am about as close to what would be considered “normal” as you can be, I am a wife (well not legally but whose counting) and I am a mom doing the best I can to live my life and to raise my child to be a moral and ethical person, to know the difference between right and wrong and to treat others right. I did take personal offense to the comment in one reply about how “these kids need a few hours of hard work and a whipping” or however it was worded, I am far from being a kid in fact I am bordering on being middle aged, I also found the bantering about whether or not the 70 something’s would feel that feeding was as relevant as they did in their “younger” years to be offensive! When one needs something to maintain their own physical and emotional well being is age even a factor?

    All of that being said I have put together a short list of resources that I have found particularly useful and do highly recommend to someone who might want to gain a little more insight into what it means to be a “psychic vampire”.

    http://www.michellebelanger.com
    Michelle is one of the most outspoken members of the vampire community that I have come across and thankfully so, she is well educated, intelligent, insightful and very well spoken and I cant think of a better combination of traits for a person to have that has taken on the task of furthering understanding of the community as she has.



    Parts one and two of an interview of Michelle, very much worth taking the 30 or so minutes to watch.

    Podcast hosted by Michelle Belanger and Chris Miller devoted to fringe culture :
    http://www.shadowdancepodcast.com/2006/10/23/shadowdance-011-vampires-and-otherkin-and-therians-oh-my/
    http://www.shadowdancepodcast.com/2009/06/21/shadowdance-029-vampires/

  33. braak says:

    Onyx: the one comment that you mention in particular–though it might not be clear as written–is very clearly a joke. It is, in particular, a criticism of those poor parents who, failing to understand the subjective nature of their child’s experience, foolishly believe that hard work and discipline are going to make them “normal.” It’s understandable that that might not be clear to an outsider; there’s naturally a level of awareness among those of us that know each other that lends a level of meaning to things that aren’t always clear without that awareness.

    For as much as some of the commenters here (I’m looking at you, Moff) are irreverent (though necessarily not as irreverent as I am), we’re a pretty open-minded group. I wouldn’t lose my temper just yet.

    But, if you’re going to, here’s probably the time to do it. When I talk about vampires and the occult, I’m not talking–entirely–from a position of ignorance. I’ve actually got a pretty broad range of information and actual personal experiences available to help me evaluate things like this. I understand that you have a variety of health problems, that the experience of feeding off of energy seems to alleviate them, that this makes sense to you.

    According, however, to the range of my own subjective experience, what is happening to you is not really what you think it is. It is a kind of self-delusion, not dissimilar from…well, from really any other kind of self-delusion. The fact that you didn’t choose it of course isn’t hugely pertinent; most people don’t really “choose” to believe the things that they believe, way deep down. What you’re talking about is something that you know from the inside–a product of the Second Epistemology.

    And the fact that it’s your subjective experience doesn’t actually make you all that better qualified to determine exactly what it is. Because while it’s true what you say, that it’s human nature to demonize the strange, it is also human nature to misinterpret data, to mistake “what is” for “what is wanted,” to associate correlation with causation, to afford sameness to things that are only similar, to apply connection to things that are only close. We are, in fact, extremely terrible at knowing exactly what is going on, which is why it took us five thousand years to figure out just how gravity worked.

    So, there you go: in the same way that, from your perspective what you are is what you must be, from my perspective, you’re mistaken. I don’t think that’s a huge deal–Moff and I can be friends even though I don’t believe in his soul and that it’s ever going to be saved; Holland and I can be friends even though I don’t believe in this girlfriend he keeps talking about really exists; Hsiang and I can be friends even though I’m pretty sure he’s not really a space alien.

    In short, while it’s impossible for me to not determine whether or not I believe that something is true, that belief doesn’t need to be especially pertinent to yours. There’s all kinds of folks in the world, and they believe all kinds of things; I don’t think it’s bad to believe things. I just don’t happen to think most of those things are true.

  34. Moff says:

    @Onyx: Yes, the thing about hard work and a whipping was a joke. I mean, I’m sure there are people who do think that’s what you need, but I think they are wrong and ignorant, and I was making fun of them. I also don’t really want to beat up any vampires, or anyone else (except for inconsiderate drivers, many of whom seem to live in my new home state of Wisconsin).

    And please consider my skeptical comments to be more along the lines of a philosophical debate about — ontology? ontology, I guess — that happens, coincidentally, to focus on folks who identify as vampires. I was being rude and irreverent, and I apologize if I hurt your feelings or anyone else’s. Honestly, I not only have no problems with how you live your life but am seriously gladdened that people can self-identify as vampires (and many other things outside of the so-called mainstream) these days and not face as much prejudice as there was fifty or twenty or even ten years ago. More power to you!

  35. V.I.P. Referee says:

    As for my part, I shouldn’t have been quite so harsh in making assumptions about motivation. Perhaps, the feeling of needing to “feed” or tap into another’s “energy” is similar to what some people look for, when they say they are unable to feel “whole” unless someone else fills-in-the-blanks. Every lifestyle is compatible with humanity, as long as noone is truly hurt from it (hurt = physical harm or serious psychological harm, to the point of prompting severe dysfunction).

    But the irreverence thing is the truth. Most of it’s a tease and I don’t think anyone meant to insult. However, at least speaking from my perspective (just a plain old, boring female human), seriousness when concerning certain topics is taken very seriously around here–beware ;)!

  36. Lydia says:

    Check this out:

    /www.life123.com/holidays/halloween/legends/drinking-blood-is-healthy-the-truth-about-vampires.shtml

  37. louis tussaud says:

    thankyou Moff

  38. Jana Jueterbock says:

    I am new to this sight,I have been seeing some one whom says he is a Vampire and he has charachteristics of a vampire,but when I had met him I thought it was just a wild fantasy of his and I played along with it. Then it just got more in tense I was passed out 1 night and he did tell me that he had bit me and tasted my blood. He does have a craving of my blood in any way he can have it I am sure you get my drift. He is a very kind and very sexual person whom I tend to care for very much,so he is an Empath and not sure if this relates to what he is? so basicly I am just wanting answers to this modern day vampirism. Is this Real or Science fiction please educate me on this.

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