IM Legend

My flashfic “Brother Solson and Sister Luna” has gone live at Every Day Fiction.

It’s a vampire story, and a non-Morlock story. The specific genesis was seeing I Am Legend this winter and thinking, “This is impossible. The vampire-zombie-whatevers have completely obliterated their prey population and they should be dying off. They’re monsters with no visible means of support!” Then I got onto a line of thought (probably well-travelled by others before, but new to me) that vampires (as presented in the media) really could not exist. They are essentially prolific superpredators; they would hunt through their prey population in very short order and become extinct. A couple of days later I pounded out the story and sent it off. And now it’s in “print” as it were and people are commenting on it–not quite Instant Messaging speed, but close enough to justify the title to this entry.

The title of the story is a little too obscure, though. The viewpoint character is a narrow-minded minor-league academic (“They said to me, ‘Write what you know,’ so I says to them…”) and, to sneak my ecological argument against vampire stories into this vampire story, I made him an ecological biologist. This, and some other things in the story, suggested dark echoes of Francis of Assisi’s Song of the Sun, the first significant piece of Italian literature, where the sun is saluted as Frate Sole (“Brother Sun”) and the moon as Sora Luna (“Sister Moon”). At first the title seemed to me too much of a giveaway for the story, but in retrospect that looks like a symptom of how cloistered my thinking is getting.

There was a Zeffirelli movie about St. Francis, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, but apparently that doesn’t ring any bells with people anymore. I vividly remembered the TV commercials for this movie as I was typing out the title… but now I realize I must have seen them thirty five, thirty six years ago, in the early 1970s. I think I’m starting to get that old-folks memory, where it’s easier to remember things that happened a generation ago than what happened an hour ago.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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8 Responses to IM Legend

  1. jordan179 says:

    vampires (as presented in the media) really could not exist. They are essentially prolific superpredators; they would hunt through their prey population in very short order and become extinct.

    Yes.

    A long time ago I classified horror monstrous by degrees of Predation. Vampires only work if they normally only need small amounts of blood / lifeforce / whatever, fairly occasionally, and can thus get it without killing many (preferably any) humans.

    Mysterious attractions to handsome strangers and kinky sex doesn’t necessarily mean exposure, in a metropolitan context — nor even in a rural context if the creature is stealthy and far-ranging. But leaving trails of blood-drained corpses does mean exposure, and the level of predation and reproduction shown in many horror universes would quickly exhaust the prey population, if the humans didn’t just kill the vampires first.

    Anne Rice’s vampires are particularly unbelievable. This is unfortunate, as I like her writing style. But the notion of three vampires who often kill their victims and feed at least once a week living in frontier New Orleans? Please. The town was violent, but not that violent, and there simply weren’t enough people living there for this to go unnoticed. They would have had trouble concealing their depredations in modern New York City or Tokyo.

    The reproduction bit is important: if vampires have no ability to control who rises as a vampire or if they can even easily make vampires, there’s no way to avoid a population explosion of vampires, followed either by (1) the humans killing all the vampires, or (2) the vampires killing all the humans, and then dying of starvation.

    This assumes that vampires need to feed on humans, or desire it so strongly that they can’t resist the temptation. If vampires can live off animal blood, especially stored animal blood, a lot of the restrictions are loosened.

    • JE says:

      I wonder what the mortality rate in 1800s New Orleans was, though? People must have been dropping dead for lots of reasons, and there would have been lots of people passing through.

      In general, though, I think your analysis is pretty shrewd, including the bit about Rice’s style. I liked the first couple Vampire Chronicles, then tuned out as it became a kind of industry.

  2. sartorias says:

    I remember that film, though I didn’t go to see it, I don’t remember why. Probably it seemed typical of its time, and I loathed and hated seventies films by and large.

    • JE says:

      I didn’t see the movie either; I just remember the promos. But apparently Zeffirelli presents Francis as a sort of 13th C. Flower-Child, and the movie sported a soundtrack by Donovan (of “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow” fame). This last part sounds so freakishly weird that I might just have to check it out: I’m watching a lot of Italian movies lately, preparatory to going back there in summer.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Coincidentally, a member of my writing group recently pointed us toward a Skeptical Inquirer article in which they ripped apart cinematic notions of ghosts, vampires, and zombies. We, in turn, ripped apart the article. 🙂

    The article assumed a vampire population in which each member fed once a month, and the victim always became a vampire. With the population of vampires doubling each month and the population of humans being reduced by an equal number, it doesn’t take long for the earth to be peopled entirely by vampires. But as anyone who watches vampire movies knows, when vampires are very prolific, they also die in vast numbers (often by some sort of light bomb).

    I agree that the vampires in the movie I Am Legend (loved Smith’s acting, thought the plot was lame compared to the original–the alternative ending sounds a little more thoughtful, but still misses out on the meaning of the title) are a problem. Assuming global spread of the virus, there’s roughly a half-billion of them as a starting population. Given the proliferation of wild animals–humans are not their on food source–perhaps there is some hope for them, but they seem to burn awfully hot, which would require a huge caloric intake.

    I’m afraid I didn’t care for the flash, James. While amusing, there didn’t seem to be much story there.

    –Jeff Stehman

    • JE says:

      It’s true that critiquing any imaginary world is tricky business: often it just reveals the limits of the critic’s imagination (or temper). But, unless vampires can choose who they want to recruit to undeath (as in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s books, but apparently not in Stoker’s Dracula), I don’t see how they can avoid eating themselves out of their ecological niche over a historical stretch of time. But maybe there’s a predator that preys on vampires:

      Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
      And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

      Thanks for your comments on the flashfic. I think it’s definitely true that my talents lie in longer lengths, if anywhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, in the movie I Am Legend, it doesn’t appear that the vampires do any new recruiting, but I don’t think the survivors find that comforting. 😉

        From where I stand, you’re batting 500 on flash fiction. Nothing wrong with that.

        –Jeff Stehman

        • JE says:

          You’re right that the vampires don’t recruit, but the virus creating them spreads promiscuously, even across species lines. The book did a better job of establishing the vampires as the New Normal. But that’s the sort of thing books do better than movies… I didn’t dislike the movie; there were just a couple things that bugged me about it.

          I’m glad you liked “Gordian Stone,” and I do appreciate your candor. Useful feedback is a big deal.

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