Why Catholic Vampires?

Love at First Bite is my My Dragon Award Nominated series. Usually, my elevator pitch is “Traditional Vampires that integrate free will into the mythology, resulting in a unique end result.”

What I don’t say is that by “Traditional Vampires that integrate free will,” I mean “Catholic Vampires.”

This is in part because, as one person replied: Weren’t Vampires always Catholic?

There’s a point there. In the original mythology that I can recall, Vampires weren’t repelled by a cross, but to the crucifix. They reacted to a consecrated host.

But they were also automatically evil. And that was the part I drew the line at. How did that make any sense?

In Dracula, the novel, Vlad Tempes was never considered a nice guy. And I’m certain that Stoker’s history wasn’t exactly half as detailed as ours would be today. For Stoker, Dracula was probably evil even before he was a vampire. When Lucy was turned, she could be little more than a feral dog, overwhelmed by urges and appetites she’d never had before. All easily explained.

But after a while, once you get into other vampires, why would all of them in fiction become automatically evil? Doesn’t that subvert free will? Unless you go for the Buffy solution, which was that all vampires were soulless, and the soul was replaced with a carbon copy of a demon. Basically, people were the skin suits that a demon wore. They drank blood as a perverted mockery of the Eucharist, and that’s that.

But otherwise, it’s generally unexplained. I don’t even remember Larry’s Monster Hunter International series addressing it, really. It was just “Vampires are evil, they don’t sparkle, just kill the f**kers.” (Though if anyone has a better recollection, let me know.)

My vampires at the very least needed to address free will.

Which becomes a problem. How can I have people become vampires, and then automatically afflicted by holy artifacts? Unless I go the “demon wearing a skin suit” route, it doesn’t make much sense.

But what if vampires, like people, are formed by their actions?

Catholic theology states that a resurrected body is a body that is perfectly controlled by the soul. So, the more actions one makes, the more the vampire is formed, and the closer body and soul comes together. The more evil actions one commit, the vampire becomes more powerful, but is also more afflicted by religious artifacts.

Anyone who is “good” is something different.

Here’s yet another tenant of Catholicism that ended up in the novel: Aristotle. Yes, the vampires are based around Catholic philosophy because the Church still uses Aristotle. “Actions form the person” is straight out of his Ethics. RPGs also use a similar system (the one I’m familiar with is Knights of the Old Republic).

Now, even under this model, I would not, and will not argue for being just “people with fangs.” I submit that when you take a person, remove all sense of personal consequences from their life, and give them the powers of a vampire, then they are not “people with fangs,” it’s a grave temptation to become a serial killer with fangs. One monster or another, there’s very little difference except in scale and scope.

Keep in mind, I’m not saying “people are naturally evil.” I’d say at least half of my vampires are just folk who would like to survive and move along. Wearing a cross is gonna hurt, unless they go to frequent confessions, because even venial sins are going to mount up after a while.

And yes, I want redemption to be a possibility. Why? In part because I sometimes write bad guys that I like enough to want to redeem. They’re not pure evil, they just try to be. Also, hell, if you’re still on the planet Earth, and not in Hell, I’m fully convinced that Heaven continue to try to catch sinners until the last possible moment. When you consider the number of Catholic saints who used to be schmucks, redemption will sneak into my series eventually.

Keep in mind, this still circles back to the “actions maketh the man” aspect. Evil people can still do good things — it’s rare, but it happens. Granted, some of the most evil pricks on Earth have ironic “virtues” that are comedically small in comparison to their crimes, but some don’t even have that much. I don’t recall anyone trying to spin Stalin as having a single quality that made him look like anything less than a total prick, while Hitler was a vegetarian who painted flowers.

Granted, the levels of evil I’m dealing with … well, let’s just say that their isn’t a LOT of redemption from the antagonists. I may have redeemed two vampire antagonists over the course of the series.

But then again, look at my protagonists, will you? There’s Marco … who’s his own type of dark. There’s Amanda, who had to participate in things that she still thinks about sometimes. Let’s not even discuss Rory, shall we?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: That’s all very nice, but how do I do this as a “neutral” thing? How do I leave Free Will while having an obviously supernatural problem? Well, vampirism is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact, so it’s a blood born virus. We know the vector.

Obviously, it must be a supernatural virus, transmitted from human / supernatural contact.

In Honor at Stake, I suggested Nephilim were the origin, but I’ve kept it vague, if only because I don’t have any vampires that old to confirm it, nor is there anyone kicking around who has that much history.

If I ever continue the world, I’m going to have to dive into the virology more. After all, vampires have worked with governments — Nazis, Soviets– so we know there were experiments. I’m just never going to do those stories, because I suspect it’s going to look like Wolfenstein or Hellboy if I do that.

One of the few things I’ve spelled out is one of the quirks of viruses: most of them try to not kill the host. In fact, if I treat vampirism as being a disease, it’s actually a symbiotic relationship, as it keeps the host alive. Which means it would act like it. There are some viruses that actually aid the host by providing food (for example, one real life avian virus that encourages bugs to climb to higher altitude, making it easy for the birds to eat them).

And finally, the best reason I have for doing Catholic vampires …

I’m Catholic.

Duh.

See if anyone else gets redeemed in the climactic conclusion to the series, with Good to the Last Drop. Or, if you’re new here and haven’t read the series yet,  click here to get the entire Love at First Bite cycle.

This entry was posted in philosophy, Superversive Story, writing and tagged , by Declan Finn. Bookmark the permalink.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written “Codename: Winterborn,” an SF espionage thriller, and “It was Only on Stun!” and “Set to Kill,” murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.

  • I suppose we all write out of what we know. None of my fiction is published in book form but on my wee blog I did write (just for fun) a small series about a Christian (not Catholic) man who became a vampire. He also wasn’t inherently evil but rather terribly conflicted between his usual personality and needing human blood in order to live. Things really got interesting when he met the man who made him a vampire, a hundred year old Jew and the son of a Rabbi. It was an interesting conversation.

    Oh, in my small set of tales, vampirism isn’t a supernatural phenomenon but rather a blood disorder, so my character is perfectly free to enter a church and look at a cross or even a crucifix. He just has a really hard time reconciling his nature as a vampire with his devotion to God.

    I’m not writing this for any self-promotion but rather to state that we can probably write stories not only from our own perspectives but considering the lives and beliefs of others.

  • Terry Sanders

    I think it was Lester del Ray who wrote “Cross of Fire” in the Thirties. The first treatment I saw of the “vampirism as demonic posession” thing. The protagonist was exorcised, and doesn’t remember anything that’ happened in the interim. His first walk through the village is a spooky thing…

    I always figured vampires were Catholic because the stories came from Catholic countries. I doubt the blood-drinkers from the Far East flinched the same way. But it sounds like you’ve got a nice take.

  • James Cambias

    I thought the whole point of vampires is that they HAVE made a choice: to cheat death and remain in a mockery of life rather than face God’s judgement. (This, by the way, eliminates the whole “good person turned into a vampire” problem — a good person would just die. It’s not for nothing that Bram Stoker hints that Lucy Westenra is being morally corrupted by Dracula before she becomes a vampire.)

  • Nate Winchester

    Declan, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to tell you this.

    But Magic:tG is doing Vampire conquistadors.

    Not even joking. Later this month the set “Ixalan” will release. From: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/just-ixalan-part-1-2017-09-04

    Ixalan started with Jenna Helland, the manager of the story team, standing up and giving a 5-minute talk about an idea she had for a new world. I’m not sure whether or not she actually started by yelling out “Vampire conquistadors!” but that’s how I remember it.

    Her idea was a simple one. Imagine a world inspired by the Europeans travelling to the Americas with one small exception: the “Old World” visitors were Vampires searching for new blood. Other than the shard of Naya on Alara, we hadn’t used Meso-American influences in a Magic set, and Jenna felt this would be an interesting angle from which to approach it. At this point, the set had simply two factions: the Vampire invaders and the natives, which were one singular group.

    Yep, super-extra-Catholic vampires! Here’s the card list (so far) in case you want to see what they’re making catholic vampires look like.