Thursday, July 19, 2012

President Vampire Hunter: Possibilities (Part Two)

Seth Grahame-Smith decided Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter needed a framing story. And the framing story is about ALVH, the story. 

So many possibilities:

Framing Story

Why the fuck-hell do you need a framing story for this?

Throughout, different nineteenth-century activists and/or or modern historians read this journal in real time:

Maybe ALVH the main story is a frightening post-Civil War discovery – and by frightening, I mean inflammatory, because it was after the Civil War. The Confederate interprets it as Union propaganda (understandable, given Jefferson Davis’s moustache-twirling Captain Planet Snidely Whiplash villain portrayal), the abolitionist interprets it as anti-Lincoln (or pro-Lincoln) propaganda of the most absurd sort, and the Frederick-Douglass-style former slave debates both of them. This creates some ambiguity on how we should interpret this 'Lincoln' journal, including its existence and validity.

I wonder how the historians would find the journal. Maybe Henry (Abraham Lincoln’s in-universe Vampire Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes) would give it to them. That’d be funny – I bet it would go like this:

“I hear you are fascinated by tales of the Civil War.” (Seriously, that’s the way he talks. What I like to call Overly Formal Anachro-speak).

“Well, I am a Civil War historian, sir. Would you like to schedule an appointment, because it’s really late, and I need to head home. Also, it would be best if we met at my office, and not in a dark alley.” (Henry, successful shadiness requires subtlety).

Maybe the historians debate the journal’s validity and politics, but with the perspective we have today. They talk about the multi-million dollar industry that Lincoln has become, that he’s one of those historical figures that’s almost become as much a fictionalized, sensationalized part of our pop culture as Vampires themselves. Hell, Lincoln has almost as many impersonators as Elvis. He’s already an undead celebrity.

A Confederate-sympathizing historian and a Lincoln fan-boy debate the level of hero worship that surrounds him. Lincoln’s life is given a Christian spin in pop culture – the liberator martyred after saving the Union and freeing the slaves (with over a million total deaths, of course, including civilians) – which oddly compliments the traditional notion of a valiant hunter destroying the evil Vampire hell-demons (with a to-be-determined number of deaths).

Maybe the journal is determined to be real, maybe not. Maybe Vampires are recognized as real in this present – hell, one of the historians could be Vampiric. The possibilities go on and on.

Historians’ discussions illuminate their own personalities and provide meta-commentary on the place of a book like ALVH in pop culture.

Henry is telling the framing story, and offering his own retrospective on the event.
You know, because he was actually there. And shaped the events. And could actually do something about them now, like finish what Lincoln started and end the cycle of death and destruction his people have wrought. And he’s had centuries to reflect upon it, and knows what the fuck he’s talking about.

What actually happened:
It’s about Seth Grahame Smith writing the book! Yes, he wrote himself into the story.  Who is he, in-universe? A random guy Henry met at a general store that can’t influence the events at all and knows absolutely nothing about them. Perfect! It adds so much. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Want to Be Forever Knight

You know what – I like the night. Even when they find a treatment and I take back the daytime, I’ll still be nocturnal. I like it that way – I am biologically and culturally nocturnal.

Any sunlight treatment would eliminate the huge risk vampires run every time we’re away from a nice windowless shelter – which is great, because that’s the real problem.

On a smaller, universal scale with nocturnal living, you have the limited job opportunities, the inconvenient hours for anything worth doing (Museums, galleries, libraries – they almost always close at five) and the lack of bargain matinees.

No bargain matinees. Hey, that was a big deal before Netflix and the wonders of the Web. Ah, the wonders of the Web, where there are no hours, either for jobs or for entertainment.

I’d still be working the night shift, sun treatment or not. I don’t miss the sunshine.

Part of this might be generational. I spent my early childhood on a frontier farm. Sunlight dictated our schedules in the other direction.

Sunshine meant work. On a good day, I’d be doing the housework indoors in my honored capacity as ‘eldest child.’ More likely, we’d all be doing the hard labor outdoors. And then fiddle music later, hopefully distracting us from the fact that we had no air conditioning, no electric fans or even electricity, no sunscreen, and not even a hat with a brim. And we didn’t even know it.

 A decade later, I was in the city working inside all day, as one of the first generations to do that. Another decade, and I was with the vampire community, slowly adjusting to their schedule. Actually being in the sunshine, instead of seeing it on TV, is a distant memory from another world. Almost as much as the frontier. I’m a city slicker now – I can’t go back.

When Sophie-Anne Leclerq had her little artificial beach party on True Blood, it made her even more alien to me. How can she miss the sun after 500 frigging years? I’m 142. I did at first. Now? It’s like that isn’t even the way the world looks anymore.

I feel like I live in a different climate than everyone else I know, where everything’s usually several degrees cooler, it’s always dark, and the wildlife is a lot more like me. Sure, I’ll talk to them about their weather, but I don’t want to move there.

Don’t tell that to Nick Knight, the protagonist of Forever Knight. He wants to move there for life, regardless of the cost. Which is death.

(God, it's hard to find a picture of Nick where he looks normal. Stop snarling at me, Nick.)

Forever Knight. Love the title. You could interpret that four different ways: Nick’s last name is Knight, and he’s immortal. He’s also a Vampire with a traditional sun problem, and thus has a ‘forever night.’ Also, he was an actual knight in medieval France, so he’s a knight made immortal. And most importantly, now he’s a knight-in-shining-armor cop who happens to be immortal, with all that that implies.

Too bad it’s a misnomer.

Nick doesn’t want to help people forever, because he doesn’t want to live forever. His main goal throughout the series is to become mortal again. He tries that even if it consequentially puts humans in danger, because his domineering sire LaCroix won’t stop hounding him and anyone in his way. Atonement is a secondary goal, and Nick jumps at every opportunity to be human even if that would mean cutting short his life and time to help people.

Nick – you spent nearly 700 years killing people. You can’t make up for that. You’ve gone 100 years without killing anyone – you’re not a threat anymore. All you can do is help people now. You can save people who wouldn’t be saved by a conventional police officer – and that’s more or less the organizing principle behind this series, so you should have realized this by now.

You’re a philanthropist who’s given millions of your ill-gotten gain to help the needy with your De Brabant foundation – awesome. One of the things I’ve liked best about the show is its emphasis on real-world good deeds. Nick doesn’t do good works by saving people from a never-ending supply of demons like Angel – he does it the sort of bureaucratic, down-to-earth way that makes society function.

During the Civil War, Nick was working as a medic for the Union Army (despite not completely giving up killing). During the Civil War Angel was – uh, still evil, but I guess 150 years later is when he’d be running his unlicensed PI service that repeatedly butted heads with the actual police force. Which was, of course, useless in the fight against demons despite overwhelming evidence of the existence of demonic activity. 

Angel the Series makes up for it with the gray Wolfram and Hart plot arc, where the Fang Gang tries reforming an evil law firm. And Angel signs away his opportunity to be human, because it meant fulfilling his scheme and saving the world. Nick? Not so much.

He has all the time in the world to use his gifts for the good of the society he’s supposedly trying to repay. And he’s throwing it all away to feel redeemed, without actually being redeemed.

Dying for your own sins, which is Christian in kind of a self-absorbed way, is easier and more selfish than the hard work, difficult decisions, and moral ambiguity that constitutes redemption through good works.

Becoming human would be less moral, Nick. You may feel like you’d be on the side of good, because your understanding of metaphysics is stuck in the Middle Ages. But all the people you could have helped will still be dead. And then you’ll be dead.

But I have to say; the absolute worst is when I have to listen to Nick frame his desire to be human as the desire to see a sunrise. The theme narration says it all: ‘emerge from his world of darkness, from his endless forever knight.’ Yes – Classic Vampire Angst in a nutshell: seasonal affective disorder.

Louis had that same thing in Interview. I kinda liked that scene, I guess – at least Louis was getting enthusiastic about new technology. Hah: some of our elders flinched the first time they saw a sunrise film. I was mostly just excited about the film itself.

Films were exciting for just being films back in the Progressive Era. It was just so cool that they could do that with pictures. Seeing the sunrise itself on film was like looking at old tintypes: ‘Oh yeah. I forgot about this.’ Commemorating the past, not looking toward the future.

Nick - it’s the early 1990s. Watch a video if you want a sunrise. You can fast-forward through it, too – and you have color, not like us poor slobs a few decades before. YouTube is less than two decades away – you can get all the sunrises you want, all over the world.

Wait a little while longer, and we’ll have Augmented Reality technology that can simulates the sunrise so it’ll look more real than the real thing. Constant simulated sunrises that never stop, and all you may need is a high-bandwidth Internet connection and decent AR glasses. ‘Sun’ = ‘human?’ Wouldn’t that make you superlatively human?

Why are you pining for what you lost in 1228, when you have the whole twentieth century at your disposal, and the 21st is right around the corner?

I know that sunlight is a symbol, and the sun represents ‘humanity’ for Nick. Well, Nick – think of it this way. Our technology will allow you to see the sun, meaning technology has created a bridge over which you can rejoin the human race. We’ve advanced to the point where we can all be ‘human’ together. If that’s what you want, and you don’t know how to feel good about yourself in any other way.

The sunrise is great: if people like the sun, awesome. We all have our preferences. And Nick, I’m sure you’d start tearing up if you saw the sunrise again. You know something that made me cry? Seeing a picture of my planet from space.

That Big Blue Marble photo from the Apollo 17 mission? It’s one of the most published photographs now, and barely even raises an eyebrow. But I saw it and I couldn’t stop thinking: that’s the earth. That’s us – everything that’s ever happened in human history – right there. Even the Lunar Orbiter 1 photo from 1966 was exciting – we saw this little scrap of the Earth, but it was still Earth.

Now you can watch videos on YouTube that pan out from our planet through the universe.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of the Earth from the 1400s:

File:John Gower world Vox Clamantis detail.jpg

It makes me cry for a different reason.

The amount of scientific and social progress that has occurred in my lifetime boggles the mind. It’s genuinely humbling to look back, and think where we were in the 1870s, and where we are now. And I got the opportunity to be a part of it, to whatever extent I could.

Nick, I don’t know why you’d genuinely give up everything for the sake of moral symbolism.

I haven’t led a blameless life either, Nick, and I’ve done a lot that I’m not proud of. But I don’t regret still being here for a moment.

And, in the words of Daria, ‘there’s nothing like seeing the sunrise, except seeing the sun set in reverse. Get a VCR.

Or better yet, a spacesuit. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

President Vampire Hunter: Possibilities


I like wacky premises. I like it even more when authors take a theoretically absurd idea and build a quality work around it. Usually, you can’t lose – you’ll get ‘wacky’ and ‘good,’ or at least ‘wacky.’ Which is still good.

I would have been delighted to discover that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was, contrary to all expectations, an awesome piece of non-claptrap that never made me want to wretch. In the words of Sideshow Bob, about MacGyver. 

God damn it, how do you take a book with a US president fighting Vampires and make it so damn dull? How did it fail at wackiness, goodness, or wacky goodness?

For starters:

 Part One


1. Teddy Roosevelt
2. Andrew Jackson
3. The Founding Fathers, as part of a Dracula-style Vampire hunting team.
    What actually happened: Abraham Lincoln