Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bloodsucker Am I

I don’t mind being called a bloodsucker. It’s not insulting; it’s descriptive: I am a bloodsucker. Literally. Calling me a bloodsucker would be like saying it to a flea – it’s just a simple reference to their feeding habits for good or ill. And I can’t even spread disease like a flea: I win!


Now see – it is an insult to call a mainstream person a bloodsucker. When you say that to me, it’s literal. Call a mainstream person a bloodsucker, and you’re implying that they’re exploitative or a selfish drain on society.

Although, I suppose you could try applying that one to me.

Real Bloodsuckers

I can’t help but notice that the people who get called ‘bloodsuckers’ in mainstream society tend to be people like politicians, lawyers, and people collecting for charity. And don’t forget that delightful quasi-mythological ‘welfare queens.’ We also tend to say things like ‘they’re draining me dry,’ usually in reference to money.

I’ve said before that my people in particular would actually be the perfect libertarian bad guys: we’re literally charity bloodsuckers! We have this enormous, complicated social network whereby we solicit semi-regular donations from those more independent than us, and we are really and truly asking for blood and living moment by moment on the altruism of others. And that’s fresh blood, right from the source, and much more than just the bloodiness equivalent of the spare change a libertarian wouldn’t give to a guy on the street (and, unfortunately, sometimes we have to steal it). I am honored to be a libertarian’s bogeyman, and promoting the evil altruist agenda.

I don't like you either, Ayn Rand.

But lo! We’re also a group that’s evaded federal government detection (kind of – they don’t know we’re anything other than regular citizens anyway – I guess that’s good enough for a libertarian fantasy). Sure, we have a socialist, underground society with high taxes from our citizens, where people live under frequent surveillance by a government capable of lie detection – but we never force anyone to join! Such is our respect for freedom of choice. Conundrum!

Fantasy Racism

Whenever Vampires are portrayed as a persecuted minority in fiction, one of the most common racial epithets for them is ‘bloodsucker.’ Without going into whether you should really be using Vampires as a metaphor for oppressed minorities or not, I want to say that I find it interesting that it’s almost always ‘bloodsucker’ that makes the list. Or leech.

Eyes on the 'evil' setting.
You know, say I wanted to insult one of the many Vampires that deserved it, like, say, Edward Cullen. He deserves it more than most because the books and most of the characters present him as reformed or at least fundamentally good-natured when he is nothing of the sort. Maybe I’d give him one of those brutal Richard Dawkins polysyllabic numbers that truly did him justice: ‘you unrelenting obsessive abusive control-freak; you mass-murdering megalomaniacal monstrosity; you stalking sexist sadistic kleptocratic conservative criminal irrational racist wannabe-genocidal bully!’

I guess that’s kind of long to yell during a riot, so how about just ‘murderer?’ That’s a pretty good insult, in that it could not possibly be interpreted in a positive or neutral way, and any person with even the most basic level of human decency shouldn’t want to hear it. That’s a pretty good reason not to like someone like Edward. Saying ‘also you drink blood!’ sounds like a case of misguided priorities.

File:Elizabeth Bathory Portrait.jpg

Erzsébet Báthory: front-running candidate for the most prolific female serial killer in history. Also, she drank blood.

Are writers trying to say that people in real life wouldn’t actually be prejudiced against Vampires for any substantive reason; that they’d just be grossed out by the blood drinking? They’re not entirely wrong. God knows, we’ve had that happen in our community, and it’s such a small population cross-section. Even some of our hosts have been like that, but then there are thousands who haven’t been. A little nuance would be nice. Particularly when you’re dealing with a group of people that have actually done bad shit.

Seriously, if you’ve killed people: who cares whether or not you wasted their blood afterwards? I still can’t get over Stephenie Meyer saying she couldn’t watch Interview with a Vampire because: ‘gross.’ Not: ‘I hated watching people die,’ but: ‘people dying is icky.’
Interview With The Vampire
Geez, Lestat, couldn't you just slaughter her politely? Or use a napkin?

Another thing I see a lot in speculative fiction is Vampires or aliens or Atlanteans making up similar racial epithets for humans, which also sound unintentionally ridiculous. ‘Air-breather,’ ‘solid,’ ‘ugly/large bags of mostly water.’ Yes – they are actually saying ‘You inhale air and that’s terrible somehow.’

I can’t wait for a gelatinous alien to insult humans by saying: ‘you have bones!’ I bet it never occurred to anyone to be ashamed of that. ‘Bone people!’

I’ve spent half my life trying to help stop this from developing in my community and crushing it fiercely when it does, but now I’m wondering about what kind of equally ridiculous things we could call humans. ‘Round-teeth!’ ‘Bread-eaters!’ Uh: ‘solar panels?’

Some Vampires insult humans by calling them ‘mortal.’ One of the fundamental beliefs in my own vampire culture is that aging is a disease, and we’re the only people who currently have any acquired immunity. Calling a human ‘mortal’ would be on par with insulting someone by calling them a ‘cancer patient.’

Most of the rest of these epithets sound like a frigging Cosmo article title: ‘How Having Bones Can Hurt Your Figure.’

Taking a completely benign biological trait and making it something to be ashamed of, without even giving a reason why – yeah, that’s pretty much the standard for a lot of insults. People don’t say ‘you’re ugly and that’s bad;’ they just call you ‘ugly.’ Same thing goes for most racial insults. I guess that’s a strength of speculative fiction – take an issue like racism outside of its preferred real world context and you can see how absolutely absurd it is.

Morals versus Insults

Plenty of people think bloodsucking is inherently wrong, even if you do it safely and consensually. They’ll point out that you have to hurt someone one way or another, since you still have to break the skin. And it isn’t as if humans have pints and pints of blood to spare without any health consequences.

And it’s not like establishing a hosting relationship doesn’t have many indirect personal consequences for both parties that make the whole process more complicated than a simple exchange of blood. And nearly everyone in our community chose to be vampires, and therefore consciously said, after years of thinking it over, that yes: they were willing to make themselves difficult burdens on an ever-expanding number of people for the rest of their indefinite lifespans.

And I can actually respect that position well enough, because at least it’s a real moral argument. I’m a professional sire. I’m a professional recruiter. I’ve lived well past the maximum natural human lifespan. This position more or less flies in the face of everything I do and the entire basis of my continued existence on Earth.

But at least it’s an argument and they’re not just calling me icky.

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