By Alex Bledsoe
When I recently published this post on my blog, I got a tweet from screenwriter/author Melissa Olson saying, “I don’t know, I feel like THE question is: how can you write a new book about vampires when vampires are EVERYWHERE now?” The more I thought about it, the more it did, in fact, seem like a good question.
I wrote the initial draft of my first vampire novel, Blood Groove, back in the mid-nineties, when vampires were considerably scarcer, and sat on it for years. I knew it was missing something, but the core idea—old world vampire who knows all the folklore meets new world vamps who only know about themselves from TV and movies—seemed to have potential. What finally brought it to life (so to speak) was a change in setting from post-modern urban contemporary to the pre-Anne Rice south, i.e., 1975 Memphis. The specifics of the time and place provided the context to give symbolic meaning to the vampires, and in literature vampires are nothing if they’re not symbols. As screenwriter David Koepp says (and this is a paraphrase), the more specific you are in your details, the more universal you can be in your meaning.
When it came time to do a sequel, as Melissa points out, vampires were everywhere: Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and others far too numerous to mention. The paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre had enveloped the staple figures of horror and retrofitted them as befanged Romeos (and occasionally Juliets). In the process, the vampire had lost most of its symbolic power, becoming just another version of the bad boy with a good (if unbeating) heart.
So I had to decide: what was I actually writing a sequel to? Was it simply another adventure among the vampires, with Zginski and his followers facing another villain determined to destroy them? Or was it a further exploration of the themes of the first book: alienation vs. acceptance, the danger of the unknown and the capriciousness of relationships?
I went with plan B.
In The Girls with Games of Blood, my protagonist vampire Zginski, whose greatest fear is attracting unwanted attention, gets it from three sides. Two of those are the Bolade sisters, Patience and Prudence, vampires since the Civil War and rivals in love for slightly longer. The third is a famous former sheriff, subject of a successful movie and determined to hang onto his badge’s sense of entitlement. Leonardo, a black teen turned vampire, makes his first steps toward establishing an ongoing relationship with a victim instead of killing them outright. And Fauvette, the sad hillbilly girl turned bloodsucker, tries to find a way not to kill.
Blood Groove is not a prerequisite. If you haven’t read it, you should still be able to pick up this book and jump right in. But if you have read it, I hope you’ll find The Girls with Games of Blood an interesting continuation that, while it does involve the same old characters, doesn’t repeat the same old things.
Melissa asked, “How can you write a new book about vampires when vampires are everywhere now?” I can do it because the vampire can be much more than the mere boogeyman or romantic bad boy of the books she refers to. At its best, it’s a symbol of things too difficult to blatantly discuss. And that’s the reason I can do it, and that I would even want to.
The Girls with Games of Blood hits shelves July 6, 2010.
From the Tor/Forge July newsletter. To receive our newsletter via email, sign up here.
More from our July newsletter:
- Roots and Story by Carrie Vaughn
- Frederik Pohl’s best friends in SF give back in Gateways! by Elizabeth Hull
- Not the Contents, Just the Box by Lee Carroll (Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky)
- Space Cadets and Starship Troopers by Stacy Hague-Hill, Your Captain for this Journey
- New short story that takes place between Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood
- The Girls with Games of Blood Chapter Preview
- Patricia’s Vampire Notes reviews The Girls with Games of Blood
- The story behind the dedication of The Girls with Games of Blood