Secrets of a Baby Vampire

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Who else?

There's Vlad the Impaler, which is where they think Bram Stoker probably got the name "Dracula." He killed a lot of people, massacred a lot of people, tortured a lot of people and seemed to sort of enjoy it, so he's definitely one of those mass murderers of history that got swept under the rug, because a lot of people at that time were mass murdering.

What's your understanding of the origin of the myth of the vampire?

I think it had a lot to do with a history of misunderstanding of death and what happens with decomposition and also the signs of death. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, they didn't have a lot of definite experiments that would tell you for sure, "this person is dead," and I imagine there were probably plenty of accidental burials where people woke up and they had been buried. So they would find scratch marks on the insides of coffins and assumed that this was reanimation, that people were coming back to life, and they didn't know about decomposition. But the fact is that during decomposition, when there were gases in the body, the body bloats up, and the skin decomposes faster than the nails or the teeth. The skin recedes, which makes the nails look longer, makes the teeth look longer, makes the hair look longer. At the same time, as the inside juices liquefy, they come pouring out of the lips and the nostrils in a red juice, so when you open a casket after a body has been in there for a couple of days, it looks like it's engorged. It looks like it's fed, it looks like it has a rosy cheek, like it's been alive. There's even blood issuing from its mouth. You can imagine how scary that would look to someone who was maybe a bit ignorant of how bodies change after they die.

So vampires were originally a ghost story about dead corpses?

Maybe. It's interesting, because if you were rich, you could have tubes inserted close to your neck – so if you woke up, you could scream and people could hear you and air could come in. But the cheap one was a little bell: They would place a bell on top of the gravestone, and a string that would run down through a tube into the casket attached to the dead person's hand. If you woke up you could try to ring this bell and call for help. Of course, with any kind of ground tremor or if the hand decomposed in a certain way, it might ring the bell, so there were lots of interesting false alarms. People were gruesome back around the Victorian era. It does not surprise me that we had Frankenstein and Dracula and Mary Shelley within these 100 years, writing these scary stories.

What about in other monster/sci-fi literature? Are there other monsters that drink blood, or only vampires?

I guess zombies eat brains and flesh. Anything that has been reanimated from death will do that. The concept behind it is if you are dead and have been reanimated, you must feed on something living in order for that to continue. You still need some sort of life force to sustain you. You don't see a lot of other creatures that have to drink blood.

What about fangs?

Not having fangs is something that really defines us as humans, separates us from animals. Most animals have enlarged incisors, and we do not. Something about being a vampire reawakens that animal side of millions of years ago.

What would you be if you had a choice?

Someone asked me about it at Comic-Con this year. I decided I'd like to be a witch, because I feel like there's a humanity still alive in there, and also there's a skill, a learned skill that's kind of interesting. Plus, you don't have to be an eternal 17-year-old like I'm stuck with as a vampire. That gets a little tiresome after a while.

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