Over Easter, the holiday of the world’s renewal, the bright sunny season we’re fast approaching has stimulated me to contemplate what a spacefaring civilization that huddled in very close proximity to the sun (or some other star) might be like. It’s also struck me that such a culture would make for a fascinating contrast with an Oort cloud civilization, like I explored in my post “Colonizing the Oort Cloud: Colonizing the Final Frontier of the Solar System”, and touched on a bit in my story “Nereogenesis”.
In particular one passage from that blog post stands out to me, and has intrigued me intermittently since I wrote it two years ago:
The dim sunlight means that illumination will be comparable to nighttime on Earth (full moon-like in the inner cloud to new moon-like in the outer cloud) even in broad daylight. Paradise for a vampire perhaps, but humans would find it very challenging to live in what would amount to constant night.
Well, what if there were vampires? They might find the Oort cloud to be a natural home base, their supernatural powers permitting occasional forays into the inner solar system, Earth being a prominent target for obvious reasons, but with expeditions becoming progressively more difficult the closer to the sun.
Human-Vampire Hybrids? Yes!
If I were to build a world along such lines, I’d go for the usual tropes about vampires and their culture. In particular I find the concept of the dhampire, from South Slavic folklore, to be interesting. Dhampires are the offspring of a union between a vampire and a mortal human, usually (but not necessarily) a male vampire and a female human. According to Wikipedia:
In the Balkans it was believed that male vampires have a great desire for women, so a vampire will return to have intercourse with his wife or with a woman he was attracted to in life. In one case, a Serbian widow tried to blame her pregnancy on her late husband, who had supposedly become a vampire, and there were cases of Serbian men pretending to be vampires in order to reach the women they desired. In Bulgarian folklore, vampires were sometimes said to deflower virgins as well. The sexual activity of the vampire seems to be a peculiarity of South Slavic vampire belief as opposed to other Slavs, although a similar motif also occurs in Belarusian legends.
Where this gets fancy is that these dhampires, especially those males of paternal vampiric descent, could, unlike a full human, see vampires and other supernatural creatures, as well as practice sorcery. Often dhampires would become vampire hunters, a calling passed down by fathers to sons through the generations. According to Vampire Underworld, dhampiric abilities include:
- Sense a supernatural creature is within a specified distance
- Develop visions that provide guidance as well as intimacy with the vampire
- Acute sense of sight and hearing
- Regenerating healing abilities
- Walk in sunlight
- Eat like a human
- Procreate and pass powers to offspring
- Control animals
- Achieve a mental edge that borders on psychosis
- Destroy vampires
Wizard Blood, Vampire Blood?
Indeed, dhampirism could make an excellent explanation in the worldbuilding for why there’s a magical world at a remove from the real world; “Harry Potter”, I’m looking at you. The Statute of Secrecy is just lame; much better would be that the magical world can only be seen or fully perceived by those with magical blood, which may well be vampire blood, making all wizards and witches dhampires.
Possibly a large number of those humans with special but still not supernatural abilities and powers have a little vampire blood in such a world, and if they hone their powers they slip more and more out of our reality and into the magical realm, perhaps phasing in and out of visibility like ghosts. Which might pose problems for keeping the magical world separate, but like they say in “Harry Potter”: “Muggles: they don’t see nuthin’, do they?”. 😉
What’s the Opposite of a Vampire? Dragons!
But back to the original topic of huddling close to the sun, what does this have to do with vampires and dhampires? Well, they serve as a thematic contrast to the sun people, the people of light, who are the exact opposite of the vampires. Who could such people be?
Fur Against Fang is a modern trope that posits the werewolf as the foil of the vampire, which makes enough sense, but werewolves are creatures of the night as well! I want creatures of the day! What else is there, then? Fairies are starting to get warmer, being often depicted as ineffable fluttering beings of light; better still might be the angels, often associated with light, fire, and fury. Another mythical being associated with light, in a way, is the dragon, who breathes fire and is not particularly associated with nighttime or moonlight.
Perhaps I should go back to basics: vampires are supernatural creatures of the night who suck your blood out of you. Thus the best contrast would be with a supernatural creature of the light who breathes life into you. By sunlight they gain the power to do this (not unlike a plant), spreading life everywhere they go, with their weapons or the collateral damage from their presence being an excess of light and heat, or possibly an excess of metabolism or energy within their target’s physiology. That very high energy might make them effervescent in character, as opposed to the cool calculating nature of the vampire, and short-lived, again in contrast to the vampire’s immortality.
One ability the light beings (let’s call them dragons) have the vampires lack might be transferring thought, memory, and personality into a fellow dragon, but at the cost of surrendering one’s personality and accepting mortality. Much like the Jedi versus the Sith in Star Wars, the dragons value becoming one with the flow of life, whereas the vampires value breaking the chains that bind, especially the chain that is death.
The dragons also interbreed with humans, granting many of their abilities to their hybrid offspring, called “draconides”. The draconic and vampiric bloodlines may well be compatible, at least after a certain amount of dilution by human blood. Indeed, this might be the very reason the dragons and vampires take so much interest in Earth and in humans: they’re competing to see who can breed the ultimate being, a human who has both full draconic and full vampiric abilities and who will be stronger than either, giving whoever controls them the power to prevail in their eternal struggle.
Anyway, I was thinking that I could do a story of a dhampire girl who is chosen as a mate by a dragon, because she caught his eye and has the special powers to see these supernatural magical creatures and events if she’s trained to focus her mind or some such. She’s not a natural at it, and her powers are weak, but she does have them.
Maybe she goes on some kind of adventure across the solar system and through a series of events is forced to choose between the beings of light that are the dragons on one hand, and on the other hand the all-but-irresistible pull of her own people, the vampires. In particular, the full vampire patriarch of her bloodline eventually shows up, and pits paternal against spousal affections. Yes, they’ll get married, but the dragon might be a bit immature, and not realize that to the vampires marriage means nothing next to the bond of their own people’s blood.
As a twist, I’m thinking of setting it in the near future of my alternate timeline, when man has taken to the solar system but hasn’t gone interstellar yet, i.e. the 21st century. Intimations that man has gone too far and “the comets are not yours; they belong to the vampire” might figure heavily. All sounds a bit Gothic, to be honest.
Toward Gothic Worldbuilding
Leaning into the Gothic theme, perhaps the original vampires were cursed from the human stock for transgressing against the precept that the living feed on the dead (vampires are the dead feeding on the living). One twist might be that the dragons are cursed too, which might be a card the vampire patriarch reveals in his bid for his descendant’s affections (familial rather than incestuous…hopefully).
What they could have been cursed for is less obvious to me, but I’m thinking they could be angels who deserted their duties to man, one and the same with the ever-mysterious “Sons of God” in the Bible (among other beings from mythology), cursed to this realm of existence, stripped of their immortality, doomed to cling to the sun as the closest they can ever reach to the divine light they forsook.
Them having a draconic form might imply a relation between them and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden; perhaps the serpent was the first of the Sons of God to go bad.
The upshot is that they might be revealed to be not all that different from their arch-nemesis, the vampires. Ordinarily one might expect draconic angels to be far more powerful than ultimately human-derived vampires, but possibly their severing from God has deprived them of most of their powers, making them an even match for each other. Alternatively, perhaps the dragons are actually human, but they were elevated to angelic status when they made a deal with God; breaking the terms is what cursed them. Which honestly makes a lot more sense than my first idea.
Or maybe I could find a way to leave God out of it altogether. Personally I find it much more elegant to go with an idea of ancient sorcerers becoming one with the Tao, or whatever it is they called the flow of spiritual energy pervading the universe, and they felt called by that flow to guide the human race, but they forsook that calling, causing a rubber-band snap-back from nature, sundering their spirits from becoming one with the universe until their task was done. This also explains their enmity for the vampires: as the human group that went the most wrong their continued existence would be the single greatest obstacle to the dragons’ ghosts being allowed to rest.
The tie-in to the Sons of God and the Serpent would still be viable, as that’s the frame through which the ancient Hebrews would have perceived these events.
Another aspect that I’d really like to go for would be to set it in the near future of my space-opera setting, but make it vague as to whether it’s a dream, a vision, a hallucination, or whether it was actually real. Not too different from “Spectres Call for Me”, where it’s not entirely obvious if any of it is actually real. I want to keep it ambiguous.
I might change the contours of all this to be more Gothic, but these are the elements I’ve been playing with in my mind lately for an outer space story centered on the contrast between dark and light, between vampires and their opposites, with humanity in both cases caught in the middle. A little into fantasy for my usual fare, but an idea I’ll certainly keep in mind, and might develop into an actual story one of these days!