Wednesday, 19 October 2016
The V word.
The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that there is a specific word that the creature does not use to refer to himself: Vampire.
This may feel a little odd, considering that vampire fiction is one of my favourite sub-categories of Gothic fiction. Worse, it might seem as though I'm ashamed of the fact - claiming I'm writing something that isn't a first cousin to all the other vampire fiction out there.
Actually, I tried to be pretty up front about what kind of monster we are dealing with here. After all, it is so obvious to a reader that Julian is a vampire, it doesn't even need to be said. As such, playing a kind of is-he-isn’t-he just felt like pointless mystifying. It's there from Chapter One: the creature drinks blood.
So, yeah, he's a vampire.
But he won’t call himself one.
The word vampire only became current in English in the 18th Century - long after the creature found himself pale-skinned, blood-drinking and undead. It probably comes from the Slavic upyr, which might in turn derive from the Turkish uber - witch. It's traditional meaning reflects this - it could refer to a bloated, walking corpse, a person who was possessed, even some kind of witch. The folkloric vampire in no way resemebles the literary one - cannnot even be seen as a single supernatural being. We like to order the world in to neat categories, but words like demon, faerie, witch, werewolf, vampire and ghost traditionall experience a lot of overlap.
Therefore, even if the creature had encountered the Eastern European word for the unclean dead (his grandfather was a merchant after all) there is very little reason that he would have associated it with his state. When he read Polidori's The Vampyre he may have recognised something of himself in it - but he had been undead for three hundred years by that point. More than that, he would have stopped looking for explanations of himself in the supersition and morality of his life.
One of the things that the creature must deal with in Time’s Fool is the way his self-perception matches up against both reality, and other people’s reactions to him. He will not call himself by his name - he is the creature, not Julian. But while, at times, he would embraces such highly coloured descriptors, he refuses to see himself as a vampire, either.
After all, how long can you know yourself to be monster before it destroys you?