This is actually going to have nothing to do with Star Wars. Yeah, I know what you thought when you saw that Empires bit in the title. My mind went there too. Or maybe it’s because I am reading some older comics that Disney tells us no longer exist. But I digress…
See that, we’re barely getting started and I am already slipping off the point into other realms of thought. So, let’s bring this train back to the right track and see if we can make something out of the mess of my thoughts right now.
It all started with digging through some stuff on VUDU. I’m sure you know what it is, so I won’t go into it too much (if you don’t know, you should do some checking and find out about it). They set up a feature a while back they call Movies on us. Essentially, it is streaming movies with commercials that they open up for free viewing. Sometimes they have some really good ones and then there are times when you don’t want to even think about what the options are…
Anyway, I ran across the movie Daybreakers (Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, 2009). The basic premise is through a strange mutation, vampires have taken over the world and they have started farming humans as a food source. Basically, your standard dystopian, strange world experience. Loved the movie when I first saw it and find it enjoyable even now.
But it got me thinking (you knew this was coming right?). As I was watching it I was reminded of a book I read years ago, Empire of Fear (Brian Stableford, Simon and Schuster 1988). This is an alternate history where the curse of vampirism happened long ago.
Now the only thing that really brings the two together is the idea of the power the vampires would hold in the world. In both instances they took over the world and humans are a lesser race next to immortal creatures that feed on them. And of course, the sad thing here is, it has been a long time since I read Empire of Fear, so I can’t remember everything that transpired. Except for the tidbit that Richard the Lion was a vampire and his crusades were a battle against others. So really, this is essentially just useless trivia of where your mind wanders when memories are sparked.
As it is, I think the thing that stood out to me the most with this viewing of Daybreakers was the concept of vampires as they have aged in our society. I refer to the concept, not the vampires themselves. The undead don’t really age, they’re dead-ish. No this is more of the idea of the repentant vampire. I want to say some of that came around the birth of the game Vampire the Masquerade. But I have a strong feeling it has been around longer than that. But the source and the history of it isn’t necessarily as important as the idea right at this moment.
The concept is, the “vegetarian” vampire. You know the one, they don’t feed on humans anymore because that is morally wrong. They don’t want to embrace the vile monster that society thinks them to be. That was Ethan Hawke’s character in Daybreakers. He was sympathetic to the humans, sympathetic to food.
I remember part of the lore in Vampire the Masquerade was the story of Dracula and the Counts quest to free himself of his curse. Throughout the main book you could find letters between Mina Harker and him where he felt remorse for his weakness in his attempt to turn her. See it’s that kind of thing. When the monsters are given those human qualities, we see them in a different light. Blah blah blah…
And this is where I really liked how Daybreakers handled all of that. Sure, Ethan Hawke’s character sought freedom from the curse, and eventually found it. The real monsters were unrepentant in their quest to feast on humanity. You gotta love the splatters that come from such things.
Anyway, this brings me back to some memories from the Empire of Fear story. See, this one wasn’t written from the perspective of the monsters. Instead we have the humans that live amongst them. Don’t ask me character names cause, I won’t remember right off hand, but the one character I remember was the one who refused to undergo the transformation. Even when a cure of sorts was found, actually a formula that allowed the vampires to survive without feeding on humans. But he refused to give up what made him who he was.
Sometimes that is the hardest part of it all. Giving up ourselves and finding where we are, isn’t what we thought it might be. Or fighting so hard to stay true to ourselves, so much so that other opportunities pass us by. It can be so easy to assume we know the answers in hindsight. But we don’t really know what the future will bring us. The best we can do is find our path back when we stray.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.