Bloodsucking B!#%&$: Vampires, Girls, and Vampire Girls

 

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Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

Part 1: Love in the Time of Hot Vampires

As a teenage emo in desperate need of attention, I languished in despair over this one simple fact: handsome, vampire men weren’t real. Edward Cullen wasn’t going to stalk me to my room and then try not to kill me in my sleep, Bill Compton wasn’t going to orchestrate my almost probable murder just to get in my pants, and don’t even get me started on the pain I had over not personally knowing the vengeful Salvatore brothers.

 

Teenage Marnie (the hopeless, misguided romantic that she was) would only settle for a man with fangs and a (slight) moral compass. Suffice it say, I was single for most of my high school years. Now that I’m older and wiser (and incredibly cynical), I see it as a good thing that I never really pursued the guys who would remind me of a sparkly Robert Pattinson, or a sly, blue eyed Ian Somerhalder, because as I came to see during my college years, vampire boyfriends really suck (pun most certainly intended).

 

To begin with, vampires are predators. Of what you ask? Oh yeah, people. Their track record with humans is spotty at best, so to think that they could have a stable relationship with a human is laughable. To use a well-known example, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Saga fits all of the criteria of an emotional abuser. He talks down to his mortal squeeze, Bella Swan, on the daily by calling her “silly” multiple times, and claiming that it’s hard to take care of her because she’s clumsy and irresponsible. He also isolates her from her own family by lying to her father about where she is and how she’s doing, and by also refusing to let her see her guy friend/rebound/werewolf Jacob. He also threatened to kill himself if Bella ever died, and almost got away with it in the second book. Furthermore, he controlled her life by planning her days, events he forced her to go to, and even planned when she was going to become a vampire like him (which he was adamantly against no matter how much pain and anxiety it caused Bella to stay human). Oh yeah, also before they got together, he would watch her sleep (without her knowledge), follow her everywhere (also without her knowledge), and try not to kill her (he completely admitted to that, but she still wanted the sparkly D afterwards).

 

It does make a sick kind of sense though. vampires, based on their mythology, aren’t really supposed to be built for long lasting relationships, well with humans at least. They are known, at least in the last 100 or so years, as seductive creatures only because they need to find an easy way to get prey. They were basically used as a warning to not give into your base instincts, and in the case of Dracula, to beware of the outsider trying to steal your girl.

 

But to the teenage mind, that doesn’t translate. Yeah, vampires are monsters, but they’re also mysterious, brooding, gentlemen from a different, more chivalrous (more restrictive for women) time. Edward was just being “overprotective,” and he just cares so much about Bella that he has to make sure she’s okay 24/7, and would willingly kill himself if she died—that’s not creepy, it’s romantic! I’m not making a generalization here: my friends and I would constantly talk about how romantic we thought Edward Cullen was on the daily, and on the many message boards (sigh, yes message boards) that I perused, most other fans were writing about the same thing. Edward was a little overbearing, and a little too old-fashioned, but he was romantic, dammit!

 

I would say that Stephanie Meyer was a genius for understanding that vampires make the worst boyfriends, but this also isn’t true. Instead of showing his abusive signs as red flags that Bella Swan should have definitely seen, Meyer literally has the two get married, have a vampire/human baby that mortal Bella carries to term even though it basically kills her, and then sticks her with Edward for the rest of her life as a vampire with a pretty lame superpower.

 

And this story, flawed as it most definitely is, spurred on a Young Adult (YA) fiction vampire romance genre that was already gaining traction with other series that were just starting, but gave it the international push that it needed. For the last ten years, the genre has exploded the market to the point that most horror publishers now have a “no vampire” rule for what an author can submit.

 

Before Twilight became a worldwide phenomenon, the YA and adult vampire genre as a whole did a little more than have a vampire and human fall in love. Not to say that there weren’t many vampire/human romance novels; Anne Rice’s series of novels featuring the mysterious and psycho Lestat, later played by 90s heartthrob Tom Cruise, propelled vampires from pretty scary and seductive to just mostly seductive. But where Twilight cemented vampires in the “boyfriend material” section, its predecessors were all about showing you how being a vampire, or trying to date a vampire, was not a good idea at all.

 

A book (and author) that is greatly underrated in the genre is Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. Published about ten years before Twilight in 1995, the story is about a teenage girl named Kerry who lives with her brother and dad after her mother abandons them. She is the main caretaker of her brother, so when he loses a stuffed koala bear named Footy at the laundromat, the teenaged heroine doesn’t think twice about going to said laundromat to find it. Instead of just finding the bear though, she finds a freaking vampire/vigilante slayer showdown, which propels her into a really weird night (the vigilante vampire slayers think Kerry is a vampire too, so they kidnap her brother and father, as one does). And of course, this story also includes a really rude (but of course hot) vampire named Ethan.

 

Spoiler alert: the reason this is one of my favorite vampire novels is at the end, with the vigilantes taken care of and her family safe, Kerry has a steamy make-out sesh with Ethan, but instead of staying with him for the rest of her mortal (and maybe immortal) life, she grabs Footy and goes the hell home.

 

When I first read Companions of the Night, I was livid! I was so obsessed with vampire romance that any other option just seemed wrong. But I get it now, and would have probably done the same as Kerry. She saw that her life with Ethan wouldn’t be the way she would want it to be. Yes, there would be passion, and adventure, and possible immortality, but Kerry had plans for her future. Kerry had a freaking test to study for! She had no time to be undead when there was so much living she wanted to do, and honestly, while being a vampire sounds awesome and everything, it’s not the “best” long term plan for your life. The author gets that, and instead of perpetuating an emotionally abusive relationship wrapped up in a “no sex before marriage” morally correct message, Velde shows what all of us should do if a vampire promises forever. Run. Fast!

 

I haven’t read YA vampire fiction in a long time, but I do see vampire lore shifting once again. The Vampire Diaries show just ended, the Twilight Saga is buried, and the undead lover is no longer a viable relationship goal. Just by peeking at a list of upcoming YA novels for 2018, the vampire romance genre is starting to become a thing of the past, but now vampires (as shown in popular adult book series like the Strain and The Passage) are starting to get their bite back. Instead of being fully in the seductive field, those lines are getting blurry again, and these monsters finally have the room to be gross and terrifying, and definitely not something you want to have kids with. Finally, all is right in the world of vampires.

 

If you still have a little blood lust left in you, please join me for the next (and final) installment of this series, where I’ll explain why vampire girls are the true queens of this mythological creature. Until then, have a safe Halloween and if you meet a tall, dark, and handsome vampire, don’t ask for his number unless the fangs are detachable.

The Black Cap Innovator 

Dan Pape is a mysterious fellow. When we first met at the NEPA Creative Writers Group, I’ll be honest—I was intimidated. His writing was visceral and powerful in a way I could only dream of mine being. I know I need to share his works with you.

A fan of Ghostbusters, beer, and hanging out with friends, Dan has countless facets to him. Getting a start in middle school as a writer, he’s dabbled with many genres: lyrics, novels, short stories, and poems (his main squeeze for now). Having recently entered the blogosphere, too, it’s certain his time to shine past the bounds of this region is nigh.

Dan’s enigmatic appeal is not only in his writing but in talking with him. One thing that is not obscured is his emotion captured in his works through his words. His allusions run from classical to modern, and even if you’re not sure of their references, you still feel what he wants to get across. And he challenges you to want to find out more.

Dan started writing recently on The Game Chateau’s blog, Rolling the Dice. A different approach to blogging, the site takes topics that all contributors for that quarter write to. Dan’s contribution, “Rapture,” is bittersweet and magnificent. His first piece of magical realism ready for the masses (in the vein of some of his favorite writers including Marquez and Borges) pulls the reader into the narrator’s raw, heart-rending world. The seeming brief romance of two young women ended abruptly from intolerance punches deep—and leaves you willingly wounded. He talks about this piece humbly, as he does about most of his writing, saying that he was concerned about taking a chance on writing from a woman’s perspective, and from another sexual identity’s perspective as well, but that in the end he wanted to do the characters justice.  He went on to add that he hoped his piece would, “[help] to put [a sensitive topic] out there by a voice you don’t expect it from,” and that hopefully his sincere treatment of the trauma involved in the story would help others see people who are “different” as not so different from the rest of us.

Dan doesn’t mind a bit of pain himself it would seem though. I had heard through mutual friends about his monstrous Master’s thesis pursuit of James Joyce. Having tried to read several of the author’s works (Finnegan’s Wake? Come on. That’s just jibberish…), I felt compelled to find out why Dan had chosen such a great, and complex author for his topic.

“I thought if I could pick it apart, maybe I can learn something about the craft [of writing]” he confesses. And what a pursuit it sounded like he was on. It involved a whole section of the library and special access to Joyce’s notes on his masterpiece Ulysses. Dan insists that the novel is “the most human thing I’ve ever read” and he appreciates its commentary on loss and the randomness of its topics just adds to its beauty.

The Joyce influence is clear in Pape’s works, whether it’s a story or his poetry. We discussed poetry as a genre while we were talking, too, and Dan had some spot-on insights. He feels it’s time for poetry to make a comeback—that it is a way for writers to attack all of the “poisonous stuff out there” though he admits that online rights are sketchy and unclear as to who owns what, and that that can be a downfall of fighting the powers that be with the written word. Still, he knows that if poetry can be taught well to younger generations—and not as some unreachable and opaque genre that no one can penetrate—that poems can push our culture forward and out of its seeming  recent complacency.

“Anyone can try poetry and with practice [they] can get pretty good at it,” he goes on to say, and his hope is mine:  that the intimacy and directness of poetry can get people to take notice.

Some Sage Advice

Not only poetry is accessible to all the would-be writers out there. Dan says writers should find a group to share their work with, and give feedback on others’ works in return. And then, he put it even more simply—in a list!

  1. Read great writers.

  2. Challenge yourself.

  3. Join groups to hone your craft.

  4. Meet other writers.

  5. Start submitting.

Just get out there and do what you have to do, in other words. And like Dan Pape says, “You’ll find something about it that’s lifelong. Don’t be afraid.”

And for the record, he wore the black cap long before Jim Halpert from The Office did.

What Will It Be This Time?

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Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

This poem was written by our columnist and creator, A. Dawn Pica.

What Will It Be This Time?

I run my fingertips
Along the grooves of the bricks at my knees—
I grit their teeth between buried secrets
And the cracks are like those of his fallacies.
They are rudimentary
Buried in the cemetery
Of our unspoken words
That still linger in drafts
Of text messages.
I put my back against the universe,
And choke back my tears
In a single shot.

“What will it be this time?” he asks again
As I watch the fake candle light
Flicker its brightest star,
Then die in effigy,
Leaking battery acid.
“I’m not a hopeless romantic
Anymore,” I say,
And he gives me the usual
Overstated with gold flaked parlay.
This glass swirls and spins a fairy tale
Of someone else’s fantasy,
Full of unfulfilled promises.

I am lucky to have you.

 

If you’d like your written work to be featured in this column, e-mail A. Dawn at:  adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com

15 Seconds of Art: Ali Pica’s Photography Showcase

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Photography by Ali Pica

Ali Pica, of Thirty-Third Wheel, is our featured artist this week. Ali finds inspiration in nature and architecture. She also enjoys playing with light and color.  If you are in the Scranton, PA area, check out her and other fantastic artists and musicians this Friday, October 27th, at the Irish Wolf Pub for Hallowfest III, from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.  Also, you can view Ali’s photography on Instagram at Thirty-Third Wheel.

If you would like your work featured on our site, e-mail A. Dawn at adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com or message us on Instagram.

 

 

 

Present Tense

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Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

Today’s featured song is “Present Tense,” by Radiohead on their album, A Moon Shaped Pool.

 

 

Do you ever feel like your life is like a dream? I don’t mean like Cinderella or some fairy tale crap, but just the mundane of everyday life cut up into oddly pieced snippets then spliced back together like an artsy foreign film? You can’t quite figure out if you are awake or if every day is just a blur of actions and reactions, then something happens.

 

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference—It is a numbness that takes over sometimes when we do the same routine over and over. Sometimes it can be when we see great things happen to other people and not us. Or worse yet, when bad things happen to us or people we care about.
It doesn’t have to be so bad, but lately I have been indulging in ennui. Maybe because I have been so busy with the everyday, I forget to dream about something interesting? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been sick with a cold this week, I don’t feel like doing anything.

 

Sometimes we need to slow down. Maybe we can bathe in the present tense? Soak our fingers until we are pruning with the day-to-day reality, which is our lives?

 
Let us not be too real. Let’s pretend for a bit.

 
If I look at my life, I see that I am underpaid immensely for my qualifications and education. Right now, I am a substitute teacher in the day and teach college courses at night. I don’t make a lot of money, but I am happier than I was with my “dream job,” which turned into a nightmare. The students I encounter when subbing were kids I knew from last year when I taught at their school. They tell me often that they wish I would be their teacher and can’t figure out why I wasn’t hired to teach at their school. After hearing it so many times, I started taking it more seriously, though I can’t fight the political machine and win every time. I can’t dwell on what isn’t.

 

A lot of us have been there.

 
My love life was on life support recently, and then I pulled the plug. I was seeing someone off and on, who is considerably younger than me. There are no harsh feelings—I would rather just be honest with myself and realize there is no hope of it going anywhere.

 
End scene.

 
This may sound like I am depressed, but I am okay with everything. People may think happiness is a constant, an object, that you have no control over, like winning the lottery. You may be lucky or you are not and there is nothing you can do about it.

 

I beg to differ.

 
I have been reading lately, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which is the novel that inspired the film, Blade Runner. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the novel, the main character, Rick Deckard is obsessed with obtaining a living animal (because animals have died due to the aftermath of a World War). Living animals are a status symbol to possess, because they are obviously so rare and cost exorbitant amounts of money. He thought if he bought a living animal, life would be so much better. It reminds me of the old adage, “money can’t buy happiness.”

 
The problem with this is not necessarily that money can’t buy you happiness, but happiness is not a tangible object or concept. We place demands on ourselves everyday: “If only I had that house or great job,” “If only I lived somewhere else,” or “If only I were married.” When we place these contingencies on ourselves, we make ourselves miserable—there will always be another contingency to replace the one that is resolved. If you place contingencies on yourself, practice reframing them into reasonable goals. If it sounds ridiculous, then it is not worth thinking about. These are reasons why I have to live in the present as to prevent myself from feeling sad or disappointment. If I start placing contingencies on myself, I will dwell in failure of a future that may never be.

 
There are ways to live in the present, but you have to be willing to try:



1. Leave the house and do something different.
You don’t have to go skydiving, another country, or a concert all of the time to be happy. The problem with indulging with social media is that we compare ourselves to others. We see their smiling faces with a bunch of their equally interesting friends doing amazing things, while we are sitting in our hypothetical (or real) Snuggies. We don’t have to be out living life the fullest every night or every weekend to be fulfilled, but maybe try something new. Travel to a nearby place you haven’t been. Do something nice for others and throw a little get together. Ask people to bring food and/or drinks if you can’t afford it. Break up your routine instead of feeling sorry for yourself after another night of Netflix and Ben and Jerry’s bingeing. Even if you are with your significant other, life gets boring when you are always locked into a bubble.

2. Find something to distract yourself.
Need to clean that closet in your house? Repair your leaking faucet? Get a paper done? Just do it already and get it over with. You will feel so much better knowing it is done and when something exciting comes your way, you will be able to join in the adventure, whether you have saved your money, time, or both. If you don’t feel like being productive or doing something you don’t want to do, write a song, read a book, paint something, or go on an adventure and take photos. If you can’t do those things at the moment or it’s more of a thought process that’s holding you back, change your mind.

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there are techniques which help you control your racing thoughts. If I continue to have anxiety producing thoughts, I will “thought replace,” which I will shift my attention to something else silly or something productive in order not to think negatively. Thankfully, I have an active imagination, so I will try to think of something funny or random (kind of like an inner improv). Additionally, I have been practicing meditation lately, which there is a method you can try, which is called “Noting.” Noting is not necessarily changing your thoughts, but “noting” that you have these negative thoughts and that’s okay. You can start noting when you have negative thoughts, what situations they occur, and so forth just as you would with “thought replacing.”

3. Make Small Goals for Yourself
Along the lines of distracting yourself, make small goals instead of larger ones. Break your goals into chunks. What do you want out of life? Is it manageable? Can you try to make it happen? I have wanted to be a novelist since I was eight years old, but sometimes if I think about writing a novel, the process sounds daunting and impossible. If I break it down into small parts, like thinking about what kind of characters I want to develop, or what generally I would like it to be about, it makes things easier to process. Certain goals take time, possibly years or a lifetime. It takes us a while to get a degree or start a family. We don’t just obtain what we want overnight, typically. If you want to break it down further, maybe something like you adulted this week by working a bunch of overtime, so you buy something nice for yourself. Whatever your goals, you can achieve them in small parts, which add up to a bigger picture.

4. Don’t make concrete plans for the future.
When I say this, I am not referring to putting money in a retirement fund or making any attainable plans for the future (e.g. getting married, having kids). What I am referring to is to not be so rigid in your plans. Life changes and so do our plans. Be prepared to make changes or to roll with them the best you can. Again, these can be typically the contingencies we create for ourselves: “If I do this, then I will be happy.” It doesn’t always work out that way. Most of the time, it doesn’t, but what you can do is dream. As Blondie says “dreaming is free.”

5. Lastly, Dream, Dream, Dream.
The fun thing about dreaming is that it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. When I was younger, I lived in a world much like Doug Funnie, which I would imagine exaggerated situations and write about them, good and bad. 99 percent of the time these fantasies never happened, but the reality of it though is that I never worried as a kid that “my dreams won’t be realized” or that they had to be. The point was just to let my mind float and sometimes use it to cope with stress. As adults, I think we sometimes forget it’s okay to not worry about actualizing everything we dream about. When I find the dream is not fulfilling or in some cases, becoming harmful, I dream of something else and deal with that negativity in my life, typically by expelling it. For example, I would catch myself daydreaming thinking things would work out in some way with the person mentioned above. In reality, it didn’t “have to” work out, but some part of me wanted it to. When I realized it never would, it wasn’t fun anymore to dream about it. And if something keeps coming back to you, like my dream of being a novelist, maybe it’s time to make that dream into a reality or change your dream.

I hope my advice has served you well in a pressing time of ennui. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy what life brings me on another unseasonably warm October, today.

Sincerely yours,

 

A. Dawn

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