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Celebrating International Short Story Day with New Hero Launch

Posted on June 20, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli

The New HeroYay! Today is the official pre-release of New Hero from Stone Skin Press. This day also marks International Short Story Day. What a great day to launch an anthology of iconic heroes!

You’ve heard me talk about “Fangs and Formaldehyde” before when I said why I couldn’t wait for New Hero. This story features a vampire named Atlas who helps other vampires. To celebrate this character’s debut, I would like to answer a Reader question.

I think sultry, romantic vampires and scary, monsterous vampires both have utility for good horror fiction but it looks like most vampire fiction these days takes an extreme stance on what should be a sliding scale. Plus, vampire fiction has been around since, what, late 1790s? How do we write something original and gripping? I’d like to really fear/desire the fangs on my neck again. — Scott from Atlanta

What a great question! Well, Scott, let me put your question into perspective before I talk about the vampires I created. I feel the biggest challenge that all writers face today is one of saturation. More media is being produced and published (both digitally and in print) than ever before. With the demand for something new and fresh, the sultry vampire who seduces his prey was bound to take off as an exploration of the genre. Romance, however, has always been around in vampirism.

When Jess, Filamena, and myself wrote Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem, we explored this in great detail from a genre perspective for the game. The key thing to remember is that romance stories have a plot focused on the consummation of a relationship, or getting two characters to progress nice and neatly until they resolve their differences, overcome their fears, and fall madly in love. To do that with a supernatural character like a vampire, however, the monster becomes less monstrous — he (or she) has to in order for the romance to take place.

On the other end of the scale, you have vampires as monsters, sometimes even inhuman creatures who no longer resemble their mortal selves. Personally, I feel that the monstrous vampires have emerged as a direct rebuttal to the softer, more romantic vampire. In many ways, monsters have always been a warning or an allegory for what we should fear. What happens when we are no longer frightened of the unknown? Of the supernatural? Of the monsters who view us as food? Well, authors have stepped up and said — the monsters become scarier, because we should always be afraid of something.

But what about the monsters themselves? What are they afraid of? And what of the cost associated with falling in love with a human?

This is how I built my world of bloodstalkers. Humans are inconsequential, though, the majority of vampires have trouble letting go of their mortal existence. Atlas (not his real name, by the way) is a vampire who helps other vampires. This is unheard of in this community and, as more stories beyond “Fangs and Formaldehyde” are revealed in this world, you’ll find out why.

So what is different about these vampires? Ennui exists for a very good reason. If a vampire loses themselves in their emotions — fear, anger, passion — they die. The ones that figure that out “live” longer and disassociate themselves very quickly with the human world. They become sociopaths to survive. The vampires that don’t? Can’t let go of the tattered and tenuous threads tying them to their human existence.

Atlas falls somewhere in between the two. There are certain “tells” of being a vampire that he has made it a point to master. He has a weakness, too, which is why he has found a purpose — to help other vampires.

So in my case, humans don’t really factor into the equation as a main storytelling device. Usually, it’s vampire versus vampire or vampire versus mortal. There is no such thing as ghouls, no vampire society, and they are not created from the typical blood exchange, either. Usually it’s every vampire for him (or her) self, as they try to cope with the reality of their situation. A lot of vampires die within the first two years, too, so bloodstalkers like Atlas are very scary to the community-at-large.

Are my vampires creepy? Well, I don’t know. That’s where you — the reader — comes into play. I wanted a “cost” for not falling in love or getting too emotional. I wanted them to fear something real. And I wanted the ability to provide deep characterization so every vampire was unique. This construction allows me to achieve those three goals, but still have enough flexibility to explore that creepy vampire who stalks his prey if the story warrants it.

Will Atlas and my other vampires work for you? I hope you pick up the New Hero anthology and find out!

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