You know what a vampire is, right? Usually, the vampires you meet in fiction—particularly romance fiction—wear black, often black leather, are pale, supernaturally strong beings who like to have hot sex while they’re getting their bloody sustenance.
Oh, Bram Stoker, what you have wrought!
But some vampires are different. Some vampires don’t fall in love; some don’t care at all about humanity; some don’t even think for themselves.
Perhaps one of the most different types of vampires are those in Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. Those vampires are shells of yuk, thoughtless, soulless beings who are navigated from afar by Masters of the Dead. Read how they’re described in the first Kate Daniels book, Magic Bites:
It sat there, fastened to the paneling by enormous yellow talons...Nude and hairless, it didn’t carry a single ounce of fat on its skeletal frame and every dry, hard cord of muscle was clearly visible beneath its taut pallid hide.
Not really something you’d want sucking on your neck, right?
Barbara Hambly’s take on vampires hews closer to what we expect as paranormal romance readers, but her vampires are still eerily not-human (or even undead-human); check out how she describes Don Simon Xavier Christian Morado de la Cadena-Ysidro in Those Who Hunt The Night:
“...the young man’s bleached fairness might well hail from the northern provinces where the Moors had never gone calling. Around the thin, high-nosed hidalgo face, his colorless hair hung like spider silk, fine as cobweb and longer than men wore it these days. The eyes were scarcely darker, a pale, yellowish amber, flecked here and there with pleats of faded brown or gray—eyes which should have seemed catlike, but didn’t. There was an odd luminosity to them, an unplaceable glittering quality, even in the gaslight, that troubled Asher. Their very paleness, contrasting with the moleskin-soft black velvet of the man’s coat collar, pointed up the absolute pallor of the delicate features, far more like a corpse’s than a living man’s, save for their mobile softness.”
Ysidro is as passionless and uncaring about humans as is possible. He and Asher grow to have a friendship, of sorts, but you wouldn’t catch Ysidro showing human-style weakness.
Christopher Farnsworth’s Blood Oath introduces Nathaniel Cade, the President’s Vampire; he was changed in 1867, and has been sworn to protect and serve the American government and its President.
...he was looking at an apex predator. He was human once, but that was a long time ago. Now he just carried the shape, which enabled him to move among his prey. Everything else was engineered to make him—and all the creatures like him—the most efficient hunter of Homo Sapiens possible. What they called, in a different age, a man-eater.
Cade has been a vampire for so long his humanity has ebbed away, and he is basically a protecting and serving machine. But a lack of humanity does not mean he is not intensely moral, in his way, which makes for an intriguing conceit.
Playing with the basic vampiric tenets can result in a different take on what is (despite what some of us might like!) a fictional construct, and means we’re not all trapped in black leather hot sexytimes all the time.
Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son, and looks ghastly in black leather.