Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book review: "The Story of the Jews" by Simon Schama

This is an excellent book about Jewish history…but it isn't for everyone. Details in my video review below:

Get The Story of the Jews on Amazon…

Fareed Zakaria: "a problem within Islam"

“…there is a problem within Islam.  
It is not enough for Muslims to point out that these people do not represent the religion. They don't. But Muslims need to take more active measures to protest these heinous acts. 
 They also need to make sure that Muslim countries and societies do not in any way condone extremism, anti-modern attitudes and intolerance towards other faiths. 
 Muslims are right to complain that there is anti-Muslim bigotry out there. But they would have a more persuasive case if they took on some of the bigotry within the world of Islam as well.”
Well put. 

Mark Zuckerberg's Mandarin moment

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has received mixed reviews for the display of his Mandarin skills while visiting China of late.

While Zuckerberg's Mandarin certainly leaves room for improvement, we native English-speakers routinely tolerate language skills that are far worse.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Our House" -- the idea (reader question)

A reader writes:

Dear Ed: 

I enjoyed your novel Our House. Would you care to share with us where the idea for this story came from?

Our House is a novel about a young couple who buys their first home--only to discover that the former owner of the house doesn't want to give it up, and is ultimately willing to kill to keep it. (That's a very short synopsis, the longer version you'll find below.)

Actually, the idea for this story did have a basis in real life:

About a year ago, I heard secondhand about a young couple who was harassed by one of the former owners of their new home. The harassment took bizarre forms: threats scrawled in chalk on the driveway, disturbing surprises left in doorways and in the mailbox, etc.

Just like in the book, the harasser was the former lady of the house. The former man of the house was in favor of selling the home, but his wife was dead-set against the sale--for reasons that never became completely clear. 

Also like in the book, there were twelfth-hour appeals from the realtor, who counseled the buyers to back out of the deal. The realtor told the buyers that the woman was disturbed, and that they would probably regret the purchase.

But the buyers insisted on exercising their purchase contract rights, and they endured months of harassment from the home's former matron. (I never did hear how--or if--they resolved the situation.)

That is where the similarities between Our House and its real-life inspiration end. The particulars of Deborah Vennekamp's personality, and the mischief she inflicts on the Hubers, are entirely fictional. The backstory of the Vennekamp family and their house at 1120 Dunham Drive is also entirely fictional.

Deborah Vennekamp's creepy adult son, David Vennekamp, is entirely fictional.

Her shifty adult daughter, Marcia Vennekamp is entirely fictional.

The entire murder mystery is entirely fictional.

The Hubers' marital problems--including suspicions of betrayal and infidelity--are entirely fictional.

But the basic concept: of homeowners being tormented by a former occupant of their house--that came from real life.

And that's the way stories often work for me: I experience, see or hear something strange in real life; and the wheels start turning. 

As was the case with Our House, the final story that comes out of these moments of insight is usually very different (or highly embellished) from the original idea itself. 

Book description:

Some dream homes are deadly…Appearances can be deceiving.

On the surface, 34-year-old Jennifer Huber seems to have it all: a handsome, loving husband, a six-year-old son whom they both adore. A respectable job.

Jennifer and her husband have just purchased their first house: The neo-Tudor house at 1120 Dunham drive appears to be their “dream home”.

But everything is not what it seems: The previous owner of the house has an unusual—and ultimately violent—attachment to the house. After the Hubers move in, sinister things begin to happen: Dead animals appear in closets, strange figures disturb the Hubers’ sleep in the middle of the night.

There is more to the house at 1120 Dunham Drive than meets the eye: As Jennifer uncovers the secrets behind the home’s history, she finds herself drawn into a web of lies, violence, and sexual betrayal.

All the while, Jennifer struggles to contain a secret of her own—and to combat an act of blackmail that could destroy her marriage.

From the author of the crime novel ‘Blood Flats’, and the horror novel ‘Eleven Miles of Night’, ‘Our House’ is a riveting thrill ride through the dark undercurrents that might lie beneath the placid surface of a suburb near you.

Horror fiction and irony--why they don't mix

What is Rule #1 of writing horror fiction?

Rule #1 is: Take your subject matter seriously--or don't write horror fiction.

One of the great flaws of modern popular culture is its excessive reliance on irony.

Now, don't get me wrong: Irony has its place: I love comedic movies like Blazing Saddles. I enjoy the satirical essays of PJ O'Rourke and Dave Barry. I even enjoy the occasional wisecracking vlogger on YouTube. I'm not saying that writers, filmmakers, and performers have to be 100% serious, 100% of the time.

Nothing wrong with irony! 

But irony (or satire) as the basis of horror film or fiction is a recipe for failure. It's a bit like trying to make a milkshake with catsup, or trying to make a salad from raw liver. 

Nevertheless, irony has become a prevalent trend in horror film, in particular. 

Examples include: Zombieland (and its various imitators), Drag Me to Hell, and the Scream films.  

These movies might be entertaining--after a fashion, but they aren't very scary. They never achieve the "suspension of disbelief" that is required for horror fiction (or film) to work.

Let's consider why that is the case: What, after all, is the horror writer's job?

The horror writer is supposed to create a profoundly moving (and usually allegorical) tale that deals with topics of life and death. 

There are different kinds of horror fiction. Some horror fiction is naturalistic. Naturalistic horror deals with serial killers, natural disasters, and even wild animals (think Jaws). 

Other kinds of horror fiction rely on supernatural villains: vampires, ghosts, demons, etc. 

In either case, the horror story is fundamentally about a struggle with death--whether existential or spiritual. 

This is a serious topic, whatever form it takes. And the most effective horror films and fiction don't have a laugh track. The Exorcist, The Shining, The Walking Dead, and The Conjuring are all respectably frightening. They cast a spell and they draw you in, persuade you to believe in hypothetical scenarios that you would ordinarily dismiss as "impossible". 

Notice that none of these literary/cinematic works relies on a laugh track.

When a horror writer tells the reader, "I'm not really serious about any of this!" by attempting to make horror ironic or funny, what he is really saying is, "I don't want you to actually believe any of this--even for the duration of the short story/novel/film. I'm just pulling your leg here!"

This doesn't mean, incidentally, that a horror novel or film has no room for the literary device known as "comic relief". Shakespeare famously employed comic relief in his tragedies like Macbeth and Hamlet. That didn't make Macbeth or Hamlet less "serious".

The Shining (the novel) has some humorous family scenes, as does King's scariest novel, Pet Sematary. And Cujo has at least one scene that is roll-on-the-floor hilarious. 

But none of these scenes involve the presentation of the ghosts, the evil spirits, and the monsters that inhabit King's works and provide the chills. When King is writing his "monster" scenes, he writes with a serious tone. 

There is nothing inherently funny about a patch of ground that reanimates corpses (Pet Sematary), a hotel haunted by evil spirits (The Shining), or a rabid dog that kills people (Cujo). And so King doesn't try to make them funny. When King depicts the antagonist forces in his novels--be they human, animal, or supernatural--he imbues them with genuine threat. 

This requires a straightforward tone of voice, free of the irony that many writers nowadays seem to find obligatory. This is why Stephen King's novel's are scary--or at least compelling to read.

The important takeaway here is that the writer must take the horror element itself seriously. If you can't take the horror element seriously, then you shouldn't be writing horror fiction. You should be writing something else instead.

Let's get back to The Walking Dead, which almost all readers will be at least somewhat familiar with.  

Most of us would agree that the idea of the zombie apocalypse is well...pretty unlikely. This isn't a concern that keeps me up at night.

However, while you watch an episode of The Walking Dead, you temporarily and provisionally believe in the zombie apocalypse. Why? Because the writers and producers of The Walking Dead take the basic premise of the story--the horror element--seriously. And as a result, you take it seriously, too. 

On the other hand, comedic horror films never achieve this suspension of disbelief, because of the fundamental incongruity in how they present the horror elements. 

The writer of Zombieland obviously didn't take the idea of a zombie apocalypse seriously. Zombieland presents the whole concept as a load of bunk--a big joke--and so it never moves, enthralls, or captivates viewers like The Walking Dead does. 

The Walking Dead is a classic. Zombieland is forgettable and disposable.

I repeat: Irony has its place. But irony should be used sparingly in horror fiction, and never for the presentation of the horror elements themselves. 

Lovecraft and the "r" word

Seventy-seven years after Lovecraft's death, lots of finger-wagging over the author's personal viewpoints, which were admittedly racist by today's standards:

Lovecraft was both an old-school New England Anglo-Saxon, as well as a product of his times (the early 20th century). He had views about African-Americans, Jews, Italians, (and probably my own Irish-American ancestors) that were less than enlightened.

There is nothing wrong with noting this, and informing readers that Lovecraft was a flawed human being. (He most certainly was.) 

There is something neurotic about obsessing on it, and endlessly wondering, "Is it still okay to read, 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'?" 

If you read all of Lovecraft's work with a fine-tooth comb, you will occasionally happen upon vaguely racist/xenophobic passages. But 98% of his work is just plain fun. We aren't talking about Mein Kampf or The Birth of a Nation here.

Lovecraft died before World War II began, in the year in which this author's grandfather was a randy sixteen-year-old boy. That was a fairly long time ago. There is no way Lovecraft, now long, long dead, can recant his racial views or make an official apology for them.

So what, really, is the point of constantly kvetching about this?

Americans *can* learn Asian languages

And they can learn to competently read and write them, too. It isn't impossible, as this fellow proved:

Jeb Bush on taxes

"Mr. Bush said he could accept a fiscal deal of $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts that Democrats would agree to — a position that drew sharp criticism from one of the nation’s fiscal hawks."
The sad truth is that digging the country out of the Obama deficit probably will require some combination of both tax increases and spending cuts. I don't like the idea, but it will almost certainly be unavoidable.

That said, Republicans must make sure that 90% of the money comes from downsizing government, not expropriating the citizenry.

"Darth Vader" running for office in Ukraine

That's nice. We could use some light-hearted news from that corner of the world.

Darth Vader candidate in Ukraine banned at polling station

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Christianity and Islam are different

Anyone who claims otherwise demonstrates an ignorance of history--not to mention the New Testament and the Quran:

"Islam’s founder, the war leader Mohammed, practised violence in a way Jesus never did, and the primary texts of their respective faiths show the difference. The Koran and Hadith urge or condone violence against enemies, while the Christian New Testament does not. 
 The result is that Islam’s holiest texts can be easily read to favour terrorism, even though the vast majority of Muslims reject such an interpretation. 
 Sure enough, in its statement demanding the slaughter of non-believers, the Islamic State cited specific scriptural injunctions to violence, with two, in particular, seeming to inspire both its savagery and its characteristic beheadings: “Allah the Exalted said, ‘And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush’” and “He the Exalted said: ‘So when you meet those who disbelieve (in battle), strike (their) necks’.”  
Nowhere is Christ recorded urging followers to kill disbelievers. Christianity would be a very different faith had he done so. 
 Instead, Christ urged followers to reach out to unbelievers not with a sword but with help — as recorded in the parable of the good Samaritan. When besieged by his enemies, Christ did not fight back but let himself be killed."

Halloween for Democrats

The "Obama effect" and the upcoming elections:

Japan holding joint military exercises with...

Both Russia and the U.S…..and only 500 miles apart? 

That is what you call "hedging your bets", isn't it?

"Stephen King", and questionable publishing ethics

A Good Marriage

I noticed this Stephen King novella available on Amazon today, "A Good Marriage" with the bonus story, "1922"

The combination was actually panned by quite a few readers. Why? Both stories/novellas were previously released as a parts of Full Dark, No Stars, from a few years ago. Some selected reader comments include:

"As others stated, pretty annoyed that this is being marketed as a "new" book when it's part of a collection I already own. My fault for not recalling the name of every short story I've read in every collection released, I suppose, but still...feeling ripped off. That said, the stories are good. Just don't bother with this if you've already got or want to read Full Dark No Stars."

I'm disappointed that this was advertised as a "new book," with the publication date of September 30, 2014, when I received the pre-order alert. IT IS NOT a new story; it's a short story from Full Dark, No Stars (published in November 2010). I feel like I was charged far too much for a story that I've already read.
What the publishers essentially did, then, was rerelease approximately 50% of a book published in 2010 as a "new" book for 2014. 

This, in itself, is nothing horrible. Record companies have long sold artists' songs as singles, then as components of albums, and later as components of greatest hits/live albums. (I should also note, by way of full disclosure, that about a third of the stories in my Hay Moon short story collection are available as shorts on Amazon for $0.99 each.) Finally, there is a context to the rerelease of "A Good Marriage": The literary rerelease is a tie-in to the recent film.

Nevertheless, readers who have already read Full Dark, No Stars, will be understandably somewhat miffed. The publisher could have avoided the backlash and still made money by simply rereleasing the entire book with a movie tie-in cover. That would have alleviated all misunderstandings, and ill will among readers who'd already purchased Full Dark, No Stars, while still allowing the publisher to get a "boost" of new sales from the movie.

A "fake" Stephen King?:

I also noticed this book from an author who goes by the name "Stephen King"--but he clearly isn't the well-known Stephen King. 

I read through the first few pages of his book, and noticed several glaring typos. The book also has some suspicious-looking 5-star reviews. (The entire thing is suspicious.)

Here again we have a gray area--legally speaking, at least. I imagine that an attorney could file a successful "cease and desist order" if the author's birth name is not really "Stephen King". I did a Google search: The author of the "Crossroads" book doesn't seem to have any sort of a web presence. So this isn't even a case of him trying to use a name similarity to brand himself. Rather, this seems like someone's attempt to make a fast buck under false pretenses.

Is this a trademark violation? I really can't say. But it is definitely less than honest.

Teaching young people to cope with rejection

Perhaps this is an inevitable outcome of the "everyone gets a trophy" mindset that has persisted in education for the past 20 years:

"Freshman gunman Jaylen Fryberg burst into Marysville-Pilchuck High School Friday, killed one classmate and injured four more before turning the gun on himself. The 14-year-old had been romantically rejected by one of the girls he shot — and then she started dating one of his cousins, a friend said."

The "everyone gets a trophy" syndrome is especially dangerous when extended to romantic rivalries, where everyone does not always get a trophy--or at least not their first choice of trophy.

Romantic rejection is an occasional fact of life for almost everyone, and a normal part of the slings and arrows of adolescence. 

Yes, even I got rejected by a romantic prospect or two in high school, dear reader--as did 99% of you. 

Learning to deal with rejection is an important skill--at least as important as the much ballyhooed "self esteem". 

I wonder: are we teaching young people that not everyone is going to like them, love them, be sexually attracted to them, or choose them for the dodgeball team?

Oh wait, kids don't play dodgeball anymore, because it's "too violent".

Once upon a time, kids were allowed to throw featherweight rubber balls at each other as part of gym class fun and games, but teenage boys didn't gun down girls who turned down their prom invitations. 

Forgive me if I fail to see this as progress.

Negative reviews: when authors attack

Needless to say, this is the sort of thing that no author should ever do:

As an author, I too would like to believe that my work will be universally loved and revered for its entertainment value as well as its literary merits. And why not? I wrote all of them, after all.

The fact of the matter, though, is that every book fails to work for at least some readers. As I browse though the Amazon ratings of some of my favorite novels, I invariably find that some readers hated my favorite books as much as I loved them.

For example, I don't see how any reader could fail to love Lonesome Dove, one of my all-time favorite novels. But as of this writing, Lonesome Dove as has accumulated twenty-three 1-star reviews. 

I should note that most people agree with me about Lonesome Dove; there are more than 700 5-star reviews. But still...how could twenty-three people have believed that Lonesome Dove deserved only 1 star??? And what about the fifteen people who gave it only two stars?

Or what about Salem's Lot--the greatest vampire novel ever written? How could more than fifty Amazon readers have assigned Stephen King's best novel (in my opinion) only one or two stars?

Here's an opposite example: One hundred and sixty-eight readers gave Tom Clancy and Peter Telep's Against All Enemies only one star. I read the book and thought that it absolutely rocked. What's wrong with those 168 1-star reviewers...or, if you prefer, what's wrong with me?

The point here is that literary brilliance is often in the eye of the beholder. The Internet allows Joe and Jane Reader to have their say to a degree that would have been impossible twenty years ago. Sometimes that works to an individual author's advantage, other times it doesn't. 

But if you focus on your craft and strive to create compelling stories, then the 5-star reviews should balance out the bad ones over time. (Also...a few low-star reviews can actually lend credibility to the more laudatory ones, as evidence that the author didn't engage in astroturfing.)

Bottom line: An author's best course of action is almost always to make a policy of never responding to reviews at all--and especially the negative ones. (There are a very small number of exceptions--but these are rare enough to ignore for our purposes here.) 

In the Internet Age, writing books is not a good line of work for overly sensitive people.

The surprising history of cemeteries

Although written in a local (NY) paper, this article contains some interesting facts about cemeteries:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My take on H.P. Lovecraft (reader question)

A reader asks,

“Ed, Have you read any H.P. Lovecraft? What do you think of his stories? Did he influence Eleven Miles of Night, or any of the short stories in your Hay Moon collection?”

Let’s begin with the first question.

Yes, I’ve read him—a lot of him, in fact. I discovered Lovecraft while I was in college, when I was about twenty years old. I was in that “bulk reading” stage of my life. I was reading everything I could get my hands on—from contemporary pop fiction to classical literature.

I knew that I wanted to do at least some of my future writing in the horror genre. I had already read everything that Stephen King had written to that time (this was circa 1988); and I was ready to move on to some other horror novelists. I also wanted to read some horror fiction that was a bit more “academic”, if I could find it.

I gave Edgar Allan Poe a try. While I enjoyed some of Poe’s stories, I definitely found his florid, nineteenth-century prose off-putting at that stage of my life. I needed something a bit more modern.

As this was a full decade before the Internet, research was a catch-as-catch-can endeavor. I learned of Lovecraft’s existence through some scattered essays of literary criticism I had read. (Stephen King also mentions him in several of the introductory essays to his own works.) I knew that Lovecraft had done most of his writing in the 1920s and 1930s. He was roughly contemporaneous with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose fiction I had read and liked.

Lovecraft, I thought, might be what I was looking for. And he was. Sort of…

But Lovecraft didn't entirely meet my expectations. The first thing I noticed was that Lovecraft was more of a short story writer than a novelist. Only four of his works can be fairly described as novels: At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Lurker at the Threshold. And they are short novels at that—really better described as novellas. Most of what Lovecraft wrote would be classified as long short stories.

Lovecraft’s worldview also differed from what I’d anticipated. Not all horror fiction addresses spiritual concerns; but much of it does. Roughly eighty percent of the genre touches upon the supernatural, and that means the portrayal of some sort of a spiritual reality, often along Judeo-Christian lines.

H.P. Lovecraft—somewhat unique among horror writers—was an atheist, for all practical purposes (though his beliefs are more often described as cosmicism, or “cosmic indifference”).

While I don’t exactly wear my religious beliefs on my sleeve when I write, there is a discernible belief in a “spiritual force for good out there” in my novel Eleven Miles of Night, and several of the short stories in Hay Moon (especially the title short story). Although I wouldn't characterize my horror stories as “Christian fiction” by any means, they are written within a largely Judeo-Christian framework of good and evil.

Lovecraft’s fiction, by contrast, is naturalistic—except for the fact that there are extra-dimensional monsters, the so-called “old ones” out there. The old ones inhabited the earth long before the ascent of humankind, and they are always threatening to come back.

Lovecraft presents a universe in which human beings are the mostly unwitting victims of these “old ones”, which have a lot more in common with science fiction aliens than with ghosts, vampires, or demons. Although the old ones have special powers, they are not exactly spiritual in nature.

Perhaps this is why Lovecraft has been classified as a horror writer only by default. Publishers and bookstores need to fit literature into neat categories, after all. Many diehard Lovecraft fans are apt to bristle at the horror label, preferring the more vague moniker, “weird fiction” instead.

Whatever it was, exactly, that Lovecraft wrote, you have to admire the scope of his imagination. His stories (and he wrote a lot of them, by the way—many of which are now available only in electronic form) reveal a creativity that was truly profound in the early twentieth century. (We must remember that Lovecraft did not have Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Ray Bradbury to build upon. Nor did he have access to the science fiction films of television’s golden age.) Lovecraft’s stories were and remain unique and inimitable. Though his work has spawned a subgenre dedicated to its imitation, the products of the Lovecraft imitators continue to pale in comparison to the real McCoy.

That having been said, it must be noted that Lovecraft’s stories are relentlessly plot- and monster-driven—not character-driven. Even Lovecraft’s most ardent fans admit that character development was not his strong suit. His human protagonists are notoriously two-dimensional. Most are either young men who are driven to madness by their interactions with “the old ones”, or academic types who spend all of their time puttering around in the dank and dusty library shelves at Miskatonic University.

I suspect that this is the main reason for Lovecraft’s overwhelming emphasis on short fiction: A two-dimensional character can work in a 5,000-word short story. But over the course of a 100,000-word novel, a stock character falls flat.

Lovecraft has also been criticized for his lack of “meaningful female characters”. (Actually, it would be more accurate to say that he doesn't have any female characters—or almost no female characters.)

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I have little patience with those who insist on bringing their ideological crusades into the analysis of fiction. But this particular critique of Lovecraft is not mere political correctness. It isn’t so much that Lovecraft’s depictions of women are stereotyped, or sexist, or misogynistic, as it is that he doesn't acknowledge women’s existence at all.

I’m willing to tolerate fiction that doesn't have suitably “strong women” in the contemporary usage of that term. Fiction that contains zero women is something else entirely. A writer who can only write one half of the human race (and superficially at that) is a writer with a major handicap.

By all accounts, Lovecraft was more than a bit of a recluse. He didn't get out much, and he didn't have many conversation partners. This shows not only in his arrested character development, but also in his stilted dialogue.

Here is an excerpt of dialogue from “The Colour Out of Space”, which is often cited to illustrate Lovecraft’s struggle to reproduce authentic human speech:

"Nothin'... nothin'... the colour... it burns... cold an' wet, but it burns... it lived in the well... I seen it... a kind of smoke... jest like the flowers last spring... the well shone at night... Thad an' Merwin an' Zenas... everything alive... suckin' the life out of everything... in that stone... it must a' come in that stone pizened the whole place... dun't know what it wants... that round thing them men from the college dug outen the stone... they smashed it... it was the same colour... jest the same, like the flowers an' plants... must a' ben more of 'em... seeds... seeds... they growed... I seen it the fust time this week... must a' got strong on Zenas... he was a big boy, full o' life... it beats down your mind an' then gets ye... burns ye up... in the well water... you was right about that... evil water... Zenas never come back from the well... can't git away... draws ye... ye know summ'at's comin' but tain't no use... I seen it time an' agin senct Zenas was took... whar's Nabby, Ammi?... my head's no good... dun't know how long sense I fed her... it'll git her ef we ain't keerful... jest a colour... her face is gittin' to hev that colour sometimes towards night... an' it burns an' sucks... it come from some place whar things ain't as they is here... one o' them professors said so... he was right... look out, Ammi, it'll do suthin' more... sucks the life out..."

(Perhaps recognizing this gap in his own skills, Lovecraft consistently minimizes dialogue in his stories, by the way.)

Overall, then, the human side of Lovecraft’s fiction is extremely weak; and that is a severely limiting factor for any author. Fiction should ultimately be about people—even if those people inhabit a universe filled with supernatural terrors.

This is why Stephen King succeeds brilliantly where Lovecraft falls short. Stephen King’s supernatural villains are not especially innovative: King writes about vampires, ghosts, and serial killers—the sorts of antagonists that have been filling horror fiction for years. Readers love King because they identify with his characters—Ben Mears of Salem’s Lot, the Torrance family of The Shining, Stuart Redman of The Stand, and, of course, the eponymous Carrie. If King’s characters were as flat as Lovecraft’s, King would not be where he is today.

In summary, then, I admire Lovecraft for his undeniable creative strengths. (Oh, I might also mention in passing his prodigious vocabulary, which includes SAT exam stumpers like cyclopean and antediluvian).

Nevertheless, if I had to select a list of ten fiction writers whose works would sustain me for life on a remote Pacific island, H.P. Lovecraft wouldn't make the cut.  And to the extent that he is an influence of mine, he is a minor and mostly technical one. 

Hay Moon and Chinese vampires

I recently received some reader email about the story "The Vampires of Wallachia," which appeared in the collection Hay Moon and Other Stories: Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and SuspenseIf you've read the story, you'll know that this tale involves a group of Chinese vampires who have set up base in rural Ohio. 

The reader specifically wanted to know if I had researched the subject of Chinese vampire lore before writing the story. The answer is yes. We tend to think of vampires as a purely Western bit of mythology. Somewhat surprisingly, however, vampire legends appear throughout the world--including Asia.

The Chinese version of the vampire is called jiāngshī (殭屍 in Chinese characters). My research tells me that these aren't vampires as we Westerners understand them, though. The jiāngshī might be better described as "supernatural zombies". They are reanimated corpses that kill the living and thereby absorb their life essence. 

Therefore, the vampires in the story "The Vampires of Wallachia" are Western-style vampires, if you want to get technical about it. 

The larger point, though, is that the concept of the reanimated dead coming back to prey on the living in one form or another is obviously a universal trope of sorts, and one that transcends any  particular religious or cultural tradition.


Kindle edition