Last summer I was introduced to the modern-day incarnation of Doctor Who, and I’ve been hopelessly addicted ever since. In my humble estimation, it’s one of the best shows going on television today, if not THE best. Tremendous, inventive storytelling coupled with deep, believable, and lovable characters makes for wonderful watching every time, and the fact that the show’s not afraid to get silly when it’s called for truly endears it to me.
(And in case you couldn’t tell, I’m very much a 10th Doctor aficionado. The 9th Doctor was a great riff on a battle-weary, almost manic state of mind for the venerable Time Lord, and the 11th Doctor is alternately wonderful and kind of a bastard at times… all three modern Doctors are superb in my estimation. But I LOVE David Tennant’s 10th Doctor to pieces… I’ve even got the sonic screwdriver to prove it.)
While watching the various seasons of the show, I came to realize that the good Doctor shared something with the Hollywood Vampires in terms of his life-cycle. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years now, and have even discussed it with some of you in long, rambling e-mails (I even wrote a story about it), but I never really had it pegged until I watched Doctor Who.
What are we talking about here?
For those of you unfamiliar with Doctor Who, the Doctor is a Time Lord, an extremely long-lived extraterrestrial who travels through time and space. When a Time Lord is mortally wounded, they don’t die — unless something REALLY bad happens — but instead they REGENERATE. When a Time Lord regenerates, he or she comes back with a different appearance and set of mannerisms / quirks, but with the same basic personality and memories. Not only does this make for interesting storytelling, but it also means that the same character can be played by 11 different actors over the course of nearly 50 years and still be the same person.
That’s why we Doctor Who fiends — Whovians, if you will — make reference to things like the 4th Doctor or the 10th Doctor. We’re referring to a particular iteration of the Doctor.
Not only is this great for telling stories AND not having to cancel the show when the lead actor bows out, but it’s also a tremendous idea for dealing with immortality!
In most vampire fiction, you run across long-lived vampires who’ve either become extremely morose, horribly sadistic, or disturbingly jaded because of the length of their years. Or maybe they’re just completely out of place in modern times, and have a hard time dealing with the way the world rapidly changes around them. We’ve seen examples of all of the above happening in a lot of vampire fiction, ranging from The Vampire Chronicles to the Sonja Blue series.
The general consensus is that immortality can drive a person bonkers, turn them into an asshole, or just bore them to death. So much vampire fiction deals with the hopelessness of immortality, and it’s honestly a valid subject. I’m only 35 years old, and I’ve noticed my tolerance for stupid, oblivious behavior dropping precipitously on a yearly basis. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be quite the curmudgeon by the time I’m 65.
So what would I do if I lived to be 565? I could very well be a serial-killer vampire or otherwise spend my days locked up in my little sanctuary, hiding away from the great mass of humanity I can’t stand or understand.
But when I started writing the Hollywood Vampires stories, I consciously avoided the topic of ennui in immortals– it had already been thoroughly explored in vampire fiction by many talented writers for decades — and I focused on doing something different. Even so, as the years passed, I found myself wondering… how DOES a guy like Stacey go through the centuries and millennia without getting bored? Granted, Stacey’s able to entertain himself tremendously, but even so…
How many explosions can you create or fights can you start before it all finally starts to get old?
So I got to think about how the most successful vampires would mentally “reboot” themselves after a period of time, and even wrote a short story — “Anachronism” — that lightly touched upon the subject. It’s not something all vampires can do, and only those with the strongest, most flexible minds can pull it off.
Basically, when a vampire’s racked up a nice pile of years — say a lifetime’s worth — they’ll withdraw from their fellows for a while and will essentially wipe their “recent” frames of reference clean. They’ll remember their lives, friends, and history, but at the same time, they’ll be looking at the contemporary timeframe with a fresh, wide-eyed perspective. Everything will seem new and interesting again, and the memories of previous centuries — while still readily available — will seem more distant.
After entering this state, a vampire will roam around for a time — sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months — and just ABSORB. They’ll read everything they can find, watch everything there is to see, and listen to all the music they can lay their hands on. They’ll be making the modern culture their own, and in time, they’ll be just as comfortable with personal computers and cell phones as they were horse-driven carriages and broadswords.
And if they’ve gotten tired of picking fights and starting fires, it’ll all seem new and exciting again. Sure, they’ve done it hundreds of times before, but that was THEN… this is NOW!
Just like when the Doctor regenerates, a vampire will emerge bright-eyed and eager to see what the world has to offer. And that’s why — unlike what you’ll read in a lot of other vampire fiction — the Hollywood Vampires aren’t weighed down by the years. That’s why Steele can be 2000 years old and think Appetite For Destruction is one of the greatest albums he’s ever heard, without comparing it to the magnificent symphonies he’s witnessed or the haunting harmonies he’s heard in times long gone. Despite his great age, he’s firmly a creature of the late 20th / early 21st century, because he regenerated at some point during the 1960′s.
Like the Doctor, he remembers everything that’s happened to him and carries that experience with him, but he’s much more interested in the here and now and what kind of adventures and delights await him in the present day. And if he ever starts to feel bored and jaded, he doesn’t even have to get mortally wounded like the Doctor… he can just will himself into his next regeneration.
Thus, immortality doesn’t become a burden… it’s just a way to get more out of life. And that’s what the Hollywood Vampires are about — living.
After watching Doctor Who and thinking about how the Doctor’s regenerations are similar to what I’ve been thinking about for my vampires, I’ve been struck by the fascinating concept that maybe with each iteration, there may be subtle — or more overt — differences in the vampires’ personalities over the years. Depending on which regeneration Stacey was on, maybe he had a much more dry wit and would be a lot sneakier about his pranks. Or maybe Steele was a distinguished rogue rather than a rakish one. Perhaps Brandi was a loner with an even shorter fuse than she has today. And I’m pretty sure Tommy was a real bastard in a prior iteration.
Their basic personalities would be the same, and they’d be immediately recognizable as the vampires we know and love, but they’d also be… different.
The possibilities are endless!
That’s what’s so fun about vampire fiction — there’s entire worlds of untapped potential regarding the life and times of immortals, and the sky’s the limit! Now if we can just get away from the endless mopey teen romance stuff and start getting into the really interesting concepts…