Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I: Immortals

Vampires are the most common variety of immortal being one comes across in fiction, but there have been others. Extremely long life can verge on immortality, as with classic-style elves. In science fiction, immortality can come by way of downloading minds into vat-grown replacement bodies.

Immortality brings some unusual factors into play, some of which have been addressed well and extensively in novels. The importance of long-term relationships -- and how they can sour -- in Anne Rice's vampire novels, for example. Grudges that go on for centuries. The loss of humanity (and questioning what humanity is) and the scarring effect of doing monstrous things to survive. Good stuff, all of it, as the popularity of vampires attests.

But there are some recurring facets of immortals that I question, too.  

They're rich
Up until 1933, if a bank failed in the United States the account holders usually got nothing. Their money was gone. For centuries, if your house burned to the ground you had nothing. If a lynch mob came after you with torches and pitchforks, you'd be lucky to escape with what's in your pockets. When an economy tanked, inflation would go through the roof and your horde of treasure isn't worth much anymore. 

So you spread out your assets, goes the logic. You invest in commodities like gold and jewels and hope you can hide them well enough that they'll still be there when you need them. (Really? Your staff is that trustworthy?) Invest in a widely varied portfolio and hope something pans out somewhere. One of these companies will be the next Microsoft, right? And it won't crash like Enron, of course. 

I'd love to read a story about a 700-year-old vampire who's poor. In fact I'm claiming that idea, I may need to write that myself. Can you imagine working shit jobs for hundreds of years?

They're out of the gene pool
Balancing long life with a low reproductive rate is reasonable for world-building purposes. However, it does leave out some interesting possibilities. I had a chance to think about them in the course of my current fantasy monstrosity.

If one's immortality is acquired, not inherent, then one could still have a "normal" family with one major difference: you're going to outlive them all. Not just your spouse but your children too. And your grandchildren.

How long do you remain involved in their lives? What's your role? Can you afford to be emotionally invested?

This was touched on a little in Highlander, except that the immortals couldn't have children. If anyone knows of other stories that addressed this, please mention them in comments.

They have "refined tastes"
Or are they just jaded due to having seen it all, done it all, and there's only so many ways you can do a thing anyway. It doesn't matter if the thing in question is sex, murder, cuisine or high fashion. Novelty is a dead end, on the grand scale of things.

At what point in immortality are you just so damn bored that you can't stand it anymore?

Just some thoughts. What aspect of vampires sticks in your craw? (aside from the sparkly part, LOL)

This is a topic that will come up in a character conversation later in the A-to-Z run. I'll link to it here afterwards.


Loralie Hall said...

Good post, and very good thoughts. I don't have any vampire characters, but I do have serveral immortals in one of my universes. And at least one is a bum. Literally a homeless guy who has spent the last few decades going from town to town, doing odd jobs in exchange for food and shelter.

And the other is completely jaded.

So yeah, I think you make some good observations.

Anonymous said...

I started to write a comment, then stared off into space as that comment became a plot. Hmm... Off to scribble some words...

L. Blankenship said...

:D (high five!)

L. Blankenship said...

Sounds cool -- I think an immortal bum would make a very interesting character.

Kate said...

I find it really (I mean REALLY) annoying when vampires who are over a hundred years old fall in love with 17 yr old girls, obviously its going to happen (more so if they are stuck looking like a 17 year old boy) but why do they always listen to them and do as they say and pander to them and never pull rank? I would really like there to be some wizened cantankerous old scrote trapped inside the body of a teenager, possibly spouting on about how when he was a boy...

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