Most of us are aware, at least in the broadest sense of the word, of what a vampire has that a human doesn’t: greater strength, greater speed, the inability to subsist on food (needing blood instead), extreme sensitivity (one might say “fatal”) to light. If you’re going with Dracula as your measuring-stick, you know a vampire can also change form, create servants, control minds, and (if you watched the NBC series) do a fairly-convincing American accent.
But there have been a ton of different vampire stories in the past few hundred years. I won’t say I’ve read them all, but I’ve read enough to come up with a list of six of the best unconventional vampire abilities.
6. Sparkling. — Okay, okay, I know, Twilight sucks. But you can’t deny that most vampires would prefer to sparkle in the sunlight instead of being forced to avoid it altogether. Stephenie Meyer’s vampires aren’t controlled by the sun; they don’t fear it, and it won’t kill them.
5. Feeding on emotions. — Laurell K. Hamilton’s long-running Anita Blake series introduced vampires who can feed on fear, joy, lust, worship, and even anger. Though they still need to take blood every now and then, a sufficient feeding of a certain emotion can lend satiety to the vampire in question — kind of like how eating snacks will keep you from passing out from hunger but it won’t really nourish you. Pretty convenient.
4. Turning into fog. — Technically this is one of the original Dracula’s powers, but it seems to be forgotten quite often. However, in “Buffy vs Dracula”, Dracula used it to make Buffy think she’d staked him, only to rise again. And if you read the comics, you’ll know that he lives to this day*. If a vampire wanted to become a thief, what better way than to become fog and move through a building’s ventilation system?
3. Mind over… something that starts with “M” and means “blood”. — In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, some vampires choose to live among humans and not drink human blood. They wear a black ribbon to indicate this. However, according to Pratchett, these vampires have to turn their single-mindedness over finding food toward another pursuit. The best example is Otto Chriek, photographer for the Ankh-Morpork Times, who has become the best photographer he can be and has even developed a way to reconstitute himself when his camera’s flash goes off, turning him to dust. One family of vampires even turned themselves toward the pursuit of overcoming traditional means of killing their kind to the point that garlic and crosses ceased to have any function. Very cool.
2. Automatic creation of undead minions. — In the film Lifeforce, the aliens (in the original novel, space vampires) drain humans’ life force, rather than their blood. But after the victims are drained, they become zombies who ingest the life force of other humans (lest they die). That’s awfully convenient, as well as a difficult power to stop, because it only takes one vampire to create a zombie, and that zombie can create more, and those zombies can create more… it’s like a vampiric pyramid scheme. Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure which is more evil.
1. Getting high. — One of the most novel vampire stories I ever read was The World on Blood by Jonathan Nasaw. In it, vampires are simply addicted to blood as an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol or a gambling addict is addicted to poker. It gives them a high. It also allows them to have greater strength, speed, and sensory perception (like the Sentinel on X). Though the book does have its supernatural elements, seeing vampires as addicts trying to escape their former lives (with varying degrees of success) made this one of my favorite books of the 1990s.
Speaking of The World on Blood… don’t read the sequel, Shadows. It’s so disappointing and broody, and retains almost none of the fun of the first book (which is also broody, but not all the time). Skip it. Trust me.
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