Interview: Katherine Ramsland, author of The Science of Vampires

Vampires are illogical, impossible creatures of superstition and ignorance. So when Katherine Ramsland approached them scientifically in The Science of Vampires, she faced an uphill battle to find plausible explanations for the various bits of common knowledge about bloodsucking fiends. Using the most up-to-date technology and forward-thinking theories, she actually brought some reality to these unreal beings, and I found her book very helpful as I worked on Blood Groove.

Dr. Ramsland was kind enough to answer a few of the questions about the reality of vampires, and their place in our popular consciousness.

Alex: If Anne Rice had not come along, would the popular image of the vampire post-Barnabas Collins still have developed into a mostly sympathetic character? In other words, did Rice create the moment, or was the moment inevitable and simply coincided with her work?

Dr. Ramsland: The moment was inevitable. No one creates a phenomenon by themselves; it all happened as the convergence of many forces. You’re seeing something similar now with the Twilight series.

The Twilight series seems, culturally speaking, to simply move the idea of the sympathetic vampire into the teenage realm, which logic says would be a meaningless distinction to an immortal, whatever his chronological age when he’s turned. What about the Twilight series makes it a fundamental change in the popular image of the vampire?

I see nothing in the Twilight series that advances or changes the image. It seems fairly stereotypical, but it’s reaching an audience that hasn’t seen much vampire substance in a while and just wants more vampire.

Is there any possible scientific validation for the concept of resurrecting a vampire by removing the stake from his/her heart?

No. The notion is a myth, with the superstitious folk idea of pinning a corpse into the coffin, to keep it from leaving. Fiction writers then gave it a spin. To say that science would support re-animation means you think an immortal vampire is possible.

If we accept that sunlight can destroy vampires, why wouldn’t moonlight–reflected sunlight–do the same?

The notion of the sun’s destruction comes from the sun being symbolic of God. The vampire’s soul is supposedly damned – or actually, nonexistent – so exposure to God would destroy the vampire. It’s not actually about exposure to light per se, or they’d explode in any lighted arena.

Is there any way to extrapolate what the long-term psychological changes might be in a consciousness capable of existing and maturing for longer than a single human lifetime?

Yes, of course. As with all of us, to sustain passion for life we must develop a sense of momentum into the future. That would mean a healthy dose of curiosity, a sense of challenge, and a sense of accomplishment as a satisfying reward. It also means the ability to plan and implement it, and an inner drive that has a self-renewing factor from the sheer energy of being alive. We see people who can barely sustain this into their 20s before they fade away into substance abuse and boredom. Others live to be over 100, with plenty of life-sustaining energy.

Do you think there’s any special, specific mental or emotional quality, unique to this sort of creature, that would be especially necessary to sustain this inner drive over, say, centuries of conscious existence?

Perspective. The more you see and the more opportunities you have to broaden your sense of the world, the more perspective you acquire. Sometimes this also delivers wisdom, and wisdom generally feeds curiosity, which is the basis of passion. Someone with perspective understands that contentment is about appreciating what you have and paying forward to others when you can.

How do you see a vampire “paying forward?”

Not as a generous gesture but as a means of making their existence more interesting. I don’t have specifics. Each one will do whatever his or her personality and situation dictate, which is also true for non-vampires.

Thanks to Dr. Ramsland for taking the time to answer these questions.

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