An Anti-Vamp Rant


I used to like watching Buffy – I own it on… actually on VHS… and I’ve watched it to absolute Undeath.

But by every Mother of God am I sick of fucking vampires!

It was with a huge cheer, then, that I read Neil Gaiman’s comments in the Independent this morning – kicking back against genre and marketing saturation, and against the de-fanged and de-balled castrato-vamp that we’ve all learned to loathe. He’s right, they’re like cockroaches, they’re everywhere – and we’ve had enough.

And not only Gaiman, bless him. He’s backed up by Sam Stone and Graham Marks… and even Ms. Meyer herself has had enough. Could it be – finally – that the public backlash is finding its teeth?

I get marketing trends – hell, I’m supposed to, I have to follow and ride them for a living. But when does a trend become a dictation? When does it stop being something the audience want – and become something they’re told they must like? Working where I do, I’ve been on ground level with marketing a motherlode of Vampire merchandise… and you can guarantee that, for every Twilight-Sparkly-Box-Souvenir that we’ve promoted through our Social Media net, we’ll get a kick-back of customers who’ve all reached their own saturation limit.

And so I ask: have we now reached the point where our media consumption is being utterly dictated by its buying trends – and where those very trends are set by a nation of proto-teen consumers? Just who is in fucking charge here anyway?!

Please – enough with the ‘safe sales’, already, and enough with the sheep-herding; enough with the force-feeding of pulp and enough with having our consumption controlled.

Let’s give the Vampire back his teeth… while we open out, and embrace the full scope of our genre.


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Bullshit and Artistry


The saying goes: that a short story is to a novel what a sniper rifle is to a shotgun. It’s a precision instrument – there’s no room to fuck about if you want to do the job properly. You can’t just paint the target and hope… you need to know exactly where you’re aiming, and how you’re going to get there.

Having just finished the first short story I’ve written in (cough!) far too many years – and prayed my trigger mechanism isn’t too rusty – it’s kind of led to something else…

Sticking with the analogy: is urban fantasy to epic fantasy what using a weapon is to just noising about it? It has to be real – you have to know exactly what you’re doing because people will bloody-well notice if you’re a bullshit artist.

If you’re an epic fantasy writer, you can make all sorts of cool shit up – a home, a battlefield, a drinking den, an historical date, a stupidly-oversized sword – as long as it’s a socio-cultural fit, you’re away.


Then you come to writing something set in London.

After a bit, it dawns on your little brain that you can’t make that shit up any more. If your characters have a home – you need to know where it is, you need to know what it looks like, you need to know where the closest Tube station is and what the streets are like at two in the morning. Are there pubs or clubs in the area – what time do they shut? Where (if you want to get really anal) do your characters go to get a pint of milk on a hungover Sunday morning?

Hrmmm….


With all this crap in my head, this afternoon I’ve been up in Camden. Not shopping, not even in the Market itself a lot of the time – but ranging that little bit wider. I’ve been on manoeuvres: the side streets, the backstreets, the suburbs, the churches and the tiny, forgotten parks. The normal places, the places that the tourists never go; the places that the cool guys with the facial piercings have no interest in… because no-one can see them hanging there.


What we see in any city – any place – is largely what we’re looking for. When you take a step back from yourself and what’s expected of you, and you go out looking for something new, it’s amazing what you’ll find.

The pen, it seems, it truly the mightiest weapon of all – it makes us aware. But I’m guessing we knew that…

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