In “High Steaks”, the most recent addition to the Quantum Series, a resistance rises to meet the fascists who’ve overthrown the legitimate local government of the Terran colony Deanna – a resistance with friends in low places. Together with bovine torpedoes, time travel, a mad scientist, an invisible space ship, and a well-camouflaged operative, the nasties must also contend with another unseen enemy: the Vampire Underground.
Errm… the …what? Vampires??
Yes, that’s right folks – in the middle of a science fiction story, I introduce not just one solitary supernatural-type creature character, but an entire community of them living in the shadows among the average Humans! Deanna – a backwater little planet on the outskirts of Terran civilization – often called “the outblack”, is a Terran colony inhabited by 2 million people, give or take a few to the left or the right of the decimal, including the Humans and several hundred non-Humans living there. Aside from those, there are the vampires – people like Marla de Bris, who live quite a lot longer than everyone else, who never age, and who tend to walk away from mundane things like ordinary death while dusting their coats off and sharing amusing anecdotes about that other time someone (who is now long dead) tried to kill them.
Vampires in Quantum are people who live in secrecy and seclusion, and in the modern technological age, they’re people who find it increasingly difficult to live their long lives unnoticed, under the radar and coping with the ever-advancing tech which ‘mundanes’ – what they called non-vampires – use to satisfy their obsession with identity and identifying and controlling and categorizing everyone around them. They are, broadly speaking – aside from sometimes needing a little blood to get by, quite ordinary people. Boring, even. But again, very, very secretive.
What inspired me to write vampires into sci-fi? Why did I do it? Well, for several reasons – firstly, because vampires are such a good metaphor for various persecuted minority groups targeted by overbearing bullies, and secondly – because believe it or not, there actually is a vampire subculture – although not quite the sort of vampires we see in fiction. It’s not the first time I’ve used vampires either – readers who may have already seen “Life Signs” will know – although that’s more in the line of horror than is Quantum! As a matter of interest, I drew on the time I spent interacting with the international vampire community/subculture for inspiration. You can do your own research about the subculture if you’re interested, there’s plenty of material on the internet about them.
As you might conclude, living a life like this in the shadows – and being part of a closed community, makes keeping secrets something of a necessity. Even more so when one lives in a space overlapping between more than one community, and interact with people who were not only unaware of the existence of their community, but who mustn’t become aware of it… Otherwise, there might be fairly dire consequences to follow… such as the aforementioned personal challenge.
Socially, these vampires are not all that different from their non-vampire neighbors, and the politeness and niceties of vampire culture don’t seem all that different to mundane families. ‘Remember to eat all your greens.’ parents would tell their children – or in this case, reds etcetera. Marla de Bris, one of the vampires we meet first in Quantum’s “Prodigal Sun”, (Lirian Nimah being the first, in “Death By Vampire”) is 20 years old, pushing 200 – virtually a teenager by her people’s standards. She’s introduced as being one of Danielle Grauffis’s closest friends, although as the story progresses into “High Steaks” and beyond, more than mere friendship is implied. Danielle, like 99.9% of Humans at this point, is unaware of the existence of vampires – which underlines the major feature of life as a vampire – hiding one’s true self in order to remain safe from persecution by those who wouldn’t understand. This paradigm holds true for many kinds of people in the real world – and also in Quantum.
Marla and Danielle meet at Atro City University, where Marla has started studying again. Many vampires indulge in studies and the pursuit of knowledge, either to better themselves, or to while away the endless stretch of days. It gives Marla the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, for one thing – and for another, it gives her a chance to make new friends to replace some of the old ones. To vampires, mundanes don’t last very long, after all. They would be around for a few years of partying and fun, and then they lose interest and want to get married, settle down and make babies – and before they know it, they’d got all old and wrinkly, past their expiry dates and are no fun at all anymore.
While there are so many vampires living secretly among the Human inhabitants of Deanna, they also interact and relate to each other as a community. They’re organized – and they have to be you see, because that’s how they stay hidden. The community is governed by a cultural council led by a mixture of volunteers who rose to prominence in the community, and elected representatives who are the influencers and brains, eyes and ears of the community. The council works to represent the best interests of the vampires living on Deanna – and as usual, the priority for the Council is to maintain secrecy – the Humans shouldn’t know of their existence. Related to this primary goal of secrecy is the matter of feeding. Vampires need blood – and where better to obtain it without any odd questions being asked, than via a distribution network operated from the city’s blood bank?
The Blood Bank, near the center of Atro City, is at the center of the vampire’s operations. The Council meets in a suite of offices on the top floor, and although stylish and airy in appearance, much of the five floor building is reinforced and designed to be used as a bunker of sorts. Beneath it, there’s a basement – a rather extensive, deep basement, intended for vampires of Deanna to take refuge in, in time of trouble. It’s here where the Resistance is formed and this is their base of operations.
Marla de Bris is in an influential position, because an old friend of her family – whom she calls Uncle Vernon – is a member of the Council, and he draws on her plenitude of experience in various different fields.
Vampires are very long-lived and patient. They sit in the shadows – or even in plain sight – and watch. The Council has spies and eyes and ears everywhere on Deanna – and when the events described in “Prodigal Sun” and “High Steaks” begin to unravel and the colony is overthrown – hijacked by a domestic terrorist group – the vampire community finds itself in a unique position where it’s well-placed to make a difference in the affairs of Human-kind. The fascist Deannan Service League has a list of ‘undesirables’ it wishes to destroy on Deanna – the usual suspects – up to an including vampires! Coming to the aid of the deposed Terran governor and his hastily recruited militia just as the storm clouds of civil war gather, would be to the mutual benefit of the vampire community as well!
Marla de Bris is sent as an envoy to make their offer to the Governor – and to reveal the existence of vampires to him in order to convince him of their sincerity. This is no small step – but it also opens the way to the beginning of a crucial strategy for the loyalists to strike back at the fascists. While the loyalist militia (including the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club) are waging open war against the Republican Army outside the cities, the vampire underground will form a resistance inside the cities – forcing the enemy to fight on two fronts!
The Vampire Underground will also assist in hiding refugees who are on the D.S.L.’s list of ‘undesirables’, and helping them get to safety.
In Quantum, these vampires are faster and stronger than non-vampires, and their senses are much sharper. They don’t burn in sunlight, although it is blindingly bright to them, weakens them, and causes headaches and nausea etc. They definitely don’t sparkle – and here’s the best part – they have fangs!
You could say that in Quantum, vampires are some of the ‘good guys’ – at least most of them are. And as you see the story progressing through “Prodigal Sun”, “High Steaks” and the books yet to come, you’ll appreciate how vital their role is in saving the people of Deanna from a fate worse than taxes.
A little about “High Steaks“:
Troubled times had come to the small Terran Colony planet of Deanna – and having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) hadn’t made this quaint little world immune to bad things. After a shock assassination, the three largest cities on Deanna have been overrun by separatist troops and the former Governor has gone into hiding! The quirky little world seems about to be enveloped in a destructive civil war – replete with a supporting cast of heroes, villains, aliens, victims, perpetrators, volunteers, vampires, war veterans, space battles, bovine torpedoes – and a little time travel on the side.
“High Steaks” is the sixth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.