Thursday, October 31, 2013

Control, Alt, Delete By John Steiner

John Steiner is today's guest on The Roses of Prose. Take it away, John!

Today, because of computer lingo we refer to it as a “reboot,” but new beginnings is very much in line with Buddhist thought and the wisdom of Jedi Master Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Stories drawn from fantasy, mythology, religion and science fiction are subject to constant reinterpretation. Vampires went from strict elements of horror to become one of the hottest selling themes of romance to date. The market is past saturation with paranormal romances. And as someone who sees glittery nightcrawlers in the same light as pedophiles, I had considered my own reboot of vampires before I knew what Twilight was.
When I began Squad V I was considering the realistic consequences of vampirism as a disease. Just how would people respond if they knew there were addicts to hemoglobin who, at the cellular level, take issue with sunlight? Chances are we would not classify vampires in the same light as ethnic groups, religions or carriers of HIV. The nature of immortality contingent on taking the life of others would fundamentally shift the social dynamic for every human being on Earth.
I had proposed that every civilization of the ancient and medieval past had reached the same conclusion. From there it was a matter of drafting vampire characters who reaffirmed the kill-on-sight reflex of these societies. However, I also wanted vampires to reflect real personalities with all their shades of gray. In the end what made vampires so frightening was their humanity.
Pathogenic Ribochondria Vector is the way I could explain the insertion of hundreds of long and complex genes into the human genome, thereby making the infection irreversible. Even the largest viruses couldn’t do that. And because of the traits granted by this unique disease vampirism, like sports, didn’t build a vampire’s character. No, it reveals who people would become if the limits of mortality and society had been lifted.
History is filled with once-great civilizations that rose to become near-immortal empires. Upon achieving that level of invulnerability from the outside such societies quickly became clouded and the heart of their founding principles shadowed by twisted interpretations. Classically, this took centuries to millennia. People don’t live that long.
Unless something allows them to.
Vampire immortality is invariably imperfect. They usually require the blood or life force of a victim. Their weakness or death under the light of the sun was added with the movies, though literature include many other Achilles heels to their supernatural power. And so there comes the selective pressure under which a vampire’s psyche evolves. Decades and centuries of survival fixation, honed by the knowledge that if they’re killed it will be by horrifically painful and destructive means.
What would you do, knowing that’s how you would check out? And then you find there are people out there who dedicate themselves to that purpose. Even without the power trip or hubris of immortality, or the predatory lifestyle of vampires, these driving forces would push otherwise moral people to extreme ends. Once that line is crossed their character is forever changed by what they’ve done. Imagine how much easier the second time is.
Squad V vampires are as much an ideology as a medical condition. In that sense, and for the realistic manner in which they’re dispatched, the first novel of the series is a metaphor of covert ops and counter-terrorism. I posed some tough questions and moral dilemmas about what limits are met or exceeded to defeat an enemy who sees no limits.
An entirely new way to look at vampires both as a policy matter and in terms of military tactics and protocol. With Squad V the goal was to forever change how readers see the vampire. To quote George A. Romero’s 1990 reboot of Night of the Living Dead, “They’re us and we’re them.”
The second book, Snowflake Girl was a sharp break from the first novel’s look at vampires. For one, it’s from the vampire’s point of view first and foremost. The central metaphor shifts toward one of misfortune and coping with dark turns of events in one’s life. I started on the premise that not all victims of violent sexual assaults become darlings of the media, for whom a candle is lit and torch carried until the perpetrator is brought to justice.
Instead, the main character survives the attack, is accidentally infected for having defended herself, and now runs the risk of being on Squad V’s strike order list. She has to flee from city to city. Each time she has to find work, get a place to live and deal with all the ordinary stresses of life along with staying off the radar of hardened covert operators.
For me this required a new beginning in thought. I’m a six foot, two inch tall man with two years martial arts background, once in the U.S. Army, and with a shockingly high pain threshold. So when I walk into an unlit parking lot I think nothing of it. But someone else, say a five foot, five woman? What must go through her head?
I had an easier time working out the psychology of alien civilizations than that of a woman in everyday life. I knew that hero stories draw upon classic archetypes, and so drafted one of my own to wrap the character around. Biology is one of the fields I’m strongest in, and the resources for that opened up a broad range of options. When you read Snowflake Girl you’re seeing the world through the eyes of a leopardess. With it comes a dash of emotional reactions based on my own background as the victim of physical assault on par with Abu-Ghraib. There are scenes written in Snowflake Girl that had me in tears.
For the baseline of Barer of the Ghost Nation, the third novel in the Squad V series, sorrow and trauma remain. Only now the tale is of a whole culture and people who were infected with lethal diseases and slaughtered down to the last woman and child. One man of this forgotten American Indian civilization remained, and so scarred by the experiences of the subsequent four centuries developed multiple personality disorder, which he hoped to conceal.
Thus was born the ideal duel use title that allowed me to overlay psychological analysis onto the traditions of indigenous peoples. The sole survivor believes he carries the ghosts of his people, and so strives to ensure he isn’t discovered. If found he risks losing the spirits of his nation to confinement in mental health facilities. A third beginning for what vampirism means in the real world; imperialism
Cultures that are invaded and defeated, one day find themselves in the shattered ruins of their own traditions and the rubble of the empire that later collapses around them. They then see a need to strengthen themselves, and rise from the grave of their past. Except to do this they borrow the ideals and institutions of empire for their security. A cycle of dysfunction is perpetuated into the next age. The empire never dies, and instead is given a new start and freshly wiped historical memory to rewrite as it sees fit.
The overarching theme of the Squad V series addresses yet another issue for which vampires stand in. We’re a species of more than seven billion medium sized omnivores. Predation, disease and our own sociopathic- sometimes psychopathic behaviors don’t even begin to compare to our birthrates. Yet nature always reacts to a new situation in ways that often surprise us. The fusion of predator, disease and murderous impulses of the mind meet their trivium, their three-way junction in the road with vampires.
When I one day return to writing the Squad V series there will be yet another reset of what the series means. Adaptation is the key to survival in changing ecologies. The vampire genre must and will evolve to fill new niches of audiences. As writers, we should challenge what readers believe they understood, and hope they see the world anew.

True horror is showing the audience what lines they never thought they would cross, and them convince them of the justification of doing precisely that.

Twitter: @JohnSteiner32

Blurbs for the Squad V series:

Squad V

In the decades following the second world war the United States created new agencies and departments to address a wide range of issues including intelligence, emergency response to disaster and disease as well as covert warfare both abroad and domestically. These converge on discovery of a new threat not only to the U.S. but to the fundamental nature of human society and physiology.
Quincy Barns, a former U.S. Army Ranger and CIA paramilitary operative, learns that not only are vampires real but there is a professional combat force trained and equipped to face the threat they pose. Once recruited into Squad Five Quincy faces enemies and inner dilemmas like nothing the hardened veteran can imagine.
Lulu PDF ebook purchase link:
Lulu HTML purchase link:
Barns & Noble purchase link:

Snowflake Girl, book two of the Squad V series.

Life is tough for a single woman in a new city. Find an apartment, pay bills, hunt for a job... and dodge paramilitary vampire hunters. Cecilia Freeland didn't ask for vampirism. All she did was fight to survive. But her life is forever changed. Alienated from society and the law Cecilia has to stay ahead of Squad Five.

Lulu PDF ebook purchase link:

Barer of the Ghost Nation, book three of the Squad V series.

Wanniukaga is the last of his people. No one else carries on his cultural traditions. It was the end of the world for the healer and spiritual leader. He is four hundred years old, and he is not alone. Afflicted by vampirism from those who slaughtered his nation, Wanniukaga is further burdened with the spirits of his people inside his mind.

Shattered by hard economic times St. Louis lays atop an older city whose people died out centuries ago, save for Wanniukaga who wanders its urban decay to this day. Locked in a struggle to preserve his people’s traditions and adapt to accelerating change the healer also must balance his many personalities. Two homeless teenagers befriend and help Wanniukaga through difficult times against other vampires responsible for the death of his people, religiously motivated amateur vampire slayers and hard hearted Squad Five operator stepping outside the rules of his unit.

Melange Books Author bio:

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

“Steadfast in the Red!”
”The living over the dead!”
-motto of Squad V

-John Steiner
P.S. Remember... Victor Night Walker is out there! He’s always out there.


Jannine Gallant said...

Some interesting thoughts about vampires. Good luck with your series!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I've not been a lover of vampire tales. I think my mom, who loved vampire movies, took me to see too many as a child. But your take sounds fascinating since it crosses over into a whole new style with thought provoking questions. Good luck, John!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Best of luck with your series. Unusual insight and a totally different angle.