Realistic Vampire?

So I just read Abe Lincoln; Vampire Hunter. It is a nice book for the beach.

So I am always kicking ideas for fiction around. Presume some small (several tens of thousands) number of vampires exist side-by-side with people. Presume the observe human culture and history in a very macro-sence. How could I use reasonable mumbo-jumbo to explain their existence?

How realistic a vampire can we build? If we presume a blood-borne virus, how far along the normal vampire symptoms can we get?
*Sensitivity to light
*Feeding on blood
*“Super speed”
*“Super strength” How strong can a human frame be? Can a virus or something help in any possible way?

Without resorting to magic or Ancient Astronauts I do not see how a realistic vampire would work.

What, you never read books about lawyers?

Have you ever read I Am Legend? Judging by your interest, you probably have, but I’m mentioning it anyway. It’s by…shit, I have forgotten his name. Anyway, whoever wrote it, a lot of the book covers the main character slowly teaching himself science and discovering the nature of vampirism. It covers stuff like infection, transmission, longevity, feeding on blood, fear of religious symbols, garlic, photophobia etc…I mention it because I have no ideas of my own. My head is a vaccuum as far as vampires are concerned. (Maybe I am one??)

Anyway, if you haven’t read it, do, because you might find it inspiring. :slight_smile:

It’s by Richard Matheson

Someday they’ll make a faithful adaptation.

No, I never read that. It was made into the Will Smith movie, right?

Did he explain the odd desire to overdress for all occasions?

I hope not. I can’t imagine a less cinematic book than I Am Legend. None of what makes it great would translate well to the screen (except for the ending I suppose) and the slow spots of the book would absolutely drag in a movie.

In Whitley Streiber’s The Hunger (a pretty bad book, although it has some clever ideas), vampires are a separate species that resembles but is distinct from Homo sapiens. They are naturally stronger and hardier than humans, and do not age after reaching physical maturity. They are not immortal, but they are hard to kill and can live for hundreds or thousands of years if they’re careful. They feed only on human blood but they do not need to do this too often, IIRC about once a week, so it seems that although their diet is limited they have very efficient metabolisms. They reproduce sexually in the usual fashion – a mommy and daddy vampire make little baby vampires – but the main vampire character in The Hunger has worked out how to pass vampire attributes onto humans via blood transfusion. The plot centers around the fact that this is not a perfect process, and after a few hundred years her once-human companions begin to age rapidly.

In The Hunger it’s strongly suggested that the vampires are a native Earth species that evolved long before modern humans, but in the sequel The Last Vampire they’re explicitly said to have immigrated to Earth from another planet long ago. They are not sensitive to sunlight (which is a fairly recent addition to vampire lore anyway), but traditionally they hunted at night because they have better night vision than humans. The invention of electric light made this mostly a moot point, though.

Vampires as a seperate species (as opposed to former humans) was also the basis for Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas.

How about a bloodborne virus combined with genetics? Genetics could get you the longevity, maybe even speed and strength. A virus could account for sensitivity to light. Or maybe you wouldn’t need a virus for that. Aren’t some people allergic to sunlight?

Your vamp doesn’t need to be superman – just faster and stronger than average. Like the campers being chased by a bear – you only need to be faster than one other camper.

Feeding on blood – I guess you need that so that the rest of humanity has something to fear from vampires, but to me, it’s always been the aspect that’s most difficult to understand. And if your vamps are vamps because of a bloodborne virus, why would ordinary human blood sustain them? Wouldn’t they need the blood of other vampires? Wouldn’t human blood dilute the effect of the virus?

That would be the easiest (and so probably the best) solution.

Regarding feeding on blood, one idea might be that blood is the best source for some vitamin or protein that vampires need but their bodies are unable to synthesize, similar to us humans needing vitamin C in our diet to survive.
Then you can also say that being vitamin P(as in Phlebotinum) deficient is what causes a vampire to have a craving for blood.

Interesting thread. I’m actually working on a vampire novel at the moment, and I started with a similar idea: how realistic can I make this?

The decision I reached was: not very. Most of the defining vampire attributes can’t be done “realistically” without it really coming across as wanky pseudoscience-ness.

I’ve decided instead to make them magical creatures and instead try to make the concepts of magic as “realistic” as possible.

I think when it comes to the blood drinking then magic is the best way to go, because it’s hard to come up with a satisfying scientific-sounding reason why they must drink blood and either how they survive on a fairly small quantity of blood or how they manage to get away with killing lots and lots of people. In real life then vampire bats are quite small and consume large amounts of blood relative to their body mass, so a vampire bat the size of an adult human would presumably need to drink a LOT of blood.

I suppose that would be another way to go with vampires as a separate species – they could be a humanoid species evolved from something like a vampire bat so they’d be nocturnal, would have the ability to echolocate, and might have wings and be able to fly. (Of course, they wouldn’t have arms then.) Or they could be genetically engineered human/vampire bat hybrids. Either way, you’ve still got the problem of how much blood they’d need to consume in order to survive.

So no supernatural explainations? Then I can see the following attributes having plausible [del]fanwanks[/del] explanations:
[li]longevity: Fairly easy to suppose. Add in regeneration (realistically slow regeneration, not Wolverine-style “cuts close while you watch”) and you have someone who can live almost forever if they don’t suffer unsurvivable injuy. That could feed into the whole stake in the heart or cut off the head deal: you have to make sure they’re really dead, a mere sword thrust is no guarantee.[/li][li]photosensitivity: Also pretty easy. I’d add that what vampires are really sensitive to is ultraviolet light, so not only do they have to avoid direct sunlight, they really don’t like fluorescent lighting very much. If the original Dracula could go out well covered on a cloudy day, this fits very much.[/li][li]strength and speed: Bone and muscle have an absolute mechanical limit, a vampire isn’t going to bend steel girders with his hands. But let’s say someone who remains muscular without the need for exercise and can summon hysterical berserker strength at will. Speed can be explained by someone who’s had centuries to hone their reflexes to shaolin levels.[/li][li]Drinking blood: the best rationalization I can think of is someone who can’t tolerate solid food and needs large amounts of iron to stay alive. Didn’t Dracula stoop to tapping dogs and cattle at some point? If you wanted, you could have your modern vampires be able to make due with artificial substitutes.[/li][li]Hypnotic powers: maybe pheromones combined with some chemical influence transferred when they bite someone.[/li][li]transforming themselves into animals or incorporeal form? Forget it.[/li][/ul]

There’s a theory that legends of vampires and werewolves were inspired by real-life diseases that make people go insane and avoid sunlight, such as rabies or porphyria.

How realistic are the vampires in The Strain? The idea there is that vampires are humans who are infected and mutate after being “bitten”. They develop a proboscis-like stinger which the feed through. They can be harmed by ultraviolet light and silver.
They completely change on the inside so that they basically just exist to feed and reproduce. And yeah, they’re taking over the world.

Vampires originally weren’t sensitive to sunlight. Bram Stoker has Dracula walking around in daylight (as depicted in the Francis Ford Coppola movie). It’s only because of the movies that we have vampires dissolving in sunlight – first with Nosferatu, then with the films Curt Siodmak wrote – Son of Dracula and House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. Vampires were Creatures of the Night, and at first were held to be revived by moonbeams.

Vampires were credited with impressive strength early in the 19th century (I suspect a legacyfrom george gordon, Lord Byron), but “super speed” is a relativel recen addition.

So you’re left with prevailingly night creatures that drank blood and lived a long time, and arguably had great strength. They also tended to stay in their coffins.
If you’re looking for a naturalistic explanation, have a look at Barber and Barber’s book Vampires, Burial, and Death

There’s actually an official (after a fashion) article with regards to this, from Cecil himself—What’s the minimum daily requirement of blood for a vampire?

One “scientific” example of vampires was The Empire of Fear by Brian Stableford. It portrayed vampirism as a sexually transmitted disease.

If you consider psycic powers to be more scientific than outright magic, there’s the vampire of Those Who Hunt The Night. They are infected by a virus or viruslike organism that over time “fossilizes” them. They are stronger and tougher than humans (and become even tougher and stronger over time) because over time their tissue is replaced by the “virus”; in analogy with how over time fossils are created as stone replaces dead tissue leaving behind something with the same structure but of different material. They are vulnerable to sunlight and silver because those re apparently toxic to the virus, or possibly just toxic to the human flesh/virus interface since they become more resistant over time. They appear to be powered by consuming the psychic energy of humans, killing the human in the process; their hypnotic powers are psychic in nature as well.

The vampires of Blindsight are wholly scientific. They are a separate species of hominid, superior in many ways; evolved to prey on humans, and are smarter than us among other advantages. They spend long periods in a form of hibernation (“dead”, to appearances) because humans are such a slow breeding species. However, they happened to evolve with a quirk in their visual cortex that caused them to suffer epileptic seizures upon seeing two straight lines intersecting; something that didn’t hamper them in prehistory but eventually rendered them extinct with the rise of civilization.