Laycock interviews

for those who haven’t realised yet, Laycock is the guy who wrote Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism. i still haven’t read it, due to not having acces to a credit-card or other means of ordering it online, and also because of being quite broke. but he’s given two more interviews recently, and each time i read those i want to read the book even more.

the first of the two is at the New Orleans Vampire Film Festival. note the following paragraph, i think it is essential to understanding the difference between “vampire-as-an-identity” and “vampire-as-a-condition”:

Neither real or lifestyle vampires claim to be undead or immortals.  The idea that a vampire could be a living person actually goes back to the 19th century and an occult group called the Theosophical Society.  The Theosophical Society traveled to India where they re-imagined European vampire legends by drawing on Indian ideas of vital energy and holistic medicine.  I have met Hindus and students of Chinese medicine who acknowledge that some people need to borrow or take energy from others to be healthy––they just don’t think of this as vampirism.

i am convinced that vampires-as-a-condition, both those who feed on energy and blood, have been around for as long as the human species has existed (several hundreds of thousands of years) and quite possibly could be found in our ancestor species. however, like Laycock says, even today the condition isn’t necessarily equated with vampires-as-an-identity. it is only in our post-modern society that we can construct an identity around the condition. i think it is also this difference between the condition and identity of vampires which fuels the discussion which sometimes rises in the communities around names.

he makes a similar argument in the bostonist, in an interview titled “We All Become Non-Vampires”. here he makes an analogy to how gay became an identity:

There used to be no concept of homosexuality. If you’re a man, you’re supposed to have sex with women; if you have sex with a man, then you’ve sinned. And if you have sex with lots and lots of men, then you’re a sinner. But you’re not “gay.” You’re not different from other people, you’re just bad.

Now we have this category of “gay,” and all of us start thinking of ourselves as “straight,” whereas before there was no concept of “straight.”

you see how this argument works; i personally really like it, because it allows us to talk about “vampire-as-an-identity” – and by consequence about vampire communities or subcultures – without having to answer the tricky question of what “vampire-as-a-condition” actually ontologically is. furthermore this construction of new identities is a subject which i find intensely interesting, both academically and personally (as donor, otherkin, and queer transperson).

on the other hand, i want to remark on his response (in the first interview) when asked whether he interviewed donors. it’s becoming more and more obvious that he didn’t have more than casual contact with donors, and clearly didn’t include us in his research. we end up with the same issue i remarked upon earlier (scroll down to where i mention the “true true blood” article), that we have people talking about donors but not actually letting donors speak for themselves.

this is even more astounding as the basic concept of his book is to go out and talk to the communities, instead of relying on second-hand accounts. it’s even more astounding as overlooking a part of the community is one of the basic errors in ethnography. one of the classic examples is a researcher noting in his logbook that “everybody left to go hunting, and we were left alone in the village. only the women and children remained” (i forget who exactly it was, and the quote is paraphrased, sorry). it also makes me a bit angry, because those people which are excluded in that “everybody” (the women and children, the donors, the queer people, the trans-folk) become non-people, become people who don’t have an identity. and that is frankly something i’ve dealt with long enough.

perhaps i’m being hasty in my opinion on how he treats donors; as i said, i haven’t yet been able to read Vampires Today. maybe the bookstore could order it for me, i think i’ll have to go check it out. but so far i unfortunately haven’t seen anything which contradicts my opinion.

i originally wanted to write something about the recent public chat held by the VVC, but as this has already grown much longer than i intended i’m going to leave that for a future post.

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