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The Anatomical Vampire

This week we are joined by virologist Dr Roland Lambert from the School of Industrial Chemistry in our very own Paris. The young doctor provides an intriguing dissertation of a popular urban myth – but is there more to the Vampire than legend?

-Henri de Parville, ed.

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The year 1905 has witnessed an almost unprecedented tally of disease fatalities. Influenza, pneumonia, cholera and tuberculosis remain the blight of damp suburbs and dense housing everywhere from Africa to America, accounting for 34% of all deaths. Our own beloved Paris has lost 21 700 of her citizens this year alone to infectious disease. By December’s end that number will be over 29 200.

But even as we strive for cleaner drinking water, improvements in treatment, and limitation of disease spread, there rises a new enemy, one not seen on these streets in centuries. One which stalks in daylight and kills in darkness. A silent, violent killer. One whose human form disguises the appetite of a monster.

I speak, of course, of the Vampire.

Through use of a field agent, the indispensable M. Hannibal du Noir, and my own research in the laboratory of infectious disease, I have spent this past year compiling all known facts on the creature known as Vampire. You will notice I say facts. All too often the vehicles of urban legend scuttle fact and throw fate to the wind. My model is built from the ground up: only that which can be reliably observed has been included.

What, then, is known? To begin with, Vampires are real. They are among us. They are hunting us.

They operate in packs, most likely family groups. Two such family groups have been observed in France. The first from the south, consisting of a dozen or so members who bear a strong familial resemblance in their dark hair, dusky skin and thin faces. The second flow between the borders of France and Germany on the Rhine. This intelligent band have disguised themselves among soldiers and citizens both, and so prove nearly impossible to describe. However, conservative estimates put their numbers at thirty.

A dozen, thirty – perhaps forty two Vampires in France. It is of no apparent concern for a population of 38 million. Thus my second point: their appetite.

Vampires are obligate haemovores. They must feed on blood, and have not been observed to supplement their diet with any other form of protein. Blood, as Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed can affirm, contains very little nutritious content. To sustain itself, the individual Vampire must drink upwards of 20 litres per sitting. He will do this four or five times in a week.

Pause to consider that number. 100 litres of blood to sustain a single vampire for a single week. That would empty the veins of twenty adult humans! Suddenly even conservative estimates show that 840 French men, women and children (and they are often women and children, as the Vampire is a coward) per week must lose their lives. Within a year with these fiends will strip 43, 680 French souls from their bodies. And as we are unprepared, in denial of their very existence, nothing is being done. Should these creatures reach our city, next year our death toll will reach 120 000.

I urge you, reader, to subscribe yourself to La Nature. M. de Parville has been gracious enough to offer me space in his journal to detail to you these creatures and their behaviours. It is my hope they will educate you on the means of their detection and in the protection yourself, and your loved ones.

If survival is your inclination, I will join you in a fortnight.

Dr. Roland Lambert, Head of Research, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, School of Industrial Chemistry of the City of Paris.

Dr. Roland Lambert is acting Assistant Head of Research in the  laboratory of infectious diseases for the School of Industrial Chemistry of the City of Paris.

***Though he doesn’t know it yet, Roland is about to star in my upcoming novella, My Father’s Death, out October 31st. Until then he’ll be here. How exciting~ ***

A Very Odd Time: Researching a Slovakian Dracula

For some reason, I love writing historical fiction. Or I must, because it keeps happening. At the moment I’m up to the elbows in research for the semi-sequel to The Vampires of Bifurquer Veine Marais, set in France in 1905. The semi-sequel, The Gourmet (or maybe The Gourmet’s Curse? Or The Orange Duck? Not sure yet.) starts that same year in Paris, as Vamps protagonist Hannibal du Noir takes an interlude to research his next job.

But it’s not du Noir who’s starring in this one. Rather, du Noir is staying with a friend, Monsieur Roland Lambert, a chemist. Lambert has heard rumours of a cursed chef. This chef, the Gourmet, is the star attraction of Orava Castle Hotel in the far north Carpathian Mountains (modern day Slovakia) and his cuisine is renowned. His curse? Well, some  may say it’s a blessing: anyone who criticises the Gourmet’s cooking is killed or maimed in a horrible way.

Intrigued, and thinking there may be something supernatural behind the deaths, Lambert urges du Noir to travel to the Carpathians to investigate. Du Noir isn’t interested; rather, he suggest Lambert go himself. If Lambert wants to solve the mystery of the cursed chef he has no choice but to agree … and confront the horrors of Orava Castle alone.

I’m chomping at the bit to get started on this story. It’s been a fortnight of Slovakian cooking, Slovakian castles, Austria-Hungary history, sensationalist horror (think Dracula) and the physics of falling. If it all sounds good to you, here are some pictures to further whet your appetite.

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Firstly, Paris fashion. This is Place de Louvres on 4th June 1906.

Paris, 3rd June 1906.

Paris, 3rd June 1906.

Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 5th June 1906.

Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 5th June 1906.

Pre-WW1 Europe.

Pre-WW1 modern Europe. Note the huge territory included in the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Slovakia is at the north, bordering Poland.

An ethnicity map from 1910, clarifying the layout of Austria-Hungary.

An ethnicity map from 1910, clarifying the layout of Austria-Hungary. The Slovaks are in brown.

Finally something we can understand! The lovely, intimidating Carpathian Mountains.

Finally something we can understand! The lovely, intimidating Carpathian Mountains.

An artist's impression of our main setting, Orava Castle.

An artist’s impression of our main setting, Orava Castle.

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Orava Castle today. In 1868 the castle was turned into a public museum. My alternate history turns it into a hotel instead. Ah, the corruption of greed. As a side note, much of the footage of the 1922 film ‘Nosferatu’ was filmed here. I thought it was quite fitting for another Dracula rip-off.

Bryndza pirohy, traditional Slovak cuisine. Bryndza, sheep's cheese, is one of the most important ingredients in Slovak cooking.

Bryndza pirohy, traditional Slovakian cuisine. Bryndza, sheep’s cheese, is one of the most important ingredients in Slovakian cooking.

Another sheep's cheese dish, and Slovakia's national dish, bryndzove haulsky.

Another sheep’s cheese dish, and Slovakia’s national dish, bryndzove haulsky.

This country has some seriously delicious desserts. This is buchty na pare, a steamed plum dumpling dusted in crushed poppy seeds and sugar.

This country has some seriously delicious desserts. This is buchty na pare, a steamed plum dumpling dusted in crushed poppy seeds and sugar.

And finally, here are two very odd pictures that appeared during research.

The first is this photo, taken in 1916, of a suffragette on a scooter.

The first is this photo, taken in 1916, of a suffragette on a scooter.

And then there's this much weirder news piece for the Paris Baby Raffle. I can't help but think adoption was much easier a century ago.

And then there’s this much weirder news piece for the Paris Baby Raffle. I can’t help but think adoption was much easier a century ago.

So that’s been some of my adventures in historical research. There’s a bit more to do, and then, yippee! The writing can finally begin. It’s true what they say: writing is the easy part. It’s the research and planning that takes major brain work.