Life Inside The Coffin

This week on True Blood – Who the fuck is running Fangtasia? Is Chow sitting in Eric’s throne and mixing the drinks? And Arlene’s got problems more than Mikey because apparently all her kids are happy to sit outside the house and watch her and Terry burn to death. But it was the idea of the vampires as priests that really got me going. I mean, priests only work at night, right? Ooooh. They don’t? Wonder how many good Catholics said “Father, there seems to be blood coming out of your ears.” Stupid show.

This post is a lot of speculation, mainly because it’s cobbled together from little bits and pieces of information. It’ll be interesting as an exercise, to bring it all together. Mainly because this is the first time I’m actually putting it together, on the page. It’s kinda a companion piece to my mainstreaming post – about why it is that Eric is the poster child for mainstreaming, and this I hope goes some way to explaining why all the regular vampires we see try to mainstream.

Every so often, I’ll read a story about pre-Revelation vamps, and sometimes people ask me questions by PM about pre-Revelation. I think I live half of my identity through random PMs. Sookie doesn’t get a lot of information about pre-Revelation vampire society – that’s one thing Bill always keeps pretty schtum about, and he’s my go-to-guy for that sort of exposition. If one were to wait for Eric to reminisce about anything in the past, it’d be one sentence or two, and not particularly informative. But Bill keeps quiet about what it’s like to be a vampire – he always hearkens back to his human life. But there are little edges that give us a hint.

Firstly, one of the things that I always appreciated about CH’s work is that she doesn’t make the vampire world glamorous. When I was teenager, I read Anne Rice. As anyone who’s read them knows, these are vampires swanning around New Orleans in velvet embroidered waistcoats and extremely rich clothes. Being that Louisiana is one of the poorest states of the US, that wouldn’t stand out at all, right? Lol – of course it would. You’d be noticing the dude in the handtooled velvet and following him to mug him as soon as possible, and it would lead vampires to being outed because they wouldn’t take being mugged. He wouldn’t exactly blend with the crowd, now would he?

So as much as other people despise that Quinn wears genie pants, and Sookie wears practical clothes, and Eric wears polo shirts, while Bill wears khakis, I actually appreciate it. From a criminological viewpoint, it does not glamorise violence – and make out that killers are cool guys. Instead of universally wonderful and romantic beings wearing velvet waistcoats and killing filthy humans – it’s grounded in some relatively grubby reality. After all, no one thinks Charles Manson is cool – but vampires are often seen as cool guys, as are the people they are with. I have to say that I appreciate the non-glamour look of CH’s supernatural world as a meta-theme. It’s part of my real experience – there’s fucking nothing cool about being a killer.

The other part of it is the sheer practicality of their dress. If you live in Northern Louisiana, then if you stand out as a vampire, you should make sure that you blend in with your clothes. That’s includes buying a cheesy Corvette like you’re one of the Dukes of Hazzard, wearing garish belts, jeans and t-shirts. It does not include bringing the general tone of the humans up to your standard. Not that I think Eric could give much of a shit about fashion – after all, he’s seen so many that it’s all relative to him, and I doubt he’s so into the commercialist lifestyle that he cares to be cool. He’s a thousand year old vampire for goodness sake. If he wants to slob around in tracky-daks then he can, and no human is going to tell him he’s doing it wrong unless they’d like to be glamoured into wearing tracky-daks even at their own wedding.

Vampires have been out of the closet only a couple of years, and I don’t see any reason why they’d suddenly get fashion conscious, particularly when so many of their surrounding humans don’t care. Vampires are valued because of what they are, not what they dress as. Fangbangers are happy to romanticise them to their heart’s content, not based on one fashion house pronouncement. Contrary to some of the vapid activities of young women these days, not everyone thinks designer stuff is always worth it, and always gorgeous. If you think that, then get into your best designer gear and trot along to a small town – watch the locals flock to your *snicker* magnificence. You’ll know how magnificent they find you when you get your first contemptuous sneer.

So vampires in the closet wouldn’t have any reason to dress in velvet waistcoats unless that was the style of the time and it helped them camouflage themselves among humans. They wouldn’t have big grand old houses either – you know, the type that needs human staff and such. No point in having a house that doesn’t need things like food and toilet paper and having a staff to clean the dust off the surfaces. Every little bit of contact with vampires would lead to more abilities to be exposed, so they’d keep most humans at arm’s length for the most part, not invite them into their lair. Pre-Revelation times, I bet that vampires didn’t make much mess. Probably the biggest mess would be washing and towels. They have these nifty things called drycleaners, and before that, you could send your laundry out to be laundered if you didn’t care to put it through the mangle yourself or have your human do it.

No bottles of True Blood, but you’d have a day man or day woman, but they don’t need to be glamoured. Even though vampires haven’t been out of the coffin for all that time, according to Eric, they didn’t tend to do it all via glamouring:

“Vampires used to pass willing humans around,” Eric explained. “When our existence was secret, it was convenient to have a human lover, to maintain that person…that is, not to take too much blood….and then, when there was no one left who wanted her – or him,” Eric added hastily, so my feminist side would not be offended, “that person would be, ah, completely used.”I was disgusted and showed it. “You mean drained,” I said.
Dead as a Doornail, pp. 213-214

So if you’re wondering why none of Eric’s pre-Revelation girlfriends have turned up, that’s cause they’re all dead. Either Eric passed them on to someone else, and they were eventually killed; or he killed them himself. After all, vampires have been successfully in the coffin for many centuries. You don’t half-arse it if you really want to keep a secret – and after all, soon after this, Eric likens humans to cows. Eric never talks about the inherent value of human life, and happily kills humans without a pang of guilt. Anyone who thinks his pre-Revelation girlfriends survived to go on and have happy lives and many babies…ha…you chump.

You’ll notice that Eric said “willing humans” meaning that he’s been with fangbanger types for a damn long time. For as long as humans have been around there have been people into all kinds of unconventional things. Perversity and fetishes are not something new to the modern age – it would have been easy to pair up with a masochist or a necrophiliac or the same sorts of people currently drawn to vampires. There’s no need to glamour a willing human, because they’re there because of their kink. They’d probably be pretty secretive and somewhat alienated from their community because of their proclivities, and if they turned up dead, people would just reason that it was coming no matter what because of what the human was into, shake their heads and move on.

Part of pre-Revelation would be making sure that vampires took care of their humans – while they were with them, and immediately when they didn’t want them and no one else did, they’d have to kill them. It wouldn’t be a case of safer to leave them alive – because it isn’t. That’s the mindset of the human – the mindset of vampires is “burn it down and salt the earth”. They didn’t keep it secret just by chance. Considering how long vampires have been around, there would be tales of their love affairs passed down from mother to child, and soon tales of vampires would be everywhere. Pre-television, gossip and stories were the form of entertainment. So you can bet your bottom dollar that Eric fucked a human until he was fed up and wanted something different, passed them on or killed them.  He wouldn’t have glamoured them.

One of the things that is a feature of vampires in CH’s books is that they don’t use glamour very much – it’s used far more in fanfic as if it’s a solution. It isn’t actually a solution, because there’s nothing sure about using glamour – not to keep vampires all secret. In Dead as a Doornail, Tara breaks free of Mickey’s glamour to get them the hell out of Merlotte’s and away from Sookie’s probing questions (and thus to protect Sookie from Mickey’s attentions). Ginger indicates she’s glamoured in Dead Until Dark by screaming her head off when asked probing questions. Not only that, but Frannie broke out of her glamour during the Vegas takeover. Lest anyone think that it’s just because all of these vampires fail at glamour, Eric doesn’t seem to have a problem with the quality of it:

He examined Frannie for a minute, nodded in approval, and
then stood to the side of a living room window to look out.
From Dead to Worse, p. 166

Glamour just isn’t reliable enough – not when you can’t trust that a human you glamoured broke out of that glamour during the daytime, and has given the townspeople a good approximation of where they think you sleep, and they bring you fresh torches and stakes for lunch because you broke their heart. It’s not as if vampires value the human cows they’re using, so they wouldn’t even consider the sanctity of life argument. It’s simple – you don’t want to be outed, you kill the person who could potentially out you when you’re done with them. When Sookie talks about vampires using people for hundreds of years, that’s exactly what she means – using them and then throwing them on the heap of bodies you have amassed.

Of course, Sookie is a little unusual – more unusual than your ordinary human – and so she doesn’t get treated like so many of Eric’s past girlfriends:

I’ve had the blood of many women. I’ve had almost utter control over them.
But they never drank mine.

Dead and Gone, p. 178

Heh – while I’m here, isn’t it funny that Sookie catches shit for thinking about Bill in bed, but if Eric mentions centuries of women, it’s totally fine? Between using glamour and drinking their blood, vampires would be able to manipulate humans – and I doubt that they chose intelligent ones to live with. With one vampire drinking their fill of blood, they’d be iron deficient and under par most of the time. It’s not as if they’d need to worry about keeping the human alive – after all – the human’s eventual fate is death anyway. Perhaps a vampire would eat random people off the street occasionally, but that would be a break from the boredom. Since glamour doesn’t hold conclusively, and forever, you’d want to keep the blood drinking from random humans to a minimum – prey on the drunk, the drugged, the mad. It wouldn’t make up the complete vampire diet – there would always have to be stocks at home.

You wouldn’t need much else going on. They eat the human, and the human takes care of their needs, and provides good camouflage for the vampire in question. People would notice the lights on at weird hours of the night, but most neighbours don’t worry about that. I’ve yet to have a mob with pitchforks turn up to my door and demand I prove I’m human in some sunlight – and my lights are on at weird hours. In previous times that would have been more noticeable, and thus, a vampire wouldn’t be best served to turn on lights and such – and luckily they don’t need to. They also wouldn’t have people around to their house to notice the weirdness either. It would be unlikely that a vampire would let that human larder live with them either – they’d come and visit, and in the daytime, they’d find somewhere else to sleep.

It would also mean that vampires would try to stay away from social areas, where people are in control of themselves. So they might favour bars, where drunkenness can be used as a shield, but pre-Revelation, vampires would have both had no reason to go into a diner or restaurant, but also not want people to notice that they’re not drinking or eating anything. They can’t convincingly glamour the whole room at will, and it’s dangerous unless they want to slaughter the entire restaurant full of people. It would take some conceivable reason to go into a diner or restaurant too – there are plenty of places to hunt humans that are easier.

They wouldn’t want to go to a hotel, being that they’re not secure, and vampires don’t sleep at night. We can see that they miss out on some essential bits of being in our culture as a result, as Pam shows us:

Since there wasn’t a whole lot going on at that hour,
several jacketed young men made a beeline for the Murano.
Pam said, “What are they doing?” Her fangs popped out.
“Chill. They’re just going to valet-park the car,” I said,
proud that I knew something Pam didn’t.
Two Blondes, Death’s Excellent Vacation, p. 12

Please note while reading that PAM DOES NOT OWN A MINIVAN. That’s True Blood. But that shows just how much of social interaction is absent from vampire lifestyles. They are not used to interacting with humans in such a manner. I’d say that they’re not familiar with a whole heap of little services and interactions. Most vampires would take them as possible attacks, as Pam does here. Without Sookie there, Pam would have been aggressive to those valets, and the valets wouldn’t have said boo about it, and Pam never would have stopped to find out how wrong she got it.

You can see that some of the things vampires are unfamiliar with are indicative of their problems with socialising. For example, Eric wouldn’t have a repertoire of too many common sayings, merely because almost all of his conversation would be with cow people or vampires pre-and post-Revelation, neither of which lend themselves to someone saying “Does that ring any bells?” In a conversation with a cow person you intend to kill when the affair is over, you’re not likely to be as freely conversing with them as you would with someone else. It’s highly unlikely that the pre-Revelation fangbanger had anything much interesting to chat about. After all, there has always been masochists and piquerism fetishes in human history – and that pairs up nicely with vampire’s needs. People with fetishes aren’t interested in the person they’re with per say, so that would cause a break. Someone being with you because you’ve got fangs is something vampires have had to put up with for a long time.

I don’t think that you’d do a lot of conversing either with other people, the ones who aren’t your cow staff. Or have the opportunity to with non-fangbangers (fangbangers aren’t wholly interested in conversation):

“No fear, no hurry, no condemnation. I don’t have to use my glamor
to make you hold still, to have a conversation with you.”

Dead Until Dark, p. 50

Ordinary humans are shit-scared of vampires. The ones with fetish behaviour get off on the idea of vampires – they’re abnormal, not normal. So they don’t react the way an ordinary person would. Even if they don’t rush off, it takes them a while to accept a vampire into their midst and be comfortable with them. Just like Bill became more familiar over the course of months he was in Bon Temps. Bill became familiar with the people of Bon Temps because he socialised with them – going to the local bar, dating a local girl. But pre-Revelation, he wouldn’t have wanted to go to a small town bar and let the locals get to know him because that would have been too dangerous. If he ‘dated’ a local girl, he’d keep it secret or prey on one that wouldn’t be noticed when she went missing.

So vampires would be largely unfamiliar to the population, and the population would probably be a little afraid, even if they weren’t aware of why they were afraid. If people are scared of you, they don’t tend to engage in casual conversation. Even before the Revelation, I don’t think humans would feel completely safe around vampires – there’d be the whole predator vibe that people would get. They’d be scared without knowing why – just like they notice there’s something different about Sookie without her being out of the closet. Not many people greet complete strangers who give off a weird vibe – they stay away from them.

It’s not as if vampires are completely normal looking like humans, and can pass in society – not enough to socially engage with humans anyway. Sookie can see vampires glow, but that’s not the only thing that gives them away as different from humans:

The canines only extend when vamps are excited by blood, battle,
or sex, but they’re noticeably sharp even when they’re retracted.

Fairy Dust, A Touch of Dead, p. 12

Not only that, but the vampires are often spoken about having “purely white” around their pupils. There is a noticeable difference in their faces. Combine that with the fact that they don’t blink very much, and tend to go immobile, don’t breathe, yeah, they wouldn’t be able to sustain long term socialisation without humans cottoning on to what they were, or at the very least that they were different and thus frightening. Their faces are different from ours – sharper and with pointy bits, and they are almost like statues at times.

As well, vampires are forced to hide some of their abilities in human company – in a world that got fuller over time. Eric wouldn’t be able to risk flying in built-up areas merely because that would give him away. You can’t glamour random people on the ground if they happened to look up and see a man flying. Sure, you could leave it to people to rationalise it away, but you’d keep it to a minimum. Eric would need to go out into the country, or look around furtively before he took flight. Same with Bill levitating – he couldn’t just do that whenever he felt like it.

On top of that there are universal things about vampires. One of the things they wouldn’t be able to do is cry in front of humans – that would instantly out them. Luckily, they’ve had the shit traumatised out of them by their vampire lifestyles, so they don’t tend to do much crying, but they wouldn’t be able to have any sort of freedom to just be themselves and interact with humans – who do find things to cry over occasionally. They would have to be conscious of their movements at all times and always on the ball when it comes to human interaction, making sure that they don’t move in a way that would indicate their difference. Not just moving fast, but other things as well:

I noticed Pam was twirling unself-consciously in her own dance, her unnaturally
strong and limber body bending and twisting in ways human bodies couldn’t.
Dead as a Doornail, p. 35

There’s a whole heap of movement that is natural for vampires that isn’t natural for humans. Pre-Revelation Pam wouldn’t be able to do that – dance unself-consciously. She would need to be constantly constraining her abilities. Then there’s all the other things too – the fast reflexes or the unnatural reactions to traumatic events. If a vampire was injured in public, they’d be outed because one cut would just heal instantly.

So I think for their own comfort, vampires wouldn’t want to socialise with humans so much. It would be all about being alert to danger when you’re interacting with humans, and that’s not a relaxing chat with friends. Most of the time you’re supposed to be interacting, you wouldn’t be able to just relax and have a conversation. Vampires would interact, and constantly worry about being hunted. Since they’re in bars, and dark places that camouflage that they’re different, there wouldn’t be much conversation to be had. They wouldn’t want anyone to notice their white skin and cool flesh either.

It’s my personal thinking that while out-of-the-closet vampires look white, this is because they no longer have to stuff themselves with blood in order to get their colour up to specifications. When Bill and Eric kill those weres and humans in Sookie’s lounge room, they end up looking almost human, and for Bill, sunburnt. I would imagine before the Revelation that their feeding habits were greater. But being well fed is probably not a particularly good thing for vampires. Think about it – are you going to go to battle after your Christmas feast? Nope. You’re going to be lazier. So it’s strategically sensible not to glut yourself on food if there’s a hint of a battle, even if it helps you pass among humans. That would be an occasional thing.

So no politically minded and cautious vampire would be silly and hedonistic and jam pack himself full of blood on a nightly basis. Not only can one not sustain that sort of feeding without notice among the human population, but it’s not good for being on guard. Not to mention that if for every vampire, they have to kill one human a night, weellll…we humans just don’t breed that fast. That’s stupid predator behaviour. You can’t actually find more humans to eat, and then it’s time to starve to death, because as far as we know, NASA and other space travel agencies are not composed of vampires. We at least are trying to do something about our own propensity to eat ourselves out of house and home. Vampires are doing jack, so they should control themselves and control their population unless starving to death appeals to them.

It’s my thinking that a lot of vampire behaviour before the Great Revelation was taken up by interacting with other vampires, rather than with humans. A vampire is a predator, and so he’d make sure that he was patrolling the edge of the area he has staked out for hunting in. Making sure other vampires don’t encroach on his feeding grounds. I’m sure that occasionally vampires would band together and expand their hunting grounds, when they were evenly matched with opponents, and that they moved. But you’d have to come into an area and kill another vampire and take his stuff. You wouldn’t do it in a place where a vampire had previously been killed, because the humans would be on watch for a while.

While Vampires First is something vampires live by, the unspoken code is This vampire first. Vampires don’t live in a society where they’re always nice to eat other – even the territories that they currently have are squabbled over. One kills another and annexes that territory, and there’s a new predator over the same old hunting grounds. I’m sure that sheer boredom would lead vampires to try to amass territory, just like they amass money. I’d say that vampires lived rather nomadic existences, in the shadows, even if they stuck to one area, they would need to check that area, be aware of who was using it and coming in and out of it.

Vampire contact with a great many humans would have been minimal. Eric might have owned a bar, but he would only check in there, to the back room, or through his factor, rather than patrol it constantly like he does Fangtasia. He wouldn’t actually be able to be hands-on running things because too much contact with too many humans could lead to getting outed, and you want to minimise killing (for escaping detection, not out of kindness). Being out of the closet means that as Sookie says:

And yet, they enjoy the openness of the new order, getting to
stride around being themselves, with the right not to be staked.

All Together Dead, p. 269

That means that before, vampires were constrained – not free. It’s not as if there was a bar where Eric just revealed what he was – that implies that things used to be different. Many vampires didn’t have a clue what a vampire was before they were one. It’s not as if they noticed the weirdly white stranger with bizarre habits, and then cottoned on what they were now. Pam had to have it explained to her, and I doubt very much that Eric knew what he was when he was turned, or Bill.

As for whether they’d have anything to do with Sookie is an altogether different manner. That’s the majority of questions that I get – whether or not Sookie would be with Eric pre-Revelation. It’s unlikely. When torture is available to you, you don’t need someone to help you mainstream. It’s not as if they would bother to get her into a casino to make money for them – they can glamour it out of other humans if they want it that badly. They’re also unlikely to be involved with business to a high degree.

The only thing that you could actually use a telepath for – that’s if you didn’t kill her the instant you found out she couldn’t be glamoured (as a risk too far – which is highly likely) then you’d be using them for dangerous work indeed – namely to read the day people of the other vampires, so that you could make your way up the ranks of vampire politics. If Eric was the type to need or want to get his hands on Sookie pre-Revelation, she’s got a life expectancy of a fruit fly.

Indeed, you couldn’t really use threat to control Sookie – she can leave during the day, and a telepath needs a gentle touch. So there’s a higher need to get that risk out of the way. A vampire who’s willing to make their way up the ranks doesn’t report his telepath to anyone else (because he’ll want to use her to defeat them) so she’d have impunity to burn his house to the ground if you threatened her life or her Gran’s life. With no use, and a great deal of risk, there’s no reason to keep or get a telepath. The most likely thing to do is kill her, just like Eric did with the psychic he met once. She’s dead too. Eric would have to have a really good reason to keep Sookie alive, and since he had to threaten her to work for him in the books, post Revelation, she has extra leverage of outing him…which other vampires wouldn’t take too kindly to.

Mainstreaming only looks unpalatable if you’re thinking that the other options are the same with no drawbacks like TrueBlood and other synthetic bloods. But clearly, it would have been a lonely existence, where you were shut out for the most part, forced to live constantly on edge – fearing humans that they could out you and fearing other vampires because they could steal your hunting grounds for themselves.

So if you’ve wondered about why vampires came out of the coffin, this is the reason. It’s closer to a resemblance of a normal human life, with more social interaction and freedom to be who you are with everyone around. The right, as Sookie points out, to walk around and not get staked. The reality of what it was like when they were in the coffin – shut off for the most part from human commerce – is why mainstreaming is something a lot of vampires want to do as I’ve mentioned before. There isn’t any sinister reason for vampires to come out and let people know who they are other than wanting to be included in society. Being out of the coffin is a whole lot less stressful than life inside the coffin.