Political Animals and Dark Horses

Well, one positive thing I can say about the current rise of rape-as-romances is that while I’m busier in my life, I have more time to write my journal. There’s just only so many times I can read about Sookie getting beatings, being degraded, or Eric enjoying having sex with a crying or unwilling Sookie before I start to skim over that shit.  If you want to take a look at women’s internalised misogyny, and why Alan Ball conceptualises the show so badly, take a stroll through fanfiction and reviews right now. 10 or so rape-as-romances updated in the last month, and countless others wherein Sookie is abused to high heaven, and her violent rapist is given the excuse of being really, really sad. And yet they will feign surprise and disgust when AB switches out Eric for Bill and creates their story on screen in all its sucktastic glory. It works for Eric, so why not for Bill, right?

That means that I have had time to do some more pictures to vent my frustration, here and here. And of course, write this post on comparative supe politics. It was one of the things that tested highly on the poll, and I wasn’t feeling the one on emotional integrity. It was this quote that caused a lot of problems:

“Ah…the shifters have a library. We have records of our history
and what we’ve observed about other supes.”

Dead Reckoning, p. 36

So a few times people have mentioned that shifters aren’t organised, and therefore, what the hell are shifters doing knowing each other and stuff in general, having a library like dirty rotten liars. The minute there’s any sign of organisation from Sam, cue the conspiracy theories and he becomes some sort of shifter Mob boss with all these devious schemes. But really it’s for the value of “organised” and it’s in comparison to other supernaturals.

So here’s a quick visual of the hierarchy for vampires and weres, to help you along throughout this post:

So, let’s start with vampire politics. The list above is by no means exhaustive. According to CH, there is unseen leadership of the vampire hierarchy – a ruling body with rotating membership. We don’t meet them in the books, because obviously, they’re pretty high up. There’s a whole heap of procedures before any vampire gets there. Everything else we’ve heard about in the books.

I’m going to start with Bill – because he really does start the books without any vampire authority at all. In fact, Bill infers that that means that he has less rights, and can get less fair treatment from Eric:

“We’re a little organized,” he told me. “I was trying to think of ways to keep us safe from Eric.”
<snip>
“I knew if I were official, like Eric, it would be much more difficult for him to interfere with my private life.”
<snip>
“So I attended the regional meeting, and though I have never been involved in our politics,
I ran for an office. And through some concentrated lobbying, I won!”

Dead Until Dark, p. 290

Now, I’m inclined to believe Bill that he had to campaign to get his position, even though he lied big time about “little organised”. From the point of view of Sophie Anne, she’s not going to care about Bill’s concerns of sticking to Sookie’s side. She gave him an order to investigate Sookie and see if Sookie was a telepath she could use. She wouldn’t give much of a shit after that – Sophie Anne wasn’t vested in having Bill be Sookie’s handler. Sophie Anne wouldn’t hand out anything to try to keep Eric off Sookie’s case. After all – that’s the whole point to this telepathy business – working for vampires, making them money and helping them to commit fewer crimes. Eric and Bill did some wonderful gratis training for the Queen in using that telepath.

When it comes to Eric, he’s not all powerful and he has to follow the Queen’s rules. He’s not her equal – he does as he’s told. If the Queen decided that Sookie was coming in her retinue for Rhodes, so she was. Eric didn’t get to make the rules. In fact, Eric was distinctly afraid of Andre:

“I think she wouldn’t be so balky if I were the blood giver. Would that suit your purposes?
I’m under oath to you.” He bowed his head respectfully. He was being careful, so careful.
That made me more frightened of Andre.

All Together Dead, p. 176

So there goes the bullshit myth that there’s no one Eric’s afraid of. He was certainly very careful not to offend Andre in any way. He wasn’t barging around like FrankenEric, sneering at him. In fact, Sophie Anne and no doubt Andre are older than Eric – this is not True Blood with its contempt for women:

“I began my life in what become northern France about…one thousand, one hundred years ago.”
Definitely Dead, p. 235

Sophie Anne was older than Eric, and proposes that she grew up in Lotharingia. Even if she wasn’t his Queen, she can undoubtedly still kick his arse, and her children could too, no doubt. So even if Eric thought vampire hierarchy is just a notion and had a desire to do what he felt like, Book Sophie is older than Eric. He does what she tells him to. So if Eric used Sookie, he only did so by the Queen’s allowances – not because Bill was ‘guarding’ her on behalf of the Queen.

Being an Investigator put Bill into the vampire hierarchy, which meant that Eric had more reason to keep to his side of things – it gave Bill some sort of status. It was no longer some pointless vampire in his Area, but rather someone Eric had specific obligations to, rather than Bill just having obligations to his Sheriff:

That meant, Bill had explained, that anyone attacking Bill would also have to deal with Eric, and it meant that Bill’s possessions were sacred to Eric. Which included me.
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 24

Eric was required to have a little respect for stuff Bill owns – like his human – so Eric couldn’t just stampede over him. Which of course, I could see Eric doing, and I’m sure Bill could too. Bill is above an average vampire, in that he’d now taken an oath, and Eric had taken one in turn. Bill is officially part of Eric’s retinue – a core person in the hierarchy that Eric can’t just ignore.

Next up the ladder is of course, Eric. He’s the Sheriff of the Area. It’s his job to keep his Area in shape, maintain boundaries and such. I’ve dealt previously with what duties his job requires, so I won’t reiterate anything but the bare bones. He’s the vampire equivalent of middle management. Eric in particular has a large Area:

Five, at the top of the state, stretched nearly all the way across.
From Dead to Worse, p. 155

He’s not just there for his underlings – as above, he has to follow his royal. Even if Sophie Anne couldn’t kick his arse, then he still has to follow the rules. Sheriffs are appointed by their royal as well – so Sophie Anne would be unlikely to appoint sneering, contemptuous Eric of fanfic. A Sheriff has a retinue – Eric has Clancy, his club manager, Pam, his second-in-command, individual vampires who owe him fealty, but don’t have as many rights to autonomy as an Investigator – an official within the hierarchy.

Above Eric, is his Royal. I’m going to choose Felipe, because he shows the biggest variations. Felipe is King, and he does some stuff, but his kingdom is way too big to do everything. As I’ve discussed before, Eric would make a terrible King, because he’s really shitty at delegation. Eric likes to be on the ground, doing stuff and going out, not sitting in some building somewhere doing paperwork. The Queen is of course, extra busy when it comes to Peter Threadgill’s visit, but no one owns this for nothing:

It was a three story office building, perhaps dating from the fifties, and extending a whole city block.
Definitely Dead, p. 203

That’s the Queen’s residence, and her work. It’s filled with vampires acting like it’s an office, and our first view of the Queen is her surrounded by paperwork. In fact, there are enough vampires to justify the personalised security force:

The queen had her own vampire SWAT team.
Definitely Dead, p. 199

And of course, that’s where we meet Melanie, Chester and Rasul – they’re all part of the SWAT team. The Queen’s building has a facility for Jake Purifoy, new vampire to be fed by donors and calmed down, the Queen has vampire police she sends out, and of course, workers who work during the day. There’s all the auxiliary stuff like souvenir vendors and such.

The Queen has a Lieutenant – Andre, just as Felipe had a Lieutenant – Victor. When it comes to Felipe, he not only had Victor and Red Rita as individual regents in their states, but he has a cross-kingdom fixer:

“What’s the king’s rep supposed to do?”
“Well, as far as I can tell, she’ll travel the state pretty much constantly, seeing
if the citizens have problems with any vampires, seeing if the sheriffs have
everything in order and under control in their own fiefs, and reporting
in to the king. She’s like an undead troubleshooter.”

From Dead to Worse, p. 222

Of course, stupid Victor sent her home so that he could campaign to get rid of Eric. But I’m sure with such a huge empire, we’ll probably see Sandy Seacrest again at some stage, or her equivalent. The King has his own battles to fight – he’s currently trying to get legislation passed so that vampires can own casinos.

At Rhodes, we saw a variety of legal organisations, and mentions of vampire law – the council (which I’m presuming is the name for the leaders of the Zones – the board Eric mentions) decided that Sophie Anne would face trial over Peter Threadgill’s death. There are various judges – for Sophie Anne, she had other royals as her judges, but when it came to ordinary vampires, they had ordinary vampire judges. Bill was a judge for one of them, and so was Dahlia.

Vampires have formal legal procedures too, with pretty hefty punishments:

“You may be a minor in human law, but to us, you are as responsible as…Cindy Lou.
Boy, it just killed him, having to admit there was a vampire named Cindy Lou.
“If you try to terrorize your human parents, or coerce them, or drink their blood,
we will amputate your hand. And when it grows back, we’ll amputate it again.”
The boy could hardly be whiter than he was, and his human mother fainted.

All Together Dead, p. 271

They also have – as with Longshadow – prices negotiated for when a vampire is killed, and in more serious cases, even more:

“Of course, she offered reparation to the common fund.”
<snip>
“If Jennifer Cater wins her suit, not only will the queen lose Arkansas,
she’ll have to pay Arkansas a fine. A huge one. And make other restitution.”

All Together Dead, p. 12

We don’t know what that is – what “other restitution” requires. Maybe sending vampires along to replace the vampires lost, or making sure to help protect the state until they get up and running again. The vampires have a lot of rules and regulations – checks and balances. Mr. Cataliades tells us that they’re looking into more bureaucracy as well:

If the American model catches on, the vampire world will resemble a huge multinational corporation more than a loosely ruled collection of vicious bloodsuckers.
Definitely Dead, p. 149

This is vampires looking into putting more complexity into their hierarchy – with clans. It seems that if they’re going to go multinational, then this is the vampires cooperating to make a national collective corporation, so that each country will be a clan. Much like humans have going on.

There’s this erroneous idea throughout the community that the Ancient Pythoness has any power whatsoever. Yes, she’s pulled out for trials to arbitrate on who is telling the truth. But vampires see her as a possession – not a ruler:

The Depository was the vampire headquarters for Rhodes, the place where all the
secret ceremonial things were kept—and anything or anyone that the vampires
wanted to hide or imprison. The Ancient Pythoness, who’d been turned when she
was a very old woman, was one of the artifacts who needed to be hidden, for her
own good. She was still quite a seer and quite a witch, but her powers were erratic
and poorly controlled. Making a magical person a vampire had been a bad idea.

Bacon, Strange Brew, p. 14

She’s stowed away like the good silver, as Sookie says, and brought out to use her powers occasionally. If she were to say…decree any kinky sex rituals in public, then the vampires would be right to tell her to stick it. And Sookie surely would.

One of the most important things about the vampire hierarchy is that you can’t opt out. You have to follow the rules. If you don’t, then you’re likely to be punished:

A rogue is a vamp who refuses to live by the rules that the human population has laid down. When the other vamps find out about one, it’s up to the sheriff of the area to deal with him. Eric is very thorough and isn’t bothered all that much if he has to put an end to a rogue.
Vampires, Two-Natured, and Fairies, Oh My! The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 219

Vampires can’t wander around deciding to start killing people and preying on children. Vampires themselves won’t allow it. They are a self-regulating society. There’s no right to be an autonomous guy going along and doing things your own way, and rebelling against the rules. You have to follow the rules. Or Eric – or his counterparts – will kill you. Unless you happen to be his Maker and he can’t touch you – but other than that, it’s not safe to not mainstream and come to Eric’s area, hiding in the shadows. All the rest of the rogues hide in cemetaries and such – not front up to Fangtasia and register with Eric.

So as you see, the vampire world is a cerebral world full of bureaucracy. Eric certainly isn’t lollygagging all the time – he even has a day man to do stuff so that his business is being run twenty four hours. While Eric is asleep, Mustapha and Bobby are doing things. It’s not as simple as just picking up drycleaning either. Bobby arranged the travel details for Anubis, and ensured Eric’s coffin was picked up. Bobby did various reports, and both of Eric’s daymen have been sent with sensitive messages and deliveries for Sookie. Since Eric can’t seem to just relax and let go (the only time we’ve really seen that was when he had amnesia and forgot Fangtasia), there seems to be quite a bit of report writing along with the money making.

Weres however, are not as complex as vampires, as you can see from the picture. It should be noted too, that here, talking “weres” refers only to werewolves:

Werewolves are the tough guys of the shape-shifting world. They’re shape-shifters
by definition, but they’re the only ones who have their own separate society, and
they will not allow anyone else to be called “Were” in their hearing.

Club Dead, p. 59

The weres just don’t have the sort of political system that the vampires do. They have packs, but that’s just about it. There’s no kingdoms, there’s no rotating body of leadership. Weres usually stick to a smaller area. We have the Hotshot panther pack, the Shreveport Long Tooth pack, and the Monroe Sharp Claw Pack. All of those are within easy driving distance of Sookie’s house.

In fact, one of the first organised groups Sookie encounters is in another state, and they are unusual:

“‘We’ being the shapeshifters of the greater Dallas area.”
“You guys are organized? Hey, that’s great! I’ll have to tell . . . my friend.”

Living Dead in Dallas, p. 168-169

Still, that’s not such a big area. Luna has a couple of werewolves to help her out, and the ability to get a were doctor to treat Sookie under the table and erase records, but that’s not the same level of organisation we see from the vampires. They have guards and office buildings, and complex systems of governments and laws. However, in this case, it’s probably sensible for the shapeshifters to mount up some kind of coalition, because they’re investigating the Fellowship of the Sun.

It’s only with the new Great Reveal that weres have even thought about banding together, and including other shifters:

We don’t have a meeting of all the leaders like vampires do, mostly because
they have one leader for each state and we have a hell of a lot of packleaders.
Looks like we’ll all elect a representative from the packleaders, one from
each state, and those representatives will go to a national meeting.

From Dead to Worse, p. 278

In truth, they haven’t really needed one until recently. Vampires lived in the shadows, not within human society. If a were wanted to bring a dispute against another were for say scratching the hell out of his truck, then he could have used the human system. Weres don’t need any governance in their general lives – only in their lives as wolves.

A good example is the hunting grounds. Vampires need to maintain their hunting grounds all year around. They can’t let other vampires in to eat all the humans – they have to make sure they’re fed themselves. In the closet or out of it, that’s what vampires do – Eric guards his hunting grounds, and the hunting grounds of their vampires. They’ve based a lot of the division of America on where population centres are. California is in thirds, for example. This was more important when there was no synthetic blood, but it’s not nothing now. I bet vampires act as if their hunting grounds are backup larders just in case shit goes wrong for them mainstreaming.

Weres on the other hand, only hunt three nights a month. For this purpose, they can use any stretch of woods they want. They don’t have to own the land, but it’s clear that Alcide Herveaux owns his own hunting grounds. If in the unlikely event they don’t find little bunnies and stuff to eat, they’re not going to starve to death like the vampires may (again without synthetic blood). So keeping up the boundaries of those hunting grounds is not so important.

Another good example is Priscilla Hebert. As a female packmaster, she was coming to kill all the Shreveport weres and take over their territory. She brought her pack with her to the area, and bribed Cal Myers to infiltrate the pack. If this happened to Eric, well, he would be in deep shit – phoning around to the other sheriffs, preparing to fight to the death in case of a takeover. Eric has spies on who is coming into his territory – and knew within moments of sunset that Quinn was in his Area. Weres aren’t limited by their rules to stop in one place. The only opposition is the local packmaster – and even then, lone wolves like Tray Dawson and Mustapha Khan still live within shouting distance of Alcide, and are allowed to live there. Not so with Eric – he requires fealty if you enter his Area – you check in, or he might check you out.

All of this organisation is recent – not something you can assume that if Sam said way back when that the shifters weren’t organised that that’s how stuff stands now. There is good reason for the shifters to organise their own groups, because up until now this has been their only recourse:

“Also, we might ask other wereanimals if they want to come in with us. Like, Sam
could belong to my pack in an auxiliary way, though he’s not a Were. And it would
be good if the lone wolves, like Dawson, came to some of the pack parties….
came out howling with us or something.

From Dead to Worse, p. 278

Sure, you can join in under Alcide’s banner. And then Alcide will treat you so well you’ll hardly even notice that the alpha wolf has trampled all over what you want to do. Like he hasn’t done to Sookie – he’s not a user at all, railroading over her needs for the good of his own pack…wait… So of course, shifters like Sam can throw their lot in and submit to the weres, but that’s not looking good for their general autonomy.

It’s not until Alcide keeps trying to bolster his own power by bringing in lone wolves and every shifter he can get in with him. Oh, I’m sure he told them about how great it would be for them all, but weres aren’t known for exactly fair representation. Alcide wouldn’t be all that different from the hundreds of other packmasters around the country trying to get shifters to do as they’re told. One more lone wolf, one more shifter, means that you can say instead of “Our pack is about 45” to “Our pack is about 50” – which makes it sound like you have more people at stake, and therefore what you say should be given greater weight.

Not to mention that the other part of that quote everyone remembers about shifters not being organised is this:

“I just want to be left in peace,” he said unexpectedly. “I don’t want to get involved
in supernatural politics. I don’t want to have to take sides in Were shit. I’m not
a Were. I’m a shapeshifter, and shifters don’t organize. We’re too different.
I hate vampire politics even more than Were politics.”

From Dead to Worse, p. 271

Shifters may not have organised before the Great Reveal, but there’s nothing like having some Were group trying to boss you around to make you think it’d be a good idea to represent to the community a little more. Shifters might not naturally organise, unless it’s the Hotshot pack or some similar familial group. But that doesn’t mean that they want to have each individual shifter voice lost in the overwhelming Were noise after the Great Reveal.

It is the Great Reveal that is the big gamechanger for the shifters and the weres. They’re no longer looking at small goals – they’re trying to form some sort of system of governance and representation:

“The Louisiana packs are trying to present a united front to the government. Since
they’ve never organized before, this is not going to work.” Eric snorted, clearly
scornful. “The Weres are always – what did you say the other day about
FEMA, Sookie? ‘A day late and a dollar short,’ right?”

Dead in the Family, p. 180

In fact, if one were to ask Eric, he wouldn’t say that the weres are very organised at all. The vampires have a very strict set of checks and balances. Weres are only now getting some kind of representative body together to approach the human government. Vampires were all over that – they coordinated their coming out with perfect precision – all of them pulling together and working for the public relations for all.

Shifters are far less organised – they only have the most basic of architecture. At this moment, they have a website – but that is new:

“We keep track of each other now, all of us who change. Since the announcement, we never know what people are going to do. Humans don’t always react predictable ways.”
Small Town Wedding, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 35

That means that shifters have to account for their own whereabouts for their own safety, but they don’t have to follow rules. This isn’t a ruling body, it’s a safety measure so that Sam can’t disappear for example, and no one knows all the shifters are being killed all over the place. This isn’t a system that the shifters have had in place for years and years where they compare and track safety:

“So how long have you been shooting shifters?”
“Three years,” she said proudly. “I’ve killed twenty-two and wounded forty-one.”

<snip>
“You always find work in bars?”
“Gives me a chance to see who’s one of the brethren,” she said, smiling. “I check
out the churches and restaurants too. The day care centres.”

Dead as a Doornail, p. 244

Sookie and Sam were only aware of the shootings in the greater area – nothing about the shootings that had been a chronic shifter problem for years. The vampires surely would have tracked this down, and the weres might have even if it took them years, while the shifters are only really knowledgeable as far as their gossip circles go.

Consider the fandom like the political structures of the vampires, weres and shifters. Some of the bigger forums are like vampires – lots of rules, lots of moderators, things are as to be expected, stuff is strictly controlled and there’s rules for conduct. Next is the small groups of people chatting on Twitter or smaller forums – fewer rules, and they’re socially specific. So for example, you might (within only your group of friends) have private jokes, and conduct is regulated by the group consensus. And then there is somewhere really tiny like this – a shifter place. It’s really autonomous on my part. I don’t have to follow what people want me to do, and am free to argue with anyone who writes here. I can’t be dictated to because I’m not part of the vampires and weres. When I choose to link to something, it’s not specifically mine, but I might pool my links to good fanfic and share them with other shifters who come here. I might be personally organised, but my place within the fandom is a teeny, tiny, insignificant one. Calling me ‘organised’ in comparison to everyone else is just ludicrous. Even if I do have my library of well worn Sookie Stackhouse books.

It’s the same with the shifters. Pooling basic resources is not the same as being as organised as the system the vampires or even the weres have in place. Shifters having a library is as organised as this LJ. No one who comes here has to do what I tell them after they leave, so it’s not organised, even if they use this as Sparks notes. Having a library serves to make sure that individual shifters can deal with stuff themselves. They might add to that knowledge just in the hopes that when some fairy turns up, they can find out about fairies. Being good neighbours as such.

One of the best things for a shifter is being part of no group means that you get to decide for yourself whether you’re part of something. Weres are constantly having little squabbles over whether or not a pack should be one way or the other:

From the bits of information I could glean from the packmaster’s mind, the
Shreveport pack seemed to be heavily on the patriarchal side. To Adabelle,
a modern woman, Colonel Flood’s leadership was stifling.

Dead to the World, p. 103

Of course, the vampires are trying to get a handle on weres at least – ruling the weres and shifters that work for them, and trying to keep them in line. So a shifter like Quinn gets caught up in greater dramas and used for his connections, while someone like Sam, who largely stays away from affiliating with anyone gets to stay somewhat free.

It also means that if Sam wants gossip, he gets the gossip. A shifter all on his lonesome isn’t going to have pack affiliations that he’s going to try and get one over you. And shifters drift in and around packs. Sam knows the Hotshot panthers, Heather Kinman (a local shifter shot by Sweetie), as well as the various shifters all over the place. That means that he’s likely to hear stuff. When (and if) you do a re-read, notice how often the weres, vampires and fairies talk with Sam in the same room – they don’t bother to hold themselves back. And so Sam ends up hearing about everything. Same with Quinn – everyone knows him, and he has plenty of gossip, merely because he’s not involved in the were power struggles:

“I know you’ve got friends in there you’re worried about, but don’t take that out
on Claudine. Or me.” I added hastily, as his eyes fixed on mine.
“I have no friends in there.”

Dead as a Doornail, p. 271

The Weres use the shifters like Quinn as sort of go-betweens to do stuff. That’s why Quinn runs the supernatural section of E(E)E – because he doesn’t have pack allegiances that come first. For that reason, they’re excellent sources on things – the Queen uses Quinn because he’s a lone man who has only loyalty to himself and his mother, as far as supernatural ties go. When it comes to Quinn, he knows about the witch rules, the shifter rules and the were rules – at least some of them – in order to perform ceremonies for them.

Weres on the other hand aren’t all that involved in the business of other shifters:

Amanda looked almost respectful. Weres often have only contempt for other shape-shifters, but something as formidable as a panther would get their attention. “I heard there was a cluster of panthers out here somewhere. Never met one before.”
Definitely Dead, p. 58

And vampires couldn’t give much of a shit about specific details:

“Then he was…He stood up for your sister-in-law at the wedding,” Sam said, figuring it out quickly. Eric looked blank. The vampires know something about the wereanimals – they have to – but the vamps think they are far superior, so they don’t make an effort to learn specifics about the rituals and rhythms of being a were.
From Dead to Worse, p. 259

In fact, this is why the vampires and weres have such paucity of information about other groups, while Quinn, Sam and other shifters seem to know all about stuff:

“None of us knows much about the Were culture,” Taffy said. “Our arrogance keeps us ignorant.”
Tacky, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, p. 138

Like Sookie, who knows lots about the vampire hierarchy – she works out Areas and how big Eric’s area is without being told, and she figures out the database before Bill tells her jack – and she figures out other things as well because the vampires are all too busy being superior around her and treating her like the lesser being in the room. They see human, and they don’t see threat. Shifters are the same – and hence they are the most informed group around, like Sookie. They may not know the inner workings, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have broad general knowledge thanks to all of the other groups ignoring the hell out of the insignificant shifters.

Shifters are the dark horses of the supernatural world. Even though they’re loners, they get to hear about information merely because like Sookie, everyone ignores them. It makes sense for them to have quite the library, and to pool their information. They each only have themselves to rely on – and while things might change thanks to the Great Reveal – the shifters are well placed to be the repository for information, rather than political animals.

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