Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the Suspension of Disbelief

Let’s face it, the notion of immortal undead bloodsuckers living among us has some flaws.

First of all, if they are immortal, and we are not…. Shouldn’t they eventually outnumber us?

Secondly, if they are immortal, and they turn humans into immortal vampires… Shouldn’t they eventually outnumber us?

Thirdly, if they have superhuman strength, can fly or teleport, etc – basically, if they’re nearly inescapable deadly predators—plus immortal, plus turning…. Shouldn’t they eventually outnumber us?

It’s your basic lion-and-gazelle sort of question.

And beyond just the population balance question, don’t you think if they’d been around for THOUSANDS of years, they’d’ve made it beyond fairy-tale status? I mean, if they were real? Wouldn’t they eventually be sort of… noticeable?

I have to admit, Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood universe is one of the most immersive, plausible fantasy worlds I’ve come across in a really long time. And I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes that true. How can some authors take the same premise and turn it into a world that seems so real, that resonates so hard in my head that I have difficulty believing that it only exist between the pages of a book? While others might provide a good read, but when I close the cover, my brain is right back to grocery lists and emails for work and the stuff I need to pick up for my daughter’s science project and the film I need to drop off at Target to get my mother-in-law off my back… And then there’s the other end of the spectrum that just induce eye-rolling. So, as I'm prone to do, I started thinking about this way too much. Which led me to…

To: O’Donovan
From: Nicola
Subject: I am such a dork.

See spreadsheet.

<<Vampire Credibility Index.xls >>

To: Nicola
From: O’Donovan
Subject: Re: I am such a dork.

I fucking adore your brain.

We should add Laurell K. Hamilton (whose total would be 0) and there are a couple of others. If one wanted to add a "quality of writing" category, I think the numbers would change dramatically.

To: O’Donovan
From: Nicola
Subject: Re: Re: I am such a dork.


Thought you might like that.

Totally agree on the quality of writing, but I thought it might be too subjective.

I’m also trying to figure out how to capture the mind control/thrall aspect; that seems to be a common element in most of the vamp books. Not binary, though.

What other questions belong on the grid?

To: Nicola
From: O’Donovan
Subject: Re: Re: Re: I am such a dork.

Maybe whether vampires are portrayed as dangerous predators, disinterested observers, or benevolent protectors? We should add Kelley Armstong, too. I can't abide Feehan or Kenyon, but I can fill in the Hamilton gaps.

To: O’Donovan
From: Nicola
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: I am such a dork.

Check. The other thing I was thinking was the origin of the species, but that will come down the eye of the beholder. I just finished the first Lara Adrian and apparently the entire vamp population came from 8 aliens who were responsible for several of the earth's mysterious population wipes -- Egypt, Maya, etc. I liked the book, but totally don’t buy that.

Apparently aliens trip my "Oh please, you must be kidding" trigger while incandescent demigods do not.

------------<<end of email string >> ---------------

OK, we resolved the origin of the species question, and here is the sublimely dorky result:

Is that not a thing of beauty? The normalized line accounts for the fact that some authors had been read by both of us and some had not (I have taken masters' level courses in statistics, thank you very much).

The funny thing is, these scores are not at ALL about how much I (or we, if I may speak for O'Donovan) enjoyed the books. But it does a fair job of ranking how believable the universe is.

Strangely enough, sometimes vagueness is your friend in world building. I have no idea how Susan Sizemore's vampire race came into being. And it doesn't seem to matter. Lara Adrian, on the other hand, writes a far more nuanced world, with better characters and more complex plot, but when she starts talking about crash-landing aliens, it's a total bucket of cold water. For me, anyway.

And I adored the Kresley Cole series (totally recommend, review on its way) BUT I don't believe in her Lore universe for a second--it's just fun. Ward on the other hand... catches me looking for Caldwell, NY on a map and speculating, speculating, speculating...

Final note: I'd be happy to justify any and all of the rankings if you have any disputes, but rest assured that EACH AND EVERY ONE represents an explicit thought process and far more brain cells than could possibly be justified.


Anonymous said...

You have incredibly too much time on your hands. :)

So I have to ask, how are they ranked? Is there a "norm" - meaning which one came closest to reality and possibility existing?

Nicola O. said...

Heh. Highest number = "realest"

Marg said...

Wow...I am so impressed! This is one spreadsheet analysis that I would never of thought to do!

cheri said...

I like Kim Harrison's world-building. Seems logical. Half the human population has been killed by a virus (in tomatoes! How prophetic is THAT?)that didn't affect paras. Suddenly, the humans realizedhow many paras had been living unnoticed among them all along. So the humans and paras had to adjust to each other's existence.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I read this post a while back (linked here through someone else's blog, but I don't remember who). I thought it was great then and I still do now!

Carolyn Crane said...

OMG, I never saw this. LOL.
And SOMEHOW JRW comes in tops!
I love the kryptonite factor.


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