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Timeless Thirst

Updated: Mar 27

The thirst of the vampire is seemingly inexhaustible, perhaps rivaled only by readers who want to listen to their stories. At least since Bram Stoker´s novel was first published in 1897, people seem continually intrigued to learn about the undead-lives of these nocturnal creatures who feast on human blood. Who are they? Where do they come from? Their shadowy presence consumes a considerable portion of our popular media, with films and television series as well as comics and books describing not only who vampires are, but where they come from, and how they relate to one another.

Within erotic literature, vampires comfortably dominate their own subgenre, particularly in their relations with humans. Perhaps this comes as little surprise, given that there has always been something inherently erotic about these creatures who bare their sharp fangs into the exposed necks of their victims. Unlike Frankenstein´s monster or lycanthropes such as the werewolf, the archetype of the vampire emphasizes personal pleasure. Vampires symbolize power, uninhibited carnality, of orgy individual indulgence across eternity. Plus, with their requisite nocturnal lifestyle, vampires represent some of our deepest and most secret aspirations. Particularly in the culture of the sexual, and especially if one enjoys pleasure blended with a dose danger, vampires can serve as central role models within the imagination.

The prominence and frequency of these legends may also prove a liability, though, for writers wanting to blaze new ground within this vast literature. What hasn´t been done already, when one already has Dracula and Nosferatu, the Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice; from The Hunger to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Let the Right One In, one might conclude that this archetype has reached its frontier.

Unless you are author TammyJo Eckhart. A skilled writer across multiple genres--from science fiction to nonfiction to contemporary erotica--Eckhart also holds a graduate degree in ancient civilizations. Coupling this with her indefatigable hunger for research, she has found that vampire legends appear in just about every region across the globe, with the earliest originating in the Mesopotamia region of antiquity. What if that could be the genesis for a new story--or rather, a series of stories--for a cross-cultural history of vampires as a distinct race or ethnic group? What that would look like is her 2021 novel, Day Unto Night.

For Eckhart, how the vampires were created begins with death and destruction. The opening chapter of her book describes the horrors witnessed by Ningai, a young child who survives the utter massacre of her people. Her anguish is so great that it becomes a prayer, and she is visited by a number of deities, each one offering a mixture of wisdom, prophecy, and caprice. One of them bestows her with the dark gift of becoming Akhkharu , the original vampire who will create her own race of vampires to exact justice for the murder of her people. Eckhart chooses to make the origin story of vampires one of revenge, as well as tragedy. From the beginning, readers are challenged to be sympathetic to these creatures who need human blood to survive.

Eckhart continues to flip expectations throughout Day Unto Night. Existing for eternity within a child´s body, the "Ummum" nonetheless mothers adult men and women to create her legion, which inevitably cause complications within her nascent shadow kingdom. And while she has the body of a child, Ningai possesses the intelligence, emotional life, and desires of a woman who has seen civilizations rise and fall. Eckhart handles this and other contradictions with maturity and restraint, while also ackowledging her obvious need for tenderness and human contact, just like anyone else.

Structurally, Day Unto Night unfolds as a series of tales spoken by different members of Ummum´s "family", a kind of ritualistic oral history of where they came from. This narrative device permits Eckhart to shift the focus of each chapter onto a different period in time and place--from ancient Greece and early twentieth century Egypt to contemporary Japan to a time in the future when vampires dominate the planet (which, given the way the world is going today, doesn´t sound that bad to me, actually). It´s a clever device, one that allows readers to both enjoy each chapter as its own self-contained episode, as well as begin mapping this complex chronicle as each chapter of the novel accumulates.

Eckhart has written extensively about her experiences as a female-dominant, both in her science-fiction and fantasy novels as well as in her erotica and nonfiction works based on her years´ of personal experience. Refreshingly, Day Unto Night portrays multiple examples of supernatural sexuality, with vampires having intimate erotic encounters with humans of the same- or opposite-sex, as well as with others of their own kind. Just the kind of thing to cozy up to this Halloween, eh?

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