ALSO MENTIONED IN THIS POST:
Here's the link to my Amazon review of Holly Chism's "Bite Sized: Liquid Diet Chronicles Book 1," and, since I mention it as a factor in writing what I'm writing right now, here's the link to my review of Sarah Hoyt's "So Little and So Light."
I wish I could say that the occasion for writing THIS blog post was solely due to my virtuous decision to allow my Amazon reviews to be the absolute epitome of succinct word-smithing; that I had resolved to return to a much, much earlier program of limiting those reviews to ONLY select phrases which would inform the public of the core characteristics of the book, and to reserve my COMMENTARY on the book to this blog.
That WAS a good plan, by the way, and I did my best to follow it for quite some time. Alas, the same circumstances that kept me away from book reviews, also kept me away from blogging, and in this renaissance of writing I'm currently experiencing, I allowed my expression to only find one, undifferentiated outlet. And that's why a couple of my last book reviews went so long, in particular, my review of Sarah A. Hoyt's latest collection of short stories "So Little and So Light." I have not yet reached the point where the review actually was longer than the material reviewed, but I'd be willing to bet that a couple of stories in that volume had reviews that were a measurable percentage of the original content.
Alas, I say again. For no such pure motivation drove me with this particular post; deadline pressure, of a modest and self-inflicted nature, had me turn out the review on Chism's "Bite Sized" before I allowed the little tickle in my thinking to speak to me. And so, the day after Amazon published the review I wrote, you get The Rest Of The Story! (kettle drums, horns, and the music from a blues harp).
For those of you who haven't yet read the review (and why not, may I ask?) "Bite Sized" tells the story of a Vampire Hero named Meg. She APPEARS to be young. Her aging process stopped when she was turned into a vampire, and she was a diminutive (5' 0") 28 year old at that time. That was 20 years ago, which would place her in the middle-aged category for humans, if she had continued along that aging line. However, she is a mere BABE in the world of vampires. She may have some suspicions of this, but has never had an encounter with a vampire, except for the one who turned her.
Let us speak of that turning, and I will TRY to avoid spoilers, although some might leak out. However, in order to make the point for this blog post, I have to give SOME backstory. I think all of this is covered in the first chapter of the book, but please: if you hate SPOILERS then BEWARE.
Meg was raped and murdered by a renegade vampire (there are such things), but in the course of the attack, she fought back ferociously. It the process, she inadvertently acquired enough Vampire Juice (tm) to effect her own transformation into the Undead. Upon her awakening, she retained all of her human ethics, and did NOT go on a mindless spree of human sucking.
Instead, she managed, by dint of hard work and suffering, to (ONE) find a way to live at peace with those around her, and (TWO) make the world a safer place for all by limiting her dinner choices to rapists.
Those actually present themselves in two different packages: her preferred source is the brutal, attack thug, who means to cause maximum pain and suffering on his victims before killing them. The book opens with just such an opportunity, and it's really a rather viscerally delightful experience to observe her using her small, non-threatening stature to stop an attack right after it begins, and then proceed to liberate the targeted individual, and take down the rapist.
With this class of rapist, Meg has absolutely no problem of draining them of life. She enjoys the process, and while most of that enjoyment is decidedly culinary, there is also the aspect of righteous justice, colored by a bit of vengeance, in the experience.
Here, we wish to express our proud gratitude to the author, for nobly avoiding the temptation to provide the Vampire Hero with the neologism Meg-A- Bites. We trust this will perhaps protect her from incoming carp on other occasions when she might be tempted to step closer to the line, which the nature of her character does NOT preclude, in the slightest.It is unfortunate for her new diet that such violent rapes are not so easily discovered, at least not frequently enough to keep her need for human blood satisfied. She has, in the past, increased the likelihood of finding candidates by strolling through poorly lit regions of the city, where her gender and size mark her as an easy target for a predator. These are her favorite meals, but again, even when shooting over a baited field, so to speak, are not enough for her to survive.
WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE MOST SPOILER-ISH PART OF THIS POST. IF YOU WANT TO COMPLETELY AVOID PLOT ELEMENTS,: 1) STOP NOW! 2) GET THE BOOK AND READ IT 3) RETURN HERE TO FINISH THIS POST.
She therefore has arranged her hunt to include more snack items, and this is accomplished by attending drunken parties held at the local college campus. Either from her experience during the time when she was fully human, or from her vampire days, she has learned that a certain percentage of young college age women are likely to drink too much, and will wind up in the hands of the certain proportion of college age men who are depraved enough to take advantage of their unconscious state to rape them, such acts being lumped into the nastily-named category of 'date-rape.' (Personal observation: nobody ever talks about date-murder, date-robbery, date-stabbings, because the adjective doesn't exist. Neither should it for rape, but I digress.)
When she discovers one of those rather predictable events (via her disguise as a Hot Young Chick), she has a different method. She uses her vampire powers to suggest to the young ladies that they had better make some choices that don't involve getting smashed at a frat party, and she recommends to the young men that there are much better methods of sexual activity than to rape comatose women.
And then, she sucks a small amount of blood from the erstwhile rapist; not enough to cause them damage, but enough to sustain her for a bit.
She has observed over the course of the years that in some cases, she has been able to use those vampiric hypnosis sessions to change the behavior of both young men and women, which is an outcome devoutly to be desired. In some cases, it has required MULTIPLE sessions, but she has held tightly to her decision only to to apply Meg-A-Bites (sorry!) to the vilest type of predator, and refuses to deprive determined idiots of their right to choose. She still monitors them, however, and is quick to intervene to protect both the intent rapist and the intended target from the consequences of their choices.
And, here we have the source of the first part of title of this blog post: "If Only I Could..."
I would not willingly exchange my life for any other, and I doubt that most of us who have raised families and weathered storms would do so. Certainly, at times of crisis, we wish things could be different, but the wise realize that people make choices, and that choices have consequences that were not intended. So, I sit in this chair, with the new false teeth in my mouth and the delicious meal that I can't eat at my side, and I would not change ONE THING that has made me the person that I am today. And yet. If Only I Could,,,
If Only I Could ...be the Vampire Hero that Meg is.
If Only I Could protect the young from that particular consequence of foolish, ignorant behavior.
If Only I Could deprive the brutal rapist the opportunity to complete one more attack.
If Only I Could bring justice to the person who set about to destroy my life to satisfy their own lust.
If Only I Could: would I be willing to make the sacrifices that Meg was FORCED to make, if I could become Vampire Hero?
It's a trick question.
It implies that the only way for goodness to prevail is for a superhero to appear, and that's just not true. YES, it is a delicious feeling to see the wicked smashed into a pulp at the hands of (insert favorite hero here). It is even more gratifying to see the outcome of Meg's restraint, as her hypnotic vampire powers persuade young people to stop behaving foolishly. We ALL get that part, right?
BUT, it is NOT her status as an Immortal Vampire (tm) that turned Meg into the agent for change. It gave her TOOLS, certainly, but it was the choices she made BEFORE she was turned, as well as those she has made afterward, that have made her a Hero. It was her CHOICES, not her POWERS, that have made her great.
And: we all can make choices. None of us have super powers, but we all have power, and some sort of tools to express it. Despite what Chairman Mao said, power does NOT come from the barrel of a gun. Look at how long the Soviet Union lasted: despite holding all the guns, it collapsed. Communist China is doomed as well, as is ANY repressive state. Power comes from the heart, the soul, the nature, and so much of that is a product of our choosing.
And the tools? Well, writing comes to mind, since I am writing ABOUT writing at the moment. With the appropriate caveats, the pen IS mightier than the sword. The MOST powerful tool of war ever devised (to my knowledge), the fusion bomb, has NEVER been used in war; it was and is restrained by the power of words, and thoughts, and written agreements.
There ARE no superheroes. Forget it. They are not going to come to our rescue, and save the day for Truth, Justice, and The American Way. And that is NOT a bad thing!
If there WERE superheroes, we'd leave it all up to them. We could reject the call on our lives to fix things. Fixing things seems like an impossible task, but it really isn't. It boils down to two sentences, one a philosophical foundation, the other the exact methodology. Are you ready to read those two sentences?
Here they are:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Do the next right thing.
That's it. That's the secret. That's how we heal the damage we bear, and how we heal the damage done to others, and how we prevent damage in the future. It's all in our individual hands.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with wishing you had super-powers so you could strike back against the forces of evil in this world, as long as you WRITE ABOUT IT! Your wishing cannot make you invulnerable, but your words can inspire others; encourage them; let them know that they are not the only ones who are facing pain, grief, and loss! Share your experience, strength, and hope! Comfort others with the same comfort you have been given!
And do the other things as well. Feed your kids. Smile at someone. Do a good job at work. Wash the clothes.
And in the process, you will find that you have become a hero.
Peace be on your household.