The Prince is dead ... long live the Queen!

The Prince is dead … long live the Queen!

[This is a guest post by one of my group’s players, Eddie, about his Vampire characters]

Lady Ashira (Elder)

A protecting mother, a lover of beauty, self involved survivor.

“ The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Lady Ashira has taken control of New York, after an extensive war with the Sabbath has ruined both groups and resulted in Final Death for most of the low generation vampires. Her rule is one of subtlety and charm, where those who make open threats or threaten ugliness have a tendency to mysteriously find divine retribution. As she would say, she truly, full-heartedly strives for everyone to feel safe and happy, and would gladly crush anyone who doesn’t.

Embraced by the Brujah, the clan’s fury shows in her only if she, or the kindred and kine under “her protection” are harmed. She has been known to rage when her advances are refused or some beautiful art or innocent person is harmed in front of her. The Queen is extremely possessive, and it is not uncommon for people to regret asking for her protection, for while when given she will honestly do everything in her power to protect her proteges, the lines between protection and enslavement tend to blur for the Elder vampire. Some kindred have woken after years, only to find they’ve been under the Lady’s spell because they asked to be safe…

Where the lady comes from is an unknown, but most agree it is probably from somewhere in north Africa. When asked, she always names a different country that touches the mediterranean sea; and follows it with a stream of phrases in the native tongue of the place she mentioned. Most people know not to push her too much on the matter; for some reason the Queen gets extremely … upset … when probed for information on her past.

Those very few who know her well know that there is a streak of hidden survivalism to her, there are ugly rumours of her breaking under pressure or war, havens that burned to the ground and scores of surviving neonates with their memories shuffled. Those who know or suspect of these events, know also to keep their mouths shut, it is better that the gears turn smooth and the Lady remain kind and homely, for when they don’t, death and destruction seem to follow.

The Good

Kind, Understanding, Peace keeper

The Bad

Overprotective, Obsessive, Irrational

Description

Medium height, light skin, long red curly hair, dark eyes, slender figure.

Camarilla

“Order and peace are safe havens. The Masquerade keeps us all from Final Death, and provides our weakest with protection. Nevertheless, beware of the Tyrant who would use it as an excuse for power.”

Anarchs

“I can’t help but love their passion, it is a thing of beauty; but the real anarch movement is long dead. What is left is rebels without cause. The Anarchs, whether they remember or not, achieved their goal long ago, and we all paid the price for that. I hold them accountable for the Sabbath.”

Sabbath

“Ugh, ugly, ugly, UGLY!!!!”

Independents

“As long as they keep to themselves, let them have their weird rites and beliefs, especially if they bring me gifts from time to time…”

Here's an offer you can't refuse ...

Here’s an offer you can’t refuse …

Johnny Falco (Ancilla)

Mobster out of time, Territorial Demon, Anti-hero Daredevil

“There are no atheists in a foxhole? Hah! What strunz came up with this shit? Spend a day in a trench, it’ll take you no time to realize, there is no God.”

Everyone who is someone in New York knows Johnny Falco, the man can’t help but to be in your face. Dressed like it’s still the ’30’s, the loud mouth maniac has an unhealthy predilection for “making sure everyone knows their fucking place”. If he weren’t Katherine’s boy (and the Queen’s toy by relation), someone would’ve tried to openly whack him long ago. Not that they haven’t tried on the down-low, but “fuckin’ with Johny Falco, it’s signin’ up for a one item instant bucket list”.

Johnny was impossible to deal with until the town got its senses together and gave him the perfect job, The Scourge. Now, instead of getting yelled at, icing random unannounced neonates is his fuckin’ job! What a sweet deal, though sometimes mistakes get made … but meh, watcha gonna do ‘bout it?

Apart from being the bosses boy, in case you needed more reasons to stay way the fuck away from Falco, I’ll give you two: One, the man is a world war survivor, I’m talking Great War here. He was a trench fighter, and if the stories are real, he was part of a band of lunatics who would raid enemy trenches at knife point, going direct body to body in the dark. If you doubt it, ask him to show you the razor he used to scalp people with. Me, I’m easy with believing, man says he gutted soldiers in the middle of the night, hell I need no proof.

Two, the man knows no fear. I’m not saying he is a hardass tough motherfucker, which he is, but I’m talking about borderline suicidal daredevil shit. I’ve seen him jump off roofs and into oncoming traffic, “just cuz it’ll be fun to watch ’em lose their shit the moment before the party started.” You wanna see crazy shit go down? Tell ‘im “I dare you to…” and add whatever the fuck crazy shit comes to your mind, then RUN, ‘cuz a massive fuckton of shit is on an expressway to meet the fan.

All in all, you keep the man friendly, and a safe distance away, never step on his territory, and never ever talk shit about the Lady if youse anywhere close to him, and aaaaall will be easy peasy.

The Good

Loyal, Fearless, Friendly

The Bad

Short-fused, Territorial, Dark Secrets

Description

Short black hair, black eyes, tan skin, slim and medium height, decent looking, easy smile, Italian, always dresses in mob fashion

Camarilla

“The Cappo de tutti Capi says we play by the rules now, so we play by the rules now.”

Anarchs

“Oh man, how I love these crazy fucks, they never back down from a fight and are always trying to break the rules, man I enjoy catching them off-guard.”

Sabbath

“The sorry SOBs in the trench facing ours, I don’t know and couldn’t care less why we’re raiding then, but by god I love it when the Boss tells me to go open them a new one.”

Independent

“Bookies and deal breakers the lot of them, excellent for when playin’ by the rules ain’t gonna cut it. Just remember they ain’t family, and never will be family.”

In the land of the mortal the One-eyed is king

In the land of the mortal the One-eyed is king

Michael “One Eye” O’Neal (Ghoul)

Dreadnaught, Dock Worker, Falco’s Toysoldier

“CHOO CHOO MOTHERFUCKER!!!”

 

Ever heard of the gentle giant? the massive slab of cuddles? One eye Mike is exactly half of those statements. A titanic irishman with a simple love of smashing into unsuspecting crowds. The simple straightforwardness of his lifestyle is an inspiration for the masses. Boss says jump, he smashes through walls and enemies (jumping is hard when you weigh almost as much as a bear).

And that’s that…

Oh yeah, Falco took his left eye after Mike tried to go for one of the Boss’s harpies, bad for the image to have the commoners mixing with royalty he said, Mike can “have it back when he starts playing nice.”

Before that, being the hulk of a man he is, Michael was on the fast track to becoming next in the Brujah line of nutjobs, but now, without an eye and in the bads with the Lady, there is little hope he makes it so far. He will try though, the recent events are his opportunity to shine and see if he can get his eye back.

The Good

Hulk’s body

The Bad

Hulk’s brain

Description

Hulk (colour variation)

Camarilla

“Eh…”

Sabbath

“Grr…”

Independent

“…”

Edgar Evans 1

Guard and defend when forces hinder and collide
Solemn intentions both blessed and divine
You still pulled victory from shattered hope
Count your doubts with broken smiles
Covered your hurt in your pride

 

The Terra Nova expedition set forth to reach the South Pole in 1910, ostensibly for scientific purposes. Through tragedy and hardship its entire complement was lost, and with its leader the real reason for the expedition – robbery.

But in fact one member of the expedition did survive, after a fashion. This is the tale of Edgar Evans, his progenesis, the lies told about him and his mission, and his modern day purpose.

The Terra Nova expedition was led by Scott of the Antarctic, and the tale of its ultimate dismal end is usually told as one of ruthless competition between Scott and his long-term rival in exploration, Amundsen. In fact their rivalry was much more deadly and serious than a mere rush to be first to the pole. For Scott and Amundsen were both secret occultists and tomb robbers, and they and an elite group of their comrades knew that the poles were rich with treasures hidden by strange occult beasts. Their rush to the poles covered a small period of history when occultism was at its peak, before the ascendance of science and the mysterious deaths of many of the explorers leading the movement to loot these secret lairs.

These treasure troves in the poles were the secret safe houses of ancient vampires, elders who sought a place on earth free of humans, with long periods of darkness and, in the north, a close supply of kine in the native inuit populations. As human pressure in the north intensified they moved their bases south, believing that humans could never find a way to cross such vast and inhospitable oceans and ice plateaus.

They were wrong, of course, as vampires are so often wrong about human persistence and ingenuity, and in 1910 both Amundsen and Scott began the race to plunder the southern tombs. Amundsen found the tomb first but his party was rebuffed by ghouls, bad weather and violent magicks, and rather than risk his whole team he gave up and retreated.

Scott suffered his own setbacks in the foul weather of the southern ice, but eventually he and four specially selected members began the final push across the icy wastes towards their goal. It is not clear whether all members of this team knew its true purpose or whether they believed in the pure scientific goal of the mission, but they must have learnt the truth at some point, because they were able to penetrate the tomb while its guardians were distracted by the battle against Amundsen, and made off with a sizeable cache of highly valuable treasures and occult artifacts. Unfortunately they hit bad weather, and were pursued in the few hours of night by a single vampire from the tombs. Somewhere in the journey the vampire caught up with them, but with the summer light fast approaching and needing to retreat to a safe lair, it had no time to close the distance. However, before retreating for the day it stumbled upon a single member of the team who had been left behind while Scott and his fellows set up camp. This was Edgar Evans, injured in an icefall and unable to continue under his own strength. His team had left him in a shallow dugout, promising to return and collect him once they had made camp at a safe distance, and the sun was up. Evans was delirious from his head injury and frostbite, but when the vampire found him he understood well enough the offer it made – eternal life in exchange for the destruction of his party. Showing a degree of treachery well beyond that often claimed for him in subsequent years, Evans took the deal, and so he became a vampire, sired by a monstrous creature called the Bear, and ancilla of a mysterious and remote beauty known only as Polaris.

After the sun came up, and before his change was fully upon him, Evans was collected by his team mates and dragged back to the camp, where they intended to rest in the bright sun and wait out the stormy weather. Their plan was sound – in the Antarctic summer they had many hours to travel, while their pursuers had only a scant few hours to make chase. Finding Evans still alive though delerious in the snowdrift they assumed they had shaken off their pursuers, and decided to spend a single night resting before continuing the following day with Evans on a sled. But that night Evans died, and woke again, and consumed his teammates in an orgy of destruction. He then made his way south, dragging the recovered valuables with him, hiding in the snow during the long hours of daylight.

With Scott’s death the great age of exploration ended and the southern hideouts were safe – for a while. But after the second world war scientific expeditions began to proliferate on the shores of both polar landmasses. At first Polaris believed they would stop there but she soon realized that the human lust for land and knowledge – and energy to achieve its goals – was boundless, and she would need to find new ways to protect her wilderness redoubt. She sent Edgar Evans north, first to New Zealand and then on to the centres of power. His progress was slow and seemingly purposeless, and much of his history is lost. Sometime in the late 1960s he arrived on the Atlantic coast of the USA and became involved in the budding surf movement, making a name for himself as “the midnight surfer,” capable of amazing feats of surfing prowess but only swimming at night. After the surf scene became too large he disappeared again for a while, before he reappeared in a different guise in the extreme sports scene of the 1990s, now also at the head of a successful surfing products company. Once the extreme sports world began to be too heavily filmed he dropped out, setting up an extreme sports, snow and surf media company that soon dominated much of the sports market. A minor celebrity in this world, he also set up a foundation – the Polaris Foundation – that funded environmental activism and research connected to the poles. Through this foundation he began to influence the activities of polar researchers and political movements. He poured funds into the Sea Shepherds, into Greenpeace campaigns against arctic drilling and exploitation, and into global warming activism. He made secret, tentative contacts with the faerie court of winter, and reached out to the werewolves of the great steppes to find ways to seal off the many entryways into the arctic wilderness. Wherever the sun was extinguished for months at a time, the Polaris Foundation could be found advocating for national parks, wilderness sanctuaries, and the gradual exclusion of humanity.

Evans sat at the heart of this web of foundations, activist groups and movements, pulling strings from his headquarters outside of New York. Rich and vaguely famous, handsome and widely respected for his achievements in surfing and extreme sports, a minor celebrity amongst scientists and activists alike, Evans slowly worked to force the withdrawal of human influence from the frozen wastes of the earth’s poles – and for whatever darker purpose his grandsire, Polaris, secretly schemed.

Polaris

Polaris is so old that she has forgotten her name, and much of the lore of the realm of humans. She was no raider – a simple Inuit girl living in Greenland when the Vikings came, she was turned by a visiting Danish vampire in the 14th century. Driven out of her own community after the change, she lived wild and reckless in the mountains north of the norse settlement. She would hide in the bright summers, and stalk the Danish towns in winter when the sun was largely hidden, consuming the Danish kine with gleeful abandon. In the 15th century, as Danish wealth grew in Europe and her predations became more open, many of the community began to leave, fearing to stay another winter; eventually in a single winter of brutal extravagance she slew the remainder of the community, wiping it out. That summer she took the first ship back to the mainland, and moved her predations to the bigger cities of the wider world.

For the next few hundred years Polaris learnt the ways of the Camarila, learnt to control her hunger, and fed and studied across the cities of Europe. Eventually tiring of the Masquerade, after 400 years of petty vampire politics and growing jaded with the taste of human blood, she returned to the lands of her youth. Unfortunately they had changed beyond recognition, the beautiful fjords of her youth now transformed into whaling stations red with blood and rich with the stench of burning blubber. She realized that humans were beginning to encroach on every part of the earth, and yearned for somewhere pure and pristine to retire to, to escape from both vampire politics and human stench. Taking her wild childe the Bear with her, and a coterie of ghouls, she headed slowly south, winding her way over 10 years to the vast open plains of the Antarctic.

Here, surely, humans can never come, she thought. But half a century later there they were, sledding across the ice towards her lair, intent on robbery and murder. It was then that she sent her childe forth, with instructions – turn one of this new breed of adventurous human, for I have forgotten how they think and why they even bother. I see they are fragile and weak as individuals, but as a mass they seem to be capable of anything. While we can no longer claim to know how these kine think, we need one of our number to bear this knowledge, to hold the memory of humanity in his heart so that he can act properly against its interests, to keep us safe. Turn one of them, have him kill his fellows, and bring him to me. A new era has dawned, an era in which the silent and dark places of the earth will soon become bright with human light and rowdy with their empty chatter and barked commands. We cannot fight such a tide, so we need to learn the dynamics of its flow, that we can divert it away from those places where we hide and seek solitude.

And so the Bear went forth, and so Edgar Evans survived the cold, and entered into the kindred in an orgy of bloodshed and betrayal in a tiny hut on the edge of the world’s last great wilderness.

And so too did Polaris’s schemes bend under the pressure of the human flood; and her gaze turned north, and her cold, inhuman mind turned its thoughts towards new schemes, to use human’s own curiosity and volatility against them, and to protect her and her kind.

No one knows the truth of her schemes, only that she is ancient and cold and deadly, and that Edgar is her weapon against humanity – a lonely, gangrel weapon as cold and harsh as the adiabatic winds, and as implacable as the ice.

SPOILER: Everything they do turns to shit

SPOILER: Everything they do turns to shit

Last week David Cameron, British PM, put the case for bombing ISIS. It was interesting not for what he didn’t say but for the extent of what he did say. In stark contrast to the last time a British PM tried to ginny up a war, this time he was unstinting in his efforts to present facts and legal material in support of his bloodthirst. I watched it live (by coincidence!) and was interested to see that he released the legal evidence for war – something Blair never did – and spoke in detail to a list of reasons why bombing ISIS would be a war of self-defense, justified by not just international law but common decency. I can’t find the speech online, but you can read highlights here. In my opinion this was one of Cameron’s finer moments, reminiscent of the Cameron I saw on TV in 2009 before I left the UK, making strong speeches upbraiding the Labour Party for abandoning equality and promising that the Conservatives would be a party of greater equality and opportunity.

He does a good act, does the pig-fucker general. He let it all down today when he called the opposition leader a “terrorist sympathizer,” a cheap and pathetic shot that he really didn’t need to deliver after making a strong and passionate speech in favour of a war that, I think, many people would be happy to support. Why smear shit on that gilded lily? This particular insult is particularly stupid because while many people might suspect Corbyn of being a bit too close with Assad, it’s really obvious to everyone that a) this wouldn’t be happening if Assad had a few more friends and b) Corbyn is obviously a pacifist, which means he is not a terrorist sympathizer and everyone knows this. Saying something like “Corbyn can’t be trusted with the nuclear arsenal” is a perfectly reasonable slur; there is, however, no logic to claiming a pacifist is a terrorist sympathizer, and coming from someone in a position of such strength as Cameron this is just pathetic.

It’s also redolent of the worst rhetorical excesses of the period leading up to the Iraq war, when anyone who didn’t agree with a plan to kill a million Iraqis, displace 4 million more, and ignite a powder keg in the middle East was derided as a coward and a friend of Saddam Hussein. After those heady days of bloodthirsty stupidity it’s a very, very bad plan to show any hint of the same arrogance. This was on display in both Cameron’s speech and Corbyn’s reply, both of which were heavy with caution about the idea of sending British soldiers to the middle East. Cameron was at pains to point out that this was not a war of choice, and Corbyn was at pains to point out that the Labour Party is no longer the party of indiscriminately murdering foreigners.

Progress! And how did this progress come about? Because everyone in British politics is now desperate to avoid being compared to that most sinister of Vampiric figures, Tony Blair, the muppet who sucked Britain into a devastating war with a country it had no reason to invade, against all reason and popular will. Excepting the Scottish National Party, who are a kind of post-Blairite success, the rest of the parliament were engaged in a ten-hour long debate this week with not each other, but the ghost of Vampires past – Tony Blair. They could as well have burnt his effigy and all gone home, because until a couple of generations have passed and that evil grinning demon is dispelled from the British conscience there is no possibility of having an honest debate about war. How can you debate something when the shame, stigma and sin are so deeply ingrained as this? Little knowing, Shakespeare prepared a scene for just this moment in British political history: “Out, damned spot!”

But like the play, it won’t wash out, and as a result Corbyn’s response to Cameron’s speech was, in my opinion, crabby and limited. He could have set a higher tone by commending Cameron for his thoroughness, reminding everyone from the start of what a heinous mistake the last British effort was, and engaging the points that Cameron made rather than reading off a list of questions that Cameron had basically already answered. Corbyn’s speech was aimed at an absent Tony Blair, and those of his ghouls who remain connected to the parliamentary Labour Party, rather than the ostensible warmonger standing in front of him. Was ever a political party more hamstrung by its recent history than this? They elected a near-pacifist, who has completely reasonable grounds for his beliefs, and is strong in them, but the first time a war comes along he actually has a really good opportunity to engage with the British public by renouncing those beliefs “for a greater good”: only he can’t, because he and his whole party couldn’t go to war against Darth Vader himself if he was murdering puppies by the bucketload, because even the suggestion of a warlike impulse and the entire country will yell “FUCK! Blair!” and head to the bomb shelters.

He doesn’t have a reflection, but surely Blair’s shadow stretches far.

Later in the week Corbyn recovered some poise, and wrote a much more solid opinion piece for the Guardian, explaining in more detail why war won’t work. He seems to be largely supported by his party, though reports say he is allowing a conscience vote, which is good. War should be a matter of conscience, though that wouldn’t have stopped the Blairite clique, who are as completely lacking in conscience as they are in souls. Corbyn’s piece points out that without boots on the ground we can’t win, and the only boots on the ground that can win are local, but the local forces are either useless or very very dubious. He also points out that British planes won’t add much to all the other powers there so why bother? I have the same feeling about Trident: just let it all go boys, you’re no longer a world power! But the deeper point I think is more important: without ground troops bombing campaigns are a waste of time, and there is no army ready to deal with ISIS.

ISIS are the Khmer Rouge of the Middle East. Just like the Khmer Rouge, they sprung out of destruction and waste, sowed now as it was then by the US air force and triggered by a local insurrection. In the end the Khmer Rouge were brought down by a Vietnamese invasion, which it appears many scholars think met all the conditions for a “just war”: they invaded Cambodia to protect themselves, stop massive refugee flows, and end a despotic and genocidal regime. Cameron was at pains to make the same points in his speech, though he didn’t compare the UK to Vietnam, and I think he’s on solid ground. The difference, of course, is in the source of ground troops: Vietnam is a neighbour of Cambodia, and sent in 150000 Vietnamese troops, defeating the Khmer Rouge in two weeks (ha!), but there is no similar ground force available to beat ISIS. If the western powers are going to depose ISIS they’re going to need a local force, and the only local forces available are either unacceptable (Iran, Hezbollah, Assad) or uninterested (Turkey).

When I read the debates about what to do about ISIS I find myself trapped by the same demons as Corbyn. On first blush it appears like the perfect humanitarian intervention – no clearer case has presented itself in 30 years. But our recent history of interventions and the recent history in the area make me think that no intervention is going to work. Which leaves ISIS rampaging across the region, destroying everything they touch, even though there’s the possibility of a coalition of global powers acting together for the first time since world war 2 to destroy an unqualified evil, uncompromised by concerns of local politics or history. Since the Khmer Rouge no one has been so obviously cruising for a bruising as ISIS, and no coalition more clearly ready to form since world war 2.

And yet over it all hangs the shadow of Blair and Bush. Vox recently published a great article featuring a debate between Christopher Hitchens and a few other randoms, in which Hitchens was 100% convinced that no harm could come from invading Iraq, while someone else in the debate was predicting, essentially, ISIS. Reach back in history and view that, and weep at how stupid our political masters can be. If they hadn’t invaded Iraq, a million people would still be alive and ISIS probably wouldn’t exist; and if they did, the political will to destroy them would be intense and unstoppable.

There is no place in hell hot enough for the people who made those decisions in 2003.

we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

Historians often struggle to come to grips with the more pathological eras of human history. The holocaust, world war 1, Stalin’s terror and the history of slavery are terrifying periods that are difficult for ordinary people to grasp. Why did people do these things? How did whole populations get caught up in frantic social movements with such a destructive and chaotic bent? Usually, balanced and reasonable historians attempt to explain these movements through a mixture of social, economic and institutional phenomena, with varying amounts of great man theory and good or bad luck thrown into the mix. But ultimately, somewhere along the line, historical theory often loses grip on that most simple of facts: that all historical movements depend in the end on individuals to enact them, and these individuals sometimes have to do terrible things. Though it is a terrible work of scholarship, Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners at least attempts to grapple with this vexing problem when, describing the events at Babi Yar, Goldhagen personalizes the actions of the policemen, and asks the reader to imagine what these men must have been thinking when they marched children to their deaths. But in general, somewhere in historical scholarship there must be some gap of understanding, between the grand social and economic movements that produced a pathology, and the willingness of ordinary people to execute that pathology.

A vivid example of this situation is the problem of slavery in the USA, and the war that brought its end. Scholars may characterize the conflicting forces driving this movement – economic, cultural, historical, geographic – and they can describe with some certainty the opinions and goals of the people involved in the fateful decision to go to war, but they still in the end cannot explain the simple personal fact of slavery in a way we can comprehend. How is it that an ordinary human being – similar, one assumes, in fundamental disposition to my own gentle reader(s) – can go to bed happy, dream of happy things, then wake up, step outside, and reduce another perfectly ordinary human being to a state of complete and humiliating servitude? What was that man thinking when he purchased another human being as chattel, and beat them if they refused to cooperate in their own subjugation? And then, when the rest of the world had made it clear that the trade would have to end, what were these men thinking when they decided that it were better to go to war rather than give up this obvious immorality? And why did ordinary men agree to join such a fight, and kill other ordinary men, over something so simply and obviously wrong as the right to get up in the morning and use another human being as if they were an animal?

Many explanations have been given for slavery and its acceptance, but to me they are fundamentally implausible because they fail to connect the broad social and cultural forces claimed to underlie the slave state with those intimately personal moments of cruelty and brutality that link an ordinary human being and his slave. Any such explanation must necessarily be fanciful and involve a reasonable degree of magical thinking: how can the economic forces of the tobacco plantation change the mind of the plantation owner so that he cannot see the humanity of his victim? There is no explanation for this in modern historical thought, and as such all extant theories of the reasons for slavery seem to me fundamentally implausible.

Last night, however, I watched a documentary that finally presented a plausible explanation for this whole era of American history: Vampires. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter offers the first, and I think we can all agree, the most reasonable explanation for slavery yet contrived: the slave holders were not human. They were vampires, and they built a massive slave empire so that they could feed. While other recent films have presented a shabby depiction of Abraham Lincoln as an ordinary man, compromised by the (unexplained) mores of his time and forced to barter over the freedom of millions, in this documentary we see a more nuanced view of our hero, as a great man of unbending will on a heroic mission to use his super-powers against the forces of darkness. I ask you, which is more believable? Could the man who wrote those speeches have been a shabby compromiser, or a secret demon-slayer?

This documentary helps us to understand many things about the civil war. It shows us that white Southerners were not racists of some fantastic creed, but themselves victims of inhuman monsters. It also helps us to understand how such an abominable slave empire could have been established: no humans, with their simple morality, were involved, but instead the whole edifice was constructed by undead. We also see some insight into why Americans take this civil war so seriously. Where previously I had thought it strange that Americans treated this period of their history with so much importance, given it is so terribly embarrassing to have had to go to war in order to simply abolish an institution that the rest of the world already knew was so thoroughly wrong. But in fact, this war really was a titanic battle between the forces of good and evil, and though not all Americans will tell you about the Vampire aspect, they obviously have some sense of it, and thus are justly proud of the efforts of Americans to win and then recover from that cataclysmic struggle. Finally, this movie also helps to answer a question that has long vexed me about British politics. We all know that Tony Blair is a vampire, but many doubt their own sense of his deep and unrelenting evil because they ask themselves, “how can a vampire be abroad in daylight?” This movie answers that question, simply: sunscreen. Vampires use a special sunscreen, which is why Tony Blair always looks so heavily made up. Other objections to his undead nature (“a vampire could not possibly succeed in the labor party because it has neither the fortitude nor the appropriate level of deviousness” or “why did he become PM of England instead of America”) are either easily answered from the record (“Tony Blair is a devious bastard”) or are also answered by this documentary (“he was kicked out of the USA by Abraham Lincoln and he is mighty pissed about it”). So this documentary doesn’t teach us about only America, but also shows us some important insights into why things went so wrong in the UK. I strongly recommend this documentary as a way of better understanding the true nature of the undead who live amongst us.

As an aside, the documentary is also very entertaining, tells the story clearly and simply without confusion, and has such good footage from the battles of the time that you could almost believe it was made in a film studio. It is an entertaining and enlightening look at a very important part of American history, and has given me a newfound respect for Abraham Lincoln. Others may complain that it excuses white racism of the era, or reduces history to the story of one great man, but I think those criticisms fail to adequately take into account one important fact: Vampires. So if you want to learn more about the evil that threatened America, or you want to reassess the evidence for Lincoln’s greatness, I strongly recommend this documentary.

It will also eat your children

I think by now that it’s well known and accepted that Britain’s ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is a vampire. Questions remain as to what magic he was using to enable him to go outside during the day – was it fairy blood, or the souls of Iraqi children? Alchemists across the multiverse want to know his secret. But beyond the arcane details, the facts are pretty clear: the working class people of Britain made a kind of unholy pact with their vampire overlord – in return for allowing him to do whatever unspeakable things he wanted to do to them, he would deliver unto the poor of Britain a ponzi scheme unlike any other through the magical ritual of “the housing market,” and they would be rich forever – the “end of boom and bust” as his blind necromancer-eunuch described it. In exchange for a little of their blood, they thought they would have it good forever. I don’t think they understood, though, just how depraved he was.

I guess that’s the inevitable consequence of giving too many rights to vampires. Especially vampires so old and powerful that they can work their hypnotic magic on a whole nation. He should have been staked back in the 1990s when he was first beginning to whisper his sibilant lies into the ears of the weaker minds in the labour party, and enslaving Brit Pop bards to his ferocious will.

However, the really sad thing about the Faustian pact that the working people of Britain signed with the vampire is that they never got their side of the deal, and it’s now becoming patently clear that they have been sold up the river, their hopes and dreams destroyed elegantly and completely by their undead ally. The truth is clearly laid out in this article from the Guardian, which reveals that the proportion of people in Britain who own their own home has declined from 43% in 1993 to 35% now; and is expected to drop lower, possibly to as low as 27%, if the economy remains stagnant. Furthermore, the second fruit of the unholy deal, ever-increasing wealth, has not been delivered. The Guardian reports that working Britons are suffering poverty at astounding rates:

these 3.6m British households have little or no savings, nor equity in their homes, and struggle at the end of each month to feed themselves and their children adequately. They say they are unable to cope on their current incomes and have no assets to fall back on, leaving them vulnerable to something as simple as an unexpectedly large fuel bill.

But hang on, I hear you say – didn’t Britain recently have a so-called “housing boom” during which huge amounts of investment poured into the private housing market? How can it be that there was a housing boom but less people now own their own homes than before the boom started? It’s as if – shocking! – the boom served to cement ownership of property amongst the wealthiest sections of society, and concentrated land ownership away from the hands of the poorer half of society – and we’re not talking about the bottom of society here, or the so-called “undeserving poor.” The Experian research specifically excluded the most deprived parts of society and the unemployed – there are 3.6 million households in the UK who are working full time but have “no assets to fall back on” and have likely been squeezed permanently out of the home-buying market.

This is not what that vampire promised. Not at all. The vampire promised those 3.6 million households that they would be able to buy a home and gain a little financial security, and maybe some wealth. Instead, they’ve been locked out permanently. It hasn’t been remarked upon in the discussion of this new phenomenon of “generation rent,” but I think an important point needs to be recognized: this is the single biggest increase in inequality in a generation. In Britain, owning a home is a very important financial goal. It protects you in retirement, gives you secure capital, and ensures that your children have some form of endowment to protect them if (as easily happens in societies as unequal as Britain) they find themselves sliding down the income scale compared to you. Furthermore, over one’s lifetime it is meant to be cheaper than renting. Now, it doesn’t have to be this way – there are other ways to prevent inequality than ensuring home ownership – but this is the way it is in Britain. And the so-called “housing boom” has ensured that the number of people who are able to access this security has declined by 20% in just 20 years. That is a huge increase in inequality, and it all happened under the stewardship of the Labour Party, who were in power from 1997 to 2010. The Labour Party and their apparatchiks in the Guardian make much of their efforts to lift children out of poverty through tax credits, but what does that matter if at the same time they have stripped away a fundamental economic goal for 8% of the population? Those children who have been saved from poverty by tax credits will simply slide back into it in adulthood, in the depressing and sad way the Experian report describes: working hard, and not even treading water. For those 2.2 million children in the Experian report, their  adult experience of the housing market will likely be a series of long, arduous lessons in that most British of sayings: free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t.

Furthermore, much of this inequality is likely to be generational: the people who have concentrated their ownership of the housing wealth will be baby boomers from the middle and upper classes, and as the reports note, the main losers in this massive land grab have been young families. You will hear conservatives talk a lot about “generational equity” when they are worried about government debt (“leaving it to the next generation to foot the bill,” etc blah blah) but where were they during the housing boom, while a small slice of the richest generation in history were stealing land from generation X and Y? I don’t recall ever hearing anything from the ‘Tories that might have any resemblance to a warning that the “housing boom” was going to lead to a huge increase in generational inequity. But I bet you can find all sorts of that kind of lazy and shiftless argument about government debt and bailout funds.

So where does that leave Britain? It has a stagnating economy, with a population of some 7 million working poor (2.2 million children!) who are on the brink of financial disaster, a whole generation squeezed out of the financial security of home ownership, and yet simultaneously a rental market that is suffering a lack of housing supply – so rents are skyrocketing. At the same time, private superannuation funds have been losing money for the last 10 years, making home ownership more valuable than ever, yet the “housing boom” has shaken a huge number of people out of that market – permanently.

Which just goes to show that the people of Britain should never have cut any kind of deal with that vampire – they should have staked it, and locked its cabal of necromantic followers into a dungeon somewhere, then thrown away the key. It also makes me think that the Reign of the Vampire saw a greater increase in inequality than ever happened under his supposedly satanic predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. I wonder if many people in the British left agree with me? Let’s consider, as a salutary example, this chap: Dennis Skinner, 80 year old Labour stalwart who was “formed in the pits and the war” and has a strong dislike of toffs and Thatcherites. He refused to take a cabinet position under Blair because he might speak out against government policy, and then be exiled from the party. Dennis, mate, allow me to let you in on a secret: your boss was a vampire. Honour, decency, and any kind of morality worth having demanded that you speak out against him and his stupid ponzi scheme. But you expressly avoided putting yourself in a position where you would be able to do that effectively. Or, could it be that you just missed the important facts here? You went to dinner with Tony Blair and were somehow looking the other way when he grabbed one of the waiters, snapped his neck and drained him of his life’s blood? And you were just, kind of, you know, having a senior moment when he was telling you all about his glorious ponzi scheme that would see everyone in Britain get rich forever from borrowing money to buy each other’s houses. You may be a labour stalwart, but there’s something else you are too: an immoral fuckwit. And the next generation of kids to grow up in your area – who will never have to go down the pits because Margaret Thatcher closed them – will never be able to afford to buy a home because of people like you and their slavish devotion to a vampire. But you and your mates will continue to whinge about how Thatcher destroyed the country and made it less equal.

As I mentioned, none of this lets the Tories off the hook – they were cheerleaders for the vampire’s stupid ponzi scheme from its very inception. But idiots like this, who are so profoundly incapable of sensible policy-making that they drop hints about returning to the gold standard, don’t have a vampire for a boss. Their claim to infamy is that they could have done better – basically a badge of pride for your average Tory. But unlike the Skinners of this world, it’s not sitting on the lapel of their coat next to a badge that says “I allowed a vampire to arse-fuck my country,” which is what most members of the Labour Party should be wearing.

And for the record, it was obvious to me that the vampire was evil from the moment I set eyes on it. That hideous fixed grin, the soulless eyes, the voodoo carefully disguised as an economic policy … the only question that remains unanswered for me is – how does it manage to walk around in sunlight without bursting into flames?

Reports emerge of archaeologists who have discovered the remains of men staked to prevent vampirism in Bulgaria. The rate of Vampirism in ancient Bulgaria appears to have been 2 per 700 adults, though perhaps only men were staked. A rare but deadly condition, which apparently was prevented using wooden or iron rods (iron was reserved for the richer vampires) and may not have been officially sanctioned – “brave men” opened the coffins after burial to do the staking.

I wonder if Buffy was there?

All this talk of human rivers and grim waves of destruction reminds me that I haven’t got around to posting up a review of my most recent reading material, Twelve by Jasper Kent. Maintaining the recent trend towards undead-themed novels, Twelve is a tale about vampires set in Russia in 1812, during Napoleon’s invasion. Napoleon is within weeks of Moscow, and a group of four Russian officers who form a kind of irregular spy cadre regather for the first time in four years to unleash a new force in the war. One of their number has called on an old ally from outside of Russia, a mysterious man named Zmyeelich who brings with him 12 dirty, sinister-looking mercenaries. These 12 men, the officers are assured, will provide great aid in the war against Napoleon. Nothing is revealed about these men and their nature, except that they are very disturbing; but over the course of the book their true form is revealed, and one of the group of four sets out to destroy them all.

The blurb on the book suggests that these 12 men are a threat to all of humanity, but I didn’t get this impression reading the story. Rather, they’re just really really nasty. We certainly get to find out how nasty during some of the descriptions of their more vicious actions against the French, and it’s clear that they are worth a lot more than 12 men in their actions. But stacked up against the size of Napoleon’s army – some 400,000 men when it crossed the Neman, and probably still more than 200,000 when it reached Moscow – it’s hard to believe they could make a dent in less than a year, especially since the central theme of the story is our main hero managing to kill them one by one. Of course, his killing of them depends on knowledge that the French don’t have, but they are proven to be far from invincible. The main story turns into a tale of vengeance and holy fury, with our hero committed to the destruction of the twelve out of purely religious and moral concerns.

The book contains an interesting side story about the main character’s relationship with a sex worker called Dominique, and his guilt at his preference for her over his wife. His relationships with the other three spies, which prove to be crippled by self doubt and distrust, are also essential to the progress of the plot and make his situation very believable. The story is also written with what I imagine to be the classic monster-hunter/van Helsing style, where the main character’s own fears, deductions and moral failings are displayed to the reader through his debates with himself, his dreams and his anxious ponderings. In this sense it fits with my image of older horror stories, like Frankenstein and the work of Bram Stoker, which often involve intense debates entirely within the conscience of the main character.

The backdrop of the Napoleonic wars is also handled very well, with the characters (and their nemesis) settling as spies in deserted Moscow during the French occupation, then following them back during the initial stages of their retreat. The sense of a city emptied, under occupation and empty of supplies is well conveyed, as is the increasing desperation and lawlessness of the French. In amongst all this we see the increasingly uncontrolled and predatory behaviour of the vampires as our heroes’ cooperation and trust begins to break down; and then the winter comes. This builds tension nicely to the climax, which occurs at Napoleons’ disastrous crossing of the river Berezine, which seals the fate of both Napoleon and the sinister enemies that the Russian spies have called forth.

This book is well written, in the classic horror story style of focusing on the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and his relations with his fellows. It works well on undermining trust between these fellows, and uses the classic methods of understated description and avoiding gore to build up the horror and violence of the foe, though eventually it gets suitably grotesque. The vampires are evil and powerful without being unbelievably invincible, and our hero’s efforts to defeat them are largely believable. The historical context is really interesting and the backdrop of war, slaughter and confusion gives a subdued apocalyptic feel to the whole setting. Overall this book is an excellent addition to the vampire genre, and well worth reading if you like either historical fiction or solid undead stories with a hint of an old-fashioned horror style.