Greetings my fellow random response generators! It is I, Josh Stoodley, here to regale you with more opinions that you didn’t ask for!
Except today isn’t about opinions. It’s about the three different philosophical underpinnings of my upcoming commercial works: No Blood for Business, Brockhold, and Legends of Infernia. As all three have quite different inspirations (Film noir and hardboiled detective fiction for No Blood, Redwall for Brockhold and the Tales of series for Infernia), you’d expect all three to have quite different philosophies underpinning them!
And you’d be right, of course.
The reason I want to discuss, to lay out the different philosophies underpinning these works, is because I know people. I know they will take my work and twist it to their political and philosophical ends, that they will seek meaning where there is none, and invent out of whole cloth interpretations of characters and scenes that is completely at odds with what really happened.
I intend to combat this kind of bad faith analysis directly in the text itself, of course. But there is no way I will be totally successful; a quick perusal of Tumblr will be enough to disabuse you of that notion. So I wanted to create this post. An easily accessible resource for future analysts and fans who are concerned with the truth, not whatever their pet political theory is.
So if you want to know why I wrote these projects the way I did, join me under the cut!
It’s Not Copaganda, It’s Vampire Propaganda!
Let’s start with No Blood for Business. Part of The Standard Tech Case Files, it stars the vampire Joey “Deadman” Bianco and their squire, Jennifer Anne “Jen” Ryan. Joey is the Chief Security Officer of Standard Technologies, Inc., a front for the quasi-legal vampire government of the so-called ‘Weird Quarter’ of Fort City. Standard Tech is the last remnant of a vampire republic that once controlled all of Zion State, before it was smashed by the United States of America and forcibly absorbed into the Union by everybody’s favourite slavery-sympathizing president, Andrew Johnson.
Forced to sign a series of treaties known as The Compromises, the vampires and their therianthropic kin were gathered into a quarter of Fort City and left to rot.
It, uh, didn’t quite work out that way. The vampires, led by Baron Isaak ben Jacob, forged new alliances with other therianthropes and other victims of American aggression, like black people and First Nations tribes. Armed with these alliances, the vampires have built up a strong economic power base in the Weird Quarter and dozens of mortal humans are joining up every night.
I started with this history lesson because I wanted to set-up a few things that I believe are important:
- The Standard Tech Case Files take place in an alternate universe. You’d think that’d be obvious from the fact that the main characters are freaking vampires, but a lot of vampire fiction is literally just ‘our world, with the exact same history and everything, but with vampires!’ I think that’s a lazy form of world-building, personally. In The Standard Tech Case Files, the vampires have a history. They interacted with the world and changed things relative to our universe.
- Vampires are not a stand-in for any minority. While vampires do have some similarities to real-world minorities, and their issues are at the forefront of the series, real-world minorities do exist, have their own politics and complicated relationships with vampires.
There are some other important points to consider when reading The Standard Tech Case Files:
- It’s a cynical series. As a Fantastic Noir series, it has deep roots in Film Noir and hardboiled detective fiction. Everybody is just a little bit slimy, corruption is rampant, violence is an acceptable solution to most problems, the guilty get away with an awful lot, etc.
- That said, The Standard Tech Case Files hearkens back to more Raymond Chandler than modern, neo-noir writers. In his famous essay The Simple Art of Murder, Chandler wrote:
In everything that can be called art, there is a quality of redemption
The Standard Tech Case Files adheres to this. Evil, no more immune to entropy than the good guys are, loses in the end. Usually, through their own actions to boot. My goal here is to write stories that are equal-opportunity cynical. Violence, corruption and greed, things that usually get a pass as ‘effective’ in neo-noir are shown as the self-defeating, narrow-minded and daft things that they really are.
Some other points:
- Continuing on with Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder, the two main characters are at the opposite ends of Chandler’s dictum about heroes. Joey is the hardboiled detective finally made good; the one who made it through all the tragedy and pain and no longer needs to go stomping through the mud. Joey isn’t rich, exactly, but they are now in the upper-classes and need to deal more with politics interfering with their agents than actual detective work.
- Jen, on the other hand, is just entering the world of policing. Now on her third year of a Policing Sciences degree, Jen technically isn’t even a cop yet. She’s young, bright and full of life, as opposed to the old, cold and dead Joey. Though Jen comes from a rough background, she holds on to her idealism and youthful naivete. Hungry for answers and possessed of a strong sense of justice, Jen gamely chases down criminals while battling her own deep-seated rage.
The story is as much about their interactions as it is chasing criminals. Joey, in teaching Jen how to be a vampire, must confront their own assumptions and past mistakes. Jen, in her turn, must learn… not to lose her idealism, exactly. But to see both Joey and vampires in general with clearer eyes. Jen has spent much of her life seeing vampires as the way out: the way out of poverty, the way out of her rage. Vampires, in their Gothic towers and crypts, with their elegant balls and fancy clothes, represented everything Jen couldn’t have. Everything she, in a very real sense, wanted. Jen believed that by joining their ranks, she would finally be free and happy. Joey Bianco, the Deadman, legendary super-cop and crime-fighter, was the epitome of that. She, too, wants to be the cool, deadpan snarker who reacts to danger with a flippant remark, who doesn’t need to resort to violence because they’ve already figured out all the angles but is a master at it anyway. That’s Jen’s dream, more than anything.
And, to be fair, there is some truth to Jen’s idealization of vampires and Joey in particular. Joey is not without their own heroes, and have spent much of their life acting like Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx for a reason. And, within the confines of the story, the vampires are more sympathetic and (marginally, this is still film noir) less evil than their mortal contemporaries.
But as I mentioned earlier, Joey’s made a lot of mistakes in their life. Friends were betrayed. Innocent people were hurt. Bad guys were allowed to get away in the name of pragmatism or politics. And, even when Joey did the right thing all the way through, innocent people were still hurt because that is the nature of the law and justice. And the vampires, though not as evil as their mortal neighbours, are still capable of a lot of evil and callousness.
So Jen must grow past her rosy view of Joey and vampires in order to come into her own and become the vampire she was meant to be. No Blood for Business is as much a coming of age story for Jen as anything.
This has gotten long, so I will cut it short here and discuss Brockhold and Legends of Infernia in upcoming posts. See you next week!