For those who may not know, or do not realise, the history of the modern living Vampire culture reaches back to at least 1966, one of the largest and most respected Vampire culture organisations came into being in June of 1976, the movement has been growing ever since.
Within this ‘Vampire world’ of ours people come and go, some frequently, some not. There are many who reinvent themselves periodically to leave some things behind or to move on to new things and amidst it all there are people who have dedicated themselves, quietly, consistently and with determination to the culture.
Our guest this evening is one such person. Having been involved in the vampire subculture, both online and offline, since 1994 this lady is a professional who has been a member of Voices of the Vampire Community (VVC) since 2006, she has done various media interviews, including ABC’s 20/20 and a documentary for XYTV in the UK. In 2008 she spoke, as an expert panelist, at the American Criminal Justice Society’s conference.
Since 1998, she has been the head of the Real-Vampires Community Alliance (RVCA), the oldest Internet-based support group for the vampire community.
RVL: Good evening Lady Sylvere and thank you very much for sparing a little of your valuable time to be with us, and our readers, this evening.
LS: Thank you for having me. Our first interview was such a positive experience, I couldn’t turn down another opportunity to speak with you.
RVL: Naturally, I suppose, I wrote the foreword with our readers, young and old, in mind, when did you first become aware of the modern living Vampire culture and where were you at the time?
LS: The answer to that is sort of nebulous. I became peripherally aware of the vampire culture in the early 1990s through ‘zines such as “Journal of the Dark” and the “Vampire Information Exchange Newsletter.” I grew up in a very small, rural town in the Midwest, so I didn’t have access to big club scenes like those found in New York, Los Angeles, or New Orleans. Getting information about alternative cultures was a Herculean feat. I met the woman who would become known in the vampire culture as Sanguinarius shortly after I moved to Kansas City in 1992, although we didn’t get to know each other well until I moved into an apartment in the same building as hers in 1994. However, I didn’t gain access to a computer and a reliable Internet connection until 1997. That was when I became fully aware of and active in the greater vampire community.
RVL: …and what, do you recall, were your first thoughts about it?
LS: At first I didn’t take it seriously at all. Vampires were either fiction or, in the case of certain occult texts I’d found, unnatural leeches to be shunned. Between 1994 and 1997, I found a few IRC chat rooms that were supposedly about real vampires, but most of them were populated by role-players involved in Vampire: The Masquerade. I’ve been an avid RPG enthusiast since high school, so role-playing was something I could understand. But the people who were actually claiming to be vampires had to be either trolling or crazy.
RVL: I’m going to have to put you on the spot now, many of our readers will be dying to know, do you identify as a modern living Vampire yourself?
LS: Yes and no? I identify as Otherkin, specifically Leanan Sidhe. However, I experience many, if not all, of the same traits as people who identify as psychic vampires. I am a vampire in the sense that I need to feed to feel completely healthy and medical science has no idea why. I’ve undergone a battery of medical tests, including a CT scan, seen mental health professionals, and overall I’m pretty healthy for a middle-aged human being. But when I don’t feed, I feel craptastic. I got to a point where I had no choice but to accept my vampirism. So yes, I identify as a vampire, but it’s a very specific *type* of vampire.
RVL: With respect to the Real-Vampires Community Alliance, what brought you to the leadership of that initiative?
LS: I became friends with the original founder through a Listserv email discussion list. When she decided she wanted to start a group for real vampires, she invited me to join. At that time, she was studying abroad so she asked me if I’d be willing to help her moderate, which I gladly did. Eventually, I was the one doing the bulk of the work on the back end, such as screening and approving potential members, while she was the “face” of the group. When the OneList account she used to create the list was hacked, I restarted Real-Vampires with my account. We agreed that it was safer to leave it that way rather than transferring the list back to her and risking another security breach.
After that, things ran smoothly until she decided to stop taking medication for her mental health issues. She became increasingly paranoid, delusional, and abusive toward the list members. By then we’d added several more moderators and it was decided among the team that she would be given the choice to either start taking her medication again or she would be put on moderation and all of her posts reviewed before being approved. She refused to accept that decision and left, which made me the owner in truth as well as in practice.
RVL: …and, may we ask, what are some of the positive/negative things you see when you look around at the whole?
LS: I think my feelings about both this can be summed up as “human nature.” Humans are selfish, insecure, and egotistical. We’re also generous, courageous, and altruistic. We have the capacity to be destructive or creative, healers or a blight on society. Everything that is good or bad about the vampire culture comes down to our personal strengths and weaknesses and how we deal with them.
RVL: …and what is your personal feeling about the overall direction/s that the modern culture seems to be moving in?
LS: It seems to be moving in circles, just like it has for the past 20 years. Very little has changed, although there are far more informational resources available now than when I started my journey. We’ve also made some progress in getting academic researchers interested in the culture. One day we may have the opportunity to engage medical researchers, but all of the research done to date has been from an anthropological perspective. I think that will continue to be the case for most future research.
RVL: Now, I know I gave away most of your secrets in the intro… sorry ‘bout that… would you like to elaborate on some of the work you have done both within, and outside of, the modern Culture to help strengthen and develop the movement?
LS: Besides running one of the oldest and largest Internet-based support groups for members of the vampire culture, I’ve also been a member of Voices of the Vampire Community since 2006. The VVC has done a lot of work with media, law enforcement, and mental health practitioners to help increase their understanding of the vampire culture instead of making unfounded assumptions about us.
In 2008, I was invited to speak as an expert panelist at the American Criminal Justice Society’s annual conference. I’m sure you’ll recall how law enforcement and the media handled the Columbine shooting, immediately describing the shooters as “Goths” because they happened to be wearing black coats, even though they had no ties to Goth culture. Similar things happen when there is any hint of “occult” practices being tied to criminal activity. My role as an expert panelist was to educate law enforcement personnel about what it means to identify as a modern vampire so that they didn’t jump to any mistaken conclusions.
I also work with a group called CLAVIS (Current and Longitudinal Analyses of the Vampire-Identifying Subculture) to build relationships with professional researchers and act as a consultant help improve the quality of their research. Throughout my tenure in the vampire culture, I have always attempted to encourage outsiders to look beyond the fake fangs and Goth clubwear and see that the vast majority of vampires are people who look and behave like anyone else. You could live next door to a vampire and never know it.
RVL: There have been, as I also mentioned earlier, a quite large number of people whom have withdrawn from the “public” arena, or even completely, in the modern culture – many long for the return of “the Old Guard” as they have been called. Why do you think so many of “The Old Guard” have slipped away?
LS: Real-world responsibilities play a significant role, I’m sure. As people starting working on advancing in their careers or become parents, those responsibilities take precedence over message boards and Facebook groups. There’s also the burn-out factor – people get tired of the bickering and the cycle of “Vampirism 101” questions so they find more interesting things to do. You can only rehash the same tired topics for so long before people get bored and stop participating.
RVL: …and do you think that the “vacuum” left by the so-called “old guard” has been, and continues to be adequately filled?
LS: A lot of us “old timers” are still around so I wouldn’t say there’s a vacuum. A bigger issue is that the Facebook generation is too lazy to make use of the vast number of resources we’ve worked so hard to create. They expect to be patted on the head, told how special they are, and spoon fed easily-digestible sound bites rather than spend a few hours reading what we’ve spent years of our lives building. It’s more a matter of the veterans growing tired of wasting our breath on people who don’t care to listen than a hole left by veterans drifting away from the community.
RVL: I’m going to ask you a “crystal ball” question now, where do you see the modern living Vampyre culture in 10 years’ time, based on the growth and expansion you have witnessed over the last decade.
LS: Doing the same thing it’s been doing for the past 20 years. If we’re lucky, there will be more professional research done and more academic resources available.
RVL: I know when I first contacted you about doing this interview I asked if you would consider it as, “a true Elder and leader of the culture”… and, I believe, you accused me of calling you old…!!! Assuming, for the sake of argument, we take elder as being someone who has long tenure, high reputation, the respect of the culture and has served the culture for some length of time, would you concede that many would regard you as an Elder? How do you see yourself in relation to that concept?
LS: Considering the average of people in the vampire community, I *am* old. I’ve also been active in the culture for 20-something years. In terms of both the Internet and the vampire culture, that’s ancient. I suppose that makes me an “elder” but if I have to choose a term, I’ll pick “veteran.” To me, “Elder” feels like I’m trying to make myself out to be a tribal priestess or something equally pretentious. The term “veteran” calls to mind someone who has experience and has actively served their community. They may have even seen combat. That’s a pretty apt description of what it’s like to hold a long tenure as an organizer in the vampire culture.
RVL: Also, when I first contacted you, you told me that you are more typically, and I quote, “…like a stereotypical Volvo-driving soccer mom nine days out of ten and spends most of her time home-schooling her youngest…” The most obvious question is what do you do on the tenth day? And, more to the point, what does Lady Sylvere Ap Leanan do to relax, to kick back and lighten the load?
LS: If I’m honest, there’s no difference at all. I work from home, so I dress for comfort. My wardrobe is mostly t-shirts and jeans or sweatpants. I don’t even bother putting on makeup most days. On the rare occasions I get dressed up, my style tends toward an understated “corporate Goth” look. As far as recreation and relaxation are concerned, I have a variety of interests. I like to read and play video games including Mass Effect, The Sims 3, and Ark: Survival Evolved. Lately, I’ve been teaching myself to design fractal art using various freeware programs. I also enjoy watching movies (I have a serious Bollywood addiction) and I love the current television shows based on comic books. I’m also looking forward to the next season of Doctor Who. Overall, I’m a huge nerd.
RVL: …and, of your involvement in the culture, you have said, “I’ve spent most of it quietly working behind the scenes rather than in front of a camera or at a club, like most of the big names.” Do you believe that the modern culture is more about the regular, behind-the-scenes, everyday life things or does it need a little glam, a little pizazz, to keep it vibrant and interesting?
LS: I think the culture *should* be about the everyday life things, because that’s where education takes place and where the human connection comes from. However, I think we have a tendency to focus on the flashy side precisely because it’s more glamorous. Everyone wants to see their name in lights, but very few people want to do the sometimes tedious work that keeps things running.
RVL: We see, very often still, young people approaching the culture with a fixation on the idea of being tuned into a Vampire, why do you think this still happening after all the work to change the thinking in that arena?
LS: People always want an easy answer to their problems. Fictional vampirism offers an extended life filled with youth, beauty, and effortless power. Vampire lifestylers and their make-believe courts portray the vampire culture as a huge party that never ends. Sleep all day, party all night among the glitterati – who wouldn’t want that? No one stops to think about how the bills are going to get paid or who’s going to clean up after the club kids go to bed.
RVL: …and what do you think is the very best way to keep these young people safe from potential predators that attach themselves to our culture?
LS: I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the vampire culture, as a group, to protect young people from predators. We are not nannies. We can provide high-quality educational resources, including information about the warning signs of a cult or domestic violence, so that young people are aware of potential hazards and can make informed decisions. We can also offer supportive listening or advice if we’re asked, but that’s all we can reasonably be expected to do. It’s up to them to make use of the resources we provide. We certainly can’t make their life choices for them.
RVL: What do you find, these days, to be your main area of engagement and interest in the modern real Vampire culture, your “major”, if you will?
LS: I’m one of those people who always has a dozen projects on my plate at any given moment. I’m terrible about overextending myself. It’s a real problem.
RVL: So, if I were to ask you to offer one piece of amazing wisdom and sage advice to our readers, based on your years of experience and your professional perception of the modern culture, what would it be?
LS: Do your homework. There are many informative and educational resources available, use them. No one can give you definite, one-size-fits-all answers so you’re going to have to put in the effort to learn as much as you can and figure out what fits for yourself.
RVL: Lady Sylvere, thank you so much for lending us a little of your time, we are very proud to be able to bring this to our readers. We wish you every success in your endeavours for 2018 and we would like, very much, to be able to keep in touch and see what’s what from time to time if that’s okay with you?
LS: Thank you for having me. Of course, I’d love to keep in touch.
A voice of reason, a voice of wisdom, a voice for calm, continuous and productive effort and results – it’s something we rarely hear, or see but to know that these are many of the people that are behind the modern living Vampire culture should, and quite rightly so, give us a sense of comfort in those moments when we feel all is lost and all we want to do is go stand in front of a wall banging our heads repeatedly against it while muttering, I’m a widdle Vampyre!”
One of the commonly read comments these days is, “Oh, it’s not like it was in the old days!”
…and that, dear reader, is exactly part of the problem. The “working” Vampires, those who build, strengthen and develop are the very people that keep the whole from exploding, or imploding, as the case may be and I would go so far as to suggest that among these strong, reliable and calming influences you would have to go a long way to find one better than Lady Sylvere ap Leanan.
Copyright RVL & Lady Sylvere ap Leanan, 2018
- Leanan sídhe – In Celtic folklore, the leannán sí is a beautiful woman of the Aos Sí who takes a human lover. Lovers of the leannán sídhe are said to live brief, though highly inspired, lives. The name comes from the Gaelic words for a sweetheart, lover, or concubine and the term for a tumulus or burial mound.
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