There has been a great emphasis placed on “academic” understanding of the modern Vampire culture over the last few years, it has become something of a talking point where, on one hand, we have those who believe that ‘scientific’ understanding of the modern Vampire is the way to move forward, to become accepted and to become mainstream… then there are those who don’t believe that at all, who don’t think we need be ‘studied’, ‘analysed’ and; figuratively speaking, ‘dissected’ so that people who can’t possibly understand the gift we have been given, or the curse we are afflicted with (depending on which side of that particular fence you are on) can get a ‘handle’ on us and our ways, effectively slot us into a comfortable pigeonhole.
It’s going to be as contentious as this for a long time but… think on this… because of one legal case, in one court room, once upon a time, Wicca became recognised as a legitimate religion.
I’d like to introduce you, today, to someone who probably needs little to no introduction. The lady is a researcher, she is an author, she is a scientist.
We are very proud to present a One-on-One chat with Lady Suzanne Carré
RVL: Good evening Lady Suzanne, it is a distinct pleasure, and honour, to welcome you to RVL. How are you today?
SC: It’s a pleasure being here, thank you for inviting me, Tim. I’m not sure how many scientists you’ve had on here but I’m brave—after all, I’m being interviewed by a vampire.
RVL: *Laughs* Your very own “Interview with the Vampire” indeed…I wonder if we might begin with an introduction, for our readers, to Suzanne Carré, how long have you been involved with the modern living Vampire culture and what brought you this way?
SC: After watching a movie-length documentary about real vampires living in New York City, I sought more information because vampires have fascinated me for years. I searched for the documentary online, didn’t find the movie on the web at the time, and never did find that vampire movie but I found the vampire culture. So I joined a vampire network in 2009 and I’m (basically) still a part of the vampire community.
RVL: May we ask, what is your background, expertise wise?
SC: In the ordinary world, I’m a mathematician and theoretical physicist. Suzanne Carré is my pen-name in honour of my French grandmother. I entered the online vampire community as a writer so over the years it has been convenient to remain under my writer name when dealing with vampire subjects because it helps to keep my worlds separate. This is similar to what vampires call separating their nightside and dayside: Suzanne is my nightside. I like to think of it as wearing different hats and this works well for me now that I’m also publishing academic articles on real vampires, the last in Journal of Positive Sexuality. There’s a great deal of work yet to do in the study of vampires, and I’m still learning about what real vampires are. It means I’m still asking questions and still researching real vampires. I think there is much to investigate to be done on the science of vampires.
RVL: When did you first become intrigued with Vampires?
SC: When I was 13, I met a man who claimed to be a vampire. At that age, I didn’t know what a vampire was, not even the fictional concept, so I accepted him on face-value. I suffered from lots of problems at that age, it’s called being a teenager, but he asked me to listen and learn. He proved his wisdom with all the lessons he imparted to me, and I’ve benefited from his words since. The most precious gift to me were his stories, which he asked me to write up in the form of fictional vampires using his version of mythology. I think growing up ignorant of Dracula enabled me to develop the vampire characters he described to me, without having any dependency on the typical fictional vampire.
I guess it’s hard to imagine growing up not knowing what a vampire is when fictional vampires are so popular now but I had a sheltered childhood back then. After learning from him what a vampire was, I sought out any media covering vampires only to suffer a degree of confusion when I couldn’t understand the connection between what he told me and the “standard” mythological vampire. I guess that the disparity between his instructions and the myths that delayed my writing the story he told me. I felt the need to check out the “truth” underlying his vampire story, so when I discovered there was a whole community of vampires, I eagerly joined the groups to learn about real vampires. I discovered his version of mythology is just a thinly veiled fictionalization of real vampires.
RVL: In your own mind, and opinion, what is a real modern vampire?
SC: In all the years I’ve been involved in the real vampire community, I’m convinced that a real vampire is a person suffering from a hereto undiagnosed disease, in that being a vampire causes them dis-ease. I’ve seen in more than one forum where vampires claim they’ve undergone all these tests only to be told there’s nothing wrong with them yet they are still sick. All this proves is that their vampire condition is not associated with a known disease but as we discussed [i.e. in CLAVIS] the problem of identifying the underlying cause of vampirism is a complex issue and a research challenge.
RVL: Now, naturally, because our readers are dying to know, we have to ask THAT question… do you identify as a modern real vampire?
SC: Oh, Tim, you’re not asking THAT question, it’s more like THE question! Now, after all that, I have to give you the boring answer: No, I don’t identify as a real vampire. Having said that though, because we don’t know what makes a person a vampire, then just identifying as a vampire doesn’t mean that you really are, and likewise, a real vampire can choose not to identify as a vampire for various reasons. Vampirism needs to be more than just a label for those who want the tag. It’s that “what,” that mystery of what makes a vampire that fascinates me.
RVL: Hardly a boring answer at all…so, at this time would you classify yourself as a student or a researcher rather than a “fan” or anything else?
SC: I think of myself as a researcher now. I started a student in the vampire community but over the years I’ve learned so much about what members of the community consider a vampire from their experience that I’m at the point of asking the deeper questions in order to formulate a definition of what a vampire is for everyone. This definition of a vampire is not a politically acceptable one for within the community because whenever anyone attempts to redefine “vampire,” the whole community seems to go into an uproar. No, this definition is meant to be a working definition for outside the community for non-vampire researchers to understand the vampire condition. Real progress in research only begins once all the investigators have a working definition, and they all know what vampirism is in order to study it in detail.
RVL: …and, how did you come to be involved with serious, academically based, studies in the realm of modern vampirism?
SC: I was asked. My colleague, Deacon Gray, felt the need for an investigation of sexual feeding vampires so, in collaboration with Gordon Smith (Hesperus) of CLAVIS, we collected data with the intention of publishing. Because the work proved to be novel research and dealt with the physical (as in feeding requirements) as well as the psychological aspects of this form of vampire feeding, we were granted the very generous opportunity to publish a long article. The work was intended to be a preliminary study, and the research continues.
RVL: You and I have been having quite a chat at the CLAVIS site for a while now and you are currently involved, in conjunction with a respected academic and a respected member of the modern Vampire culture, a study on certain aspects of the modern Vampire, without giving away any secrets what can you tell us about that work?
SC: I am collaborating with not just one respected researcher but two: DJ Williams and Emily Prior. For your readers, it might help to give a history of publications by our researchers. Associate Professor Williams has been studying real vampires for over a decade, starting with the article in 2008, Contemporary vampires and (blood-red) leisure: Should we be afraid of the dark? and then Deviant Leisure: Rethinking “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in 2009. In all his work, Dr. Williams has argued for the acceptance of vampires for their identity, and not be judged for their choice of leading alternative lives, as in Social Work, BDSM and Vampires and making it known vampires are not dangerous because they drink blood, where he witnesses a sang feeding in Intersections of vampirism and sexuality. There is a belief that vampires must be criminals, a fear reinforced by so-called “vampire murders,” which Dr Williams logically demonstrates is false in Self-Identified Vampirism and Risk for False Positives and in Looking Inside the Coffin, a book chapter co-authored with Dr. John Edgar Browning Browning.
But it was not until he published Do we Always Practice What we Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals with Professor Emily Prior that real vampires became a controversial topic because the paper attracted a great deal of interest from both academics and on social media (not all being positive, unfortunately). So it is with pleasure that I have the opportunity to work with these seasoned researchers and rejoining forces with Gordon Smith of CLAVIS on a continuation of this work. Following up on the original investigation of sexual vampires, we are focusing on the correlation between sexual feeding and the use of BDSM techniques to acquire the sexual energy or blood required by the vampire. The first study suggested there was a significant number of sexual vampires who engaged in BDSM not just feeding but also for leisure. This time we asked questions demanding qualitative answers in what is called an open-ended survey and then analyzed the data we collected using a technique called open coding to find any related themes in the responses. If you want to know what our conclusions are, you will just have to read the paper when it’s published.
RVL: …and in the long term, what is your ultimate goal for further studies?
SC: Well, this is for very long-term studies but if I could it would be to explore the physical process of vampire feeding, and this includes all types of feeding on energy and/or blood, by examining how the intake works and demonstrating that a real exchange has taken place. This study would help us to find out why a vampire must feed, by determining what factor(s) vampires have which causes the need to feed, or alternatively the absence of a factor dictating the feed. How then do I envision this possible in BDSM studies? Researchers are starting to take blood samples from willing subs before and after they enter into “sub-space.” To gather some respectability for the study of vampires, the hope is to convince a colleague to test vampires along with non-vampire subs, to find out if their blood contains the same markers. If vampires show the same physical response in their blood chemistry then this indicates the feeding doesn’t interfere with their BDSM experience. But the intriguing question is: What if vampires don’t exhibit the same blood markers as non-vampires?
In the interim, we have to engage in more qualitative studies and in the process build a model for the feeding process, permitting us to find a technique to actualize the feeding. Like I said, pinning vampire studies to BDSM research has immediate advantages in that it allows the results to be publishable. Medical results have the benefit of attracting other researchers into vampire studies if only to answer a question they find personally intriguing. But in the long term, BDSM studies have their dangers in that the association might confuse vampirism with BDSM. It is not. Vampirism is not an offshoot of the BDSM community but in some cases provides a convenient source for the blood or energy the vampire needs.
RVL: Are you of the opinion that real modern vampirism has a scientifically quantifiable explanation?
SC: The simple answer is: yes. The long answer to your question is complicated because we are dealing with a phenomenon unknown to science. What ought to be an exciting frontier of research is currently treated with skepticism because the vampires themselves are making the diagnosis, and in the case of other self-diagnosed conditions this tends to create a level of resistance for investigators. But no one knows your body like you do, so if a vampire claims what they feel is real to them, this calls for respect by clinicians to accept what their patient feels until their condition is either verified or refuted.
RVL: We have covered a fair bit of ground regarding the actual “technical” and “logistical” aspects of widespread studies, what benefits do you believe a formal testing and study of real living vampires would bring?
SC: As I described in CLAVIS, the biggest reward is for the vampires themselves. They will be acknowledged for their identity, and so vampires won’t feel afraid of talking to family, friends, associates in their workplace, and certainly not fear to ask for medical assistance. If they need answers concerning any symptoms they suffer, their vampirism will no longer hinder any investigations they undergo. Importantly, vampires can seek help to acquire the energy they require, especially sangs who need supplies of fresh, clean blood. The way vampirism seems to affect the system, I doubt a cure is possible, so a best practice is how to reduce the suffering of the vampire and improve their quality of life.
Then there will also be assistance for those who don’t know they are vampires because even if you remain unaware of your condition, you will still suffer the symptoms of vampirism. If a person has all the indicators of vampirism, this can be tested and verified, and then they can discuss the best course to manage their condition. This information comes from their doctors and not from a questionable webpage, so hopefully, fewer people will undergo the trauma of accepting their condition. With reliable information made available, people won’t suffer in ignorance or shame, and best practices can be established so that newly awakened vampires and their donors engage in the feeding process safely.
RVL: And conversely, if we can play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ for a moment, what do you see as the drawbacks, if any, of such a study?
SC: Not sure if it would be a drawback but the first thing we can do is eliminate the term “vampire” from the language to distinguish someone suffering from a “lack of energy” or a “needing to feed,” which are current descriptions for real living vampires now. Once the studies identified a “what” or even a “why” about vampirism, then science will rename the condition with a proper descriptor, and while “vampire” works now, it will prove inefficient for the formal term.
As we discussed in CLAVIS, the testing ought not to create a superior class of “real” real vampires who passed the test, while all the rest of blood-drinkers who failed the “vampire test” are in some way “exposed” as fakes, posers, or wannabes. The test is not aimed at outing anyone. Vampirism is a medical condition, it’s not a badge declaring the participants have access to a select group. When the medical side of vampirism is defined, then all those who thought or hoped they were vampires might be disgruntled, dismayed, or even depressed over the news that they aren’t vampires but usually, these people are after the vampire milieu of the myths, not the diagnosis. If some individuals want to be real vampires and suffer a condition even after it is demonstrated they don’t have vampirism then they need therapy, not sympathy. In the end, the only “vampires” left will be those who feel the need to identify with the mythological vampires, and they can continue believing or hoping that they can be vampires, and they can just get on with life by wearing their capes, and fangs, and feeling good about themselves. No one can tell them how to live their lives if it’s by choice.
Then, of course, we have to entertain the possibility that the “vampire tests” return negative results forcing researchers to conclude that vampirism has no biological basis. As I described in CLAVIS, I believe it is unlikely for every test to fail if the selection of tests are highly inclusive but for the sake of discussion, then real vampires ought not to fear the outcomes. If science says there is nothing behind the vampire claims, this might be due to a lack of sensitive equipment suitable for detecting the effects. Detection improvements are ongoing in medical science, so it may be a matter of waiting until the science catches up with the vampires. No matter what the tests say, nothing can take away your identity, and until answers are found, vampires can continue upholding their identity irrespective.
RVL: There is a school of thought that holds modern Vampyres to be, at least in some part, the product of genetics, how would you respond to that?
SC: When vampires talk about a genetic basis for their condition, they tend to focus on the possibility of finding a “vampire gene.” From all the discussions I’ve read on the topic, I’m not convinced in the gene explanation because any inheritance of vampirism doesn’t seem to follow a single gene expression in the generations. In a number of cases, vampire mothers have claimed all their children are vampires even if the father was not. This is impossible if we are talking about a rare, recessive gene. And we know vampirism is rare with a few 1000’s of vampires in a population of billions. We also have the complication in that not all vampires suffer from all the possible symptoms of vampirism, and they don’t all feel the same severity of their symptoms. If any of these conditions, for example, asthma is related to vampirism then these conditions have their own gene expression, so the fact of including other conditions as possible symptoms of vampirism busts the myth of a single gene. I don’t know what, if anything, causes vampirism, when the many “vampire” symptoms might not necessarily be related to vampirism. The possible answers will come from other testing but I’m not certain there will be any answers in genes.
RVL: Do you think that metaphysics plays any part in the occurrence of modern living vampirism?
SC: Metaphysics at the moment provides an overarching label for the “energy” vampires believe they need. While not all sang feeders require the energy explanation, it is the only handle psi feeders rely on to describe what they take in, especially when some feeding doesn’t involve contact with their donors. The taking in of this “energy” is already weird, as in beyond the “normal” experience, and adding metaphysics to the mix doesn’t do any favours for the vampires who want researchers to take them seriously. The difficulty scientists have with metaphysics is that about 160 years ago they finally removed all associations of this philosophy from the subject of physics, by defining energy mathematically, to make it predictable. Physicists certainly don’t want to return to a mess which caused academic arguments for over 200 years. But even today, physics doesn’t have absolutes describing the “energy” for any given system. It’s okay for psi feeders to accept the science without feeling the need to disguise vampire energy intake in order to make it some way special and remove any association with formal scientific jargon. I can only see metaphysics creating communication barriers between real vampires and the researchers attempting to share information on the same phenomenon. While metaphysics might satisfy the vampire, it is insufficient for science. For that reason, vampires shouldn’t worry about losing the term metaphysics in their discussions.
Now before anyone chargers me with a lack of understanding over how vampires must cling to metaphysics to protect what they see as a special case of “energy” then I confess how I grew up in a world filled with magic and metaphysical wonders because my French grandmother became a Sufi mystic after she lived in Iran for over 10 years in the 1950’s and 60’s. She practised their form of holistic medicine, and I witnessed her manipulate “energy” to heal ailments, performing these rituals without touching her patient. She believed she cured and they responded favourably to her efforts. So, no, I don’t think to reveal the “what” about energy will take away any of the magic when we shed the metaphysics from the study of vampires. If by magic you are using a metaphor for ignorance then there will a challenge to your ideas but if magic is a synonym for wonderment then this is the element which keeps science vibrant and exciting.
RVL: How would you propose to go about establishing a testing regimen for examining the question of modern living vampirism?
SC: As we discussed in CLAVIS, the scientific investigation of vampirism will require a great deal of organization to perform a battery of tests from psychological assessments to blood work, and a variety of scans on a large population, in the order of 1000 vampires, from all over the world. And yes, I’m ambitious but if this is worth doing, then it’s worth doing properly.
RVL: …and with respect to the current study you are involved in, when do you anticipate that the results will be available for publication?
SC: I’m hoping the paper sees publication early this year. At present, the progress of the article is still undergoing review, which for the academic world means the manuscript has the author names removed to keep the researchers anonymous while the reviewers consider the merits of the work to evaluate its worth for publication. In this process, if the reviewers, and there are usually two, independently suggest improvements then likewise their names are removed from the report they forward to the editor. Having both sides of the review process anonymous keeps all parties impartial to the critique of a research paper. This system, called “peer-review,” is used in all forms of science reporting, from quantitative fields like physics through to social science studies, and it works.
I’m taking the liberty here describing the scientific process because after the first paper on sexual vampires came out, I was asked by one vampire if I read the guidelines to authors for that particular journal. Considering the article, by that stage, had been accepted by the editors, reviewed, rewritten according to the reviewers’ suggestions, expanded to double size because this subject interested the editors, corrected by the editors, and then published, then it was a little late to ask if I abided by the guidelines! (And yes, I actually did read the guidelines before submitting, otherwise, the paper wouldn’t have gone through the system.)
RVL: Now, if we can completely change tack… what does Lady Suzanne do to relax, to kick back and forget about the science for a bit?
SC: Oh, now this is complicated. As I explained, I’m a scientist involved most of the time in research, which is very different to my vampire studies. My physics takes precedence, it always comes first but then I balance my regime to give some time to what I do in vampire subjects. When wearing my writer hat, yes I have my poetry and fiction, about vampires of course but I consider the writing a form of work, and sometimes it demands effort, especially my sonnets about vampire love. Not only are there no sonnets about vampires but I decided to write a series where the two lovers conduct a conversation, her voice in one poem followed by his response, which has not been done on any subject in poetry. In my poems, a woman falls for a debonair vampire and after he bites her to make her his bride, he quickly then finds another lover! He’s a rogue in my poems for sure but I wasn’t inspired by any real vampires I’ve met in my travels. I have had the pleasure of meeting quite a few gentlemen in the real vampire community, present company included.
So if I’m not doing science, and not writing, now you are asking what do I do in my super-free time. I enjoy cooking sweet delectable treats steeped in dark chocolate, my favourite flavour and then hang out with friends to share food and philosophy. I consider the social aspect valuable and it is an aspect of my life I’m working on extending. This is a lesson I’ve learned since being involved with the vampire community, where the human contact and socializing is so important especially for vampires because they have a genuine need addressing the isolation of their condition by meeting like minds. Before I appreciated this vampire need, I took the social side of my life as a given of my life but I realize now how precious it is. One of the many gifts I have taken from the vampires and one I am most grateful for.
RVL: What’s a) your favourite Vampire movie, or television show and b) your favourite Vampire literature? If any that is…
SC: After discovering vampires as a teenager, then I couldn’t resist the chance to see a vampire movie and found there were so many classics available. I guess out of all of them, Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola impressed me, for the cinematography but Frank Langella (in an earlier version of Dracula) must be the sexiest vampire ever on the screen (well, at least I think so).
Then about in literature. As a biased writer, I’d have to say I prefer the fictional vampires I’ve created.
RVL: Okay, Lady Suzanne, I’m going to ask you a ‘what if’ question, pure speculation, if you were a modern living Vampire what philosophy would you think might best apply?
SC: The first thing that comes to mind when you ask about a vampire philosophy is whether vampires are born or made. I don’t think I need to pretend I’m a vampire to answer that question. When I asked the first vampire I meet, he remained adamant that you must be born a vampire. For me, this “rule” helped me separate the real vampires from the reel vampires. The process of making someone into a vampire, or “turning” them, is a fiction of the movies yet the topic keeps reappearing in vampire discussions with a disturbing regularity. Real vampires claim they are born with the vampire condition, that they didn’t ask for it, and that they cannot change. For this assertion to be true, then “turning” is impossible, otherwise, people can become vampires just by choice. It has been a general agreement among vampires that their suffering is congenital, so in the real world, real vampires are born not made.
RVL: …and having been involved in the modern culture for a time, what is your overall opinion of the culture?
SC: Over the years, I’ve seen the vampire community maturing and despite there are regular arguments on the finer points of being a vampire, there has been a general evolution towards forming a uniform group of individuals sharing an identity. I’m not talking about the various “unity” movements but of the consensuses to coexist as an entity known as the modern vampire community, merging the online culture with the one a vampire might enjoy within their offline groups.
I’ve seen a number of improvements on many fronts. The necessity to educate others has shifted from the resolve of a few individuals to almost being a social requisite where more blogs appear and the information is not only more easily obtainable but resonates a single voice giving the latest definition of a real vampire for the wider world. Culturally, I saw the shift from “ego wars,” where the sang-psi debate was still circulating when I entered the community, and since then I witnessed the “donor war” but fortunately these conflicts have given way to the paradigm of respect: respect for each other, as vampires, no matter how an individual feeds; respect for the donors, which right ought to have been a given and sadly had to be fought for; respect for all members of the community, whether newly awakened to experienced vampires, where everyone’s story is worthy to tell; while acknowledging that the location is not important, and vampires are the same no matter where in the world they live.
This is not to say it’s perfect, far from that ideal but the general steps are in the right direction. I see there is still the “kingship” issue where one court/house vies for supremacy of all the vampire community but where this often created contest between groups in the past, the solution now tends to be the acknowledgement that houses and courts provide a more personal approach to individual needs. I don’t see the benefits in having vampire kings or queens but more teachers are needed, and if mentoring proves too difficult on a one on one basis, it would be helpful to see manuals on how to deal with import issues such as awakening and feeding. Most of the information is in disjoint articles so it is an effort to work through them. Creating this information bank would require collaboration, where the egos are left at the door, and only the wisdom of those who experienced the vampire challenges remains for the next generation to gain from.
RVL: What advice, if any, would you offer to anyone; academically or otherwise, interested in the “science” of modern Vampires?
SC: Keep an open mind. There are too many entrapments within the vampire community which takes the focus away from real vampires and their health issues. One of the obvious distraction is the lifestyler. While being a vampire remains an identity then anyone who claims to be a vampire is a vampire. Lifestylers look the part, by dressing like mythical vampires, and they tend to steal the attention of those who a trying to study vampires. As a result, two things have happened in the past. Firstly, the problems suffered by real vampires get ignored because lifestylers don’t have a problem playing weekend vampires, while real vampires attract the label they are delusional at best, or dangerous at worst, all thanks to the flamboyant lifestylers who steal the moment.
The other issue I can see is the temptation of incorporating the vampire theories and their metaphysics creating the very real danger of the researchers losing their objectivity. While it is useful observing vampires engaged in their energy manipulations, the “rules” of scientific investigation must be rigidly followed or the work attracts criticism over the lack of rigour. The ingestion of blood is often presented as fantastic and this is not helpful either. By respecting the boundaries of science, facts drawn out of the studies on the subject of vampire energy will benefit both the vampires and the researchers.
RVL: Do you have any other comments or observations about the project that you would like to share at this time?
SC: I’ve only just started considering the challenges to investigating the nature of vampirism. I’ve had to overcome many obstacles to get where I’ve reached so far, and I believe this is only a prelude to the challenges awaiting me. I haven’t lost my enthusiasm (yet), and I haven’t lost my sense of humour either. The future looks exciting for vampire research.
RVL: It has been a genuine pleasure sharing this time with you Lady Suzanne, we will look forward eagerly to welcoming you back to report on the results of the current study if you don’t mind? We also look forward to seeing and reading more.
SC: Thank you, Tim, for giving me the opportunity to discuss our research. I hope it won’t be too long before we have our next chat.
Chatting with Lady Suzanne is a curiously intriguing and comfortable experience, intriguing because you know, all the time, you are talking with someone of great depth of knowledge and expertise in “hardcore“, if we can call them that, scientific fields, comfortable because she NEVER holds that over you or over the conversation. She is; at once, engaging, intelligent, forthcoming and easily understood… no “high falutin’ airs” about this lady at all.
The discussions that she and I have already engaged in have been meaningful, constructive and a free exchange, with mutual respect, of ideas and knowledge. Am I as intelligent and well schooled as Lady Suzanne? Hell no, does it matter to this amazing, unassuming scientist? HELL NO
There is much good work going on between her and her colleagues and we can expect to see many more interesting, nay fascinating, presentations by the lady and her – if unofficial – team.
Copyright RVL & Suzanne Carré , 2018
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