History Lesson

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Siggdalos
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History Lesson

Post by Siggdalos » Fri Mar 05, 2021 9:12 pm

Here goes: my first fan fiction submission. Been sitting on this for a while and editing the same few parts back and forth, but I'm at a point now where I'm pretty happy with it.

I wanted to briefly explore what O&E might think about the different kinds of vampire folklore that exists around the world, since mythology and folklore is one of my main interests and the subject is not discussed in any detail in LTROI. I wanted to keep the story short and simple, partially to test the waters of FF posting a bit before I try to post anything more substantial.

I realize that this is pretty similar in style to many of the short pieces written by metoo, but I hope it's not too similar. Either way, I have a lot of ideas for other FFs I want to write, most of which will be longer (and less dialogue-focused) than this one if I end up actually finishing them. Once the Fan Content area properly opens up, I'll probably follow metoo's example of posting a Swedish and English translation of each story, but for now I'll only post the English version of this.

******

They lay next to each other in their hiding place—a windowless room in the back of an abandoned old warehouse. Oskar lay behind Eli with his arms tightly wrapped around him. Neither of them were hungry, and they hadn't gone out the past few nights. They had gotten a bit careless during their last feeding and someone had seen them, so they wanted to lie low for a while before venturing out again. They hadn't talked much and instead passed the time by sitting together, holding each other, reading what books or newspapers they'd been able to get their hands on, playing a few games on their worn chess board—enjoying each other's company without doing anything in particular, simply put. There was nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but Oskar was starting to get bored of the long silence and felt a growing urge to talk about something. He decided to ask a question he'd idly pondered a few times through the years but never formulated out loud.
"Eli?" His voice was a little hoarse after having not been used for a few days.
"Mm?"
"Where does the infection come from, do you think?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean... where it came from originally. Who the first infected was and that kind of thing."
"Mm. Don't know."
"I know, but I'm asking what you think."
"I think... I think it's very old. Ancient."
"Older than... Christianity?"
Eli snorted. "At least. Much older."
"How so?"
"Don't know. It just feels like it should be that way."
Oskar pondered that. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate, to look inwards, to feel that which he knew existed inside his disfigured, slowly beating heart. But he knew the infection wouldn't give him any answers. He could hardly strike up a conversation with it, and even if he could, it was not interested in history. Only in the present, only in survival. He opened his eyes. Something else about what Eli had said crossed his mind. "What if Jesus was infected?"
"Nah. Then he would've burned up on the cross."
"But what if someone infected him after they took him down from there? That'd explain how he came back to life afterwards!"
They both started giggling and began spinning a story, taking turns to speculate what it would have been like if Jesus emerged from his tomb on the third night with long claws and a hunger for Roman blood, how the writers of the gospels would've had to cover this up to keep the truth from getting out. Then Oskar remembered something. Didn't people take religion very seriously back in the 1700s, when Eli grew up? And sometimes nowadays as well, for that matter. "Do you believe in God?"
Eli fell silent for a few seconds before replying. "I don't know. Sometimes I do. Other times I don't. When I grew up, the way I was taught... there wasn't really any question about it. But I've never been able to understand why... if God exists, why he would let something like this exist."
"The infection?"
"Mm. And why he would let it... happen to people. To me. What I did wrong, to deserve it. But on the other hand," Eli twisted around a little so he could glance at Oskar and smiled, "I did get something, in the end." He lay down again. "I used to ask him why I was never allowed to... live. To have a normal life. To have anything. But then I did get something. More than I could've asked for. So maybe he does exist, after all. He's just very slow about giving you what you ask for. Or what you don't realize that you need."
Oskar pondered that for a while as well. Then he said: "I also got more than I could've asked for, in the end" and hugged Eli tighter.

***

"But!" Oskar wanted to get back to his original question. "Do you think the infection is... older than humans?" He hesitated and tried to think back to what he'd learned in school. When was it Darwin had come up with evolution? The 1800s? That was long after Eli had been infected. "Do you know about evolution?"
Eli snorted again. "I'm not that behind the times, Oskar."
"Sorry. But... back before humans were humans, when we were all apes... Do you think the infection existed then?"
"Hm..."
"Can apes get infected? Can other animals?"
"The infection only wants human blood."
"Yes, but... other animals can drink human blood too, can't they? Or maybe, if a dog got infected, it'd want dog blood?"
"I don't know. I haven't exactly tested, you know. And if a dog could get infected, I don't think that would end well."
Oskar pictured a rabid vampire dog running around without a human mind to keep it in check, biting humans and other dogs and spreading the infection out of control. "No", Oskar was forced to agree. "No, I don't think that would be good at all."

***

"Do you know of any other infected? From the past, I mean."
"No. Just the two I've told you about."
Oskar thought back to all the books he used to read. He obviously knew that Dracula had never actually existed, but wasn't he based on a real person? Oskar couldn't remember the man's name. And then there was that other one, the woman. "What about Countess Battery?"
"Who?"
"No, Bath... Bartory... Something like that. She bathed in blood to stay young."
"Never heard of her."
"Do you wanna go to the library? There are probably books about her there."
"I don't think libraries stay open this late."
"No, but tomorrow evening."
"Okay."

***

Eli was the one who talked to the librarian; of the two of them, he was more experienced at speaking English. "Do you have any books about vampires?"
"Plenty", the librarian replied. She spoke slowly, likely because she noticed that the children in front of her weren't native speakers. "Is it something specific you're looking for?"
"I mean, not novels. More like history books. About..." Eli hesitated, searched for the right word, and said: "... folk belief. What people have believed about vampires through history."
"Ah, you mean folklore. I'll have a look."
The librarian came back with a bundle of books. Most of them seemed to be about monsters in general, with only a chapter or two about vampires, but one of them was a thick tome entirely about the subject. "We'll take that one, thanks", Eli said.

***

The first thing Oskar did when they got back to the hiding place was to rifle through the pages until he found the woman he'd been thinking of. "Here!" he said and pointed at a page dominated by the slightly melodramatic header text Erzsébet Báthory, the Blood Countess. The opposite page showed a portrait of a woman wearing an old-fashioned dress with an enormous collar. Eli sat down next to him and peered at the page.
"Like I said", Oskar continued and pointed at a passage early in the text. "She killed virgin girls and bathed in their blood to stay young."
"Maybe if you actually let me have a look instead of waving your hands around", Eli said, grabbed the book, and started reading through the whole chapter from start to finish. Oskar crept around behind him so he could read over his shoulder. Eli rolled his eyes in feigned annoyance but remained where he sat.
After he'd finished, he put down the book and nodded thoughtfully. "She was probably a carrier."
"You think?"
"Definitely. She sounds pretty similar to... you know." He glanced down at his hands.
"He who infected you?"
"Mm."
Oskar took the book and reread the introductory sentences about Báthory while thinking back to Eli's memories. The text talked about the countess torturing and killing hundreds of girls. Hundreds of young people, children. Hundreds of Elis. The stories about the countess and the number of victims had probably been heavily exaggerated over the years, the text pointed out, but still... Oskar's mind spun. When he looked again at the portrait of the woman, he thought her calm eyes reminded him of the wigged man's childish blue eyes. He shuddered and turned back to the beginning of the book to go through all of the stuff they'd skipped.

***

The book explained that even the early Mesopotamian civilizations had stories of nocturnal demons who spread disease and drank human blood, like Lamashtu in Babylon. As Oskar read aloud from each chapter, Eli gave his verdict on whether he thought the creatures and people described were really infected or not.
"Lilith?"
"No."
"Baobhan sith?"
"Probably."
"Soucouyant?"
"No."
"Chupacabra?"
"Don't know. Sounds more like some kind of animal."
"Jiang-shi?"
"Undead."
"Mana..." Oskar had to read the name a few times to get it right. "Manananggal?"
"Maybe."
"Yara-ma-yha-who?"
Eli laughed when he heard the description of the creature: a little red frog-man from Aboriginal folklore who hid in fig trees, drank blood through its fingers, and slowly transformed people into creatures like itself by swallowing and puking them out. "That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Sounds like a fairy tale."
"Vlad the Impaler?"
"No. Just a monster."
"Do you mean a monster like...?"
"No. Monsters and infected are not the same thing. You can be one without being the other."
"Like us. We're not monsters."
"Yes. Like us."
They continued their read. "Arnold Paole?"
"Mm. Probably."

***

While it surprised Oskar to see how many shared traits there were in stories from completely different cultures from different parts of the world, the book's use of the word "vampire" was rather loose. Eli said that many of the descriptions sounded completely foreign to him, but he admitted that he didn't know everything about the disease he and Oskar bore. "Maybe there are different... strains. The only carriers I've met have been Swedish. Maybe it's different if you get infected in Scotland or China or... where was the frog-man from?"
"Australia."
"Right. Well, I don't know. Maybe there really are infected like that. Even though", he said with a grin, "I have a pretty hard time imagining that last one."

***

"In the 1800s, people on Rhode Island in the USA thought their dead relatives were becoming vampires", Oskar read. "But it turned out it was just tuberculosis."
"No, it wasn't. It was me."
Oskar stared at Eli, who looked back at him with a deadpan face. After a few seconds, his face broke out into a smile and he lightly punched Oskar's shoulder. "I'm joking."
"Right." Oskar looked down at the book again. "Right, I knew that."

***

In the latter parts of the book, the author transitioned to talking about how the vampire was used in modern fiction—"modern" meaning from the 1800s and onward. It mentioned names like Ruthven and Carmilla, and Dracula had an entire chapter all to himself. Included were photos of different movie actors playing Dracula, but also one of Count Orlok, whom the book authoritatively explained was "a version of the count featured in the unauthorized German adaptation Nosferatu". Eli looked intently at the black-and-white photograph of the bald, ratlike figure for a long time.
"What is it?" Oskar asked.
"The man in the wig."
"He didn't look like that, did he?"
"No, not at all. But he should've." Eli pointed at the face staring out of the page and which was about as far from handsome as one could get. "He looks like what the wigged man was like on the inside."

***

Towards the end of the chapter about modern fiction, amidst names like Matheson, Rice, and King, there was a short passage about something as unusual as a Swedish vampire novel. Oskar thought back to Kalla kårar and all the other books he'd owned. Almost all of those had been written by men with English-sounding names, so they were probably translated. But here was a vampire book written in Swedish and taking place in Sweden. When Oskar said this, Eli leaned over with interest and looked at the passage Oskar was reading.
The novel was called Den ende vännen or The Only Friend and was about a bulled girl in 1970s Sundbyberg who fell in love with a boy vampire, who later in the book was revealed to actually be a girl. The author was some guy named Alfred Tomasson. A few years later, someone named Arvid Jonas Lundqvist had adapted it into a movie.
"What a weird name", Eli said.
"Yes", Oskar agreed.
"Doesn't sound like a very good book."
"Nah."
De höll om varandra i tystnad. Oskar blundade och visste: detta var det största. Ljuset från lyktan i portvalvet trängde svagt in genom hans slutna ögonlock, la en hinna av rött för hans ögon. Det största.

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metoo
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Re: History Lesson

Post by metoo » Sat Mar 06, 2021 7:33 am

Siggdalos wrote:
Fri Mar 05, 2021 9:12 pm
I realize that this is pretty similar in style to many of the short pieces written by metoo, but I hope it's not too similar. Either way, I have a lot of ideas for other FFs I want to write, most of which will be longer (and less dialogue-focused) than this one if I end up actually finishing them. Once the Fan Content area properly opens up, I'll probably follow metoo's example of posting a Swedish and English translation of each story, but for now I'll only post the English version of this.
The style of my fan fiction is very much a result of me writing short episodes rather than a long, continuous epos. Therefore, if you write stories like that, you will likely end up with a similar style. I see no problem with that, so please continue!

The main reason I haven't written a longer story is that I would need to invent some exciting action to drive the story. I don't like that idea, since the very plausibility of LtROI is based on people not knowing that vampires actually exist, and to keep it this way there is no room for repeated exciting action. The exception would be what happened in LtROI, but further excitement would just be detrimental to the mix of realism with magic in LtROI that I try to stay with in my stories. This would result in a very boring and repetitious story that I cannot write and nobody would want to read anyway.

Another reason I haven't written a longer story is that it would need to involve additional characters, to have something to spin the story around. I think all longer fan fiction do this, but I don't want to. These additional characters would need to interact with O&E for longer periods, and that doesn't fit my idea of them keeping very much to themselves. In my view O&E don't need other people, don't seek other people's company, and shy away from anybody that tries to come too close. They would do this to stay safe, of course - the less people that know about hem, the less risk someone learns the grisly truth. However, the main reason they would keep to themselves is because they are just too closely knit together to leave any room for others.

I base this view on another couple in the LtROI universe, Stefan and Karin. The narrator seemed to be the only person they let into their life, and then only to a certain degree. A quote from LtODD:

Jag har aldrig träffat ett par med en sådan integritet, en sådan täthet som de där två. De utgjorde sitt eget lilla universum. Det kan inte förnekas att jag ibland drabbades av sorg i deras sällskap, speciellt om det blivit några glas vin. Vi satt där och hade det trevligt, pratade och skrattade, men jag var den som vid någon tidpunkt skulle resa mig från stolen och ensam gå hem till mig. Hur mycket vi än tyckte om varandra så var jag den som var främlingen.

I have never met a couple with such integrity, such closeness as those two. They formed their own little universe. It can not be denied that I was sometimes saddened in their company, especially if there had been a few glasses of wine. We were sitting there having a good time, talking and laughing, but I was the one who at some point would get up from my chair and go home to myself alone. No matter how much we liked each other, I was the stranger. Google translated, with some corrections by me.

I think the quote above can be applied to O&E as well.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

manananmaclir
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Re: History Lesson

Post by manananmaclir » Sat Mar 06, 2021 6:52 pm

Great story siggdalos! I thought the last paragraph was a bit too silly given the setting, but the rest was very well done. One of the things that made the book special, to me, was the dialogue between Eli and Oskar. How they in many respects were totally normal kids, and in others Eli especially, was anything but normal. You seem to have hit the tone of the two very well, something that's not at all easy to do without coming across as a caricature of the original. Bravo. Look forward to reading more.

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Siggdalos
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Re: History Lesson

Post by Siggdalos » Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:25 pm

manananmaclir wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 6:52 pm
Great story siggdalos! I thought the last paragraph was a bit too silly given the setting, but the rest was very well done. One of the things that made the book special, to me, was the dialogue between Eli and Oskar. How they in many respects were totally normal kids, and in others Eli especially, was anything but normal. You seem to have hit the tone of the two very well, something that's not at all easy to do without coming across as a caricature of the original. Bravo. Look forward to reading more.
Thank you! Making sure that O&E's dialogue feels right is definitely one of the most important parts to me, but I find that it tends to come pretty naturally when I'm writing, probably because I've read LTROI so many times that the O&E scenes are ingrained in my memory. Whenever I think I'm getting off-track, I try to go back and reread some of those scenes to remind myself of how it should sound when they talk to each other. Fair point about the last part. I wanted this to be a bit more lighthearted and not have to adhere as strictly to canon as some of the other stories I'm planning so that I could allow myself an attempt at meta humor. I wasn't sure about including it, but I left it in because I couldn't come up with any better way of ending the story.

Fun fact: 1970s Sundbyberg is not something I picked at random. It's actually a reference to Monster: En världshistoria om det skrämmande ("Monsters: A world history of the frightening"), a non-fiction book by the Swedish historian Bo Eriksson. In the foreword, he mentions that when he was a kid in the '70s, he for some reason thought that there were vampires living in Sundbyberg (another Stockholm suburb a few kilometers from Blackeberg), which I've always found to be an odd coincidence. (He talks quite a bit about vampire literature in the book but doesn't mention LTROI at any point.)
De höll om varandra i tystnad. Oskar blundade och visste: detta var det största. Ljuset från lyktan i portvalvet trängde svagt in genom hans slutna ögonlock, la en hinna av rött för hans ögon. Det största.

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metoo
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Re: History Lesson

Post by metoo » Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:35 am

Well, I went off a tangent in my last posting to this thread and started writing about my thoughts about the novel characters and my own FF and instead of the subject of this thread: The piece by Siggdalos.

Let me try to rectify that.

I like the dialogue in this story, it feels "right" to me. In the novel, Oskar and Eli share a certain silly humour ("banaaanas"), but they don't make fun of each other. (Short of Oskar's disastrous attempt to make fun of Eli's need for an invitation.) They also talk in a serious way about serious subjects in the novel, as they do here.

This story also keeps with the novel by incorporating things in our actual world, in this case a book that actually exists. Thus, the book would be there for O&E to read, and they plausibly would want to read it. Both novel characters seem to think a lot, also about existential things. They would be interested in why and when the infection came about, and they would discuss it like they do here.

Do you write in Swedish and translate it to English, like I do? Although I consider myself quite fluent in English, I write my fan fiction in Swedish since I believe using my native tongue improves my writing. Then I use Google Translate, mostly to save me from a lot of typing, but also to get suggestions of how to express in English what I have already written in Swedish. And occasionally the translation process suggests alternative ways to say what I wanted to express, and I rewrite that particular sentence or paragraph in my Swedish original to fit the translation (which thus becomes the actual original). I would like to read your thoughts about this. By the way, I would also like to read your story in Swedish.
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Siggdalos
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Re: History Lesson

Post by Siggdalos » Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:21 pm

metoo wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 6:35 am
Do you write in Swedish and translate it to English, like I do? Although I consider myself quite fluent in English, I write my fan fiction in Swedish since I believe using my native tongue improves my writing. Then I use Google Translate, mostly to save me from a lot of typing, but also to get suggestions of how to express in English what I have already written in Swedish. And occasionally the translation process suggests alternative ways to say what I wanted to express, and I rewrite that particular sentence or paragraph in my Swedish original to fit the translation (which thus becomes the actual original). I would like to read your thoughts about this. By the way, I would also like to read your story in Swedish.
It varies. I wrote this one and some others I'm working on in English first, but I've noticed that this can result in a prose that I think sounds slightly stiff and unnatural when I (manually) translate it to Swedish, so with other stories I've tried writing in Swedish first. On the other hand, I think getting the English version right is more important since that's the only version most people are going to read. I have not yet tried translating from Swedish to English, so I don't know to what extent that'll cause the same issue as translating English to Swedish. If I write in Swedish from the start I instinctively include a lot of language nuances that can be difficult to preserve in translation (like the words ju and väl), whereas if I write in English first I'm conscious of the limitations of the language and shape the prose and dialogue to fit in that mold. I'm not sure which method I prefer yet. I'd like to experiment and try different things with different stories to see what works and what doesn't.
De höll om varandra i tystnad. Oskar blundade och visste: detta var det största. Ljuset från lyktan i portvalvet trängde svagt in genom hans slutna ögonlock, la en hinna av rött för hans ögon. Det största.

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metoo
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Re: History Lesson

Post by metoo » Sun Mar 07, 2021 5:53 pm

Siggdalos wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 4:21 pm
If I write in Swedish from the start I instinctively include a lot of language nuances that can be difficult to preserve in translation (like the words ju and väl) [...]
Yes, those are quite a problem. I usually just give up and translate as if they were not in my Swedish original. :)
But from the beginning Eli was just Eli. Nothing. Anything. And he is still a mystery to me. John Ajvide Lindqvist

manananmaclir
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Re: History Lesson

Post by manananmaclir » Wed Mar 10, 2021 11:30 pm

As a native English speaker who does not read/speak Swedish, I appreciate the effort this takes. Thank you both.

andmker
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Re: History Lesson

Post by andmker » Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:34 pm

"Eli snorted again. "I'm not that behind the times, Oskar.""


I loved that sentence lol :D Yeah it was a good history lesson :)

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