Theory about the infection

For discussion of the horror anthology containing John Ajvide Lindqvist's story What Kept You So Long?
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Siggdalos
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Theory about the infection

Post by Siggdalos » Fri Mar 12, 2021 1:52 pm

I've seen some discussion here about how the infection in What Kept You So Long? seems to be different and less severe than the infection portrayed in LTROI: WKYSL's narrator Tompa went for a whole year after he was infected before he had to start drinking blood, he's able to go for much longer periods without feeding than Eli (an average of one victim per year instead of one every 5-6 days), he's still able to eat human food even though he can't feel the taste, etc.

Could this be because the person who infected him (the prostitute in Barcelona) had only just been infected herself? Virginia's story in LTROI shows that it takes a few days between the moment of infection and the infection being fully developed. Virginia is attacked by Eli on the night of November 5. She returns home from the hospital in the afternoon of November 6 and finds herself repulsed by food and drink, but she still goes to sleep and dreams like a human (as opposed to resting like a vampire). It's only in the noon of November 7 that she discovers that sunlight is painful (but not yet lethal), and it's only after her daytime rest on November 8 that the narrator describes how her internal organs have transformed to suit the life of a vampire and the secondary brain in her heart has become independent from her human brain.

During their encounter in Barcelona, the prostitute tells Tompa that she was attacked by the crazy Swedish couple the preceding night. In other words, she was still at the same stage of infection as Virginia was on November 6, 1981. Maybe this also affects how the infection spreads; because the prostitute hadn't fully turned yet when she bit Tompa, she ended up infecting him with a weaker, more slow-acting version of the disease.

I personally think this is a pretty handy way of explaining the differences in how the disease is portrayed between the two stories while still keeping them in the same fictional universe with the same rules, but I'm curious to hear what other people think.
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: Theory about the infection

Post by metoo » Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:28 pm

Well, my opinion is that while the universe of What Kept You So Long? includes the events of LtROI, the opposite is not true. It's a unidirectional relation.

Therefore the infection may take a year to fully manifest in What Kept You So Long?, while it takes at most a couple of days in LtROI.

On a more prosaic level, the narrative of LtROI required an incubation time of about a couple of days, while What Kept You So Long? needed a year. These are freestanding stories - no need for consistency between them.

Of course it could also be that becoming infected through certain body parts is especially slow. Not much brain there, you know.
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: Theory about the infection

Post by manananmaclir » Fri Mar 12, 2021 3:17 pm

In some contemporary vampire settings vampirism becomes weaker the farther from the original vampire you are (Cain in some settings, perhaps patient zero in this case). If he was following that logic, then Oskar and the Swedish couple would have a weaker infection than Eli (though Virginia didn't seem to), and anyone they infected would be weaker than they, etc. That would explain the reduction in severity, but like the other examples, it's not completely acceptable as an explanation. Also, the reduction would have to be severe since assuming that the infection line was Man in the wig -> Eli -> Oskar -> <Swedish Couple> -> Prostitute -> Trucker, there aren't that many levels between Eli and the trucker.

The other explanation could be mutation. If it's an infection, a disease, it may mutate over time/ in passage, in which case the trucker may have gotten a milder, mutant strain.

And of course ultimately it comes down to the author deciding that for this story it needed to be a milder form of vampirism.

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Siggdalos
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Re: Theory about the infection

Post by Siggdalos » Sun Mar 14, 2021 1:30 pm

metoo wrote:
Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:28 pm
Well, my opinion is that while the universe of What Kept You So Long? includes the events of LtROI, the opposite is not true. It's a unidirectional relation. [...] On a more prosaic level, the narrative of LtROI required an incubation time of about a couple of days, while What Kept You So Long? needed a year. These are freestanding stories - no need for consistency between them.
Well, I think it's a matter of preference. When it comes to JAL's sequel stories I prefer to think of them as having a bidirectional relation and as being part of a consistent universe, and if there are inconsistencies I like to look for Watsonian explanations rather than settling for the Doylist "they're standalone stories and the author needed them to be different"—even though I of course know that that is the real reason.
metoo wrote:
Fri Mar 12, 2021 2:28 pm
Of course it could also be that becoming infected through certain body parts is especially slow. Not much brain there, you know.
Maybe, but my impression from LTROI is that the part of the body that the infection enters through (be it through a bite in the neck or by mixing blood from the palms) doesn't make any difference for the end result, as long as the infection can reach the nervous system. Admittedly, we never see post-LTODD Oskar up close, so who knows if blood-mixing-caused infection acts the same as Eli's bite-caused.
manananmaclir wrote:
Fri Mar 12, 2021 3:17 pm
In some contemporary vampire settings vampirism becomes weaker the farther from the original vampire you are (Cain in some settings, perhaps patient zero in this case). If he was following that logic, then Oskar and the Swedish couple would have a weaker infection than Eli (though Virginia didn't seem to), and anyone they infected would be weaker than they, etc. That would explain the reduction in severity, but like the other examples, it's not completely acceptable as an explanation. Also, the reduction would have to be severe since assuming that the infection line was Man in the wig -> Eli -> Oskar -> <Swedish Couple> -> Prostitute -> Trucker, there aren't that many levels between Eli and the trucker.
I thought about this explanation initially, but decided against it since my impression is that vampirism predates the man in the wig by a very long time (based on how the unnamed vampire woman tells Eli that humans have been killing vampires i alla tider - "in all ages"/"at all times"), meaning he wasn't anywhere close to being patient zero, and it would therefore be strange for the disease to suddenly drop so much in severity in the relatively small number of generations (for lack of a better word) between him and Tompa.
manananmaclir wrote:
Fri Mar 12, 2021 3:17 pm
The other explanation could be mutation. If it's an infection, a disease, it may mutate over time/ in passage, in which case the trucker may have gotten a milder, mutant strain.
This feels like a more reasonable option.
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: Theory about the infection

Post by metoo » Sun Mar 14, 2021 2:52 pm

Siggdalos wrote:
Sun Mar 14, 2021 1:30 pm
Well, I think it's a matter of preference. When it comes to JAL's sequel stories I prefer to think of them as having a bidirectional relation and as being part of a consistent universe, and if there are inconsistencies I like to look for Watsonian explanations rather than settling for the Doylist "they're standalone stories and the author needed them to be different"—even though I of course know that that is the real reason.
Yes, it is indeed a matter of preference, and I prefer LtROI to have a consistent and relatively fast-acting infection.

The much slowed down tempo introduced in What Kept You So Long? reflects back on LtROI and changes the latter. Although this case is rather mild, I generally don't like sequels for this very reason - especially in SF and fantasy. What is a good book often turns less so by sequels, in my opinion, because some important aspects of the original one are changed in the sequel.
Siggdalos wrote:
Sun Mar 14, 2021 1:30 pm
Admittedly, we never see post-LTODD Oskar up close, so who knows if blood-mixing-caused infection acts the same as Eli's bite-caused.
How long the conversion would take is something I was thinking a lot about when I wrote my fan fiction Hosting guests. I even made a time line for Virginia to have as a guide, so I could stay true to the universe of LtROI. These days I think that Oskar's conversion is so different from Virginia's that it may take any time. Perhaps forcefully introducing vampire blood into a bleeding wound speeds up the process considerably, and as a result Oskar was a fully developed vampire already before midnight the day he was infected? Or perhaps it takes a longer time. Who knows but the writer of the next fan fiction?
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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