Monday, July 29, 2013

Anyone Could Have Been A Vampire

I bet you thought I was never going to stop talking about robots. Yes, I am aware that the name of this blog is Vampires and Robots, not OMG I HEART ROBOTZ OMG!!!

Though I might have considered that.

See, the thing is, I write about vampires in my books, so I spend a lot of time thinking about them and forget that I barely mention them here. So now I will remedy that with a post dedicated entirely to vampires.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of writing a 'plausible' vampire series is that I get to dig through history, find famous folks of dubious character, and shoehorn them into the vampire profile that I've created. It's also the most time consuming, which says more about my obsessive behavior, considering that I take 90% of what I research and throw it out the window before writing my own version of history. Given this method, it seems as though my search for interesting characters in history is a bit unnecessary. Anyone, at any point in history could have been a vampire.
Well, except Abe Lincoln because he's apparently Buffy now.

I could be a vampire. The vegetarian thing could totally be a cover. I'm prone to blistering sunburns despite the fact that I used to brown up nicely as a child. I'm blinded in anything brighter than total cloud cover without my sunglasses. I have difficulty going to sleep at a reasonable hour, but when I do, I sleep like the dead and I'm hard to wake. I have lots of pointy teeth. I wear a lot of black.
Do an experiment. Find three people, politicians do not count because that's too easy, and look for clues that they could be a vampire. I guarantee you will find them. Obviously there are easy ones. Christopher Lee, for example: older than dirt, played a vampire famously, makes metal music, has a sinister yet trustworthy look about him. Total vampire.

But what about, say Bill Murray? Not exactly an attractive man, but charismatic enough that if he started a cult we would all join. Sure, he's aged a bit since Ghost Busters, but how do you know you're not seeing what he wants you to see?

Okay, so Hollywood types sort of lend themselves to vampirism because sin and debauchery kind of come with the territory. Let's go for a challenge.

Now, the problem I run into with picking the most selfless people in history is that they all tend to be religious types. I mean, they aren't called saints for nothing. But I'm not that controversial, so I'll leave those musings to you. Instead, let's pick on two billionaire philanthropists that everyone knows; Bill Gates and JK Rowling.

Ignoring The Onion's claims that Rowling baths in the blood of virgins to inspire her books, she's a pretty good example of the modern success story, amassing her billions by writing books that ignited a passion for reading in a demographic that had been on a literary decline. Not satisfied to rest on that accomplishment, she donated a massive chuck of that money to charities. How can she be a vampire? Well for starters, have you seen her? I mean, no, she's not exactly elderly. But she looks pretty good for someone who spent a decade pouring their soul into seven tremendously sized books. Writing causes gray hair. Trust me, I know this. It also causes wrinkles and stress and all kinds of hell on the mind and body. Writing a massive hit and knowing you have to follow it up with six more would make the most beautiful super model look like the crypt keeper after a decade. Yet Rowling breezes into interviews looking nearly the same today as she did in the 90s.

Besides, how exactly do you think she knew so much about the dark arts? And all that Latin she flings around? Yeah, it was probably her first language. Everyone knows the most powerful vampires are the ones who were alive during the Roman empire.

Now on to Gates. Same as Rowling, that guy may have a few lines now, but the stress of working 23 hours a day in front of a glowing console, under the harsh fluorescent lights, existing on Doritos and Mountain Dew while starting his empire should have set him back at least, what, four or five heart attacks? Nope, the guy amassed billions, gave us a browser no one wanted, and goes off to atone for his transgressions by making sure the world has clean toilets. Oh yeah, and if you follow the popular theory of sparkling vamps, you may notice that unlike nearly every other tech firm, Microsoft isn't situated in Silicon Valley. Rather, it's located in Redmond, WA, which is a mere 200 miles from Forks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Feels: Tears In The Rain

Ever since the dawn of the internet there have been screen names and sign off signatures. My screen names have ranged from silly, to self-importantly silly, to straight up pompous, and there have been many. But my sign off was always the same: 
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. 
If you don't immediately recognize the quote, it's from the movie Blade Runner. Specifically, Rutger Hauer's character, Roy Batty. If you've never seen Blade Runner, remedy that. Just remember to watch the director's cut because it's easily a zillion times better than the original.
Blade Runner is a cult classic, future noir film that defines everything I love about science fiction; flying cars, androids, gritty distopian landscapes, and dramatic fashion. By no means is it a tear jerker. In fact, the 'love scene',  between the two main characters (played by post-Star Wars Harrison Ford and pre-Cat Woman crazy Sean Young) has been widely criticized as being romanticized rape (spoiler alert, it totally is).
But this is The Feels, so obviously there's something about this film that evokes a strong emotional reaction out of me.
Yeah, it's Rutger Hauer's character.

I know. 

If you told me I was going to have a strong emotional response to a Rutger Hauer character I'd laugh at you. If you told me the character was a vicious killing machine without a conscience, I'd say you were insulting my humanity. But that's just it.
I'm that weirdo who always worried if one toy was getting more attention than another. Give something a face and my mind immediately recognized that it had feelings. Give it robotic mobility and the illusion of thought and I was 100% convinced that it was alive, felt pain, and totally went to heaven when it 'died.' Oh man, Toy Story would have messed me up hardcore if it had been around in my youth.
I kind of grew out of that. Kinda. I admit that I might have shed tears when my Tamagochi sprouted angel wings for the first time. Okay, who am I kidding? If I had one of those robot dogs that Sony was making a decade ago, I guarantee that it would get just as much love and attention as my real dogs. 
Do I get a say in this?
But, you know, things are just things. I know this, really I do!
And that is exactly what chokes me up over Blade Runner. Roy is a thing. He is aware that he is a thing and that his 'feelings' aren't real. But he has sentience and despite everything he's done to make him the bad guy, he has lived. He has experienced and seen things that provide real memories, memories that will cease to exist when he does, and he is aware of this, so he does something. No spoilers, but he does something to guarantee that he is remembered.
It's so human, it hurts.
Sure, I might have been young and going through my 'everything is so profound!' stage when I first saw this film. But it holds up. All of us want to be remembered. All of us have unique memories and yes, those memories will die with us. No one wants to dwell on that, so we do what we can to ensure that we'll be remembered is a good way. Even if we aren't always good at it.
But that funny looking stuffed duck that I had as a kid? Yep, I'll always remember that duck, with her little Donald Duck ripoff sailor suit and kind of crazy eyes. She was a good duck, even if she wasn't as cute as the other stuffed animals.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's Only Paranoia If You Want It To Be

We are being watched. It's been all over the news recently, but it's nothing new. Today the NSA is monitoring our phone calls, a few years ago it was wiretapping, and before all that came to light it was Ad Sense trying desperately to sell us banana protectors based on our emails. Let's face it, twenty first century privacy concerns read like a fanfiction crossover between 1984 and Idiocracy. (A quick Google search surprisingly says that NO ONE has written this yet! Go us?)
I understand privacy issues. I'm a pretty private person despite my forays into publishing and social media. But I'm also a warped individual. I'm okay with a nameless government program logging my calls because, who uses the phone these days? Heck, since I've succumbed to Facebook no one even texts me anymore, let alone emails or calls. I'm okay with the government using the front facing camera on my phone to watch my reactions to cat videos on Buzzfeed. I'm even okay with them knowing my disgusting habits, like watching cat videos while using the restroom. What I'm not okay with is some nameless intern taking that footage and posting it to some weird toilet cat video reaction fetish website.
Look, I've mentioned before that some of my internet searches related to book research could easily be interpreted as suspicious. I've looked up weapons, explosives, historical serial killers, the ethics of genetic engineering, and most recently, mind controlling substances. So far the feds haven't come knocking.
No, the government isn't really my concern here. My real concern is my beloved electronic friends. Anyone who has ever had an email address or a Facebook account knows that companies aren't above using your drunk party pictures or embarrassing email confessions to sell you stuff. Back when my husband and I were planning our wedding, our Gmail sidebars were cluttered with wedding planners, Vegas hotel deals, cheap flights, and disturbingly, divorce lawyers. Every time I sent my book drafts off to someone to proofread I would be inundated with self-publishers, proofreading services, or booksellers. I've gotten used to it and frankly, it beats the old days of prescription-free Viagara, $99 laptop deals, and dancing aliens who are excited by low mortgage rates. At least the intrusive ads were sort of relevant.
Now let's take the premise of targeted ads out of the sidebar and into life on the web. We recently just finalized plans for a vacation to California. Now yes, I did use the internet to search for hotels and flights, but how would a company that only sends me emails know this? I'm on a mailing list for a store called World Market. Their name is actually Cost Plus World Market, but unless you lived in California, specifically the Bay Area where the company began, you might not have even noticed the tiny "Cost Plus" banner that sits atop the giant "WORLD MARKET" sign. The day after I booked the flight, I jokingly told my husband we needed to go to COST PLUS World Market while we were in California because I tell lame jokes and there is a perfectly serviceable World Market right down the street. A day later something weird happened to the emails I get:

All emails for the last several years have been like the one on the bottom, and all since have added the Cost Plus just to mess with me. Odd coincidence, right? Most likely. I mean, that is the full name of the company. It's just a case of odd timing.
But then there was the Fitbit incident. Fitbit is kind of like a glorified pedometer that tracks my steps and calories burned, and uploads the information to a website that then sends me emails, congratulating me on not being a couch potato. (It's pretty easy to not be a couch potato when three dogs claim all of the best couch real estate.) The device is pretty small, so small that it calls me "CM" because my name doesn't fit on the screen. But if it's inactive for a while, and I pick it up, it gives me a little motivational message that makes sense about 15% of the time.
It's like it totally gets me.
Well the other night, my husband and I were speaking in French, you know, like normal couples do while standing around the kitchen and feeding carrots to their dogs. I realized Fitbit was on the table and therefore not calculating all the carrot-feeding calories I was expending, so I grabbed it, and was met by the message, "Bonjour, CM!" Now what makes this weir is that Fitbit usually recycles the same 10 or so phrases and I'd never seen this on before. Freaky? Uh huh. But it also says stuff like, "Vamos!" and "GOOOAAAL!" so it's possible that Fitbit just has a bit of international flare.
Okay, how about this one.
Have you ever browsed the internet looking for something specific, only to have the item you searched show up in ads on random websites that were not related to your search? Of course you have, that's what cookies do. But let's go deeper. What if you weren't even browsing the internet? What if you were talking to someone about the average rainfall in Bora Bora and to settle the argument, you do a quick Google search. Now, you have never searched for the average rainfall in Bora Bora before, heck, let's pretend you've never even heard of Bora Bora before so there is not even the remotest possibility that Bora Bora has ever been typed anywhere on your computer. But when you start typing, you only get to "aver..." before Google auto-populates the entire phrase, "average rainfall in Bora Bora." Could that possibly ever happen?
Yes.
And it did, to my husband. I don't remember what we were talking about, but he wanted to look something up that we had never heard of before and he only got a few letters typed before Google suggested the entire obscure phrase. Now that one I have no explanation for other than the possibility that many other people were looking up the same obscure phrase. I wish I remembered what it was. I am confident that it wasn't the average rainfall in Bora Bora*.

We are being watched.
BY EVERYTHING!!!!
(cue scary music)

*I'm curious now to see how many poor folks, who legitimately would like to know the climate statistics of  Bora Bora, are directed to this post. 



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Overdrawn

Yes, it has been a while since I posted. That's partly due to the fact that I haven't had much to say and a whole lot due to my inability to manage time. Between working full time, writing when I can, spamming social media with advertising for my books, and working out because I have to and not because I like to, I don't get a lot of free time.
This weekend I was able to get the cover for my next book done pretty quickly, so I decided that Sunday would be free time. Instead of catching up on everything else I've neglected, I sat around and blazed through three books.
I have no regrets.
Two of the books weren't very good, but the third more than made up for it. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm addicted to reading. As far as addiction goes, I'm pretty okay with this one.
This week I'm back to editing the prequel, but I promise to set aside time to blog. Until then, go read something, it's fun.