Vampires don’t make sense.
That seems like an extraordinary thing to say, doesn’t it? Here? Before this reading audience? By someone who collects vampire films, has books and books and books on the subject (fiction and non), writes regularly on the subject? But bear with me.
First, consider blood. It is over ninety percent water. Nutritionally, the only ‘food’ in it are red blood cells, white blood cells and a handful of other tiny cells. Each of which are also mostly-water. The vast majority of organisms on Earth that consume blood (like humans) at all do so while grabbing chunks of meat and eating that. Most, like humans, cannot digest the red blood cells. Cilia within the intestines are the wrong size and shape. As a result, the blood we do consume passes out of our system undigested. So look at creatures that do feed exclusively on blood–ticks, bed bugs, leeches and the like. One of the largest and the only real mammal to do so (i.e. with a skeleton, hair, warm-blooded, etc.) is the vampire bat. Remember this mammal is one of if not THE largest creatures to feed on blood. It’s body is the size of a mouse. Add in the wingspan and behold a creature as long as a domestic house cat’s tail. And how much blood does this creature consume? Roughly half its body weight every night–after which it sleeps for hours in order to digest (which includes releasing fairly copious amounts of urine).
Translate that into a vampire. I weigh around two hundred pounds. Around that. Doesn’t that mean I would have to swallow one hundred pounds in blood every single night were I a vampire?
Actually, no. It would be a lot more due to the inverse-square law. Quite simply, the interior of anything always has more area than the exterior. Don’t believe me? Measure a a square six inches on each side. That means its exterior is 24 inches. But its area is six times six–thirty six inches. As things increase in size, the difference increases at an ever-growing rate. Apply this to food consumption and you start to see the problem. The bigger something grows, the more vast their food requirements. In order to keep things sane, evolution usually slows down a larger creature’s metabolism. Hence elephants and their two-year pregnancies! Elephants, who spend most of every day eating, are also not predators–they can afford a much slower metabolism.
This means to maintain my level of activity (or more, because I’m not a predator either–biologically homo sapiens are omnivorous scavengers) I would need to consume at least one hundred fifty pounds of blood each day at least! Since a gallon weighs about eight pounds (actually a little more) that means a vampire my (quite ordinary) size would need to consume an average of eighteen gallons of blood each night. Imagine drinking eighteen gallons of milk Just think about that. Now factor in the fact that blood makes up only about seven or eight percent of the complete weight of a human being. In my case (rounding off) that means about 16 pounds. But a vampire will need about ninety times that to survive. Every single day.
Now turn to sunlight. Leaving aside the fact that folklore suggests nothing about vampires being harmed by sunlight, and the fact that moonlight is exactly the same thing and that every single star is a sun–is there any example in nature of a being exposed to sunlight and combusting into flames?
Plenty of critters don’t like sunlight. Some find it blinding. A whole bunch get sick and eventually die from it–usually due to skin cancer. Plenty of conditions among human beings cause extreme sensitivity to sunlight, even causing pain (the wonderful ghost story “The Others” is built around this). Individual with albinism are often photosensitive. But the only thing that makes a living organism–which in a human’s case is move 75% water–burst into flames is some kind of accelerant. Gasoline. Napalm. Kerosene. Silver nitrate. Something like that.
And don’t get me started on shape-shifting. Look at a caterpillar. Now look at a butterfly. You know what it takes to turn one into the other? Force-feeding, coupled with a cocoon left undisturbed at least two weeks, sometimes as much as five years. In the process the creatures undergoes a slow metamorphosis. Please note nothing larger than an insect does anything like it. Why? See the inverse square law above. Above a certain ratio, an organism cannot practically consume enough fuel to manage something like this.
Or fangs! Look at almost any image of a vampire victim’s throat. Two gaping wounds, that for some reason barely bleed anymore even though they look really deep. Often piercing either the jugular vein or carotid artery. Either one should result in what’s called arterial gush–a spray of blood that reduces the victim’s blood pressure to nothing in less than two minutes unless they receive immediate medical attention. No way Lucy Westenra should have survived even on such attack. Apart from the fact one wonders where marks from the rest of the vampire’s teeth might be, another practical question comes up. Imagine putting your mouth up to a garden hose. Now, in a quarter of a second or so, turn that hose pressure up to FULL BLAST!
Yet there is a simple way to get around all of this. Very simple. Obvious even. Not only simple and obvious, it is even traditional as well as seemingly intrinsic to the whole genre. Curiously, some fellow vampire fans dislike using it. Why might be a fascinating subject for an essay one of these days. The answer?
Magic. Vampires are supernatural beings. They are magic. They use magic. You might as well apply science to basilisks or hippogriffs as explain vampires according to natural law (although Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan get full props for almost pulling it off in “The Strain” trilogy). In fact, authors can use the above as neat examples of evidence to convince medical doctors that they’re dealing with vampires–because what is happening shouldn’t be possible. Likewise, if what a vampire gets from blood is mystical (bits of life or life energy or the victim’s soul, etc.) then they don’t need to devour dozens of adults every night!
Magic. Embrace it, my fellow vampire fans. Really.