Brian Lumley’s “Necroscope” series pretty much serve as an antidote to anyone disgusted by syrupy sweetness in tales of the undead. Imagine vampires not as fallen angels. Not as darkly mysterious creatures of the night. Imagine vampires as mutated (and mutating) demons. The undead as imagined by H.P. Lovecraft crossed with the more disturbing sexuality of anime. Insatiable monsters. Just enough humanity left to be even more horrific. Grand. Tragic. Disgusting. Fascinating. Utterly terrifying. Such are the Wamphyrie.

The Wamphyrie of Lumley’s books routinely engage in acts that make the notorious angry sex scene between Bill Compton and his maker seem like a game of checkers. Cenobites look like trick-or-treaters by comparison. They hail from a parallel world where some cataclysm left the earth’s axis tilted at an extreme angle. Must of the it is desert wasteland. Arable lands exist on either side of a vast mountain chain, one side of which is in perpetual shadow–Starside. The land of monsters. For in a far off corner lie the vampire swamps, where spores erupt and seek to infect living hosts. When this first happened to a human being, the dreaded Wamphyrie Lords were born.

All this we learn along with the hero of the books, a man named Harry Keogh. In many ways he’s a supernatural secret agent, but more Bruce Banner than James Bond. By some fluke Keogh was born capable of communicating with the dead, who soon grew to love him for ending their loneliness. Eventually they warned him of a threat–someone who could torture the dead. In time this lead to the few vampires left in our world (they preferred to hide here, where mankind was so much more numerous, better organized and far better armed). Then to the Hell Gates–rips in space that led to the world of the Wamphyrie, of eternal war between Starside and Sunside.

Lumley’s vampires are infected by a parasite that grows from spoors into a kind of eyeless worm or snake that completely alters the flesh of its victim/host. Size is the least of it. Any Wamphyrie a mere six feet tall would be considered a runt at best. Incredible strength and senses as well as healing ability which translates into near-immortality might be viewed as benefits. But with them comes hunger, insatiable lusts of all kinds. Blood, of course, but Wamphyrie adore meat as well. A properly cooked (as in with honey and herbs) human child they see as a delicacy. Their raids on the human tribes of their world routinely also include rape, because all of a Host’s lusts are inflamed while almost every scruple melts away.

Almost is an important word.

Just enough of the original human remains that each Wamphyrie remains an individual. Indeed they are proud of that fact, taking elaborate sigils to mark their property and often weirdly poetic names. Vormulac Unsleep whose attempt to turn the girl he loved into a vampire failed miserably so he refused to sleep and dream of her. Vasagi the Suck who reshaped his mouth into a insectile stinger. Maglore the Mage, archivist and scholar of the Wamphyrie. Eygore Killglance with his power of killing by looking in your eyes. Lesk the Glut. Wratha the Risen. Menor Maimbite. Gorvi the Guile. Their relationships and machinations against one another make up a kind of gore-laden soap opera, an “I, Claudius” like epic but carried to extremes of decadence and cruelty, far worse than the most brutal tyrants of human history.

What is in some ways even worse is what the Wamphyrie use in place of technology. On Starside they dwell in huge natural towers of stone, hollowed out and reshaped century after century. One essential quality of these vampires is metamorphic flesh. It lets (indeed forces) them to grow to such huge size, turning their teeth into fangs and hands into claws when need be. Sometimes they even reshape their bodies for gliding long distances. But they’ve also figured out how to force specific shapeshifting in lesser vampires, those whom they have infected but have not yet fully transformed into full Wamphyrie. Such unfortunates usually begin by having most of their brain removed, to make them pliable beasts. Then bones are removed or reshaped. Soft tissues are changed to suit the Lord or Lady’s purposes. Why build an elaborate pumping system to bring in water when you can grow it–lengthening and altering veins that are then powered by a much larger-than-human heart? Instead of building machines capable of aiding travel, they transform humans (sometimes melding more than one individual together) into flying creatures that are also armed and weaponed like things out of nightmare. For that matter, Wamphyrie often see no reason to build walls. They just reshape some poor victim into the right shape and feed them so they will grow into the needed position and texture.

Little wonder the wandering nomads of Sunside, on the other side of the world-spanning mountains of that alternate world, live in a constant state of military readiness. Silver weapons hurt the creatures and they all carry silver weapons. Garlic repulses them, so they cultivate as much garlic as they can. Anyone infected is killed and burned to ash as soon as possible. Meanwhile, woe to anyone who makes a deal with the Wamphyrie and is discovered! They can expect no mercy.

In creating the Wamphyrie Brian Lumley created a kind of horrific epic fantasy. Anyone interested can read the books:

Necroscope II Wamphyri
Necroscope III The Source
Necroscope IV Deadspeak
Necroscope V Deadspawn
Blood Brothers
The Last Airie
Blood Wars
Necroscope: The Lost Years I
Necroscope: The Lost Years II
E-Branch: Invaders
Necroscope: Defilers
Necroscope: Avengers
Necroscope: The Touch
Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


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