Black Light Monsters
by Martha Allard
I grew up watching Saturday morning creature features. Sir Graves Ghastly, the movie host I favored, was silly, but he had a taste for Hammer Horror. It seemed as though there was a Dracula movie every Saturday morning. My favorites starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. By the time I was fifteen, I was half in love with Christopher Lee as Dracula, with his hungry eyes. He was equal parts tragedy and cruelty. He seduced his prey with a sleek coldness that was mesmerizing. Each time his Dracula met Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing, there was a part of me that hoped that he might escape the stake. Still, I admired Dr. Van Helsing. Peter Cushing changed my idea of what a hero could be. He was five inches shorter than his costar, almost delicate in contrast, but with a spine of steel. He was as much an outsider as Dracula and faced with odds that were overwhelming. He knew the rules, knew how to drive the stake in or spill the dawn into the room. Growing up in the 80s as I did, isolated and gay in a small town, I took comfort in his victories, while at the same time mourning for Dracula.
My book Black Light is about a rock band on the rise and a psychic vampire. It’s filled with snatches of my childhood. It was inevitable that these movies worked their way into my views of vampirism.
In the book, Albrecht Christian is the psychic vampire. He feeds by taking energy from his victims, through touch. He is addicting and, unlike the psychic vampires we come across in life, Christian knows what he is stealing. When we meet him, he is still mourning a lover that he nearly consumed and looking for a replacement. He sees his world with hungry eyes. He is smooth and hard and seduces his prey with his sheer presence. But that is a front for a man who is dying of loneliness, as I imagined Lee’s Dracula to be.
Asia Heyes is the band’s bass player. He also a reflection of my teenaged self, at home on Saturdays watching the struggle between light and dark played out from a place of safety. Asia’s world is punctuated by old horror movies. He meets his first girlfriend in a bar called Corman’s, named for Roger, the great schlock movie maker. Asia is put at ease by the presence of a fake mummy slouching in one of the shadowy booths. The place he is most at home in Los Angeles is an old cemetery that he recognizes on his first visit. He’s seen it in movies. When Albrecht Christian crosses Asia’s path, Asia recognizes the monster. Asia wishes, like I did as a kid, that they were in a horror movie because then Asia could be a hero.
Black Light is about rock and roll and falling in love for the first time, but the traces of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are woven deep into the story. I don’t think I realized how deep until I finished it.
Martha’s blog: https://marthajallard.blogspot.com
Publisher’s page: http://automatismpress.com/black_light.html