Each year, we sponsor a very special Readers’ Choice Awards program to celebrate the wonderful authors who contribute to the Bards and Sages Quarterly. The 2012 Readers’ Choice Author of the Year is Viktor James Night. Viktor’s story, Respect for the Dead, appeared in the January 2012 issue of the Bards and Sages Quarterly and made quite the impression on our readers. We invited James to share his thoughts on his award-winning story.
Victor James Night
What an amazing thing the human soul is. Intangible and immeasurable, yetsomething we all understand as the summation everything that makes us what we are – our thoughts and feelings, our personality, our hopes and desires, our experiences, our worries and fears. How convenient it was for God to put such easily harvested sources of power within these fragile shells of flesh and bone… and how nice of Him to make them so delicious.
Some might call Julian Ravensworth an evil monster for his appetites. Julian would strongly argue that he is neither evil nor a monster; he is simply a man with the will to survive the rigors of the ages, sampling the ever changing delicacy that is the human soul as he journeys across generations. If he were to put labels on himself they would beexplorer and connoisseur. If the people he consumes weren’t technically dead already, he still wouldn’t call what he does murder any more than a cow murders a field of grass or a wolf murders a sheep. There’s no malice in your demise. It’s nothing personal. The consumption of lesser life forms is the natural order of existence, and he is simply another link in the chain. If he feels anything at all it’s anappreciation of the unique flavor of your soul.
The idea of a souleater isn’t new. It’s probably been around for as long as people were able to conceptualize the idea of souls, from the demonic cat that sits on a child’s chest and steals their breath as they sleep, to forms of psychic vampires who syphon energy from those around them. In my experience, the universal thing all soul eaters have in common is the way they consume their prey – by inhaling or “drinking” the soul. It’s usually a gentle process, one the victim might not even notice if they’re unconscious at the time. Death in those stories often involves falling asleep or passing out and never waking up again.
How boring is that? Isn’t dying peacefully in their sleep most people’s ideal way to go? Sure there’s the early demise or the lack of an afterlife to look forward to, which is something, but if it isn’t any more traumatic of a demise than taking a nap it can’t really be called horror.
What I hope sets Julian apart from all the others who’ve come before him is how truly horrific getting killed by him would be. I imagined it was like being cannibalized alive and lobotomized at the same time. You feel his teeth bite into you and rip out a chunk of your soul. You hear the wet chewing noises, and the swallowing, and the minute sounds of pleasure as the souleater sates his hunger. You’re probably even aware of the bits of you falling to the floor like crumbs. With every bite he takes you are diminished, becoming less rational human and more panicky animal. As your memory and personality is stripped away, all that remains is raw emotion and physical sensation– the fear and pain of being eaten – and when those are also consumed you are no more. Nor will you ever be anything again.
I hope that’s the horrific demise worthy of a tale of terror.
I’ve seen dozens of “old man villains” in my time, but only a handful have really stood out from the masses and are ones I can legitimately point to as inspiration for Julian. Leland Gaunt from Stephen King’s Needful Things, Mamoulian from Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game, and Dr. Frankenstein from Dean Koontz’s modern adaptation\continuation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Three vastly different characters with unique goals who all, in my mind, share one interesting trait: the weight of their experience. The source of their power isn’t just about magic or “being more evil than the hero is good”; it’s about using their considerably superior wisdom as a weapon against anyone standing in their way. As far as storytelling goes, I think a wise antagonist is almost better than an intelligent one. Being able to make an intelligent guess is nice, but it can’t compare to drawing on the experience of having been through something before. These types of villains are threats because the know how to deal with you and they know how to exploit your weaknesses. To me, that’s far scarier than someone with a high IQ.
For those interested in seeingJulian again, I have a lot more planned for him. For a man of such immense power, the discipline and discretion to responsibly control it, and the experience of several dozen lifetimes, Julian Ravensworth is a deep well of storytelling potential. I think he’s as likely to feature as the protagonist in his own story as he is the villain or antagonist in someone else’s. I can even see him making a convenient cameo when someone needs a little necromantic assistance. So yes, he’ll be back one day.
Before I close this post, I wanted to say a few words about the award itself. Every time I get a story published somewhere is a huge thrill. It’salways a great compliment for an editor to choose my story from the dozens or hundreds submitted to be printed that month, and I’m always excited at being able to share my stories with an audience who will, hopefully, enjoy and appreciate them.Then to have the readership of a magazine vote me as author of the year on top of that is mind blowing. I can’t describe how flattering it is for you to have thought so much of me or my story to bestow this honor upon me. Thank you all so much for your support, and I hope to continue providing you with stories you will enjoy for decades to come.
About the Author
Viktor James Night is an independent writer with an interest in all things supernatural, horrific, and bizarre. The primary focus of his fiction is on vampires; not vampires as disposable minions or faceless villains but as the once human creatures falling prey, and sometimes giving in, to the curse of their dark existence, though he occasionally makes forays into the darker sides of science-fiction and fantasy. You can visit his website at www.viktornight.com.
Coming this summer:
Bardic Tales and Sage Advice, Vol. V
The fifth installment of the Bardic Tales and Sage Advice series hits stores this summer and features both the winners of the Readers’ Choice Awards and the winners of the 2012 charity writing competition. Visit our website to learn more about the series.