Monday, June 3, 2024

Vampires in Space for Thirteen Parsecs

 June is the month I usually dedicate to Basic-era (B/X, BECMI) D&D, but not always. I have D&D-related plans for June, but I am not entirely done with science fiction yet. 

I have been doing a feature most nights, largely without pomp or circumstance, called Dracula, The Hunters' Journals, where I post the entries from the novel Dracula on the day they were recorded.  It has been a odd thing to post all this Dracula and Victorian content in the midst of all the sci-fi material I have been talking about all month.  But it is not unprecedented. 

Vampires in Space, via NIGHT SHIFT

Vampires in Space

What do Buck Rogers, Doctor Who, Vampirella, and Colin Wilson all have in common? They are all different science fiction media properties that have featured stories of vampires in space.

One of the strong selling points I think of our new Thirteen Parsecs RPG is it's 100% compatibility with NIGHT SHIFT.  Creatures, characters, classes, and more can be lifted whole from NIGHT SHIT and dropped right into Thirteen Parsecs.  You just need to figure out why they are there.

The vampire in NIGHT SHIFT is based on the Gothic vampire of old, which, of course, has roots in mythology, but mostly in Dracula, Ruthven, and Carmilla. It is also flexible enough to allow for various modern re-interpretations against the Gothic archetype. There is no reason why this can't be extended beyond that to space.  And like I said before, I kinda owe it to my 10-year-old self to at least try a Space Vampire. 

Vampires in Space

So, how have Space Vampires been done already?

Buck Rogers TV Series: "The Space Vampire"

In this episode from the 1979 TV series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Buck Rogers faces a creature known as a Vorvon, a space vampire that drains the life energy from its victims. The episode blends science fiction with classic vampire mythology and powers, as the Vorvon can possess and control other beings. Buck must find a way to stop this menace before it can spread its evil influence throughout the space station. As expected, the Vorvon goes after Col. Wilma Dearing (though it does give Erin Gray a bit more to do). The vampire here can only be destroyed by flying it into a sun.

Doctor Who: "State of Decay"

This 1980 serial from "Doctor Who" features the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker. The Doctor and Romana II and unknown to them, Adric, land on a planet where a trio of ancient vampire lords. These human explorers encountered the last of a race known as the Great Vampires, and have enslaved the local population. The story explores the conflict between the advanced Time Lords and the primitive yet powerful vampires, mixing gothic horror with futuristic elements.  Here the Great Vampires are depicted as an ancient race, as old as the Time Lords themselves, and their wars with the Time Lords. Again, like the Buck Rogers episode, many Vampire mythological elements are re-translated here.

Of note, well at least to me, is a line dropped by the Doctor that every inhabited planet has myths about vampires. We will later see other types of vampires in future episodes. The Haemovores in the 7th Doctor's "The Curse of Fenric," the Plasmavore in the 10th Doctor's "Smith and Jones," and the Saturnyn, another type of vampire (sexy fish vampires, according to the 11th Doctor) in "Vampires of Venice."

I discuss both of these episodes here and more about vampires in Doctor Who specifically here

Lifeforce (1985)

"Lifeforce" is a fairly notorious sci-fi horror film directed by Tobe Hooper. The plot centers on a space mission that discovers an alien spacecraft hidden in the tail of Halley's Comet. Inside, the crew finds three humanoid creatures in suspended animation. When brought back to Earth, these beings awaken and reveal themselves to be energy vampires, draining life force from humans to survive. 

The film was a minor hit in 1985, maybe not so much for the plot or story, but because it featured then-newcomer Mathilda May, who appeared completely nude throughout most of the film. It also included Steve Railsback, who would later give a strong and memorable performance as the abductee Duane Barry in the "X-Files" and Patrick Stewart who would the following year go on to star in "Star Trek the Next Generation."

This movie is, in theory anyway, based on the 1976 book by Colin Wilson, "The Space Vampires." I read the book after seeing the movie, and they have a few connections, like some vampires and character names. They are so different. I'll talk about the book separately.


Ah, Vampy. Vampirella is a character from the eponymous comic book series created by Forrest J. Ackerman and artist Trina Robbins, first appearing in 1969. She is an alien vampire from the planet Drakulon, where blood flows like water. After her planet is doomed, she travels to Earth. Blending science fiction and horror, Vampirella fights evil supernatural beings while struggling with her vampiric nature. The character has become iconic, appearing in various comic series, novels, and a 1996 film adaptation. of late she is often paired with Red Sonja in a number of reality spanning adventures. The strangest, and oddly the most fun one? "Red Sonja & Vampirella meet Betty & Veronica." On paper it should never work, yet it does.  Part of this, I think, also is due to the amazing art of Maria Sanapo.

Clark Ashton Smith's Works

Clark Ashton Smith, a long-time favorite here at The Other Side, incorporated vampiric themes into his science fiction and fantasy stories. In "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" (1932), explorers on Mars encounter a parasitic creature that drains their life force, functioning similarly to a vampire. His works often feature otherworldly landscapes and cosmic horrors, blending the supernatural with speculative elements.

The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson

This 1976 novel is the basis for the movie "Lifeforce." It follows the story of alien vampires who travel to Earth and attempt to drain the life energy of humans. The novel delves into themes of sexuality, existentialism, and the survival instinct, blending sci-fi with classic vampire lore. 

The vampires, the almost Lovecraftian "Ubbo-Sathla," here, are more like Sex-Vampires. So that much tracks with the movie. The novel takes place in the late 21st century, not the 20th, and the discovery of the alien ship is in the Asteroid belt. 

Shambleau by C.L. Moore

"Shambleau" is a science fiction short story written by C.L. Moore, first published in the November 1933 issue of "Weird Tales" magazine. It is the debut story of her character Northwest Smith, a space-faring adventurer often compared to figures like Han Solo or Conan the Barbarian. "Shambleau" is noted for its innovative blend of science fiction and horror, as well as for its exploration of erotic and psychological themes.

The creature, Shambleau, is an exotic alien beauty with snakes for hair like Medusa. She has a hypnotic effect on those around her and, like Wilson's vampires, drains life energy. In many ways, she is a vampire, much in the same way that the Leanan sídhe is. There is also a scene in the Lifeforce movie where the female vampire (Mathilda May) is created out of the blood of two victims and she bears a passing resemblance to the description of Shambleau. 

Vampires in Thirteen Parsecs

How you do vampires will largely be up to your Thirteen Parsecs campaign. For example, I will likely not have them in my "Space Truckers" games except as a gag. But "Darker Stars" is a different story. 

I would have them as an ancient but dying race. Their homeworld orbits a "Black Sun," a Brown Dwarf star. Their planet would be the last dying remains of a great feudal empire where Vampires were all the nobility. They took to the stars to find new planets to drain, but encountering humanity from Earth, they met their first real resistance in their 10,000-year reign. Part of the Darker Stars camping mode would be this first contact.

I once saw a meme that said you can turn a Gothic cathedral on its side to make a gothic-looking spaceship. That's what the ships of the vampires look like. Something that should look ancient and like it was built as an act of worship to their Vampire masters. 

To give you an idea of what I am doing in Darker Stars, I don't even consider the Vampires to be the biggest threat. 

I can't wait to get this all to you.

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

"I once saw a meme that said you can turn a Gothic cathedral on its side to make a gothic-looking spaceship."

I refer you to about half the Imperial starships ever drawn for Games Workshop's 40K setting. The ones that weren't simply sideways cathedrals with turrets and rocket engines usually had one (or more) churches stuck on their superstructure instead.