Guest Post by Alan Ryker: The Science of Vampires

Posted by on Apr 6, 2011 in Guest Posts | 9 comments

The vampires in Burden Kansas might piss some vampire purists off. Vampires typically have magical origins. I know of a few cases in which they are a separate species–such as in Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls–but most of the time vampirism is a magical disease, often with religious undertones. For instance, the first vampire is sometimes Judas, or Cain of the brothers Cain and Abel.

Some people would call the feral vampires that stalk the prairies of my Kansas more like zombies than vampires. When one of my vampires bites its prey, it injects venom that damages the central nervous system, anesthetizing the victim and causing brain damage. Living in this venom is a microorganism similar to a virus. The virus can only infect humans. If a vampire bites a human but doesn’t kill it, the contagion quickly spreads throughout the body, killing the human but leaving them undead. But the venom leaves them stooooopid.

While that provides enough content for a short story, to fill a novella I needed an antagonist to rise from the legion of feral vampires. My vampires are dumb, underpowered, and prefer to feed on cattle. They’re afraid of people and each other. None of them is a match for my protagonist, rancher Keith Harris. So what could prevent the brain damage the venom causes?

Methamphetamine. When the town drug dealer gets bitten and feels the darkness closing in, the thing it most reminds him of is a heroin overdose. So he instinctively snorts massive quantities of roughly-crushed crystal meth to bring himself back up. He still dies, but he retains his human intelligence, and his hatred of Keith Harris.

And that’s why I needed to create a quasi-scientific basis for vampirism. If it were a curse of Cain, there’d be no way I could work meth into the story. And really, forget about protagonists and antagonists. The real hero here is the meth.

One of the first comments I received after the book hit Amazon was, “My long term goals now include becoming a methpire.”  And that made the whole struggle worth it. Reaching out and touching people like that, spreading my message. To be honest, I do this all for the kids.

Seriously, though, I like writing about lowlifes. I wouldn’t know how to write a majestic vampire, an ancient, powerful vampire, or an erudite, cultured vampire. They’d come off as phony. I think there’s a place for all of those vampires in literature, but maybe not in my work. What I can write convincingly about is the battle between a mean redneck and a small-town tweaker with big fangs.

I just lost the last of you, didn’t I?

Despite my glib description, Burden Kansas isn’t a comedy, and my characters aren’t caricatures. I love my characters, and I think you’d be surprised by how you feel about them by the last page.

Buy Burden Kansas at:



Alan Ryker writes good fight scenes because he practices Muay Thai boxing, though not as often as his coach would like. He lives with his wife in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, where he writes both dark and literary fiction, and tests the boundaries of each. He has previously published short fiction in a number of print anthologies and magazines.


Check out his many adventures at his blog, Pulling Teeth. Enjoy his most mundane thoughts by following him on twitter: @alanryker. Friend him on Facebook.


  1. Oh, wow, I’m off to find this book. It sounds right up my alley.

  2. I have to admit, methpire’s are definitely a new one. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. “To be honest, I do this all for the kids.”

    Since they love to be scared to death? Looking at your book cover gave me nightmares last night. I dreamt I had an iPad that immediately became infected with a porn virus. I couldn’t shut it off and everyone thought I was a pervert. I still want the iPad, but I’m nervous.

    We’re awash with meth here in central Calif. (what area of the country isn’t?) It rots the teeth. How do your methpires protect their enamel?

  4. Kids love emotional trauma!

    Yeah, Eastern Kansas and Missouri have a big meth problem. The Ozarks are worse than Kansas, yeesh. You might have read/seen “Winter’s Bone.” Scary stuff.

    A lot of the dental issues comes from the reduced saliva production and lack of blood flow to the gums due to vasoconstriction. My vamps keep their fangs well-soaked in blood, so it’s not a problem!

  5. @Grayson I’m 2/3 of the way through now. It’s a good read. I think you’d enjoy it.

    @A.M. It’s definitely vampires done a way I haven’t seen before, and I’ve seen a lot.

    @Everett I adore the Burden cover. Although I’ll say, it looks like Alan is about to take a bite out of his dog in his picture, and that’s a little scary.

    @Alan I don’t know whether I’m impressed or frightened that you actually thought that out. Thanks for the guest post!

  6. I’m really enjoying Alan’s book, ‘Burden Kansas’. Picked it up at Smashwords. Whiskey, crank, vampirism and cattle ranching. Damn near non-fiction. 😉

  7. Anthony, they refuse to put it in the memoir section! Very glad you’re enjoying it.

    Thanks to all commenters, past, present and future. And thanks so much to Coral for posting this!

  8. “I just lost the last of you, didn’t I?”

    Actually, that’s the moment I decided I was buying your book. 🙂

    Also, the cover is fantastic. 🙂

    Love the blog, man. Coral sent me.


  9. Psst. This is Coral’s blog you commented on. Alan’s blog is over there—>


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: