AC: So what’s up with ghost hunters?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
by Andrea Campbell
Many historical stories about vampires, ghosts and other phenomenon are based in whole, or in part, on real happenings. People have always been superstitious and afraid of many things such as apparitions or no matter. My guests today, Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry, are here to talk about these concepts and more.
AC: Welcome. Today we are talking about the book Wanted Undead or Alive. Can you give Women in Crime Ink readers a short synopsis?
JGB: Wanted Undead or Alive deals with the struggle of good versus evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to real life/legendary heroes to FBI serial-killer profilers.
AC: How is the book organized?
JM: Each chapter tackles a different theme. Serial Killers, Vampires, Ghost Hunting, and so on. We also have interviews with experts ranging from Stan Lee to real FBI profilers.
JGB: And, the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics and fantasy artists.
AC: Tales are passed down through history, but how does one separate fact from fiction?
JM: That’s often impossible. History is filtered through personal viewpoints and often unsubstantiated eyewitness accounts. Mix that with the supernatural, paranormal, celestial, and the unknown, and you get a grab-bag of accounts that often rely on belief.
That said, the purpose of the book isn’t to prove anything. It’s an exploration of the themes of good and evil (and their variations, like good and bad, our side and their side, etc.) and how those concepts have manifested in politics, religion, art, literature, folklore, pop culture, comics, and our modern world.
AC: In the book you say that evil is intention. In fact, in criminal law there is the act, but it is not a crime without intent. Why is there that distinction?
JM: Many crimes are committed accidentally or during a moment of confusion, such as an argument, a riot, a natural catastrophe. Intent is key because that speaks as to why a crime was committed. In the book we use an example: driving a car up onto a lawn and running over a puppy is a violation of several laws. Does that make it a crime? Deliberately chasing the puppy up onto the lawn with the intention of running it over is definitely a crime. Or is it? Cold facts are not big picture enough to make that determination. What if the puppy is rabid and is about to bite a toddler in a sandbox? Would using the car to save the child still be a felony? Or does it then become an heroic act? Intent matters.
AC: Wanted Undead or Alive is actually a complete guide of many different evil entities. Can you speak to that?
JM: Evil, badness and corruption exist in all aspects of human culture. Not just the extremes of evil, but its shades and variations. For example, if a vampire believes himself to be of a different species from human, then can human values of good and evil apply? We don’t apply them to, say, sharks or tigers and yet they prey on humans. Or, if a person rises from the grave as a vampire –their first night as a vampire, in fact—are they innately evil? If a vampire hunter tries to stake them that first night, before the vampire has even had a chance to hunt for human blood, why is the hunter not the evil felon and the vampire the innocent victim? Evil is all about shades of gray.
AC: Why is it that readers are drawn to evil do you think?
JGB: Readers are drawn to evil because it speaks to us, to that deep dark part of humans that we all, at least most of us, would prefer to keep buried and well hidden. Evil fascinates us because it scares us. We search for a way to conquer it and gain control of it, to make sense of our lives.
AC: What is a monomyth?
JM: It’s a concept coined by James Joyce but explored in great depth by Joseph Campbell in his ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’. In short, if you look at myths from around the world there are some story lines that seem to crop up everywhere. Similarities abound, even in cultures that can’t easily be historically connected, such as the Navajo and the Greeks.
AC: Two part question here: Vampires have an incredibly long history. What new facts did you unearth from the past and how did you possibly choose what to tell?
JM: We focused on the vampire hunter, and on the myths and misconceptions associated with folkloric vampirism. For example, we discuss the various ways in which a person can become a vampire. Being bitten by a vampire is the least common way, by the way. A common way is to be born with a caul, an amniotic membrane covering the face, that in some cases indicates the presence of evil within the newborn. Vampire species created through this means include the Wume of Togo, the Nachtzehrer of Germany, the Strigoi of Romania, the Upier and Ohyn of Poland; while in other cultures it’s a sign of great positive spiritual power.
AC: So what’s up with ghost hunters?
JGB: In many cultures, ghosts are feared; others embrace spirits. The fascination with paranormal phenomenon is nothing new. In fact, inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was convinced it was possible to design a device to communicate with ghosts, although he never created one. Modern technology has given ghost hunters the means to seek and obtain scientific evidence to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts and other phenomenon. Today’s ghost hunters use photographs, video footage, sound recordings and a variety of other equipment to scientifically collect evidence of ghost activity.
JGB: What we see on TV or in the movies or read about behavioral profilers is only part of the picture. The word profiler refers to an aspect of the job and not a job title. Profilers attempt to determine the type of person who committed a crime based on patterns and similarities among killings. In addition to trying to catch serial killers, behavioral profilers work on all types of crime, help law enforcement establish probable cause and obtain search warrants, and help prosecutors with jury selection and ways to cross examine the killer.
AC: Who did you interview and how did you approach such an undertaking? Did working together help and how did that come about, your co-authorship?
JM: We worked separately for most of the project. We divided the topics and generally conducted the research on our own until we had a draft of a chapter. Then we swapped drafts so that the other person could review it, make any changes, additions or deletions. Then we each did a pass on the full book so that it had a uniform voice.
JGN: Over the course of the book we spoke with Stan Lee, Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), horror actresses Amber Benson, Amy Lynn Best, Christa Cambpell and Monique DuPree; authors Charlaine Harris (True Blood), Rachel Caine, Shiloh Walker, Russell Atwood, James Moore, Charles Ardai; filmmakers John Carpenter, Lloyd Kaufman, Mike Watt; and so many others.
AC: What will you be doing for promotion?
JGB: We’ve already had a bunch of book signings and have more in the works. We’ve been interviewed or reviewed on numerous blogs and written guest posts for others. We also have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Word of mouth is one of the strongest and most effective means of marketing, and we’re using these platforms to help spread the word.
Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner, and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including The Cryptopedia, Vampire Universe, They Bite, Zombie CSU and Patient Zero. His latest novel is Rot & Ruin. Visit Jonathan’s website here.