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Jiang-Shi by Jennifer Loring
I am not ashamed to admit that I love vampires. Not the sexed-up variety that has dominated the genre for the past couple of decades (though they have their place), but the nasty, blood-starved, just-crawled-out-of-the-grave beasts of folklore. Before I started writing Those of My Kind, I knew I wanted a vampiric creature as the antagonist. I also knew that I did not want to use the hackneyed Western vampire, so I turned to one of my favorite sources for inspiration.
The jiang-shi, though frequently referred to as a "vampire", developed independently of Western vampires and likely arose as an extension of the Chinese hungry ghost. It bears little resemblance to the Western vampire and in fact is more akin to the modern zombie. Like the zombie, it does not retain knowledge of its former life nor any sort of willpower; it is driven purely by the instinct to feed. What links it to the vampire is its draining of victims' life energy or qi, similar to the psychic vampire, though Western influence has given some jiang-shi the ability to drain blood. While it may look like a normal human if created soon after death, post-decomposition jiang-shi take on a horrifying appearance. They are pale, with long white hair and moss or mold growing on their skin. They also possess sharp black fingernails, serrated teeth, and may radiate a phosphorescent green light. Because they cannot see, jiang-shi often detect their victims by breath; thus, one can avoid them by holding one's breath.
While a hopping vampire/zombie may seem absurd, the jiang-shi is far more vicious than most contemporary vampires. Aside from a tendency to rape women, it was common for a jiang-shi to rip off its victim's head or limbs, and this became its most frequently reported attribute. Lacking the hypnotic powers common to Western vampires, the jiang-shi typically surprised its victims instead. In time, the creature would grow stronger, leave its coffin behind, and learn to fly. At this point, it produced a covering of white hair and could obtain the power to turn into a wolf. Once the jiang-shi reached this stage, it could be killed only by a bullet or by thunder, though fire--representative of purification in so many cultures--was the ideal solution. Some believed one could also kill a jiang-shi by sucking out its dying breath.
The mythology and folklore of non-Western cultures can refresh even as well-worn a trope as the vampire. Choosing the traits that work for your story, and combining them with those of other monsters, will almost certainly lead to a creature uniquely your own. Try it in your next project and see where your imagination takes you!
About the Author
Beautiful Things, with Fox & Raven Publishing and a psychological horror/ghost story novella, Conduits, with DarkFuse. Jennifer lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Zach, and their turtle, Ninja. Those of My Kind is her first novel.
About Those of My Kind
Two young women find themselves entangled in a deadly game with an ancient creature determined to wipe out all human life. Tristan and Blessing are demon-hunting drifters destined to protect mankind from evil, but to do so they must exist on the fringes of society. Feeding their own bloodlust by murdering local criminals, they begin a dangerous hunt for a resurrected demon named Anasztaizia. But when Tristan meets a beautiful dancer named Mira, she is willing to abandon her calling for her one chance at a normal life.
Believing Tristan has betrayed her, Blessing finds solace in her natural talent for witchcraft. Anasztaizia, able to corrupt Blessing by exploiting her jealousies and personal tragedies as well as her power, next turns her attention to Mira. Mira has been keeping a secret from Tristan, and she is willing to do anything to escape her agonizing fate. Even if it means abandoning her humanity. Even if it means Tristan must choose between Mira's life and her own.
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