Monday, April 20, 2009
Blood in fantasy
So I sat before my computer thinking, “Hmm, what part of the body have I not written about yet?” And “blood” was the first thing that came to mind. I’ll spare you all the second, and just talk about blood instead. There are lots of potential uses of this in fantasy.
The color of blood is a tried-and-true way to indicate the alien or fantastic nature of another species. The Vulcans and Romulans of Star Trek have green blood, and I believe the aliens in Eric von Lustbader’s Pearl series have blue blood (both of which are due to copper rather than iron being in the oxygen-carrying pigment). There are probably creatures out there which have purple, yellow or black blood as well.
What I enjoy is when writers do more than just mention such unusual colors in exposition or description. For instance, in a Star Trek novel (The Vulcan Academy Murders, IIRC), Sarek gets very angry at one point and “sees green”. Very nice touch.
China Mieville’s The Scar introduced scabmettlers, creatures whose blood clots instantly and is therefore shed to create makeshift armor for them. In vampire fiction, of course, blood is food. But there are lots more options.
Blood could be used as a sign. For instance, if a friendly alien injected a little of its own blood into your body, you might suffer a few minor ill effects, but other aliens of the same species would recognize you as an ally too. Of course, you’d show up on their enemies’ olfactory radar as a friend of the opposition.
Blood could be poisonous. I’d like to see vampires deal with that, especially on a world they’re overrunning until evolution finally produces that kind of mutation in their prey. Or it could be extremely destructive – completely safe where it’s supposed to be, but expose it to air and it acts like a powerful acid on stone or metal. Which means that in battle against these particular creatures, each edged weapon you have is good for one-time use only.
Or what about a writing instrument? Normally, writing in blood is melodramatic, but what if there’s a good reason for doing so? The scent of the blood (no matter how old) could provide unfalsifiable identification, or the blood itself might act as a seal. I’d like to see illegible squiggles rearrange themselves into beautiful copperplate when someone of the same species unfolds the paper.
Or perhaps the blood acts like the troll’s talking pouch in The Hobbit? Blood, after all, is said to figuratively cry out when evil has been done.
Recovery from blood loss
I remember watching the first episode of the anime Hellsing, where the vampire Alucard is shot about a thousand times and crumples to the ground. Moments later, his spilled blood flows effortlessly back into his body, parts of it turning to a mist and seeping through the air to rejoin him.
It doesn’t have to be this dramatic, though. The Weaponbearers in my manuscript Redemption are able to absorb whatever iron they need from dissolving and digesting metal, so they recover from blood loss more quickly than other species do. I’d expect the same thing to apply for creatures like scabmettlers, which are used to losing a lot of blood at a time – they should be able to replace this blood very quickly.
This isn’t the same as a Wolverine-esque healing factor, though. A pound of flesh won’t be replaced so easily, if at all, and losing a limb will most likely kill such a character.
What other uses could there be?