Anne Rice passed away at age 80 on December 11. Despite the lamentations of fans insisting that Lestat took her away, she is really gone, and a powerfully bright star has gone out. I'm one of many that feel saddened and stricken at the loss of the empress of the vampire genre. It was hard for me to learn this fact when I'm in the middle of doing the one thing I've wanted to do since I first picked up one of her books: writing my own vampire novel. I'm one of many that were influenced and inspired by her work. Though she was problematic at times, I'm not here to discuss the nuance of her transgressions against the fan community or the unsavory story lines she so liked to explore.
No, I'm here to do what I do best: I'm here to tell you a story.
It is almost impossible for me to overstate the impact Anne Rice has had on me. After discovering Interview with the Vampire at a friend's house, I remember showing her the book and saying, "This is what I want my writing to be like." I was already writing short stories and scribbling down ideas, but nothing that I had read shaped me the way that book did. One of my dearest and most long-lived friendships began because I was spotted reading an Anne Rice novel. Previously, Liz and I didn't get along very well, but we bonded over our shared passion for Rice's The Vampire Chronicles. I would save all my lunch money and snatch quarters out of my father's change dish so that I could go to the used book store by my middle school and spend all of it on Rice's novels. My father was, predictably, very upset with me.
Of course, these are important stories about my formative years, but the real tale I'd like to tell you is far more humorous. If you follow me on Twitter, you may remember this story from when I was attempting to re-read TVC in its entirety before the new show is released (a task that I gave up on when I remembered how much I loathed The Tale of the Body Thief, but I digress).
I believe this story takes place around 2003 or 2004, far before my transition or even when I knew what being transgender was. I was a little proto-goth, into emo music and desperate for an eyebrow piercing. I thought that Sum 41 and Puddle of Mudd were the coolest bands ever, and I wore lots and lots of bracelets from Hot Topic. (Blessedly, there aren't many photos of this time, and none that I have access to at the moment.) My favorite thing in the world was complaining about my life on my LiveJournal. I was particularly fond of the groups on LJ that would sort you into say, your Harry P*tter house or tell you which anime character you were-things like that.
As I mentioned, I was obsessed with Anne Rice and all of her books, so when I found a group that would decide which one of her vampires you were (based on popular vote), I leapt at the opportunity. I wanted, rather desperately, to be voted Lestat. He was the hardest character to be voted into; the moderators didn't want there to be too many "egos" and "drama" that could be caused by having a bunch of preteen internet users getting voted the main character of a vampire franchise.
I was not deterred. I would be voted Lestat.
It took me about a week to fill out the questionnaire that would determine my fate. Obviously, as an obsessive fan, I was able to slant my answers towards my desired outcome. I agonized over each detail, changing something so small as my phrasing right up until the last minute before I posted in the group. At the end of the survey, they asked you if you were a girl or a boy, and if you minded being voted contrary to your gender. I believe my answer was something along the lines of, "I'm a girl but I don't mind being voted a boy character!!!!!! :))))))"
I can vividly recall sitting up at the family computer until late into the night, refreshing the page obsessively to see who the groups were nominating me as. And, boy, was I vindicated: The first handful of votes were cast, and they were all definitive. I was Lestat. 'Hell yeah,' I thought. 'I'm the fucking Brat Prince. Walk with me in the savage garden. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, bitch.'
My entire world came crashing down when I checked in the morning and saw that the tables had turned against me. Someone had voted me Gabrielle, and others were quick to follow suit. "You're a girl, and Gabrielle is the male version of Lestat, so you're Gabrielle!" I was enraged. I couldn't believe the absolute gall of these peons. I was Lestat! I wasn't Gabrielle, I couldn't be! I'm the Brat Prince!
It was too late. The voting period closed, and I was given a little badge with a graphic of some woman who looked like she could be Gabrielle de Lioncourt, along with a little note about how I had been voted as her in this little group. Once you were initiated, you were expected to be active and vote on others at least once a week, and you had to sign off using the banner. I voted a handful of times, but I got so sick of looking at that banner with that girl's face on it that I abandoned the voting and was kicked out soon after for inactivity.
Somehow, some way, that tiny little early amoeba of myself knew that I wasn't in the right skin. I couldn't believe that anyone could perceive me as anything other than male. Frankly, it was insulting. And, I believe to this day, indicative of their massively poor judge of character. My apoplectic fit over not being voted Lestat really only proves that my personality is probably closer to his than anyone else's.
I'm the Brat Prince, bitch.
Thank you, Anne Rice, for your vampires. For your art. For your books reaching out and bringing me and my best friend together, and for your terrible, spoiled Lestat making me realize that I needed to be true to myself. You will be truly missed.
If anyone is planning to attend Anne's celebration of life fete in New Orleans next year, please reach out! I am planning to attend with my husband and my beloved Liz, the friend I never would have made if it weren't for one blonde haired vampire and his whiny companion.
Until next time,