Cocktails with the Nouveaux Morts

Artwork details: coloured and graphite pencils, 31.3 x 15.3 inches (80 x 39 cm), 2009.

Scroll down for close-ups, and a pointed explanation...

Cocktails with the Nouveaux Morts - Drawing by Nancy Farmer

Cocktails with the Nouveaux Morts.

This is a picture about Vampires, old and new. Let me be clear: there are no mortal people in this picture, only Vampires. The Nouveaux Morts are "making friends". Trying their best to impress their guests, they are serving blood in sophisticated little cocktail glasses decorated with eyeballs on sticks, in much the same way as one might ruin a fine vintage port by dousing it with bitter lemon. There are probably ice cubes and, Hell forbid, there probably really is bitter lemon in there somewhere too. Some of the guests are doing their utmost to be tolerant in the hope that the effort will be to their ultimate advantage; nonetheless these ancient and evil Creatures of the Night are finding it hard to come to terms with such depraved behaviour as this.

The Nouveaux Morts

A misunderstanding of values such as this is not uncommon amongst the undead nowadays. Interestingly, this kind of friction has echoes in the mortal world, such that I thought it relevant to collect a few notes on the rise of the Nouveau Mort Vampire. If you are interested, please read on:

Vampire guests

The pedigree Vampire.

The average Vampire should, above all, most definitely not be average. A decent Vampire should be aristocratic; have a good education; rounded vowels; a large castle, or at the very least an impressive stately home with detached mausoleum; and an expensive dress-sense somewhat of the last century, if not several before that one. The ability to sweep, swoop, lurk, creep and glide is compulsory; possession of high cheekbones, piercing eyes and disconcerting eyebrows highly recommended.

When it comes to financial matters, however, a reputable Vampire is no more likely to have an understanding of derivatives trading, margin-equity ratios and the quagmire that is today's modern financial world than a good portfolio manager knows about crawling up the outside of a castle wall in the shape of an oversized bat.

And that, sooner or later, is the problem.

The decline of the good old days.

Way back in the good old days when men were real men, Vampires were real Vampires, and girls in long white dresses were virgins, it was all so much simpler. Rich people carried gold in their pockets and diamond necklaces round their wives. Moreover, they were generally foreign visitors from at least twenty-five miles away who had no nearby relatives likely to get up a lynch-mob; and undoubtedly possessed a more delicately flavoured blood than that of the local peasants.

And so money changed hands. That the hands in question were dead ones was of no importance to the money; it still paid for the upkeep of the castle. Castles do not keep themselves. Elegant decay requires a lot of work to keep it from becoming the real, falling-blocks-of-masonry kind of decay. Silk velvet costs a fortune and mahogany coffins do not grow on trees. At least they do not grow on Transylvanian trees.

Nowadays, alas, times have changed. Rich people, even if one could catch one wandering alone at night and on foot, turn out to be sporting a measly handful of credit cards quite useless to the speculating Vampire. Penniless backpackers, who may be found wandering alone at night are, well, penniless. Though even they have credit cards.


Furthermore, there is a cold-hearted blood-sucking menace that threatens to destroy even the most demonic of Vampires. The Inland Revenue is relentless, insatiable and immortal, and it doesn't have to sleep. Even in a coffin. Probably.

One cannot easily hide a castle. One may of course hide in the castle, but the castle itself is always going to be fairly noticeable. There is land tax at the very least, and then sooner or later the Inland Revenue is going to notice it has received no inheritance tax for several centuries. And then there's income tax. It will be assumed that one must have an income in order to afford the castle, and awkward questions will be asked.

There may be men on the doorstep with briefcases, and for a while a well-brought up vampire may continue to behave in the manner that befits him; but there are only so many government officials that a Creature of the Night can stomach. They leave a bitter aftertaste. After a while the Vampire may seek professional help, but Vampires do not really like Lawyers, as they feel intimidated on their home ground. Lawyers do not like Vampires either, and for much the same reason. And in any case the Vampires can ill afford them. By now the situation is beginning to look desperate; especially once the Vampire realizes he cannot even haunt a grave in the local churchyard without paying rent on it.

The rise of the Nouveau Mort.

Times change. Once upon a time one had to go out and personally impale people on sticks to be seen as an evil bastard. Nowadays pure evil may be conducted from the comfort of an ergonomically-shaped office chair and a shiny black laptop. One need not even step outside the underground bunker. One delegates. One has menials who will fetch and carry; even if the fetching and carrying of attractive young ladies is required. It can be done; it simply costs a little more. Incidentally the fetching and carrying of attractive young virgins has, through scarcity, become almost economically un-viable; but in this day and age tastes are less refined, and few seem to notice.

And onto this modern stage has slunk the Nouveau Mort.

This latter-day and lately most affluent of Vampires owes less to Good Breeding, and a good deal more to good entrepreneurial instincts, shady grey-market trading and some highly suspect post-communist business arrangements. In fact, so lucrative have been the possibilities, and so shadowy the territory, that the clever modern Vampire has moved east and not west from his Romanian ruin in search of a comfortable un-life.

The traditional, aristocratic Vampire refers to this new menace as Svezhiy Pakoinichek [lit: 'freshly deceased']; but that is because he has been around for centuries and speaks a very refined form of Russian. In the west, one may refer to them as the Nouveaux Morts. Such names are intended to be derogatory, but this point falls on deaf ears. Interestingly, the Nouveaux Morts often refer to their elder cousins as Trad Vamps, a term chosen for its brevity and ease of spelling; and the fact that this is in no way intended as derogatory does nothing to alleviate the insult felt by the traditional Creature of the Night.

Nevertheless, for all their differences the two groups are trying to get along: each wants something the other has got. The Nouveau Mort Vampire is sadly lacking in style, breeding, taste or sophistication; prefers big shiny (lead-lined) yachts to crumbling castles; and favours high-powered business meetings over the tedious business of going out and stalking people for lunch. What the Nouveau Mort Vampire finds harder to acquire of course is a bit of real authentic class. And History. However, he is very good at making money and can therefore pay people to stalk other people for him while he gets on with the more interesting business of social and financial climbing.

To the traditional Vampire, of course, this is entirely missing the point of being a vampire. It's all about the blood and the biting. A Vampire, not to put too fine a point on it, is a predator. Not in the metaphorical being-ruthless-in-business sense, but in the literal creeping-after-people-and-biting-them sense. Times change, and some people will change with the times, but to an ancient evil stalking creature it is a sad indictment of the modern world that such forms of un-life should have become so successful. The Vampire at least mourns the passing of the Romantic Era, if not the passing of several hundred of its victims.

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