Fiction Fragments: Steven Van Patten

Last week on Girl Meets Monster, I chatted with Jessica Guess about her horror novella, Cirque Berserk (2020) and how she created a space for herself in a genre where she felt absent.

This week, I welcome award-winning horror writer, publisher, screenwriter, and TV stage manager Steven Van Patten.

Brooklyn native Steven Van Patten is the author of the critically acclaimed Brookwater’s Curse trilogy, about an 1860s Georgia plantation slave who becomes law enforcement within the vampire community. In contrast, the titular character in his Killer Genius series is a modern day hyper-intelligent black woman who uses high-end technology as a socially conscious serial killer.

SVP’s short fiction includes contributions to nearly a dozen horror anthologies, including the Stoker Award nominated New York State of Fright. A collection of short horror and dark fiction stories entitled Hell At The Way Station, published by his company Laughing Black Vampire Productions and co-authored by acclaimed storyteller, Marc Abbott hit shelves in 2018.

Along with a plethora of other honors and accolades, SVP won three African-African-American Literary Awards in 2019, two for Hell At The Way Station (Best Anthology and Best In Science Fiction) and one for Best Independent Publisher. He’s written about everything from sleep demons to the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI for episodes of the YouTube series’ Extra Credit and Extra Mythology. He’s also a contributor for Viral Vignettes, a charity-driven YouTube comedy series benefitting The Actor’s Fund. He uses his full name on Facebook but goes by @svpthinks on Twitter and Instagram. When he’s not creating macabre literature, he can be found stage managing television shows primarily in New York City and occasionally on the West Coast. Along with being a member of the New York Chapter of The Horror Writer’s Association, he’s also a member of The Director’s Guild of America and professional arts fraternity Gamma Xi Phi. His website is www.laughingblackvampire.com.

Three Questions

GMM: Welcome to Girl Meets Monster, Steven. I am almost ashamed to say that I haven’t read the Brookwater’s Curse trilogy, but it is on my TBR list. I’m interested in reading the trilogy because I love vampires, and I wrote a slave narrative featuring a vampire. Your story is about a male slave who becomes an important part of vampire society, and my story is about a young woman who escapes slavery but still has a lot of obstacles to maneauver while gaining a better understanding of her identity in the context of the antebellum South while traveling with a vampire. My first question is why vampires? And my second question is why slavery? What about these two subjects/characters called to you to tell a story? How does being part of vampire society help or hinder your protagonist? What inspired this trilogy?

SVP: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be talking to a mavin such as yourself. I think I was drawn to vampires because as a kid, I didn’t always see them all as monsters. I mean, I saw Christopher Lee’s Dracula as a monster, but William Marshall’s Blacula was a different case. There were some shades of grey. He tried to end the slave-trade. He was in love. He was misunderstood and in many ways his own worst enemy. And it’s that line from Scream, Blacula, Scream that stuck with me forever. It’s from the scene where he is cornered by two rather stereotypical 1970s pimps after disregarding their hooker. After listening to their nonsense, Blacula said, “You’ve made a slave of your sister and you’re still slaves imitating your slave masters!” Then he proceeds to kill them. But for me, a few things happen there. First, as a kid, I get to see this super dignified brother handle some street mess, but I also get a glimpse of how social ills can get addressed within the horror genre. So the only thing left in my head was, since Blacula, aka Prince Mamuwalde was of direct African descent, I began to wonder what an African-American would experience, feel and say if put in that situation. By the way, in Brookwater’s Curse, I don’t spend a great deal of time on the plantation. In fact, I let him get taken by the supernatural and get himself isolated very quickly. And I let him struggle with a sort of survivor’s guilt, while never losing his soul as a black man. This gets him in trouble more than once, because anytime he develops a relationship with black and brown humans, he ends up going against his marching orders, which are to hunt werewolves and protect the secret society of monsters in general.

GMM: I am intrigued by the concept of a “socially conscious serial killer”. I immediately thought of Dexter Morgan who channeled his drive to murder into a public service by eliminating threats to his community. How is your character different from Dexter?

SVP: Dexter comes up every once in awhile, but the truth is, my Killer Genius series was inspired by Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector more than anything else. It occurred to me that if someone were to write a story about a black woman killing a bunch of people, it’s usually over some man being an asshole. Like an elongated episode of ‘Snapped’. I never saw a socially conscious black woman, so I invented Kendra, a black woman who is able to keep ahead of law enforcement by being super smart like a Dexter Morgan or a Hannibal Lector. One of the biggest differences between her and Dexter is that she’s actually more versatile. She can kill up close in a disguise, or she can hack into a military satellite and blast you from space. I’m particularly proud of how I came up with her kill for this one misogynist rapper while he’s performing on a 106 & Park derivative. The other big difference is of course, her agenda. Dexter was like a king snake of serial killers and he in a way, was feeding this horrible disfunction born from childhood trauma. While my Kendra certainly has her own childhood and adolescent demons, she’s more focused. I want to say she has a clearer vision and is more of a zealot, or a crusader literally attacking ignorant white and black people as a way of motivating change in society over all.

GMM: I’ve always written about dark subjects and over the years people, especially people with a strong religious background, have asked me “why horror?” As I’m sure you’re aware, there is often a misconception about horror writers being maladjusted people. Have you encountered similar questions about your writing? Have you been accused of being a “bad” person because of what you write? Has your connection to a larger community of horror writers helped you feel more confident about being a horror writer, or have you always felt at ease writing about monsters?

SVP: Here is where I may piss some people off, but since I get pissed off when confronted by the kinds of statements you mentioned, I’m going to just say it. Truth is, I have studied just enough history to see most organized religion as a construct meant to hold certain people in place. I’m not knocking the fellowship, being grateful to the universe, Kirk Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, none of that. But, when our black ancestors were brought here, I can’t say for certain what they all were worshipping, but I’m pretty sure it was not a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus. Unfortunately, a lot of folks can’t get past that, because whatever we had was beaten out of us while something else was beaten into us. Follow that up with Hollywood bastardizing and misrepresenting hoodoo, voodoo, Santeria and Yoruba cultures for white folks to kick up their heels and scream ‘eek’ and now they have us rejecting something we might actually need if we bothered to understand it. At least, those are my thoughts on the subject.

No one has ever come out and called me a bad person, but it’s been insinuated that something is wrong with me. And yes, I have been confronted by the naysayers and I’ve received the shade, particularly if I picked the wrong event to be a part of. But the people looking down their nose at me are often the same people wouldn’t know a decent horror movie if it bit them in the ass AND won’t tell Jermaine that no one cares about his mixed-tape. Because of that, I don’t exactly lose a lot of sleep over those people or their opinions. 

Being a part of the larger community, finding people like yourself is a morale boost. It lets me know I’m not alone in my horror nerdom or my pursuit to write about things that go bump in the night. And it’s funny you should bring it up because growing up around certain kinds of dudes, I only let a handful of friends know I was into this sort of thing. But I’m older now, and not as worried about rejection as I used to be. And yes, I will be comfortable with monsters until the day I die.

Excerpt from “The Patron Saint”

“You’re my motherfucking lawyer! You’re supposed to make this kind of shit go away! As much money as I made the label last year! Y’all got me hiding in this hotel room like some kind of fugitive! This is some bullshit!”

Sitting at the edge of the super king-sized hotel room bed wearing only a bathing suit, Kimberly stared absently at the TV on the wall in front of her. This bore a stark contrast to fully clothed Manuel’s animated pacing back and forth across the room as he screamed into his cellphone. She thought about turning the TV on so she wouldn’t have to listen, but figured in his agitated state that she would only get yelled at or worse.

“Seriously! What the fuck am I paying you for?”

She couldn’t hear the lawyer’s side of the conversation, but could tell that the lawyer was asking uncomfortable questions.

“What? No, she’s fine! She loves me and she loves Vegas. You sound like that punk ass cop that left a message a few minutes ago.”

Another pause.

“What? Her father? I don’t care about him. Fuck him! If he was a real nigga, he’d call me himself. Going to the damn cops like a little bitch!”

No matter what you hear or see, do not turn around. Do not face me, child!

Kimberly’s breath stopped as her mind struggled to process where a disembodied voice could possibly be coming from.

“Sam? Sam! I know this motherfucker didn’t just hang up on me…”

If he hadn’t been in such an angry state, Manuel might have noticed the growing shadow moving behind him as the form of a curvaceous, statuesque woman with undulating hair drifted off the wall and into the room.

Manuel threw the cellphone on the bed, just behind Kimberly. “I’m so fucking mad right now. I need to fuck you again just to calm my ass down. Take them damn clothes off, girl!”

He began to unbuckle his pants.

Kimberly neither moved or gave any indication that she heard him.

“Bitch, perhaps you didn’t hear Daddy! I said…”

Then he heard the hissing. He turned around.

“What the fu—”

The entity grabbed Manuel by the shoulders, accosting him as if he were a small child, with a strength that dwarfed his. The ten snakes in the apparition’s hair lunged forward, each of the mouths burying fangs into his flesh. His chocolate brown skin turned a marble-like grey as the poisons filled his body. He screamed for only a few seconds as the toxins quickly petrified his vocal chords.

Kimberly peripherally caught a split second of Manuel’s agonized last moments before she closed her eyes. The monster must have sensed that Kimberly had peeked because she heard the voice again.

DO NOT LOOK AT ME!

A moment later, Manuel’s lifeless body crashed down to the floor with a ‘thud’ in front of Kimberly. Her eyes drifted down. Whatever had been injected into him was toxic enough to literally melt him. Flesh and muscles bubbled into a jelly. Bones disintegrated to ash trapped inside the jelly. Hours from now, a large black stain on the carpet would be all that remained. She closed her eyes but couldn’t escape the image of the mess on the floor.

Go to your grandmother, that she might teach you the ways of your ancestors and not the way of the idolaters that brought your people here in bondage.

“My grandmother? Who are you?”

I am the one who was defiled by one of my gods, made an abomination by another, and rejected and vilified by my own kind. It was only in the underworld that I found the orishas and loa and ascended ones of Africa. Like me, they want actual justice meted out in this world and the next. I am Medusa, The Accursed One! Evil men feared me hundreds of years ago and they shall fear me again!

The shadow drifted back towards the wall from where it had entered and disappeared. Sensing that the gorgon had left, Kimberly opened her eyes and looked again at what was left of Manuel. Recoiled on the bed, she suppressed a scream and cried quietly for a few minutes.

It would take her some time, but she eventually found the strength to get dressed, grab her things, and leave the hotel.

~*~

“This bastard is gonna act all indignant, like he was parent of the decade! Fucking dream-slaying, hating-ass Negro!”

Cathy drove her white BMW M4 Coupé as fast as New York City’s FDR Drive would allow, which during rush hour on a Wednesday wasn’t nearly as fast as she preferred. Before her girlfriend Nicole called, Cathy had been cursing up a storm as she cut off more cautious drivers with signal-free lane changes and flipped them her middle finger whenever they dared honked their horns in protest.

“So he’s blaming you?” Nicole’s voice blared over the car’s speakers. Nicole, like Cathy, was a dedicated party girl, enabler, and equal opportunity narcissist. She was the shoulder to cry on, the friend who took Cathy’s side no matter how horrible she’d acted or how ridiculous her course of action. “Him and his damn cupcakes! Fuck him! Y’all are doing the right thing! Manuel is going to make your baby a star. He told me so!”

“That’s right. And so what if she lost her virginity to him? Shit, that’s Manuel Hightower! The motherfuckers we lost our virginity to wasn’t even close to that stature!”

“Child! I know that’s right!”

Betrayer of women! Betrayer of your own child! You gave your child’s innocence and honor away for nothing!

“Bitch! What you said?”

“I said, ‘child, I know that’s right’. What you thought I said?”

Cathy’s eyes caught a flash of the gorgon’s red gaze in her rearview mirror. The hair snakes’ fangs found Cathy’s ears, neck, and skull. The last thing Cathy saw was her milk chocolate complexion turning green-ish grey as the car swerved out of control, bounced off an Acura RDX, then slammed straight into a guardrail. Despite the damage to the car, Nicole’s voice could still be heard asking if her friend was okay.

Until the gas tank exploded.

Do you have a fiction fragment? How about your friends? Would you like to recommend someone to me aside from yourself? Drop me a line at chellane@gmail.com. See you next week!

Guidelines: Submit 500-1000 words of fiction, up to 5 poems, a short bio, and a recent author photo to the e-mail above.

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Rupert Giles

Like many of you, dear readers, finding that special someone has been a life-long struggle for me. I’ve dated quite an interesting array of boys and men, and I was even married for a few years. Over time, I have come to the conclusion that what I’m looking for in a partner simply may not exist out there. As a fiction junkie and book nerd, my standards in men have been raised to a level that is in all likelihood impossible to attain. And, in some cases, that’s probably for the best, considering how much I love monsters.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m taking a break from dating right now to regroup and figure some things out. So, while I’m spending time alone, I’ll continue to fall in love…and lust with my favorite fictional hotties.

February 2: Rupert Giles

As a book nerd, I have had many crushes on teachers and librarians. Intelligence is sexy. Knowledge of arcane subjects, dead languages, and access to rare books on the occult is panty-peeling super sexy. Throw in some tweed, a pair of glasses and a British accent, and I melt like butter.

Giles-Books

You had me at books.

Rupert Giles is, in my opinion, the hottest character in the Buffyverse. Yes, I adore Spike, and he will have his own post this month, but Giles is way more interesting and…well, not a serial killer. Now, before you go thinking that serial killers are off limits in my fantasies, you would be mistaken. I’m almost ashamed to say that several serial killers will appear in these posts this month, and not just vampires. If you know me at all, you can probably guess who at least one of those serial killers will be.

Okay, back to Giles. Librarian by day, vampire hunter by night, Rupert Giles wears many hats. He is a member of the Watcher’s Council, a sexist and manipulative secret society that treats its female warriors like objects to wield like weapons in the fight between Good and Evil. They claim to be fighting the good fight, but the problem is, their actions and aspirations place them somewhere in that grey area between, which makes them just as shady as Wolfram and Hart. Despite this affiliation, Giles recognizes the strengths in all the female characters around him, not just his Slayer. He trusts women to take the lead, and nurtures their strengths while forgiving their weaknesses. Even if they go off the deep end and try to destroy the world…or fuck a few vampires. He’s a teacher, a friend, and a much-needed father figure to a group of young misfits that are in constant conflict with the Hellmouth. And, although each episode puts him in the path of danger, he still manages to have a good sense of humor.

Giles-Drunk

Whiskey helps him cope with the PTSD associated with vampire hunting and deal with the inexplicable lack of sex in his life.

As his story unfolds and we learn more about Giles, we discover that he isn’t just an overly educated book nerd. He has a dark past in which he was not only a juvenile delinquent, but also delved into dark magic. Perhaps, that is why he is so quick to caution Willow when she becomes addicted to magic, and keeps the grimoires under lock and key. He can appreciate the attractiveness of darkness, because he used to hang out with a bunch of people who allowed a demon to possess them for kicks. Hey, it was the seventies and people were doing all kinds of crazy shit. Drugs, free love, summoning demons – those wacky kids.

Ripper

Clean-cut men with dark pasts are effing hot.

Due to the fact that Giles’ primary responsibility is to train and support his Slayer, Buffy, he doesn’t really have much time for a personal life. He spends most of his time buried in old tomes researching the next evil that crawls out of the Hellmouth, sharpening stakes, fending off demons and bullies, and being a good listener to teenaged vampire hunters…and sometimes emotionally unstable vampires. So, his opportunities to meet ladies and go on dates are pretty limited. But, he still manages to win the hearts of several women in Sunnydale. He was magically manipulated to partake in some of these sexual encounters, which makes them somehow even more erotic due to the level of danger involved.

9 - Dru and Giles

Drusilla learns that librarians are good kissers.

Giles develops a relationship with a teacher at Sunnydale High, Jenny Calendar, a gypsy with a secret revenge prophecy who ends up betraying Buffy. Initially, Giles breaks things off with her, but Jenny ends up winning him back and things start to get a bit more serious. Sadly, the night that they finally have a chance to consummate their relationship, Giles comes home to find Jenny murdered in his bed. Soon after, he’s kidnapped and tortured by her murderer, Angelus. Giles has information Angelus needs to bring about the end of the world, and torture isn’t working. So, Drusilla mesmerizes Giles into to thinking she’s Jenny to trick him into telling her what they need to know. While pretending to be Jenny, Drusilla loses herself in the moment while kissing Giles, and Spike and Angelus have to say her name several times to get her attention, which leads me to believe he’s an excellent kisser.

Books-Smell

Talk dirty to me about old books.

In “Band Candy,” Giles reverts to his teen-aged hooligan persona thanks to magically altered candy bars that are distributed by his old friend and nemesis, Ethan Rayne. Apparently, when Giles was a teenager he was a small-time criminal with a knack for vandalism and robbery. We also discover that he has a fantastic record collection, smokes, and likes to make out on the hood of a car. He smashes a storefront window with a trashcan to steal a jacket that Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mom, says she’d like to wear, just to impress her. I don’t know about Joyce, but I was impressed. Although we only see Giles and Joyce kissing in this episode, we later discover that things went much further that night and Joyce apparently enjoyed a pretty memorable shagging.

Giles-and-Joyce

You know they totally shagged on Buffy’s bed.

We never see Giles form any permanent sexual relationships with other women in Sunnydale, but an old flame, Olivia Williams, visits him from time to time. Olivia appears in only two episodes, but makes enough of an impression for Anya to refer to her as Giles’ “orgasm friend.” After learning about what Giles really does for a living, Olivia decides a relationship with him might be too dangerous. Fortunately, I’ve written plenty of fan fiction about possible sexual relationships for Giles, because I really think he should get laid more often.

Rupert-and-Olivia

I like a man with a diverse taste in women.

Drusilla isn’t the only vampire Giles gets busy with in the series. In “Buffy vs. Dracula,” Giles succumbs to the temptations of Dracula’s brides and ends up having a rather hot scene with the three legendary vampires kissing, licking, and biting him.

Giles evolves throughout the series like the other characters, but we still only get glimpses of who he really is. He’s a man of mystery, which has it’s own appeal. What we do know about him would make him a much sought after friend and lover – academic, vampire hunter, musician, collector of rare books, father figure, hopeless romantic, conjurer of dark magic, whiskey connoisseur and tea drinker. Did I mention the British accent?

Forgive

I’m a very bad girl and need to be punished…I mean forgiven.

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Damon Salvatore

Hi. I haven’t blogged in a really, really long time, and I need some motivation to write. Today is the first day of February 2016, a leap year, and the month of my birth. I’m not going to tell you how old I am unless you ask very politely and promise not to laugh in my face. What I will happily tell you is that my birthday is February 14. That’s right. I was born on Valentine’s Day. People have a habit of saying how lucky I am, and what a special birthday it must be each year. Well…that isn’t entirely true.
Spooky-Heart

Here are my top 3 reasons why Valentine’s Day is a crappy day to celebrate your birthday on. Yes, I know it would suck to have a birthday on Christmas, too, unless you’re Jesus, but Valentine’s Day birthdays are their own special brand of Hell. So, let me count just a few of the ways that having a birthday on Valentine’s Day totally blows.

  1. Corporate-Sponsored Peer Pressure: Valentine’s Day manipulates you to find that special someone and/or give said someone not only your undivided attention, but also gifts that evoke romantic sentiments. There is nothing worse that being expected to buy romantic gifts for someone you have either recently met, or secretly hate and plan to leave soon. Especially of they do something really nice for you on your birthday.
  1. Envy: Watching other people who aren’t even celebrating a birthday receive flowers, cards, gifts, etc., and you might only get lucky enough to go out to dinner with a friend or eat a cake that a co-worker bought at the last minute on the way to work.
  1. Loneliness: Being single can be depressing at the best of times, but when you are single on Valentine’s Day, the feeling of being alone often feels more amplified. And, if it’s your birthday AND Valentine’s Day, some years you feel like the biggest loser that ever walked the face of the Earth.

Expectations run really high on Valentine’s Day for a lot of people, and birthdays can be bad enough if you experience anxiety about that fact that another year has come and gone and you still aren’t living up to your full potential. Talk about a double whammy.

Last year I was in a relationship that sent me straight to therapy and required medication. I’m still working on exorcising those demons. This year I am single. And, oddly enough, I’m pretty happy about that. I doubt this is the first time I was happy to be single on my Valentine’s birthday, but I don’t remember ever feeling so relieved.

This year to celebrate, I’m planning a party with some of my closest friends and we’re going to have an ‘80’s dance party. I’m very excited, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The purpose of this post, and a series of posts I plan to share with you each day this month, is to talk about some of my favorite fictional characters. More specifically, fictional characters I would hop in the sack with…or on a couch…or in the backseat of a car…or the hood of a car…or in a crypt…on a train…I think you get the idea.

ANYWAY, since this is the month of love and romance, and since I’m single and have sworn off online dating, I’m going to spend the month fantasizing about sexy fictional characters and why I find them so irresistible.

February 1: Damon Salvatore

Damon-Side

For the first installment of “Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck”, I offer you Damon Salvatore. Damon, Damon, Damon. Where to begin?

Well, for starters, he’s a vampire. That usually scores big points for me when it comes to fictional characters. I totally effing love vampires. And, I’ve loved vampires since I was about 12-years-old. WAY before Edward Cullen started sprinkling glitter all over the vampire fiction universe. My mother gave me a gently used copy of Interview with the Vampire for Christmas one year, and that solidified my obsession with vampires. I had spent a lot of time watching horror movies as a kid, and vampires and werewolves were my favorite monsters. I saw Bela Lugosi in Dracula when I was really young, and was given set of View Master disks that depicted a version of Stoker’s novel in cartoon images. I guess my interest in vampires started with Universal and Hammer films, and I devoured Dark Shadows. Let’s face it folks, vampires rock. And, I’ll most likely devote an entire post to Dracula this month.

Damon-3

Stefan who?

But today, I’m going to talk about the hottest vampire in Mystic Falls, Damon Salvatore. I might be inclined to watch The Vampire Diaries if Ian Somerhalder wasn’t cast as Damon, but I’m not going to lie, he’s the main reason why I watch the show. He’s an incredible anti-hero who enters the story as a villain. He’s the bad boy older brother of the hero, Stefan Salvatore. Stefan’s attractive, and he seems to be a really nice guy. He’s handsome, emotionally stable, smart, romantic, and initially, safe. By all outward appearances, he’s a parent’s wet dream. This is exactly the type of guy high school girls should be interested in dating. Well, normal high school girls who are Hell-bent on having a safe, boring, vanilla relationship with a guy you could easily imagine marrying, and having kids with…if vampires could procreate. He was a perfect match for the heroine, Elena Gilbert. They were happy and I wanted them to be happy. But the moment Damon makes his first appearance on screen, I was like, “Stefan who?”

Damon-6

This statement made me giggle like a school girl. A school girl with a deeply perverse imagination and access to classic smut.

Damon is everything Stefan isn’t. Impulsive. Sexy. Violent. Vulgar. Inappropriately funny. Stunningly gorgeous. Promiscuous. Vain. Reckless. Dark. Dangerous. Comfortable with being a vampire, and not afraid of his true nature. And his true nature is to be a monster. He never really pretends to be anything else, and when he is tempted to go against his nature, he always manages to disappoint the people closest to him by reaffirming that he is a monster and in many ways, proud of that fact. He’s a villain. I like villains. But more importantly, I like villains who seek redemption and show me that despite their murderous rampages, they really are the most logical, loyal, and honest character in the story. It helps that he’s the funniest character and gets some of the best lines in every episode.

All of his romantic scenes are hot. The way he kisses women, touches them, gazes at them, bites into their necks, tears off their clothes…there isn’t a dry pair of panties in the audience when he grabs the object of his desire and succumbs to lust. Or love.

And seriously, look at him.

Damon-1

Yep, totally fuckable.

No, really, LOOK AT HIM!

Damon-4

I’d skip prom to make out on the hood of a car with this guy.

I sure as shit wouldn’t kick him out of my bed for spilling blood.

Damon-7

Bite me already.