If you’ve been enjoying the gothic, horny, campy craziness of AMC’s TV adaptation of Interview With the Vampire, well, so are we. It’s a lot of fun, especially in how wonderfully and accurately it captures the magic of Anne Rice’s 1976 novel while still updating the story. But if the TV show continues and it stays accurate, things are going to get weird. “Alien cellphones from Atlantis” weird.
Yes, Anne Rice’s vampires—the moody, tragic, decadent, brooding bloodsuckers that have largely defined the monsters in the modern world—were created because of an alien communication system that powered the mythical (well, not so mythical, in the world of the Vampire Chronicles) island of Atlantis. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, you presumably never read 2016’s Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, the 12th book in Rice’s series.
To even attempt to understand it, we’re going to need to go back to 1988’s Queen of the Damned, where Rice revealed her first origin of vampires. To try to put it as simply as possible, 6,000 years ago, two witches cursed the Egyptian queen Akasha by siccing the bloodthirsty spirit Amel upon her. When various nobles tried to murder Akasha and her king Enki for bringing a curse upon the palace, Amel drank her blood and fused with the queen to become the first vampire, with Akasha inheriting the spirit’s power and his bloodlust.
Akasha also gained the ability to communicate with all other vampires through a spiritual connection as the mother of all vampires, while her “children” could also feel what she felt. For example, when a vengeful guardian petulantly left Akasha in a sun for a bit, many young, weaker vampires spontaneously combusted. Akasha was far too powerful to be affected, but it was revealed that if Akasha was killed, all vampires would die as well. Luckily, the spirit of Amel could be transferred to another vampire by eating the bearer’s heart.
In 1995’s Memnoch the Devil, Rice went a little deeper into the origin of her vampires, revealing Amel was once a human whose spirit was powerful enough to escape death and eventually found those aforementioned witches, who enlisted his help to get revenge on Akasha (that’s a long story, don’t worry about it). When Rice finally returned to the Vampire Chronicles after a lengthy absence in 2014’s Prince Lestat, the essence of Amel got a new name: the Sacred Core. Lestat ingested the Sacred Core by the end of the book, becoming the new #1 vampire, with all the powers Akasha once had, while other vampires would still feel what their new prince would feel.
This all set the stage for Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, which goes far, far deeper into Amel’s history than ever before, and transformed the supernatural origin of Rice’s vampires into science fiction. See, 12,000 years ago—and I swear this is what Rice wrote, I talked to her extensively about it—Amel was a human who was abducted by aliens and turned into an alien-human hybrid for the purpose of destroying humanity, which the aliens felt would eventually become a universal threat (this seems fair). Amel didn’t really want to do that, so instead he created Atlantis using the aliens’ mysterious technology/substance called lucastria, which did many, many things, but primarily worked as a communication tool—a constant cellphone service that’s hooked directly into the Atlanteans’ minds.
Alas, the aliens didn’t care for Amel’s betrayal, and destroyed him and Atlantis—but instead of simply dying, Amel merged with the lucastria and became a spirit, eventually merging with Akasha. As the Sacred Core, Amel had the ability to be divided and passed around, granting part of his power to new vampires, but to diminishing returns. However, all vampires would always be linked to the Core through the lucastria that formed part of Amel, allowing Akasha and later Lestat to communicate with any vampire at any time.
If you were one of the many Vampire Chronicles fans upset that Rice took her series in such a new, out-there direction, first, you won’t need to worry about these updates to Rice’s vampire mythos coming to TV screens anytime soon, if at all. Again, Realms of Atlantis is the 12th book in the Vampire Chronicles, and it would be very surprising to see the Interview With the Vampire TV series make it that far. Also, there’s still plenty of room for the supernatural in the franchise; there are other ghosts and spirits with origins in Rice’s work that had yet to be explored before the author passed away last year.
Still, I remain impressed that Rice had the willingness and the confidence to shake up her beloved series in such a fundamental way, although amazingly she didn’t see it that way. For her opinions, please go check out the two-part interview I did with her back in 2016—it remains one of my favorites. And don’t forget the season finale of Interview With the Vampire, airing Sunday, November 13, on AMC.
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