The Space Vampires
Colin Wilson | Pocket Books | 1977 | 123 pages
“And you must have noticed very often that certain people seem to drain your vitality—usually rather dreary, self-pitying people. They are also vampires.”
Expectations will need to be held in check with The Space Vampires, whose title may evoke a pulpy Vampire-Lovers-in-outer-space vibe, but whose reality edges closer to a languorous pseudo-intellectual rumination on the back-and-forth battle of psychic energy crackling between the sexes.
The story begins with promise. A routine space mission led by Commander Olof Carlsen encounters the first evidence of intelligent alien life, a seemingly abandoned fifty-mile-long ship filled with great, cathedral-like interior spaces. However, the ship is not empty; humanoid creatures are discovered in a form of stasis, housed in pods of some unknown material. Eventually, Carlsen returns to Earth with three of these alien subjects as specimens for research.
A great early shock occurs when the beautiful young female alien unexpectedly sits up in the research lab, and completely drains the life energy of a nearby reporter, reducing him to a dry husk. Carlsen witnesses the killing firsthand, experiencing a strange arousal–and passive lack of resistance– towards the alien before she escapes the lab into the outside world.
However, the action here takes a prolonged sidebar. Through his brief, but intimate contact with the alien at the lab, Carlsen quickly surmises her nature as an energy-stealing vampiric creature. Joined by Hans Fallada, research scientist and author of The Anatomy and Pathology of Vampirism, Carlsen travels to northern Sweden to visit Count Geijerstam, an eccentric recluse whose notoriety rose through his own investigations in the subject of vampirism.
At the Count’s remote estate, Carlsen, Fallada, and Geijerstam engage in long philosophical discussions on the nature and history of vampires. They ponder and bloviate at leisure on the inherent vampirism in all living creatures, but specifically the exchange of life energy transferred between the genders during sexual relations. The Count’s three beautiful young assistants put his theories into practice, with a back-and-forth series of attractions towards Carlsen that reveals his own latent vampiric ability.
After a hypnosis session and a psychic reading reveals a potential location of one of the space vampires, the action resumes as Carlsen and Fallada return to London. A prison for the criminally insane may hold refuge for a vampire, who has potentially swapped bodies with an incarcerated inmate. Another long discussion session follows between Carlsen, Fallada, and the prison warden on the nature of predators and prey, criminals and victims, and men and women, portending to a philosophical gravitas. The text demonstrates again its philosophical pretensions, far removed from the potential exploitative excesses of what could have been a chapter called Space Vampires in Prison.
Even after the head vampire is ultimately confronted, a long period of exposition follows. G’room, from a planet around the star Rigel, recounts the history of his race and their use of sentient creatures as food. Several major revelations are imperturbably recounted to Carlsen, including alien involvement in human evolution, the destruction of a habitable planet in our solar system (now the asteroid belt), and the existence of a race of giants on Mars. Of course, the alien could be lying, but the ramifications of these explosive allegations are tabled without much reflection.
“Human beings were trivial; personal, self-obsessed, lazy, stupid, dishonest; a race of feeble-minded drifters, hardly better than imbeciles.”
The possession by vampires of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, explained to be weak from his own self-deception and pandering nature, prefigures the unspeakable horror of certain contemporary political leaders; soulless, life-sucking creatures leaving a wasted and exhausted electorate in their selfish, attention-starved wake.
Adapted for the screen in 1985 by Dan O’Bannon as Lifeforce (directed by Tobe Hooper), the film deviates from the source material of and is mostly remembered today for its abundant female nudity.