In _Nightshade_ Jack Butler introduces us to John Shade, the standard for a new type of vampire. The Butlerian vampire is a scientific vampire, a mutation of the human norm, rather than the embodiment of pure Evil that Stoker showed us in _Dracula_.
Born of human parents, the Butlerian vampire is indistinguishable from a human throughout its life, and perhaps beyond. For a Butlerian vampire to reach its full potential, it must die in terror and pain. This seems to serve as a catalyst for the transformation from human to metahuman, from victim to vampire.
The stronger the need for revenge when death takes them, the more likely it is that the potential is fulfilled and a Butlerian vampire is born. As an interesting result of this, one of the more frequent agents for creating a Butlerian vampire is another Butlerian vampire. This is not because of some type of communicable agent, but because of the terror and pain that are part of the Butlerian vampire's blood-lust.
Referred to as 'The Need' by John Shade, the blood hunger of a Butlerian Vampire is an infrequent thing, sometimes allowing years between consumptions. Its infrequency seems to be matched by its savagery though, as a Butlerian vampire will do anything to obtain blood when the Need reaches its peak.
The consummation of this blood-lust is bloody, and animalistic. With strictly normal teeth, the Butlerian vampire usually answers its blood need by tearing its victim apart. While it needs only the blood, fresh from a living source, it may be years, or decades, before it understands this. During the time before it learns, though, it will most likely have been literally devouring part or all of its victim in its blood frenzy.
One of the more interesting dimensions of Butler's vampires is the result of their blood need. A Butlerian vampire needs to very selective in choosing its victims, because in a way, the Butlerian vampire becomes its victim. After fulfilling The Need, a Butlerian vampire will enter the satisfaction trance, a trance that can lead to either hallucinations, or berserk violence.
Once the trance has passed, the vampire seemingly returns to normal. However, its responses now will be those of its last victim. Take blood from a brave man, and the vampire will be brave. Take blood from a coward, and the vampire may spend years running in fear from its problems. Take blood from a willing victim, and the vampire will respond passively to events.
Eventually, the vampire's baseline personality will reassert itself, but the stronger the victim's personality, the longer this will take. As a result, many of the longer-lived Butlerian vampires have taken to selecting strong, brave, innocent victims, though young ones are usually avoided. The more experience the victim has, the longer it will be until the next cycle of The Need arises.
The blood is not what they feed on, however, it is merely what they are driven to consume. Occasionally, a Butlerian vampire will feel an overwhelming urge for something odd, such as rubber bands, or a few drops of iodine, or moldy grain. While not requiring normal food, a Butlerian vampire still has a sense of taste, and is able to eat normal foods.
The Butlerian vampire is capable of sexual function. Not just sexual function, either, as two Butlerian vampires together may have children. The children, however, will be purely human. There is no mention of cross-breeding between humans and vampires, nor is there mention of the children of vampires becoming vampires.
There is also another function that the Butlerian vampire shares with normal humans - dreaming. While a Butlerian vampire doesn't need sleep for rest, it is needed to provide dreaming. If a Butlerian vampire gets insufficient time to dream, it will eventually begin to hallucinate. If the hallucinations go on long enough, it is possible for the Butlerian vampire to die. Extended dreamless states also hasten The Need.
In its normal mode, a Butlerian vampire is slightly faster and stronger than a human. However, they also have another mode, one that John Shade calls 'High Temporal'. In this mode a vampire is able to react and move an order of magnitude faster than a human. A Butlerian vampire is also capable of a finely controlled shape shifting, one that even allows them to duplicate someone else's face and form. The Need, if left unfulfilled for too long, tends to force a shape-change into a nearly canine form, a form that John Shade has labeled 'the dogboy'.
Both High Temporal and shape shifting are not without their costs, however. Both drain energy at an alarming rate, and will accelerate the cycle of The Need. Shape shifting can be done between shapes of different masses, but the greater the difference in masses between the starting and ending forms, the sooner The Need will have to be fulfilled. Use of either power also tends to magnify the symptoms of The Need, causing visual hallucinations, and pain.
Nearly indestructible, a Butlerian vampire can survive almost any wound. Nor is the Butlerian vampyre susceptible to the classical vampiric weaknesses. Crosses and garlic, sunlight and faith, the wild rose, and even the mountain ash stake, all these are ineffective against him. A stake _might_ work against one, if it was large enough to completely obliterate the heart, and keep the wound from closing for long enough. Of course, you'd have to figure out how to get something that big close enough to him to drive it home...
There is one final difference that John Shade mentions between normal humans and the Butlerian vampire. John is not sure if it is because of the requirements of living for so long, or is simply inherent in the vampire, but he has developed the ability to mentally file and cross-reference any information in an instant. He has become incapable of forgetting anything but it is under complete conscious control. He can access anything he has ever seen, heard, thought, etc., but these memories do not intrude on his conscious thought processes unless he wishes them to.
So, there you have it, the Butlerian vampire. Formerly human, not necessarily evil, but forced to prey on humans. Is he the next step in evolution, a dead-end mutation, or a different species? You decide.
Author: Shawn M. Bilodeau