Monday, March 17, 2008

Fangs: The Science of Puncture Wounds

Being an equal opportunity editor and having just posted on werewolves, I now turn to vampires - of a sort. Here is a brief passage from Gene Wolfe's In Green's Jungles that has me pondering:

So much of her food had been taken from your grandmother while she slept. Foolish people think that they will see the marks of the fangs, and there will be blood on the sheets. The truth is that the marks are small and white, and do not bleed. An inhumu's fangs are round, you see, and the wounds made by all such round things close themselves, unless they are very large. In addition, I imagine that she was wise enough to bite your grandmother in a place where she couldn't see her wounds -- on her back, perhaps, or on the backs of her legs.

What I am pondering is both Wolfe's subverting of vampire tale tropes and the medical science of vampire wounds. In the first place, Wolfe has replaced the recognizable images of vampire lore (blood on the sheets, for instance) with something more disturbing and more chilling. Gone, the vampire's dramatic love of flair, its centrality to any scene it occupies: in place of this, the creeping invisibility and inevitability of the vampire. They walk around us and may prey on us, and even the victim may never realize there has been either hunt or loss of blood. Wolfe has emphasized the parasitical nature of the vampire in a new way. (Check out the book, starting with the first volume, On Blue's Waters - this is not his only innovation. For another blog post on this series, see here.)

In the second place, do small, round wounds heal almost immediately? I am at a loss. And are a vampire's wounds deep or shallow? In the absence of such a notable medical authority as Van Helsing (surely long dead), I will have to surprise my doctor with the question during my next physical.

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