It Pays To Be Dead
What’s undead, and what’s just cheating
This may seem like an odd subject and an obvious issue, but you’d be surprised how often it comes up in paranormal fiction.
The obvious part is that, in order to be “undead,” one must first actually be dead. This is a condition authors often skip over completely. The most frequent area for this kind of cheating comes with the Revenant Vampire, and with modern cinematic myths about how one becomes a vampire, it’s quite easy to do, especially if you lack an understanding about the history of vampires and vampirism. I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of that particular topic, here, but if you want to know more, view “Beyond Dracula” at http://wildflowerpara.wordpress.com
Revenant Vampires become the primary victim of this mistake because everyone assumes the transition from human being to vampire is instantaneous. But Revenant Vampires are undead, which means they must first be dead. Medical science tells us it takes at least 6-10 minutes for true biological death to occur. But historical and anecdotal evidence suggest the process of creating a vampire included improper burial, which means it likely takes anywhere from 24 hours to as much as a week (maybe even more, in some cases), before the decedent rises as a Revenant Vampire. Be careful of making the “moment of death” mistake with vampires. While there are Living Vampires who claim to have been “turned” at a near-death moment, they are not undead, as they’ve never been dead (hence the term Living vampire). And Living Vampires are much more complex than Revenant ones, in that the “turning” involved is one of conscious choice to become a vampire, not the effect of being bitten by a vampire, or of drinking vampire blood.
Most of the common mistakes made in reference to the undead are in the actual reference, so here’s a brief run-down of what is and is not considered undead:
Ghosts – They’re dead. Period. End of Story. Don’t refer to them as “undead,” because they’re still dead.
Dragons – They’re living creatures. They’ve never been dead, so they can’t be undead.
Mummies – These are animated dead. That qualifies them to be undead.
Zombies – These, too, can be animated dead, which qualify as undead. However, there are also those known as living zombies – these are the unfortunate souls who run afoul of a practitioner of Vodun. This is a much more complicated area, and requires more time than I have to devote to it, here. I’ll be running a lecture on Vodun through the Morphean Academy at some point in the near future, and I’ll get into more discussion of different variety of zombies, as well. For the point of most fiction authors out there, however, there’s a definite preference for the undead variety.
Demons/Angels – These are also considered living creatures, believe it or not. They’re spiritual, but they’ve never been dead (primarily because they don’t experience life the same way we do). Please do not refer to either as “undead.”
Theriomorphs (including lycanthropes) – These are living creatures. They’ve never been dead. Please don’t refer to your lycanthrope as being undead.
Living Vampires – Obviously, these are still living, and therefore not considered undead.
Revenant Vampires – Risen dead. Definitely considered undead.
Elves, pixies, or any other Fae folk – Considered living creatures, and therefore not qualified to be labeled “undead.”
There are others, of course. If you have any question about the classification, I’m always available to ask, but most times a little research will answer that question, as well. Just remember that the first rule for being undead is that first you must actually be dead. The second is that your body must actually somehow be involved in your rising from the dead. Keep these two simple rules in mind, and with research, you’ll never run the risk of mistakenly calling a living creature “undead.”