War is always a horror story. Terrible things are done and people kill one another in violent ways for what must have seemed very good reasons to them at the time. Sometimes, not always, the war is necessary. Opposing Hitler and the Nazis in WWII was necessary; wasting lives and dollars in Iraq was not.
The Civil War seemed necessary and inevitable. The United States was lurching towards the conflict since the country was founded. As Abraham Lincoln said in his “House Divided” speech on June 16, 1858 (a speech considered by many to have lost Lincoln the Senate election in Illinois that year), “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” The issue would have to be settled and settled in blood, in war, with horror.
This past week we observed the 152nd Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the climatic battle between the forces of the North and the South. The war would go on until 1865 but at this point it became a war of attrition. The South was not going to win after Gettysburg. The killing, the horror, would go on.
The Battle of Gettysburg is also the setting for Tom Mandrake’s and my new project, Kros: Hallowed Ground. Coincidently, we launched our Kickstarter campaign on the eve of the anniversary. (You can find our Kickstarter right here)
Oh… and we added vampires.
You might ask yourself, “Why did you do that, John and Tom? Surely the events of that great battle are dramatic enough on their own.” They are, and don’t call me Shirley.
The difference is that we’re not telling the story of the Battle of Gettysburg; we are using the Battle as the setting and the backdrop for the story we are telling. The Battle of Gettysburg is a huge tale and has consumed many, many books from different authors in its telling. While you can tell the story from many different perspectives according to who you focus on, there is no one character of the battle that can be called the main protagonist or antagonist. That’s not ideal for graphic fiction; you want one central character around which the story revolves. That’s what we’ve done.
“But why vampires?” You are insistent on that, aren’t you?
I’ve long been interested in what I call narrative alloys – combining elements of one genre with another. Robert E. Howard created Conan and other sword-and sorcery works by combining historical fiction and what was referred to as “sword-and-sandal” with supernatural stories, especially monsters. When I created GrimJack, I smushed together sword-and sorcery with hard-boiled noir detective fiction. When creating Agents of the Empire in Star Wars, I combined James Bond with Star Wars.
In combining the Civil War with horror fiction, I’m hoping to underscore the horror that was the Civil War. Too often I’ve read fairly bloodless accounts that focus on dates and names, troop movements and the order of battle. I think your skin should crawl when you read about the Battle of Gettysburg. We give you two Battles of Gettysburg; one by day and one by night. The concept is that Civil War battles would call to vampires who, like carrion birds, descend on the battlefield when the cannons and the rifles fall silent. The vampires come to feed on the wounded. Imagine for yourself the horror you would feel if you were badly wounded and still lay upon the ground where you fell and then, in the dark, a monstrous creature comes to suck the remaining life out of you and you are helpless to stop them.
That makes my skin crawl and I’m betting it will do the same for you.
Our protagonist is a vampire hunter – a dampyr – named Kros. This time, however, he discovers that he cannot fight alone and soldiers from both the North and South must come together to fight a greater evil that may literally consume them and everyone they care about. I want the reader to see the Battle through new eyes and to feel it viscerally. Tom Mandrake will make that happen. He is doing the best work of his storied career; his art creeps me out sometimes and I know what’s coming!
You can get a peek at all this at our Kros: Hallowed Ground Facebook site and, of course, the Kros: Hallowed Ground Kickstarter site.
Tom and I are editing ourselves on this which you might say makes us unsupervised. We intend to make Kros: Hallowed Ground the way we want it to be. What we want is to make your skin crawl.
Fans willing, we’ll do just that.