Mattzilla: I’ve looked at a lot of career choices, and it seems to me that being a vampire would suit me pretty well. One thing has me a little confused, though. Could I survive as a vampire by just drinking blood? Do vampires eat cheeseburgers and spaghetti and stuff like that, or does blood have all they need to live? — Anonymous, via email
Oh, we’ll get letters. Lotsa in-the-know vampire letters saying we’re completely wrong and what do we know about vampires, anyway. But you asked, we’ll answer, picking our vampire facts on little slips of white paper, out of a hat. In the vampire world, it’s all the same, anyway.
Before we get to the vampire food pyramid, can we ask how you plan to become vampiric? Current deep thinkers on the subject seem to agree that you need the bite of a vampire to do the trick. Some say that transmits a vampire virus that gets into your DNA. Then the biter becomes mentor to the bitee. On the other hand, there’s a minority opinion that you have to be born that way. That actually goes back to the old-school theories about where vampires come from. Most of them make being bitten look like the easy route.
In olden times, to return from the dead as a vampire, a person during his lifetime should have been a violent or cruel person, a criminal, a flouter of religious laws, a witch, a wizard, a werewolf or victim thereof, or a suicide. Some, they said, were born vampiric — the bastard child of bastards, the seventh-born child, a blue-eyed red-headed tyke, or a newborn with a harelip, tail, or other physical deformity.
So, assuming we’ve taken care of the getting-to-be-a-vampire stuff, how do you sustain yourself? Is blood packed with nutrition, or do we need vitamin supplements? Food energy: human blood contains 700 calories per liter. The average human needs maybe 2000 calories per day to keep things chugging along. That means three liters of blood a day just for energy. But are there enough essential micronutrients available in blood? This will be highly variable. In the worst case, consider vitamin C, not stored in the body so it must be renewed frequently. The average person has about 5 milligrams per liter of C floating around. The World Health Organization recommends you maintain a level of 45 milligrams. To be sure you’re getting that, you’d need nine liters of blood. Whoa! In the process, you’re downing 3500 calories a day. Shortly, you’ll be very corpulent, certainly counter to the common perception of a dandy vampire.
Got iron? Need 26 liters of blood per day to meet your RDA, even though blood is generally high in iron.
So there you are, slamming back the blood, completely unaware of the biggest hidden danger: salt. If there’s one thing human blood has, it’s lots of salt. Nine grams per liter. Even if you drink your minimum three liters daily, you’ll be getting nearly five times the recommended amount of salt. If you drink enough water to counteract it, you’ll still end up with hypertension. If you ignore water, you’ll go all dehydrated, leading straight to kidney failure, straight to death (again, I guess). So, counting on blood to keep you humming seems like a risky bet.
Luckily, many in the nowadays vampire nation don’t believe vampires suck blood for food. The object is to the essence, the vital being, the soul of the victim. Then three squares a day keep your body going. And since nouveau-vampires are even sympathetic characters, perhaps we’ll have a whole rash of vegan vampires, biting their way through your garden.
Hey, Doc! Take It Easy!
Matt: Just read your column where a reader asks about early memories. Just to let you know, I am a big fan of Ray Bradbury’s and have seen him many, many times at Comic-Con. He will tell the story of his birth regularly, claiming to remember the moment! — Don Vaughn, San Diego
He did indeed take every opportunity to make his audiences jump back with his claim that he remembered not only his birth but his circumcision (yeeks!) and all the details of all the years that followed. Of course, he had an imaginative explanation for the amazing situation. Mother Bradbury carried him for ten months before he was born, which he claimed gave him “heightened senses.” I’m not so sure about his heightened senses, but he definitely was a titan of a writer who had a heightened imagination.