The Tale of the Body Thief (yes, we’re STILL talking about the Vampire Chronicles)

Yes, unfortunately, we are STILL talking about Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The saga continues with an analysis of The Tale of the Body Thief where we refute the contentious fandom reactions to our assertion of asexuality present in the series.


Courtney: Hey, so remember when we covered Queen of the Damned and I proved definitively that Anne Rice’s vampires are Asexual and I said we might not need to continue the series or talk any more about it? Well…

Royce: We lied.

Courtney: We lied. [laughs] Joke’s on me and all of you. [laughing] We’re still talking about Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. You’re welcome, for those of you who are really into Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I’m sorry for literally everyone else. If you’re new here, this is a weird episode to jump into because this has become somewhat of a series. But I will introduce myself. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple.

Courtney: And boy, this has been a journey. We started talking about Anne Rice’s first novel in the vampire chronicles, The Interview with the Vampire. I talked about how young baby Ace Courtney saw parts of myself in it. And there was no sex on the page whatsoever in that book. And I was like, “Look at this! A queer couple who doesn’t have sex that’s raising a child. That is what I want for my eventual life.” This is, like — I don’t know, maybe I was 15 when I first read this? Somewhere thereabouts.

Courtney: But in talking to every allosexual person in my life, it became very clear that we were all reading completely different books. Because I was like, “There’s no sex in these books. These vampires are not having sex. I like that. Vampires that aren’t sexual: perfect, brilliant, love it.” But then heterosexual readers of this book that I would talk to were convinced that Louis and their now adult daughter, who’s still in a child’s body, Claudia, were in fact having sexual relations. And I was like, “Whoa there. Where did you get that?” But every either Bisexual or Homosexual person in my life who had read these books at the time when I was discussing them were convinced that Louis and Lestat were just constantly having sex all over the place, very horny, gay vampires. And I was like, “Show me where that happens. I don’t see it.” And I still, to this day, do not see it. And we have in fact, gotten more receipts.

Courtney: So if you haven’t listened to them already and you want to listen to this saga chronologically, we talked about the first book. We talked about the new AMC series, The Interview with the Vampire. I think that was a two-part episode. Then, we spoke about The Vampire Lestat and, most recently, The Queen of the Damned — the book, not the movie. The movie doesn’t deserve our time [laughing] and attention.

Courtney: And here I thought, “Well, in Queen of the Damned, we have proof, we have evidence, where it is written that these vampires do not have sex.” So case closed, am I right? Well, shortly after releasing that episode, I took to Twitter and I made the highly controversial tweet: “Anne Rice’s vampires are Asexual. As much as we liked most of the changes in the AMC series, it not only fundamentally changes an important aspect of the lore, but is also Asexual erasure. And I need everyone to understand that showing them having sex does not make it more queer.”

Courtney: And the fandom got a hold of that one, Royce. [laughing] Oh, the fandom got a hold of it. Internet fandoms frighten me. They’re scary. I don’t much like them. They are angry, they are mean, they are toxic. I’m sure if you find the right niche, it can be a very, perfectly pleasant experience and you can find your right people. But oh boy.

Courtney: Now, I said in our last episode that when I make the assertion that Anne Rice’s vampires are Asexual, the number one thing people will come back with that I hadn’t yet been able to verify — because I hadn’t actually read the, um… what do they call it? Like, The New Stories of the Vampires, or something?

Royce: New Tales of the Vampires.

Courtney: The New Tales of the Vampires. The number one thing people would come back with that I wasn’t sure of that I was a little concerned about was um, “Oh, but Marius and Pandora have sex. There’s a whole sex scene in one of the latter books in The New Tales of the Vampires.” And I was like, “Well, crap, I haven’t read that far. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.”

Courtney: But I really didn’t think so, because I knew that in Queen of the Damned, as we said in our last episode, there is a passage where Lestat is looking in the mirror at his own penis [laughing] and he’s saying, “There it is, my organ. It’s poised as if it’s ready to do the thing it no longer has any desire to do.” I don’t have the direct quote in front of me, but you can listen to our last episode. I read it verbatim, and it was like, “The thing it hasn’t done in ages and will never again do nor have any desire to do.” [laughs] And I was like, “Well, there you have it.” It doesn’t get any more explicit than that.

Royce: Right. The quote both addressed action and desire in the same sentence, saying no to both.

Courtney: Yes! It said it doesn’t know how to do, nor has any desire to do. So that’s key. Because, oh boy, I’m going to read just a couple of the responses that we got when the fandom got ahold of this tweet of mine. Because, unfortunately, we now have to talk about The Tale of the Body Thief. [laughs] Because, because, I think I did get one person mention the Marius and Pandora thing, and I was like, “Oh, that’s been debunked.” Got a few other things that we’re still maybe going to need to follow up on. But a lot of people just very, very angry that we’re making this assertion.

Courtney: And it’s like, even if you’re reading a completely different book, and even if you just glossed over the fact that they literally do not have sex, even if you missed all of that and you have your own headcanon, you have your own idea, why are you so angry? Why are you attacking people so brutally for saying this? And especially in this case, I am literally saying that adding sex in the series is a departure from the source material. And that is true. That is true. That is different. Like, they changed that. They intentionally added it.

Courtney: But take this one, for example: “The first thing Lestat does when he’s back in a human body is fuck, LOL. And Rice’s vampires are impotent, at least up to certain points in the books, but they are horny AF. Please let’s not mistake impotence for Asexuality.”

Royce: Back to that desire quote.

Courtney: Back to the desire quote. [laughs] So this was not the only person who said the word “impotent.” A lot of people were like, “The vampires are impotent.” And the thing is, they’re not human. They’re not human. And Anne Rice has said repeatedly that they are out of nature. And I’ll even criticize the “out of nature” thing a little bit as we progress with this series, because I don’t want to make the impression that this is, like, the perfect end-all be-all Asexual representation, because it is not. But you see, the vampires are not human. Their physiology is different. The way they operate is different. Their desires, what they need to survive, is different. We can’t look at them with a fully human lens of sexuality and desire and… You know, “libido” is another word that comes up. People either say, “Oh, the vampires are impotent,” or they’ll say, “The vampires just don’t have any libido.”

Royce: Which are also things that people say about Asexuals.

Courtney: Funny how that works, right? So as real-life Asexual people, we’re seeing these talking points in the fandom that are mirroring real-life talking points that do affect real-life people, and that’s where we have to step in and say, “Hey, maybe there’s some Asexual erasure and even outright Acephobia in some of these fandom circles that are so very sexually charged, that revolve…” I wouldn’t even say there’s necessarily the biggest shipping culture in Interview with the Vampire, from what I’ve seen — I haven’t been in the deep in the trenches of the fandom. But a lot of the vampires throughout the series, like, have some sort of relationship with each other, so I don’t know if there’s any like shipping culture for vampires that actually haven’t had any relationship at any point. Because they’re immortal, right? So they’ll have their phases. Like, even in the very first book, like, Lestat and Louis is the big couple, but then Louis goes off with Armand. Like, there’s a lot of intermingling in the vampire romances, if you will.

Courtney: But I do want to touch on the “Let’s not mistake impotence for Asexuality.” I don’t see anything in the first three books so far that actually indicates sexual attraction. They have attraction to blood, and in some cases, there is a very sort of romantic pull as well. But the vampires don’t even, like, lament that they miss having sex. Like, in the first book, we said Claudia, who was a child when she was turned into a vampire, has never had a sexual relationship as an adult, vampire brain inside the body of a child, was asking Louis, you know, “What was it like to make love? Because I never experienced it.” So she had this curiosity, because it was an experience she never got to have. And even Louis was like, “Uh… it wasn’t that great?” [laughs] He was like, “I didn’t savor it. It was rushed. It was just a thing we did. And, like, killing is way better. Like, sex was, like, a pale reflection or a pale shadow of killing, because it just wasn’t that great.”

Courtney: And so I made the assertion that Louis has always been Asexual, even before becoming a vampire, because he has made no indication that it was a thing that he was into even in life. Now, a lot of the vampires who did get changed were sexual in life, or at least could have been. But once they become a vampire, that part of themselves gets completely closed off.

Courtney: And for those people who will say either, like, “This is impotence and not Asexuality,” or the people who will say, “Well, they’re not actually human, so we can’t look at them with a human type of Asexuality and they can’t really be good representation for us” — sort of the same ways people will be like, “Oh well, you know, a robot can’t be good Asexual representation,” or “An alien cannot be good Asexual representation” — I really think that Anne Rice’s vampires and other nonsexual, like, species of creatures, I think in 20, 30 years from now, we’re going to look at those more fondly than even we do now as early examples of Asexual representation.

Courtney: I kind of see Anne Rice’s vampires and other creatures like it — you know, Data from Star Trek, Janet from Good Place — these creatures, these people that are not human but have these very, like, Ace lines — even maybe serial killers, like, we have the Dexter — and we’re like, “Well, that’s not good Asexual representation because you’re dehumanizing them and we want to see humans who are Asexual.” I think we’re going to look back at it and see them like queer-coded Disney villains.

Courtney: Because there was a period of time where people would look at, like, Ursula and Scar, and they’ll be like, “We only get these queer-coded characters if they’re villains, and that’s bad, because that’s showing people that, you know, queer people are wrong and evil and villainous and they are never the heroes in the stories.” And while those criticisms are good and true, we now have an entire generation of queer people that worship these queer Disney villains. Like, I love a good queer villain. I think they make the best villain. I mean, queer people kind of make the best people in general, but I love a good queer villain now.

Royce: It’s only bad in isolation. It’s only bad when the only representation is this. Like, when it’s stereotypical representation.

Courtney: Yes. And that’s why we just need more. We need more of everything everywhere. And so while now, some people are saying, “Well, vampires can’t be Asexual, because if it’s just their body shuts down and it doesn’t work, that’s not good representation.” It’s like, but the thing is, Interview with the Vampire was written in 1976. It is really progressive to have not only a same-sex couple, but a same-sex couple who adopt a child and still have this… you know, to quote the new series, this “fucked-up gothic romance” going on.

Courtney: Like, we know there are elements that are unhealthy, but it’s such a beautiful, lush, romantic world that so many people really do fantasize about it. There are so many, you know, fanfictions that come about because queer people read this and they can just sense the queerness about it. We know this is a queer story, even when there is not sex. And yet some of those folks who will look at this, not read any sex scenes, and be like, “Man, this is really queer” are some of the same people who will say that queerness is inherently sexual and therefore Aces shouldn’t be part of the community. And I don’t understand that at all. Because I think this is the perfect illustration of how something can be sexless and still very queer.

Courtney: But to address the comment of “The first thing Lestat does when he’s back in a human body is fuck because they’re horny AF.” Well, I re-read through Tale of the Body Thief real quick, and we’re gonna pull some of those passages. And I guess, Royce, you can be the arbiter of this. I’ll read you the quotes verbatim and we can have a little talk about it.

Royce: I still have not read a page —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — of an Anne Rice novel, but I’ve heard a lot of quotes.

Courtney: [laughing] Yeah. So yes, we’re gonna dig into it. I think Tale of the Body Thief was ’94, so there was some time between these books as they were being released. But do also consider: even today, we’re calling for more Asexual representation. We’re still saying we need more and that there isn’t enough and that we are far behind other, you know, areas of queer representation.

Royce: It was ’92.

Courtney: ’92! Okay, a little bit earlier then.

Royce: Interview was in ’76, the next book was ’85, then ’88 for Queen of the Damned

Courtney: Gotcha. Because, like, now, a 15-year-old Ace person could pick up Loveless by Alice Oseman. They can pick up any number of the books that we’ve already covered on this podcast that have Ace representation. And there are several more we haven’t even been able to touch on yet because, especially in young adult — I feel like young adult is the genre that’s really getting a lot of queer representation in recent years. But when I was 15, I don’t know what else I could have possibly turned to for representation except for The Vampire Chronicles. [laughs] So we need to keep that timeline in perspective as well.

Courtney: So in Tale of the Body Thief, I think I made a joke at the end of our last episode — where all the vampires moved to Miami — about Dexter, because we did an episode on Dexter being Asexual until they decided to ditch [laughing] that fundamental part of his character. And he was like, “Ah, yes, Miami, a great city to, you know, kill people in [laughing] and to kill other murderers.” The Tale of the Body Thief literally opens up with Lestat living in Miami and intentionally only seeking out serial killers who haven’t been caught to kill. [laughs]

Royce: Oh yeah, you mentioned that as soon as you started the book, and I had to look up when the Dexter books were written.

Courtney: When were the books written? Because I know the TV series came out way after Tale of the Body Thief was published, but I have not read the Dexter books.

Royce: 2004. So Tale of the Body Thief predates it by 12 years.

Courtney: So Dexter is directly inspired by Lestat, and that’s why they’re both Asexual icons. Confirmed! [laughs] Confirmed! [laughs] I joke, I joke. So, we’re gonna have sort of two plotlines that we’re looking at on this one: one because it’s relevant to the podcast and the other just because, um, I’m Courtney. So we’re gonna be looking at Lestat’s sexual proclivities in Tale of the Body Thief for the sake of the podcast. But we’re also going to be looking at Lestat’s grief for the loss of Claudia all the way back in book one, because I’m Courtney and there is a locket with her hair somewhere and it is haunting him.

Courtney: So Lestat’s out in Miami being Dexter. He’s also recently made friends with David Talbot, who is very high up in the Talamasca, a group of, I guess, paranormal investigators that know all about witches and vampires and other creatures, but keep it all a secret and just study it privately.

Royce: I was gonna say, they’re not hunters, right? They explicitly do not interfere.

Courtney: Exactly. They just watch and learn and document. So, after Lestat goes and hunts this serial killer, he starts just like gradually getting approached by someone who’s leaving him stories. There’s like a… I think the first one might be a Lovecraft book, is just, like, dropped off for him, and he’s like, “What is this?” And then there’s, like, a movie that’s dropped off, like a DVD, and he’s like — and they’re all different stories, and he can’t quite figure it out.

Courtney: But he goes, at some point, to see his friend David. And David has this, like, tiger pelt on the floor. And so Lestat does this whole, like, “Was it fun for you to kill the tiger, David? You were a hunter when you were a young man.” Because David is older now. I don’t think I have his exact age in front of me, but probably at least in his 70s.

Courtney: “He hesitated, then forced himself to answer. ‘It was a man-eater. It feasted on children. Yes, I suppose it was fun.’ I laughed softly. ‘Ah, well, then we have that in common, me and the tiger. And Claudia is waiting for me.’ ‘You don’t really believe that, do you?’ ‘No, I guess if I did, I’d be afraid to die.’ I saw Claudia quite vividly. A tiny oval portrait on porcelain. Golden hair, blue eyes, something fierce and true in the expression, in spite of the saccharine colors of the oval frame. Had I ever possessed such a locket? For that is what it was, surely, a locket. A chill came over me. I remembered the texture of her hair. Once again, it was as if she were very near me. Were I to turn, I might see her beside me in the shadows with her hand on the back of my chair. I did turn around. Nothing. I was going to lose my nerve if I didn’t get out of here.”

Courtney: So he’s being essentially haunted by Claudia, or the memory of Claudia, in some ways that the reader doesn’t immediately know whether or not it’s a hallucination or if there is some sort of ghost of Claudia who is actually there. And he keeps coming back to this locket. He can’t really remember it. He’s like, “I guess there’s a locket, but what is that locket from? Why am I seeing this?”

Courtney: And so Lestat goes to David and he’s like, “Yeah, David, I think I’m just going to walk into the sun for a bit.” [laughs] And David’s like, “Don’t you do it!” And he’s like, “Nah, I think I’m going to do it.” David’s like, “I will never forgive you if you do this.” And he’s like, “Great, then. To the Gobi Desert!” [laughs]

Courtney: So Lestat does that. But remember, he’s extraordinarily powerful now because he drank a lot of Akasha’s blood — the former Queen of the Damned, the first vampire. So he’s really close to being just flat-out unkillable now.

Courtney: So on his way to the Gobi Desert, he does more ruminating. Upon leaving David, he says, “The sun was truly coming, the cold winter sun of England. I could feel it for certain, and suddenly I was afraid. I could feel the light stealing over the ground outside and striking the windows. But the darkness held on this side of the velvet curtains. I saw the little flame in the oil lamp rise. It scared me, just because I was in such pain and it was a flame. Her small rounded fingers on the golden key, and that ring, that ring I gave her with the tiny diamond set in pearls. What about the locket? Should I ask her about the locket? Claudia, was there ever a gold locket…”

Courtney: “Turning the flame higher and higher. That smell again. Her dimpled hand. All through the long flat in the Rue Royale, one could catch the scent of oil. Ah, that old wallpaper, and the pretty handmade furniture, and Louis writing at his desk, sharp smell of the black ink, dull scratch of the quill pen… Her little hand was touching my cheek, so deliciously cold, and that vague thrill that passes through me when one of the others touches me, our skin. ‘Why would anyone want me to live?’ I asked. At least that was what I started to ask… and then I was simply gone.”

Courtney: And you know, actually I think I mistook that timeline. He’s in so much pain because he already tried to go out into the Gobi Desert during the day. But he goes back to David after that and he’s, like, got a little tan now. [laughs] He’s bronzer than he was. And he’s in a heck of a lot of pain. And David is like, “Why did you do this? I guess you can sleep here for tonight. I’ll pull the curtains. I won’t disturb you.” [laughs] And all of this is, like, explicitly against the Talamascas’ rules, too. [laughing] So David is just, like, secretly harboring a vampire.

Courtney: And one thing, Royce, since you haven’t read these yourself, since you’ve just gotten synopses and quotes, one thing I don’t think I’ve stated to you outright: so much of these books is just dialogue. There are lengthy conversations where someone is just talking to someone else. Like, a tremendous amount. And when it’s not dialogue, it’s a lot of internal reflection and ruminating.

Courtney: And so Lestat and David have a very long conversation about all these stories that he’s being left — a book, a manuscript, a movie. And in this very lengthy conversation, they’re able to figure out, or David’s able to figure out, “Well, hey, there’s a pattern. All of these stories involve body swapping.”

Courtney: And then Lestat’s like, “Ah, interesting! Because the fellow I saw that dropped this off seemed very gangly and uncoordinated. It was almost as if that body didn’t truly belong to him and he didn’t have full command of it. I bet he actually swaps bodies! I bet he can do it.” And David’s like, “This is a dangerous game. Let’s not play that.” And Lestat’s like, “No, I want to talk to this guy now.”

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: [laughs] What were you expecting? The book’s called Tale of the Body Thief.

Royce: Well, I know that. I’m just thinking about the book series as a whole. We’re sure we have some supernatural creatures. We have vampires in all of their powers. I was trying to think of what other things exist. We clearly have a group that investigates a variety of mystical things, so other things besides vampires or other phenomena exists in the world. It’s like, let’s go straight to body swapping.

Courtney: Body swapping!

Royce: That’ll be the next magical thing in this book series.

Courtney: Well, you know, it’s really interesting, because for as much as there was a period of time where Anne Rice was vehemently against people writing fanfiction of her vampires… Like, in the early days of the internet, when the internet first discovered how much it liked to write fanfiction, Anne Rice was like, “What is this? No. No, don’t, don’t. Don’t do that.” [laughs] But for as much as she didn’t like other people writing fanfiction of her vampires, some of her later books kind of feel like fanfiction of her own vampires. And I know that’s not a real thing, but allow me to explain.

Royce: Well, it’s kind of interesting. If you think about dealing with a world that you’ve created over the course of a lifetime and going back 40, 50 years after the initial book, your mindframe of the series has changed. Your impression of the universe has changed.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: So I could see that.

Courtney: Yeah, well, and she did take a lengthy pause from writing the books and said that she was done and thought that she was done. But then all of a sudden, just a few years ago, I was just in a Barnes and Noble and there was a big hardcover book that was like, The Prince Lestat, brand new, and I was like, [laughing] “What is this? Pardon me?” And I bought it. I still haven’t read it yet, but I think now I need to.

Royce: That is book 11? And it’s –

Courtney: Anne Rice is still writing these? What?

Royce: The thing is, book 12 is Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.

Courtney: Yes! Which I think we also have waiting for my reading eyes. [laughs]

Royce: Occasionally, when I’ve been on some sort of fandom Wiki double checking some kind of information, I’ve scrolled down to the comments and have seen people say things like, “What is Anne Rice doing? She’s ruining her own series.”

Courtney: Yeah. And I’m sure there are enough departures that there are going to be people who don’t like the departures. And I’m also maybe not going to like them, but I’m going to read them. Because it has also come to my attention — through this tweet that got snapped up by the fandom — that there is apparently a doctor who’s able to, like, medically experiment on the vampires and make… I don’t know, I guess some kind of vampire Viagra [laughing] or something. I looked up that doctor’s name and that’s actually the name of the doctor that they used in the AMC series to, like, administer drugs to Daniel Molloy —

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: – who’s interviewing him. And so I was also like, “What are you doing with your series? What is your intention for this?” Because if you’re saying that, right out of the gate, the vampires could have sex as vampires, then I don’t see that doctor even having a reason for being here. And I don’t know his whole deal yet. So I’m not going to talk too much about it. We’ll get there eventually, [laughing] in theory.

Courtney: But things like this book, like The Tale of the Body Thief, like, that doesn’t really exist or hold up at all if you make the vampire sexual. A fundamental aspect of the lore — with, you know, the Osiris mythos and the whole scene from last book, The Queen of the Damned, that we mentioned — like, all of that is gone. So how far are they hoping to take this, and how are they going to address those changes now?

Courtney: But yeah, at any rate, what I was saying with… we’ll probably eventually have an episode where we just talk about what Anne Rice herself has said and thought about her own vampires, because I have quotes from her that are literally like, “My vampires do not have sex with each other or with humans.” That is a thing Anne Rice said. And yet people are like, “No, it’s called reading between the lines! Anne Rice was just writing books in the ’70s and ’80s, when it wasn’t as okay to write sex scenes.” It’s like, she was literally an erotic novelist. [laughs]

Royce: Right. I mean, the quote you’re talking about, I believe she said in, like, 2012 or so?

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Which means that at that point, which I believe was the first nine books, that was the intent. That was the writer’s intent.

Courtney: Yes. So we’re going to actually have to get into things Anne Rice has actually said also, just because of how vehemently people are attacking us for saying, like, “Hey, they are adding sex where there used to not be any.” Literally, Anne Rice has confirmed that.

Royce: Yeah. There’s the writing itself. And then there’s also the author clarifying intent of the writing. But one of the things I think… I can’t remember if we mentioned this in the last podcast episode. But allo people are not used to having to actually check allo biases —

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: — because they’re so used to existing in an allo world with allo mediums.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: So it’s unfamiliar to try to have to remove the notion of sexual attraction from something because it’s so steeped into everything.

Courtney: Mhm. Exactly. So, this body swapper, whom they call Raglan James, is known by the Talamasca. He’s a little bit infamous. David Talbot’s able to find some information about him and be like, “He is very, very powerful… witch” — Is “witch” the word they use? It might be the word they use, or “sorcerer.” Like, he can do a lot of magic, very strong. And David Talbot can also do some magic, but he’s implying that, like, this guy is a lot stronger, and he has caused trouble. And the Talamasca is aware of him, so you probably shouldn’t meet with him. And Lestat’s like, “Great. You told me not to meet with him, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Courtney: So they meet up, I believe at the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans — famous coffee stand. And so Lestat, kind of, you know, questions him and asks him, “What’s the deal with the Talamasca? What do you want from me?” All these things. And Raglan James is like, “I have outwitted the Talamasca. I don’t just think I did; I did.”

Courtney: “‘They’re not very careful with their inventories. They have no idea really how many of their little treasures I managed to appropriate. They’ll never guess. Of course, you were the real theft — the secret that you existed. Ah, discovering that little vault full of relics was such a stroke of good luck. Understand, I didn’t take anything of your old possessions — rotted frock coats from your very closets in New Orleans, parchments with your fancy signature, why, there was even a locket with a painted miniature of that accursed little child —’”

Courtney: “‘Watch your tongue,’ I whispered. He went quiet. ‘I’m sorry. I meant no offense, truly.’ ‘What locket?’ I asked. Could he hear the sudden racing of my heart? I tried to still it, to keep the warmth from rising again in my face. How meek he looked as he answered. ‘A gold locket on a chain, little oval miniature inside. Oh, I didn’t steal it. I swear to you. I left it there. Ask your friend Talbot. It’s still in your vault.’ I waited, commanding my heart to be still, and banishing all images of that locket from my mind.”

Courtney: So Lestat very clearly doesn’t like this guy. He’s accusing him of a lot of things. He’s like, “Still, the Talamasca, like, they caught you. They threw you out.” And he’s like, “Sure, sure, sure. But what about my proposition? You, me, trade bodies just for a little bit, just for a tiny little bit of time. I’d just like a little bit of time as a vampire and you could have a little bit of time as a human, as a treat.” [laughs]

Royce: That sounds like the worst decision.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Like, known infamous problematic wizard’s like, “Let’s make a deal.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Like, that’s just not something you do in any mythos.

Courtney: No, it’s really not. And the thing is, too, this one still feels a little bit like it could be a logical part of the same universe. But when I was saying before that Anne Rice kind of, like, has written fanfiction of her own vampires, she’ll talk — or she used to talk, rather; rest her soul — she would talk about Lestat as her hero, and she would refer to him as “My hero.” And so she had this very idealized version of this character that she always called “My hero.”

Courtney: And what got her to start writing about the vampires again after such a tremendous break was that she was growing older. She was seeing new technology popping up. She was seeing the world change drastically from the one that she used to know. And she was like, “How is my hero reacting to all of these changes? Like, what does my hero think of all the surveillance that’s around? And what does my hero think of this?”

Courtney: And so it’s almost like the entire premise of this book is: “But what if Lestat human again for a day?” [laughs] Like, “Let’s just take my idea of this character and just put him in all of these different wild situations just to see what he does.”

Royce: That’s interesting. And I guess you’ll get to where this book ends and what happens, but from looking at Anne Rice’s bibliography, there are some books that are just standalone entries —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — that are set in the same universe but are — or maybe in the same time periods — but don’t deal with any of the main characters. And I wonder why not just have a closed story that is separated out from things to play with ideas?

Courtney: Because Lestat is her hero and her muse! Even though he’s… awful. [laughs] And of course, this Raglan James, being a notorious thief who has infiltrated the Talamasca and learned of Lestat and all these other secrets, sort of gets a feel for who Lestat is. So he’s like, “I better steal a body that is going to be appealing to Lestat.” So he makes sure to go out and find, like, a young, tall, dark and handsome kind of a type. And he’s like, “Why, look at this body! I picked it just for you. It could be yours for 24 hours.” [laughs]

Royce: Oh, so there’s a limitation on the body swap.

Courtney: Well, that’s what they say. He’s just like, “Why don’t we just just temporary swap?”

Royce: Never trust a nefarious wizard.

Courtney: [laughing] Exactly. So he says, “Give it a chance. Act quickly.”

Royce: Oh, he’s going all used car salesman already.

Courtney: Oh yeah, he does. He says, “Act quickly.” And then he starts talking about, like, “What about all the things that you can’t do as a vampire?” These are not things that Lestat has verbalized wanting to do. This is just the guy trying to make the sales pitch. He says, “Use me or you’ll never know what it’s like to be human again. You’ll never know what it’s like to walk in the sunlight, to enjoy a full meal of real food, to make love to a woman or a man.” So again, there’s kind of our confirmation that they aren’t doing that.

Royce: Yeah. There have been many of those. I feel like at least one gets thrown in every book.

Courtney: Yes! [laughs] “I want you to leave here now. Get out of this city and never come back. I’ll come to you at this address in Georgetown when I’m ready. And it won’t be for a week, this switch.” Because that was Raglan’s first — like, “Let’s just switch for a week. Just… it’ll be fun.” And then Lestat’s like, “No. Not that long.” And they’re like, “Maybe… maybe two day? Maybe one day?” [laughs]

Royce: Think about how much damage someone who is one of the most powerful vampires in existence could do in 24 hours.

Courtney: Yeah! And that’s exactly what David Talbot was saying. He’s like, “Lestat, your body? You are a monster. [laughs] You’re going to give a known criminal this body. What are you thinking?” [laughs] So he doesn’t agree to the swap right then and there. He basically just says, “Don’t call me; I’ll call you.” [laughs]

Courtney: And so he then goes to David Talbot, and that’s where they have all these conversations. But he asks, “‘You have these relics of ours, old possessions in our vaults.’ ‘Yes.’ Discomfort. This was an embarrassment to him, it seemed. ‘A locket,’ I said. ‘A locket with a picture of Claudia. You have such a thing?’ ‘I believe I have,’ he said. ‘I verified the inventory of all those items after you first came to me. I believe there was a locket. I’m almost certain, in fact. I should have told you this, shouldn’t I, before now?’ ‘No, it doesn’t matter. Was it a locket on a chain such as women wear?’ ‘Yes. Do you want me to look for this locket? If I find it, I shall give it to you, of course.’ ‘No, don’t look for it now. Perhaps sometime in the future. Goodbye, David. I’ll come to you soon.’”

Courtney: “So there had been a locket, a woman’s locket. But for whom had such a thing been made? And why did I see it in my dreams? Claudia would not have carried her own image with her in a locket, and surely I would remember if she had. As I tried to envision it or remember it, I was filled with a peculiar combination of sadness and dread. It seemed I was very near a dark place, a place full of actual death. And, as so often happens with my memories, I heard laughter. Only it wasn’t Claudia’s laughter this time. It was mine. I had a sense of preternatural youth and endless possibility. In other words, I was remembering the young vampire I’d been in the old days of the 18th century, before time had dealt its blows.”

Courtney: “Well, what did I care about this damn locket? Maybe I’d picked up the image from James’s brain as he pursued me. It had been, for him, merely a tool to ensnare me. And the fact was, I’d never even seen such a locket. He would have done better to pick some other trinket that had once belonged to me. No, that last explanation seemed too simple. The image was too vivid. And I’d seen it in my dreams before James had made his way into my adventures. I grew angry suddenly. I had other things to consider just now, did I not? Get thee behind me, Claudia. Take your locket, please, ma cherie, and go.”

Courtney: So I do find it interesting that not only is this book about swapping bodies, but really, the story is about grief and self-destructive tendencies. Because he starts heavily grieving and envisioning Claudia, and he literally goes into the Gobi Desert during the sun in a way that he can’t escape on his own just to see if it would kill him.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: And it didn’t.

Royce: Self-immolation in the first chapter. How does he get out of that?

Courtney: He just kind of does. [laughs]

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: He tried to, you know, make it so that he couldn’t bury himself. He might have even, like, flown up into the sky right before sunrise to try to get, like, as close to the sun as possible. And it was just, like… it was excruciating pain, but just not enough to kill him because he is now too powerful. So you have that happening, but also now this very clearly awful idea: swap bodies with someone who promises to give it back. And he’s just stewing over Claudia. He spends a lot more time thinking about this locket with this portrait miniature of her and a lock of her hair. He spends so much more time ruminating on that than deciding whether or not it’s actually a good decision to swap bodies with this guy. So it’s self-destruction in the cloud of grief. That is what this book is to me. And yet, other people have seemed to taken this, as, you know, “Lestat becomes human so he can have sex.” [laughs]

Royce: It’s almost like when you try to read in between the lines too much, you miss the entire story.

Courtney: “Now and then I saw the locket in my mind’s eye. I saw the miniature of Claudia painted so artfully in oils. But no emotion came to me. No sorrow, no anger, no grief. It was James upon whom my entire heart was fastened. James can do it. James isn’t lying. I can live and breathe in that body. And when the sun rises over Georgetown on that morning, I shall see it with those eyes.”

Courtney: And that is when he resolves to do that: while he’s thinking about this locket and he’s like, “Yeah. No, no, let’s not think about that. No emotions. Let’s trade bodies.” And even though James had said, “You could sleep with a man or you could sleep with a woman or you could eat food,” the one thing Lestat’s like, “I’m gonna swap bodies and I am going to see that sun with human eyes.”

Royce: Without burning them.

Courtney: Without burning them. “The sun won’t hurt me this time.” So he returns to Raglan James, who says, “‘Do you know what the Talamasca really wants? A sample of your tissue, a specimen of your vampiric cells. You’d be wise to see that they never acquire such a specimen. You’ve been too free with Talbot, really. Perhaps he pared your fingernails or cut off a lock of your hair while you slept beneath his roof.’ Lock of hair? Wasn’t there a lock of blonde hair in that locket? It had to be vampire hair, Claudia’s hair. I shuddered, drawing deeper into myself and shutting him away. Centuries ago, there had been a dreadful night when Gabrielle, my mortal mother in newborn fledgling, had cut her off her vampire hair. The long hours of the day, as she lay in the coffin, it had all grown back. I did not want to remember her screams when she discovered it: those magnificent tresses, once again luxuriant and long over her shoulders.”

Courtney: So again, even having this active conversation with this guy he’s about to swap bodies with, his mind is going back to grief and his past. And so what they do is: basically as, like, collateral for getting the body back — basically, Lestat calls up his lawyers and is like, “On this day, during this small window of time, if this guy in this body comes to the bank, I want you to set aside a lot of fucking money for him, because. you know, he’s a thief.” And he thinks, “If I put up enough money, surely he will give me my body back and then go to collect his money.” And this is also, like, several million dollars, by the way. This isn’t, like, ten thousand dollars. This is several million.

Courtney: And at the last minute, he actually calls his lawyer and is like, “You know what? Double that amount. [laughs] Just to be sure.”

Royce: “Just in case.”

Courtney: “Just in case.” [laughs] And he also, you know, stashes some cash, stashes some money around the house so that he can have it once they do swap bodies and he becomes immortal again. And so they do the swap. And Raglan James is like, “Haha! Later, sucker!” And Lestat is, like, immediately regretful of his decision. Instantly, he hates it.

Royce: Well, yeah. We’ve talked about before how, during the vampire transformation, suddenly everything is so much more vibrant.

Courtney: Yes!

Royce: And so immediately, all of your senses dull.

Courtney: Dull, and yet are now more repulsive to him. He hates being in this body. And he also is like, “All right, well, time to go look for the cash that I stashed.” And everywhere he stashed money, there is a note from Raglan James that’s like, “Haha! Took your money, sucker! [laughs] You’re mortal now, and part of being mortal is struggling, so go struggle.” [laughs]

Courtney: And so, of course, Lestat is like, “Curses! Curse you, Raglan James!” And then he realizes, “Oh no, I have to pee.” And thus begins the traumatic saga of Lestat the human. [laughs]

Royce: How did the body thief know where all the things were? Was it like, the instant he had Lestat’s body, he could read all of Lestat-in-the-human-body’s thoughts?

Courtney: That could be. I don’t think it was explicitly stated. But he is a mind reader. I don’t know if he was powerful enough to be able to read Lestat’s thoughts while he was still a vampire or not, because he’s basically like the most powerful mortal magic user, and Lestat’s just —

Royce: I didn’t think that would matter, because even if he wasn’t this powerful wizard, the moment he has Lestat’s body and Lestat is no longer a vampire, Lestat’s been mind reading humans forever.

Courtney: Yes. Yeah, so I don’t know, but he has his ways. He’s a crafty one. [laughs] So: “I had to piss. I simply had to. And I had not done this in over 200 years.”

Royce: “How does it even work? I don’t remember!”

Courtney: “I unzipped these modern pants and removed my organ, which immediately astonished me by its limpness and size. The size was fine, of course. Who doesn’t want these organs to be large? And it was circumcised, which was a nice touch. But this limpness, it felt remarkably repulsive to me. And I didn’t want to touch the thing.” And then he pees and he says, “Revolting. [laughs] At last, my bladder is empty. I shoved the flaccid, disgusting thing back into my pants.” [laughs] So he hates it. And, by the way, also, he adopted a dog.

Royce: When?

Courtney: Recently. [laughs]

Royce: Like, while in human form or as vampire?

Courtney: As vampire first, but the dog stayed with him when they body swapped. So I think — the dog’s name is Mojo, and he was just kind of hanging around Raglan James in this, like, townhouse he was camping out in. So he’s, like, kind of a stray, was kind of adopted by Raglan. It was kind of implied that Raglan James was not taking very good care of it. But Lestat found this dog as a vampire still, and he was like, “Oh, nice. This dog isn’t, you know, growling and barking at me, because a lot of dogs do that, since I became a vampire. They don’t always like me, but this one’s nice.” And he’s like, “Yes, dogs. I love dogs. I haven’t had a dog in a long time — not since the wolf killed them all in the hunt!” So that’s his dog now. And he even has this great big, like, monologue to the readers of, like, “There is nothing supernatural about this dog. This dog is not going to save a child from the well. This dog is not going to be the hero of the story, but he is my dog!” [laughs]

Courtney: And in fact, after he’s like, “Man, I don’t have any money. I don’t like these new senses. I am disgusted by my own penis,” the dog comes up and gives him some loving and he says, “‘I should have switched bodies with the dog,’ I thought. And then the thought of Mojo inside my vampiric body started me to laughing. I went into one of my regular fits. I laughed and laughed and laughed, turning in circles, and then finally stopped because I was truly freezing to death.” He’s outside with no winter clothes. [laughs] “But all this was terribly funny. Here I was a human being, the priceless event I dreamed of since my death, and I hated it to the marrow of these human bones.” And then he starts getting some cramps in his stomach and some churning, and then he realizes, “Oh, I’m hungry.”

Royce: How inconvenient.

Courtney: How inconvenient: “I must eat food.” So he finds, like, a little restaurant, and he walks in. He’s cold, he’s wet, he is woefully unprepared for this weather as a mortal. And he doesn’t even like the smell of any of this food. He says, “And I realized suddenly that the awful, nauseating smell that was filling my nostrils was the smell of burnt cheese. I would not have liked this smell as a vampire, no, not in the least; but it wouldn’t have sickened me quite this much.” And so he’s like, “Great. I’m hungry, but the food smells awful, and I don’t have any money, and I’m freezing to death. And I had to pee and that was a whole ordeal.” [laughs]

Courtney: And so there’s a woman who’s a waitress, and he describes her as a “pretty young woman.” He also says, “I wished I could see her better. I struggled to pick up her scent, but I couldn’t. I only caught the scent of the cheese. [laughs] The smells of the food, bad as they were, tormented me. I couldn’t actually remember what food tasted like. I couldn’t remember texture and nourishment together, but something purely human was taking over. I was desperate for food.”

Royce: This is an interesting thought experiment: having a character that’s been in a different form of being for a couple of hundred years and then going back. Because I bet a vampire who has been this way for this long would come back to being a human and would be incredibly socially awkward —

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: — around humans. Because not only are they out of place and time, but they’ve probably become reliant on, like, vampiric glamor and mind reading.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And now that they don’t have any of those extra senses, there are probably a lot of behaviors that were being guided by those that they no longer have to lean on.

Courtney: Oh yeah, and he is incredibly awkward.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: He is very, very… [laughs] Like, he is. And he doesn’t have money, either. So he walks in, and he still has his, like, French accent, and he’s even like, “I go to talk to this woman, and I intentionally kind of try to lean into my French accent a little bit harder when I’m telling her, ‘Hey, I’m really hungry, but I don’t have any money. [laughs] Could I wash dishes for a meal?’” And she’s like, “Uh, no, get out.” And then he just keeps talking more, and he’s like, “Please, just a crust of bread? It’s just, I’m so very hungry.”

Courtney: And then she sees his dog outside and she’s like, “Wait, is that your dog?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And she’s like, “That dog comes here every day and we feed him. We like that dog. Alright, I guess. We’ll feed you and your dog.” [laughs] I don’t know how that worked, but it did, because she was not having it when it was just him. So she sets him up in the back and for a free meal, she goes hard. She’s like, “You get wine. I’m just gonna keep the wine coming. You get…” Like, I don’t know why this happened.

Courtney: But he’s sitting here sort of like waiting for the food to come, and he says, “The smell of cheese was stifling. There were other smells — cooked onions, garlic, burnt grease. All revolting. I was most uncomfortable sitting on this stool. The round hard edge of the wooden seat cut into my legs, and once again, I was bothered that I couldn’t see in the dark. I could hear frightful noises, like big pots being banged on metal, and they hurt my ears just a little, or more truly I resented them.”

Courtney: “The young woman reappeared, smiling prettily as she set down a big glass of red wine. The smell was sour and potentially sickening. I thanked her. And then I picked up the glass, and took a mouthful of wine, holding it and then swallowing. At once I began to choke. [laughing slightly] I couldn’t figure what had happened — whether I had swallowed in some wrong way, or it was irritating my throat for some reason, or what. I only knew I was coughing furiously, and I snatched up a cloth napkin from beside the fork and put it over my mouth. Some of the wine was actually caught in the back of my nose. As for the taste, it was weak and acidic. A terrible frustration rose in me.” [laughs]

Courtney: Which is hilarious. [laughing] Because of course, as a human, the first time you drink something again, you’re gonna swallow the wrong way and choke. And would you believe me if I said when his food finally comes, he bites his tongue? [laughs]

Royce: Well, of course. You haven’t needed to do that in a long time.

Courtney: [laughs] But once he resolves to slow down and take another drink of the wine, and he doesn’t choke, he just says, “Thin, so thin, so totally different from a luscious filling swallow of blood.”

Courtney: “For a moment, I felt only frustration. Then gradually, I began to feel a little sick. ‘Food will come,’ I thought. Ah, there is food — a canister of bread sticks, or so they appear to be. I lifted one, smelled it carefully, ascertaining that it was bread, and then I nibbled at it very fast until it was gone. It was like sand to the last tiny bit. Just like the sand of the Gobi Desert which had gotten into my mouth. Sand. ‘How do mortals eat this?’ I asked.”

Courtney: So, so far, he hates literally every single facet of being a human. He hates the sounds, he hates the smells, he hates the bodily functions, he hates the food, he hates the wine, [laughing] and he’s just having a bad time. He’s just so upset at his current state. But then the waitress, coming back and, you know, asking him about his French accent and talking to him a little more, she starts to flirt with him a little bit.

Courtney: And so he says, “And then the realization of what this could mean settled over me, with the most curious effect. I could bed this woman, perhaps. Ah, yes, that was definitely a possibility as far as she was concerned. My eyes drifted down to the two tiny nipples, protruding so entirely through the black silk of the dress. ‘Yes, bed her,’ I thought, and how smooth was the flesh of her neck. [laughs] The organ was stirring between my legs. ‘Well, something is working,’ I mused. But how curiously local was this feeling, this hardening and swelling, and the odd way that it consumed all my thoughts. The need for blood was never local. I stared blankly before me. ‘Go down,’ I was saying to the organ. ‘This is not the time for that yet.’” [laughs]

Courtney: “Finally I lowered my gaze to the plate. The hunger ground in me as if someone had my intestines in both hands and was wringing them out. Did I remember such a feeling? God knows I had been hungry enough in my mortal life. Hunger was like life itself. But the memory seemed so distant, so unimportant.” So, what do you make of that? Even though he is getting aroused here, he’s still musing that it is not as good as the desire for blood.

Royce: Not as powerful, yes. Which is, again, something that has been reinforced throughout the book series so far, because blood was consistently mentioned as everything, every need or desire — like physiological need or desire — rolled into one and amplified.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And so the taste of a good meal doesn’t compare. The feeling of arousal is small and localized by comparison, instead of being all-encompassing.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: The first thing I said when Lestat was going into a human body is that all manner of senses and experiences were getting dulled, and this is included in that.

Courtney: Mhm. Which is curious, because another common comment that people will make, and one that I got on our recent Twitter post, in fact, is that drinking blood is sex for vampires. That is just what that is.

Royce: Which, that is an explicit omission of the content. Like, you must have checked out when you were reading one of those passages.

Courtney: So this comment we got recently, for example: “The thing about the vampire genre is that the teeth stand in for another no longer functioning body part, and has for a very long time. Anne Rice’s books are very erotic. It doesn’t matter that the way these people have sex has changed. They’re still doing it, just differently.”

Royce: No.

Courtney: [laughs] You disagree?

Royce: No, it’s not that I disagree, it’s that it’s incorrect. Like, what was it, in Queen of the Damned… Baby Jenks?

Courtney: Baby Jenks! Yes.

Royce: — said, amongst other things, “This is better than sex,” explicitly.

Courtney: And better than hamburgers and milkshakes. [laughs]

Royce: It was better than every human experience combined.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: And I believe the exact quote was “better than screwing,” not “better than sex,” but it was explicitly stated.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: And other vampires said the same notion, in other words.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: So, it’s a pretty consistent telling throughout the franchise. But this is a case of allo people projecting the only thing they know into an unfamiliar world that they don’t seem to understand, and, in doing so, overriding or erasing the nuances of the material.

Courtney: Mhm. So it also gets more complicated here, because he is in a human body and this human body is experiencing arousal. And, you know, arousal, libido, and sexual attraction are things that are really, really complicated when you get into the nuances of them. But I especially, as someone who does not have a penis [laughing], I feel like I’m unqualified to talk about this. But I also know, from the individuals in my life who do have such an organ, sometimes that just happens, [laughing] whether you want it to or not, and whether or not there is an object of your attraction it is directed at.

Royce: Yeah. I mean, physiology works in a variety of different ways. It can be entirely hormonal. It can happen due to changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Like, there are a variety of different situations that can happen. But to go back to the “Lestat gets a human body and is consistently horny and immediately tries to have sex”: this was an afterthought.

Courtney: [laughing] Yes.

Royce: This was, “I’m going about exploring my human body, trying to find money, trying to, like, meet the physiological needs —”

Courtney: And hating every minute of it.

Royce: “ — as they come up.” And then it’s like, “Oh, there’s a woman here, and she’s flirting with me. I guess that’s something I can do now.”

Courtney: [laughing] That’s exactly how I read it! I was like, he is not like, “Great. I’m in a human body. Time to go find someone to sex up.” [laughs]

Royce: No, it’s like, “Oh, there’s a woman here. She’s flirting with me. I guess I could bed her.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: “That’s a thing I could do.”

Courtney: I’m glad that you read that that way, because I was like, “I don’t know.”

Royce: I don’t think it’s how I read it that way. I think that’s what the literal words were.

Courtney: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Other people are not reading it the same way.

Royce: Other people are projecting their own identities onto the text.

Courtney: So are we taking bets on whether or not he enjoys having sex with this woman?

Royce: We can’t, because you already told me.

Courtney: [laughs] I didn’t tell you everything. I mentioned Lestat’s really, really terrible. And I should, I suppose, give a light warning. Because as we’ve started talking about The Vampire Chronicles, I know there are some listeners of ours who have never read these books who, after hearing us talk about the first few, are like, “Well, now I’m gonna go pick up those books,” which is wild.

Royce: I got the wrong impression from the fandom. Now I’m actually interested.

Courtney: [laughing] Yes, yes, there is that. But this is the first book that actually does have sex scenes in it. There are two of them, and they can be hard to read if reading sex scenes is hard for you — especially sexual violence is hard for you to read, ha ha ha. So we’ll get there.

Courtney: But yeah, even before getting to that point, he’s just sitting here, saying, “But how far was this experience from what I had expected. Oh, ye gods. Here I was talking about thinking when I’d thought I would be enjoying! Ah, I’d thought I would be immersed in sensations, immersed in memories, immersed in discoveries; and now all I could do was think how to hold back! The truth was, I’d envisioned pleasure, a variety of pleasures — eating, drinking, a woman in my bed, then a man. But none of what I’d experienced was even vaguely pleasurable so far.” [laughs]

Courtney: So after he’s done eating, and after he [laughs] bites his tongue, hates every minute of it, she gets off her shift and is like, “Walk me back to my apartment.” And he’s like, “Yep, okay.” And here’s just some of the awkwardness. I mean, obviously, the choking on the wine, the biting his tongue — like, that’s all really awkward. But once he gets back to her house, he realizes that he must now defecate. And he’s like, “Oh God, no.” But he walks by a bathroom, and he gestures to it, and he’s just like, “May I use this room?” [laughs] And I was like, “What a little weirdo!” [laughs] But also, I mean, I am Asexual as all get out, so I don’t understand this at all, but clearly they have some unspoken acknowledgement that sex is what they’re going to do, and she wastes no time. While he’s in the bathroom, she, like, just undresses and is sitting naked on the bed when he comes back out.

Royce: I mean, that’s not too surprising to me. The surprising thing is that person in a human body with no money, just walking around with a dog, walks in somewhere, immediately gets a meal and within — what, an hour or so of that? — also is having sex?

Courtney: [laughs] Yes.

Royce: Like, I get that wizard dude found him a handsome body, but that still seems like you would have struck out a few more times, particularly with how awkward you’re being.

Courtney: Well, you know, it’s not just the handsome body; he’s also French. [laughs]

Courtney: “The young woman was now entirely naked and sitting on the side of the bed. I tried to see her clearly in spite of the distortions created by the nearby lamp. But her face was a mess of ugly shadows, and her skin looked sallow. The stale smell of the bed surrounded her. All I could conclude about her was that she was foolishly thin, as women tend to be in these times, and all the bones of her ribs showed through her milky skin, and that her breasts were almost freakishly small, with tiny, delicate, pink nipples, and her hips weren’t there. She was like a wraith. [laughs] And yet she sat there smiling, as if this was normal, and all her pretty wavy hair hanging down her back, and hiding the small shadow of her pubis beneath one limp hand.”

Courtney: “Well, it was perfectly obvious which marvelous human experience was meant to come now. But I could feel nothing for her. Nothing. I smiled, and I began to take off my clothes. I peeled off the overcoat, and was immediately cold. Why wasn’t she cold? I then took off the sweater and was immediately horrified by the smell of my own sweat. Lord God, was it really like this before?” I mean. [laughs] I mean!

Courtney: “I bent my head and kissed her throat. Yes, this was nice also. It was nothing as exciting as closing on a victim, but it was nice. I tried to remember what it had been like two hundred years ago when I was the terror of the village girls. Seems some farmer was always at the castle gates, cursing me and swinging his fist at me and telling me that if his daughter was with child by me, I’d have to do something about it! It had all seemed such wonderful fun at the time. And the girls, oh the lovely girls.”

Courtney: “‘What is it?’ she asked. ‘Nothing,’ I said, kissing her throat again. I could smell sweat on her body too. I didn’t like it. [laughs] The sweat from her neck was now on my lips. I knew it was, I could taste it. And I wanted to be away from her. Ah, but this is madness. She was a human being, and I was a human being. Thank God this would all be over on Friday.”

Courtney: “Suddenly her hand touched my organ, startling me, and then bringing about an immediate excitement. ‘Whoa!’ she whispered. ‘Now that’s a piece of equipment!’” Do allos really talk like that? Is that a real way people talk?

Royce: I’m sure some do.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: That’s not one I’ve heard before. “Equipment” is an odd word choice.

Courtney: [laughs] That’s what I thought too. “‘Is it?’ I looked down. The monstrous thing had doubled in size. It did seem grossly out of proportion to everything else. She opened her mouth for my tongue. This was good, even if her mouth was bad tasting. Didn’t matter. But then my mind raced ahead to blood. Drink her blood.” [laughs]

Royce: Old habits.

Courtney: “Where was the pounding intensity of drawing near the victim, of the moment right before my teeth pierced the skin and the blood spilled all over my tongue? No, it’s not going to be that easy, or that consuming. It’s going to be between the legs and more like a shiver. Merely thinking about the blood had heightened the passion, and I shoved her roughly down on the bed.”

Courtney: And then, he rapes her, because she says, “No, not without a condom.” And he’s like, “What are you talking about?” and holds her down and forces himself on her.

Royce: Oh.

Courtney: Yeah. But the very first thing he does is have sex, because he’s just so horny. Yeah. Even though this whole time he’s like, “Oh, I hate everything about this. I don’t like her. I don’t like these feelings. I don’t feel this passion. I’m thinking about 200 years ago, when I used to have sex with people, and I don’t remember it. Was it actually like this?” But then, upon thinking about blood and killing a victim, closing in on a victim, he once again becomes a predator. And I will never say that that comes from sexual attraction. Like, sexual violence is violence. It is about domination. It is about violence. It is not because someone was just so horny that they could not control themselves. So, that’s where I’m going to stand on that.

Courtney: So, once he’s done and she’s like, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Get out of my house now before I call the cops,” he says, “I realized it was utterly inconceivable to her that I could have enjoyed the struggle, enjoyed her rage and her protests, enjoyed conquering her. But in a paltry and common way, I think I had. The whole thing seemed overwhelmingly dismal. It filled me with despair. The pleasure itself had been nothing! ‘I can’t bear this,’ I thought, ‘not a moment longer.’ If I could have reached James, I would have offered him another fortune, just to return at once.”

Courtney: So he says, “The pleasure itself had been nothing” – I think that’s the sexual pleasure. And he’s like, “I think I enjoyed raping her, having power over her, but the actual sexual pleasure, it was nothing.”

Royce: Yeah, that’s what he was saying. The sensation.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: It was the thought, as you mentioned, of stalking and killing a person as a vampire was enjoyable. And, as a human, having power over someone was enjoyable, but the physical sensation was not.

Courtney: Yes. Yes. So, I vehemently reject, on multiple grounds, anybody who says he’s so horny as a vampire and wishes he could have sex so badly that that’s the first thing he does when he’s in a human body.

Royce: That has to just be… I struggle to see how someone who can actually read the text even gets that. It seems more like you read the book in a couple of days and then, five years later, that’s your faded memory —

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: — of the plot.

Courtney: And that very well could be, for books that are this old. [laughs] But yeah, he even goes on to continue, like, thinking to himself. And he’s like, “How fragile she looked — how sadly unbeautiful and repulsive. I tried to see her as if I were really Lestat. But I couldn’t do it. She appeared a common thing, utterly worthless, not even interesting. I was vaguely horrified. Had it been this way in my boyhood village? I tried to remember those girls, those girls dead and gone for centuries, and I couldn’t see their faces. What I remembered was happiness, mischief, a great exuberance that had made me forget for intermittent periods the deprivation and hopelessness of my life.”

Courtney: “What did that mean in this moment? How could this whole experience have been so unpleasant, so seemingly pointless? Had I been myself, I would have found her fascinating as an insect is fascinating; even her little rooms would have appeared quaint to me, in their worst, most uninspiring details! Ah, the affection I always felt for all sad little mortal habitats. But why was that so?”

Courtney: I do think it’s so interesting that he’s even, like, trying to remember what sex was like in his boyhood, and he just doesn’t remember. And he’s like, “Well, I thought I remembered it being fun and, you know, having mischief and having happiness.” But he also says that he was using it to forget the hopelessness of his life. So to me, that even still seems like it was probably just the same old self-destructive pattern. He probably didn’t actually have, you know, legitimate sexual desire — at least not for all of the people he was “bedding” in the… what do they say, 18th century? — but it was a way to forget his problems. And, in a way, swapping bodies is exactly that! That is exactly what he’s doing. He’s using it as a distraction from his greed for Claudia that has cropped up in full force again.

Royce: Which, that is not an uncommon phenomenon — for a person to chase really any kind of stimulation, whether it’s internal or external, hormonal or sensational or synthetic —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — to try to just feel something different in the moment.

Courtney: Mhm. “I couldn’t imagine what was going on in her mind. I knew only that I felt sorry for her, and I did not like her. I didn’t like this dirty, messy room with its low plaster ceiling, and the nasty bed, and the ugly tan carpet and the dim light and the cat box reeking in the other room.” So he’s like… He doesn’t like any of this. He does not like any of this, and especially this woman. He is saying he is not attracted to her.

Courtney: So he kind of says, like, “One day, I’ll make this up to you. I’m gonna bring you a present.” [laughing] And she’s like, “Get out now.” And he’s like, “No, I mean it. I’m gonna give you something nice someday, just wait.” And then he leaves. And I think he does do that. At the end, after he has finally regained his vampire body, he, like, brings her a really expensive something or another. But that’s, like, it. He does it out of obligation, not out of any sort of empathy for her.

Courtney: So then he goes back to the place he’s staying and he takes a hot shower. “With my head back against the tile, I might have actually fallen asleep standing up. But then I began to weep, and then just as spontaneously, to cough.” And then he goes to bed. He seems to be getting sick, or, as he says, “just a mortal cold.” And so his sleep is a little restless.

Courtney: But it says, “The next time I woke up, the dog was standing beside the bed, and he was licking my face. The light was awfully bright. Wonderfully bright. Thank God, a bright lamp in this murky world at last. I sat up for a moment. I was too dazed to rationally acknowledge what I saw. The sky in the tops of the windows was perfectly blue, vibrantly blue, and the sunlight was pouring in on the polished floor, and all the world appeared glorious in the brightness — the bare tree branches with their white trimming of snow, and the snow-covered roof opposite, and the room itself, full of whiteness and lustrous color. Light glancing off the mirror and the crystal glass on the dresser, off the brass knob on the bathroom door.”

Courtney: “‘Mon Dieu, look at it, Mojo,’ I whispered, throwing back the covers and rushing to the window and shoving it all the way up. The cold air hit me, but what did it matter? Look at the deep color of the sky. Look at the white clouds traveling to the west. Look at the rich and beautiful green of the tall pine tree in the neighborhood yard. Suddenly, I was weeping uncontrollably and coughing painfully once more. ‘This is the miracle,’ I whispered. The mortal aches and pains didn’t matter. This was the biblical promise which had gone unfulfilled for two hundred years.”

Courtney: So he’s like, “Yeah, sex isn’t that great, but that sun, though. This is the one good thing about being a mortal.”

Royce: Is being able to see daylight. Because it wasn’t just the Sun; it was also the sky and everything else illuminated by the sun.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Apparently, dark vision isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Courtney: [laughs] No. So, he goes out again into the snow, still not wearing proper snow attire, brings his dog with him. And he ends up getting real sick. Really, really sick.

Royce: Has he been consistently just walking outside in the cold without proper attire?

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah, pretty much. And this is more than just a cold. He actually ends up, like, having an ambulance called, and, like, he gets hospitalized, sick. So he gets put in the hospital and the hospital’s a little full — like, there are people on stretchers in the hallway kind of full. There is sort of a panic because there’s meningitis on the floor. So, things are not good in the hospital right now.

Courtney: And he’s being taken care of by a woman who he immediately kind of recognizes the signs of “This isn’t just a nurse; this is a nun. Because I used to be a good Christian boy, and I’ve been in a perpetual state of a religious crisis for the last 200 years [laughing] since becoming a vampire, so I know a nun when I see one.” She is Sister Gretchen. And even here, as he’s, like, literally on his deathbed and they’re, like, giving him an IV, he’s —

[doorbell rings]

Courtney: Ding dong! Okay.

Courtney: — even though he’s, like, dying, he’s like, “Lord God, I had to piss. Was there no end to these revolting physical necessities? What in the hell was mortality? Shitting, pissing, eating, and then the same cycle all over again. Is this worth the vision of the sunshine? It wasn’t enough to be dying. I had to piss!” [laughing] So, he’s quite belligerent.

Courtney: Not convinced the sunshine was worth it. But because he now sort of has an understanding that he could die in this mortal body, in this hospital, he sort of has a mortal panic where he’s like, “I can’t just die here without anyone knowing where I am or who I am or what I’ve been doing.” Because, you know, David doesn’t know where he is; Louis doesn’t know where he is. But he has Sister Gretchen here. So he starts, like, spilling his entire life story to her as he’s sitting by his bed. And he even says, “Was this human to want her understanding? This desperate fear that I would die in her arms and no one would ever know who I’d been or what had taken place?”

Courtney: And this whole bit: also very weird. [laughs] Because, like you said, like, hmm, I’m kind of surprised that in the current state he’s in, he was, you know, able to get free food and get laid so quickly.

Royce: And if he starts going on an elaborate tale about being a two, three-hundred-year-old vampire in a hospital, people are just going to think he’s delusional at the end stage of life.

Courtney: Yes. And he’s like, “Oh, you probably don’t believe any of this.” But she’s like, “No, I do believe you.” Very nice, but can you believe it? “I watched her eyes move over my body, and then I saw the flush in her cheeks, and the way she looked at me, overcome with shame and confusion. How curiously innocent she was. I smiled to myself, but I feared she would be hurt by her own carnal feelings. What a cruel joke on both of us that she found this body enticing. But there was no doubt that she did. And it stirred my blood, my human blood, even in my fever and exhaustion. Ah, this body was always struggling for something.”

Royce: A nun this time?

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: Sister Gretchen, who’s taking care of him in the hospital when he might be dying.

Royce: Okay, Anne Rice.

Courtney: [laughs] “She was very careful in drying my hair and gentle as she dried my face. No one had touched me in this manner in a very long time. I told her I loved her for the sheer kindness of it. ‘I hate this body so much. It’s hell to be in.’ ‘It’s that bad,’ she asked ‘to be human?’” And they have a conversation about what it is to be human and what he misses about his vampire body. And she’s just very much entertaining him this whole time.

Courtney: And so he does start to develop — between spilling his entire life story, and having her react with such empathy, and for, you know, bathing him and washing his hair and taking care of him in the hospital, he does develop a sort of fondness. And he says, “‘Whatever happened, I would not leave her,’ I thought, ’until I knew what I could do to repay her. Also, I liked her. I liked the darkness inside her, the concealed quality of her, and the simplicity of her speech and movements, the candor in her eyes.”

Courtney: So I’ll be curious to see how you take this. Because it could either be seen as he is just going to have sex with her in order to repay her for this, because he resolved to not leave until he knew what he could do to repay her. Or if there could be kind of a… almost a Demi reading to this, because he had sex with someone he did not like. Well, he didn’t have sex; he raped her. That was violence. But he did not have any sort of sexual attraction to her, and he said as much. He found her revolting, and he didn’t like her. But he takes time, gets to know someone, and then they have, I guess, a consensual relationship. So we can’t really compare it better to worse, because they are not the same thing.

Courtney: But he starts getting better. And because there’s meningitis on the floor and because the hospital’s all filled up, she decides — and I don’t know how anyone allows this to happen — to sneak him out of the hospital. She’s just going to take him back to her house, and she’s just going to take care of him there. [laughs] So she breaks him out. And he’s doing a little better. She says, “You’re going to live now. We got you stable enough.” And they have — like I said, a lot of these books are just prolonged conversations. So they have a lot of conversations about his life and why he does the things he does.

Courtney: “‘Why did you change bodies with a mortal man?’ she asked. ‘To walk in the sun again for one day. To think and feel and breathe like a mortal. Maybe to test a belief.’ ‘What was the belief?’ ‘That being mortal again was all we all wanted, that we were sorry that we’d given it up, that immortality wasn’t worth the loss of our human souls. But I know now I was wrong. I’d much rather be a vampire,’ I said. ‘I don’t like being mortal. I don’t like being weak, or sick, or fragile, or feeling pain. It’s perfectly awful. I want my body back as soon as I can get it from the thief.’”

Courtney: “She seemed mildly shocked by this. ‘Even though you kill when you are in your other body, even though you drink human blood, and you hate it and you hate yourself?’ ‘I don’t hate it. And I don’t hate myself. Don’t you see? That’s the contradiction. I’ve never hated myself.’ ‘You told me you were evil. You said when I helped you, I was helping the devil. You wouldn’t say those things if you didn’t hate it.’”

Courtney: “‘My greatest sin has always been that I have a wonderful time being myself. My guilt is always there; my mortal abhorrence for myself is always there; but I have a good time. I’m strong; I’m a creature of great will and passion. You see, that’s the core of the dilemma for me — how can I enjoy being a vampire so much, how can I enjoy it if it’s evil? Ah, it’s an old story. Men work it out when they go to war. They tell themselves there is a cause. Then they experience the thrill of killing, as if they were merely beasts. And beasts do know it, they really do. The wolves know it. They know the sheer thrill of tearing to pieces the prey. I know it.’”

Courtney: So this is kind of the first time we actually hear Lestat say why he swapped bodies in this book, because they’ve always kind of had the, like, “We would all be mortals again if we could! We wouldn’t be changed if we had the choice!” just sort of perpetual vampire angst. But with Raglan James being like, “You could eat food! You could drink wine! You could have sex with people!” and Lestat’s just kind of like, “I hate this guy, [laughing] but I’m probably gonna do it.”

Courtney: So, now we know, he did not say here, even once, nothing about sex. Just to walk in the daylight and to test a theory were the main things. And he’s like, “But I was wrong, and it’s not worth it.” [laughs] And she says she took a leave of absence from being a nun, and says, “Do you know why I did that?” And he says, “No; tell me.”

Courtney: “‘I wanted to know a man. The warmth of being close to a man. Just once, I wanted to know it. I’m forty years old, and I’ve never known a man. You spoke of moral abhorrence. You used those words. I had an abhorrence for my virginity — of the sheer perfection of my chastity. It seemed, no matter what one believed, to be a cowardly thing.’ ‘I understand,’ I said. ‘Surely, to do good in the mission has nothing to do, finally, with chastity.’”

Courtney: “‘No, they are connected,’ she said. ‘But only because hard work is possible when one is single-minded, and married to no one but Christ.’ I confessed I knew what she meant. ‘But if the self-denial becomes an obstacle to work,’ I said, ‘then it’s better to know the love of a man, isn’t it?’ ‘That is what I thought,’ she said. ‘Yes. Know this experience, and then return to God’s work.’”

Courtney: So then they fall asleep in each other’s arms. They don’t have sex yet, but there’s a, like, “Oh, come, lie beside me.”

Courtney: “I closed my eyes. I felt her climbing beneath the covers, the warm pressure of her body beside me, the arm slipping across my chest. ‘You know,’ I said, ‘this is almost good, this aspect of being human.’ I was half asleep when I heard her whisper: ‘I think there’s a reason you took your leave of absence,’ she said. ‘You may not know it. There is a secret reason you came down to earth,’ she said, ‘that you came into the body of a man. Same reason that Christ did it.’ ‘And that is?’ ‘Redemption,’ she said. Ah, yes, to be saved. Now wouldn’t that be lovely? To be saved. What a thought. What a lovely, extravagant, and impossible thought… How nice to have found the one mortal woman in all the world who would seriously think of such a thing. And Claudia wasn’t laughing anymore. Because Claudia was dead.”

[Royce laughs]

Courtney: I should state that while he was in his fevered frenzy, there was a fading in and out of, like, doctors rushing around trying to save him and a vision of Claudia just, like, mocking him openly.

Royce: Oh, okay.

Courtney: She was also… Yeah, she was, like, laughing at him, and as he’s starting to, like, spill his guts out to Sister Gretchen, she’s just like, “You’re gonna hurt her. You’re gonna hurt her like you hurt everyone else in your life.” [laughing]

Courtney: So then, early, early the next morning — and this is, of course, if I didn’t say it outright earlier, long after he was supposed to have had his body returned. Like, Raglan James did not come back to return the body when they agreed, so he went out on his own and was like, “Well, crap,” and then he almost died, so.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: So he now knows he has been duped. No one saw that coming! [laughs] But early in the morning, he wakes up with Sister Gretchen, and he decides, “Well, she wants to have sex with a man, so I’m gonna go find one of those condoms that that other horrible woman was griping about.” [laughs] It’s so awful. He is such an awful character.

Courtney: And here are the relevant quotes. I’m not going to read the full, actual sexy and romantic novel aspect of this, because I don’t want to. [laughing] You can read it yourself if you want to! But he does come back and says, “I wanted to feel the flesh of her throat. Not for killing, but for kissing; not for possession, but for the brief physical union that will take nothing from either one of us; yet bring us together in a pleasure so acute it is like pain. The passion in me…”

Courtney: And then they start, you know, getting kind of, uh, romance novel-y. There’s a sex scene. There are words I would never say aloud, or phrases at least. [laughs] And in the middle of it, he just says, “The passion in me ebbed slightly, only to grow hot again instantly, and then to die down again, waiting, and then to rise once more.” And I don’t know what that’s about. Is that a normal thing, or is that just a Lestat thing?

Royce: I just read around that passage and don’t have a clear explanation for what that was mentioning.

Courtney: I don’t. I don’t either. That was just a weird one, but I wanted to ask if anyone else had any thoughts on that. But he even says shortly thereafter, “How sorry and sad that this union would be so partial, so brief.” Which could be read one of two ways. You could read that as, like, “I wish this is something that would last longer,” or it could be like, based on previous things that he said about the pleasure being nothing, it could be more like…

Royce: “Poor humans”?

Courtney: Yeah, “Poor humans.” [laughs] Like, “If this is as good as it gets for them, like, there’s not a whole lot to it, is there?”

Courtney: And he ruminates more on it. He does seem more into her than the previous woman. He actually has some sort of, like, mental and emotional connection with her now. “When the final moan came out of her, it was like the moan of pain. And there it was again, the mystery — that something could be so perfectly finished, and complete, and have lasted such a little while. Such a precious little while. Had it been union? Were we one with each other in this clamorous silence? I don’t think that it was union. On the contrary, it seemed the most violent of separations: two contrary beings flung at each other in heat and clumsiness, in trust and in menace, the feelings of each unknowable and unfathomable to the other — its sweetness terrible as its brevity; its loneliness hurtful as its [laughing] undeniable fire. And never had she looked so frail to me as she did now, her eyes closed, her head turned into the pillow, her breasts no longer heaving but very still. It seemed an image to provoke violence — to beckon to the most wanton cruelty in a male heart.”

Courtney: And that’s, like, how that sex scene goes. I still fail to see the reading of, like, he wants to have sex so bad.

Royce: And because I don’t think it exists. On the question of some nature of Demi, I don’t know. I see why you went there, because we’re shown two scenes.

Courtney: It’s not much of a sample size, is it?

Royce: It isn’t much of a sample size. And it’s also…

Courtney: There’s also an argument to be made that he didn’t even have this sexual attraction here either and that it was more of a favor to her, since he outright said that he didn’t want to leave her until he could repay her. And she said, “Well, I want to have sex with a man.” [laughs]

Royce: Okay, yeah, I see that too. I’m trying to think through just the notion of a much more long-lived being with other experiences having time in a new body and wondering what to do with them. Like, how much of this is still just curiosity?

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But at least here, there’s an actual attempt at some amount of connection, some amount of whatever you want to call this relationship, whereas in the prior example there was not.

Courtney: This relationship is still, like, several layers of fucked up, even though this is the healthiest sex scene we have seen in literally all of the vampire novels up to this point. [laughs] It’s still several layers of fucked up, isn’t it? [laughs]

Royce: The fact that the nun said, “Now that you’ve come to earth,” and compared prior vampire Lestat to Christ.

Courtney: And took him out of the hospital after saving his life, and taking him to her home because he’s still not strong enough to leave on his own. [laughs]

Royce: I forgot about all of the medical stuff, yeah.

Courtney: [laughs] It’s very weird! But he does end up loving her in some romantic way, in some way that is more akin to, like, what he had with Louis and arguably is also having with David Talbot. But I suppose the reason why Demi was on my head was more because I’d want to know what we would actually want to see in literature or in representation if someone weren’t to use the word. Because when I made the tweet about Anne Rice’s vampires being Asexual and that they changed that in the AMC series, there were a couple of different people who said, “On the contrary, Louis is demisexual in the AMC series.” And I don’t see that at all.

Royce: We talked about this when you got this response, and I don’t remember the small pieces of the TV series well enough. I know that you rewatched some of it before we did that episode, but I was under the impression that the TV series depicted Louis as having been a closeted gay man.

Courtney: Well, they say that outright. And he says “homosexual.”

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: “Closeted homosexual.” He has come to embrace his homosexuality now, in the modern day, when he’s giving this new interview. But some folks are saying that he seems disinterested in sex if it’s not with Lestat. And I also didn’t see that because he did have a fling with that soldier boy who was going off to war.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: And it was also heavily implied, if not outright stated, that he had had an affair with that boy before meeting Lestat also.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: So I did not see that at all. And some people were saying that Louis did not have sex with anyone before Lestat, and I didn’t think that that was true because the quote from the series was, “I did not consider myself a homosexual man at the time. I had had experiences, guilt, shame, floating on a sea of vodka type encounters.” And he said that after the scene with the guy that was going off to war.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: When it flashed back to modern. And so it was like, uh… I think it was more that Louis is monogamous and Lestat is not.

Royce: Mhm.

Courtney: That was how I read that. Because… yeah, I don’t know. It’s also still just, like… It was so firm and true and real and confirmed over and over again that they did not have sex in the books that I think adding sex, even if you could reliably headcanon one of them as Demisexual, I still think you paved over a tremendous opportunity for Asexual representation, for a sexless relationship, for all of these things. And I’m not going to give them credit for that! [laughs] Like, I will not give them credit for that. I will not.

Royce: Yeah. I think the way that I phrased it in the TV show episode we did is, “They took a more broadly queer series and made it a gay series.”

Courtney: Yes. Gay and, well, Bisexual, in the case of Lestat.

Royce: Right. Okay. But yeah.

Courtney: Which, I think Lestat was Bisexual in life, and I think that’s something that Anne Rice had even stated herself.

Royce: Right. And that is depicted to some extent, even though the show itself focuses more heavily on the two primary characters in a gay relationship.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Because Lestat is involved with a variety of other people. But going back to quotes from Anne Rice, the vampires did not have sexual desire, and also did not have gender in the same way that humans did.

Courtney: That’s true, and we haven’t even really touched on that much yet, but I’m sure in a future episode, we will, when we get into all of Anne Rice’s quotes.

Royce: Yeah. The gender thing was something that Anne Rice explicitly stated. Which is interesting, because I don’t know where this was coming from from Anne Rice — how much of this was exploring something for her personally, or if it was just more of a social thought experiment kind of a thing. Because, let’s see, Interview with the Vampire came out in the ’70s, and some of Ursula Le Guin’s books, which also played with gender identity or the thought of a gender neutral society or culture, also were being explored around those same times.

Courtney: Mhm. Which is really, really interesting too, because another argument I got with this recent Tweet was, “Well, we have to also remember that Anne Rice was writing mainstream fiction in the ’70s and ’80s when it wasn’t as okay to depict a gay sexual relationship.” And I was like, “Uh…” Anne Rice had no idea that her books were going to get as big as they were. It was incredibly niche genre fiction. She was not intentionally writing for the masses, nor did anyone — herself or in publishing — have any reason to believe that her books were going to get as big as they did. And again, she doesn’t actually shy away from sex scenes if she wants to write a sex scene. She doesn’t. When was her first, like, Anne Rampling book?

Royce: The erotic novels. The first three were written in ’83, ’4, and ’5.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: One book a year. And then there was one more written well after the fact, in 2015.

Courtney: So, yeah, those were originally published as Anne Rampling, but once she got far enough in her career, it was like, “You know what? No. This is Anne Rice. These are all Anne Rice.” “Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling,” [laughing] I’ve literally seen covers of some of the newer prints of those books. But yeah, no.

Courtney: Plus that — with her actual quote, from at least as recent as 2012, saying, “My vampires do not have sex with each other or with humans.” It’s like, that’s just how they are! That’s just the lore! It’s not a situation where you can look back on history and say, like, “Well, maybe she would have done this.” Because she was already pushing envelopes in a variety of ways for the time. [laughs]

Royce: I’m glad you found that quote because that is an explicit rejection of that excuse — the time period excuse.

Courtney: Mhm, yeah.

Courtney: So Lestat eventually leaves Sister Gretchen, and he tries to go find Louis, who almost immediately executes him on the spot [laughs] because this is an unfamiliar human that walks into his lair. While his neck is getting crushed, he manages to say, like, [groaning] “Lestat.” [laughs] And he’s like, “Hey, Louis, turn me into a vampire right now, because we gotta go get my body back, and we gotta go do this.” And Louis’s like, “No. Absolutely not. You have a gift! You can be human again!” He’s like, “No, I hate being human! It’s terrible.” And he’s like, “This is all all of us want, is to be human again, and you’ve got it. So go live your life! Go back to your nun woman and live happily with her.” [laughs]

Courtney: And then Lestat’s like, “Curses. Fine. I’m going to go to David Talbot for help.” And they use stories of murders and break-ins to try to, like, make a trail for where Raglan James has been since taking his body, and they try to figure out where he is and where he’s going so that they can find him.

Courtney: And now David Talbot — a guy that he has already had, you know, a relationship with for some time, at least some form of a relationship — really likes this guy. Now that he’s human, they do go. And he’s like, “Well, here, let’s get dressed to go do this thing,” and hands him, like, a tie. And he doesn’t really know how to tie it. So David’s like, “Oh, here, let me help you with that.”

Courtney: “Once again, he had that shy look about him as he drew close to me. I realized that he was powerfully drawn to this body. In the old one, I had amazed him; but this body truly ignited his passion. And as I studied him closely, as I felt the busy work of his fingers on the knot of the tie — that keen little pressure — I realized that I was powerfully attracted to him.” This is the first time he says he’s powerfully attracted to anybody, and it is the guy he has had an established relationship with for some time. So that’s even more so along the lines of possibly Demi in the human body than with Sister Gretchen.

Courtney: “I thought of all the times I’d wanted to take him, enfold him in my arms, and sink my teeth slowly and tenderly into his neck, and drink his blood. Ah, now I might have him in a sense without having him — in a mere human tangling with his limbs, in whatever combination of intimate gestures and delectable little embraces he might like. And I might like. The idea paralyzed me. It sent a soft chill over the surface of my human skin. I felt connected to him, connected as I had been to the sad unfortunate young woman whom I’d raped, to the wandering tourists of the snow-covered capital city, my brothers and sisters — connected as I had been to my beloved Gretchen.”

Courtney: “Indeed, so strong was this awareness — of being human and being with a human — that I feared it suddenly in all its beauty. And I saw that the fear was part of the beauty. Ah, yes, I was mortal now as was he. I flexed my fingers and slowly straightened my back, letting the chill become a deep erotic sensation.”

Courtney: But David Talbot’s actually not having any of it. [laughs] “I reached out and clamped my weak, mortal hand on his shoulder, drew him to me, and kissed him softly on the side of his face. Once again, he backed away. ‘Stop all this nonsense,’ he said, [laughing] as if reproving a child. I was again filled with a crashing and black despair. The delicious and frustrating erotic impulse was threatened.”

Courtney: And Lestat even says, “‘You’re very anxious to be out of these rooms, aren’t you? Why don’t we simply get into bed together? I don’t understand.’ ‘You’re serious?’ I shrugged. ‘Of course. Serious!’ I was beginning to be obsessed with this simple little possibility. Making love before anything else happened seemed like a perfectly marvelous idea! ‘You’ve been with a woman, haven’t you?’ ‘I wish you wouldn’t read my mind. It’s rude. Besides, what does that matter to you?’ ‘A woman you loved?’ ‘I have always loved both men and women.’ ‘That’s a slightly different use of the word “love.” Listen, we simply can’t do this now. So behave yourself.’” [laughs]

Courtney: And then they just drop it. They don’t — they don’t end up having sex. But again, that’s the only time he actually has attraction, because there was no sense of attraction in either of the other cases. So, I don’t know. I thought that was interesting. I thought that was a nuanced detail that nobody ever mentions when they’re throwing out Lestat having sex as a human in the talking points for why the vampires can’t be Asexual.

Courtney: So a series of shenanigans happen. They do manage to track down Raglan James, and they do sort of practice launching, like, mental assaults to try to steal the body back, and David Talbot kind of trains Lestat on how to do that. And they decide to do it basically, like, right at sunrise, so that the one who’s, you know, less used to being a vampire will be sort of caught unawares. And so they do that, and Lestat gets his body back. But then he hears a gun go off — a gun that David brought. And then it’s, like, sleep time for vampires, so he just, like, falls asleep.

Royce: You brushed over something that I’m curious about. How does Lestat get his body back?

Courtney: Uh… mental psychic assault.

Royce: What does that do?

Courtney: I don’t know. [laughs]

Royce: Do the two bodies need to be physically in the same location? Do they track down…?

Courtney: They do. They do go to the same location. So they track him down. He’s actually, like, on a cruise ship.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: But they find him. And, yeah, it’s like, you have to train yourself how to go out of your body and impress yourself upon the body you’re trying to take, in a way. And, like, when they did the initial switch, they did that, like, willingly. Like, they both sat there and were like, “Okay, this is what we’re gonna do.”

Royce: So, in this case, Lestat, in this human body that was just taken — which, where is that consciousness now? Where is that person?

Courtney: [laughs] I think that person was… I think Raglan found him in a hospital bed, actually, I think?

Royce: No, where is his consciousness right now? Or is it just gone?

Courtney: It might just be floating around. I think this was someone who was in a hospital — like, maybe the consciousness had already left the body, maybe it was like a comatose kind of a situation.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: But Raglan has very little empathy for the people whose bodies he’s stealing, so.

Royce: So there are three bodies here. There’s the body that Lestat is currently inhabiting —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — which was stolen.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Raglan is currently in Lestat’s body.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And Raglan’s old body was just left.

Courtney: Oh yeah, that’s gone.

Royce: That body is just —

Courtney: That’s long gone. He’s been, like, cycling through bodies. [laughs]

Royce: Okay. But then Lestat in the stolen body basically astral projects.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Like, removes spirit from body and essentially possesses his original body and forces Raglan out.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Kay.

Courtney: And David Talbot is also there with a gun.

Royce: Does Raglan’s go into the human body that Lestat used to have, or does it just leave and go elsewhere?

Courtney: Well, I’m so glad you asked. Because Lestat goes to bed and wakes up and everybody else is gone. And he’s asking other people on the cruise ship — like security on the cruise ship — like, “Oh, what’s going on? Where is everyone?” And it’s like, “Oh, they got escorted off of the ship.” And he’s like, “Okay, great. Well, I’ll just go find David someday when I can,” thinking nothing weird about anything, and goes to find David and is like, “Oh, why did your gun go off? Why did you shoot?” and tells a horrible, silly little story and somehow doesn’t realize that Raglan James stole David Talbot’s body during that whole thing. So, he stole David Talbot’s body. David Talbot went into the body that Lestat had. And then now, Raglan James has the body with the gun. So he tries to shoot the body that now David Talbot is in. But he missed, so David Talbot is still out there in the, you know, [laughing] young, tall, dark and handsome body that Lestat has had this whole time.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: So, yeah, that was a whole thing. And so now that he’s a vampire, he’s like. “I should give an expensive gift to the girl I raped, but I should also go back to Sister Gretchen, because I told her I would come back to her. And she said that she believed me.” And that was the thing too. That whole time, she was like, “Oh no, no, I believe you. I believe everything you’re saying.” It’s like, either she’s lying — in which case, again, here is a hospital patient who is telling her a fantastical story that she can’t possibly believe is true, and she’s like, “I’m gonna have sex with him” — or she does believe it and she’s like, “Yeah, I’ll have sex with a vampire murderer who is now in a human body. That’s perfectly normal.”

Royce: The way some of the passages you read of her seemed, it seemed religious in nature.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Like, she believed “vampire” was the word for, you know, some holy being come to earth.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. So he goes to see Sister Gretchen as himself. And she goes into an absolute panic. She’s like, “Get away from me, demon!” She’s in a hospital. There are children in this hospital. So he’s also, like, having flashbacks to Claudia being in the children’s hospital when they first, you know, took her.

Courtney: And he’s like, “No, no, no, it’s me! I’m not gonna hurt you. It’s Lestat!” And she has a full-on meltdown, and she’s like, “Don’t hurt me. Get away from the children. Don’t you hurt the children!” And he’s like, “Oh, but it’s me! I lay with you, and now I am here!” And she’s like, “Liar! Liar! Get away from me! Get away from the kids! Get out of here,” and, you know, like, clutching a cross, like, utter panic. And so he’s like, “Well, damn. Guess I gotta go.” But then he starts seeing Claudia again, and she’s like, “I told you you would hurt her.”

Courtney: “I turned back and looked down the shadowy length of the ward. ‘You’re not there. I’m done with you,’ I whispered. The light of the candle showed her clearly now, even though she remained at the far end of the room. She was swinging her white-stockinged legs still, heel of her back slipper striking leg of the chair. ‘Go away,’ I said gently as I could. ‘It’s over.’ The tears were running down my face, blood tears. Had Gretchen seen them? ‘Go away,’ I said again. ‘I’m finished. And I’m going too.’ It seemed she smiled, but she did not smile. Her face became the picture of all innocence, the face of the dream locket. And in the stillness, as I stood, transfixed, looking at her, the entire image remained but ceased altogether to move. Then it dissolved. I saw only an empty chair.”

Courtney: And the thing is, like, the whole time — because Lestat, even at the end of the last book, was like, “Hey, David, if you want to be a vampire, just give me a call. Maybe I’ll consider it if you ask nicely.” And even in the beginning of this book and throughout, it’s like, “I could just make you a vampire.” And David Talbot’s like, “No. I don’t want to be a vampire.”

Courtney: And so Raglan James in David Talbot’s body goes to Lestat, and it takes him entirely way too long to realize that it’s not actually David Talbot. Because he’s like, “Hey, Lestat, you should turn me into a vampire.” And Lestat’s like, “Really? Can I? Goody! [laughs] Okay, let’s do this!” And like, obviously, I as the reader, reading this, I’m like, “That is so clearly Raglan James. What are you doing?” And he doesn’t realize this until he starts draining the body of blood. Then, he starts getting, like, —

Royce: The memories.

Courtney: — the memories and realizes this, and then gets mad that he was tricked, and then just, like, crushes the body and kills it right there. So, he has killed the body of David Talbot. And he knows, or suspects, that David Talbot is now in the younger body elsewhere. So then he goes to find that.

Courtney: And then, when Lestat does find him, he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to turn you into a vampire.” And David Talbot’s like, “No, you’re not going to do that.” He’s like, “I’m young again. I’m just going to live in this body, in this life. This is fine.” He’s like, “No, I’m going to turn you into a vampire.” He’s like, “You wouldn’t do it. I helped you get your body back. I trained you how to get your body back from Raglan James. What about your pledge of loyalty to me?”

Courtney: And Lestat says, “‘I lied to you, David. I lied to myself and to others. That’s what my little excursion in the flesh taught me. I lie. You surprise me, David. You’re angry, so very angry, but you’re not afraid. You’re like me, David. You and Claudia, the only ones who really have my strength.’ ‘Claudia,’ he said with a little nod. ‘Ah yes, Claudia. I have something for you, my dear friend.’ He moved away deliberately, turning his back on me, letting me see the fearlessness of the gesture. And he went slowly, refusing to hurry, to a chest beside the bed. When he turned around again, he had the small locket in his hands. ‘From the motherhouse, the locket you described to me.’ ‘Ah, yes, the locket. Give it to me.’ Only now did I see how his hands shook as he struggled with the little glass oval case —” Nope, “little oval gold case.” Don’t know where I got “glass” from.

Courtney: “And the fingers — he did not know them so very well, did he? At last, he had it opened and he thrust it at me. And I looked down at the painted miniature: her face, her eyes, her golden curls, a child staring back at me out of the mask of innocence. Or was this a mask? And slowly out of the vast, dim vortex of memory, came the moment when I had first laid eyes upon that trinket and upon its golden chain, when, in the dark, muddy street, I had happened upon the plague-ridden hovel where her mother lay dead and the mortal child herself had become food for the vampire. A tiny white body shivering helplessly in Louis’ arms. How I’d laughed at him. How I’d pointed my finger and then snatched up from the stinking bed the body of the dead woman, Claudia’s mother, and danced with it round and round the room. And there, gleaming on her throat, had been the golden chain of the locket. For not even the boldest thief would have entered the hovel to steal a bobble from the very maw of the plague. With my left hand, I’d caught it, just as I let the poor baby drop. The clasp had broken and I’d swung the chain over my head as if waving a little trophy of the moment, and then dropped it in my pocket as I stepped over the body of the dying Claudia and ran after Louis through the street.”

Courtney: “It had been months after that I’d found it in the same pocket and I’d held it to the light. The living child she’d been when the portrait was painted, but the dark blood was given her the very saccharine perfection of the artist. It was my Claudia, and in a trunk I’d left it. And how it came to be with the Talamasca or anywhere, I did not know. I held it in my hands. I looked up. It was as though I’d just been there, back in the ruined place, and now I was here and staring at him. He’d been speaking to me and I hadn’t heard him. And now his voice came clear. ‘You would do it to me?’ he demanded, the timbre betraying him now, as his trembling hands betrayed him. ‘Look at her. You would do it to me?’ I looked at her tiny face and back at him. ‘Yes, David,’ I said. ‘I told her I would do it again, and I will do it to you.’ I pitched the locket out of the room over the porch, past the sand, and into the sea. The tiny chain was like a scratch of gold on the fabric of the sky for an instant. And it disappeared, as if into the luminous light.”

Courtney: And then he turns him into a vampire, and he’s real not happy about that. And as his body is dying and it’s sort of expelling all of its bodily secretions, he goes and sort of wades into the water of the sea and ends up grabbing the locket back while he’s there. But he definitely confronts him, and he’s like, “Why did you do it?” And Lestat says, “I don’t know.” And David says, “You miserable, lying bastard. You did it from cruelty and meanness. You did it because your little experiment with the body thief went wrong, and out of it came this miracle to me, this rebirth, and it infuriated you that such a thing could happen, that I should profit when you had suffered so.’ ‘Maybe that’s true.’ ‘It is true. Admit it. Admit the pettiness of it. Admit the meanness that you couldn’t bear to let me slip into the future with this body, which you hadn’t the courage to endure.’ ‘Perhaps so.”

Courtney: So, yeah, again, so many people that are like, “You know, sucking blood is a one-to-one comparison for having sex.” It’s like, I don’t think it is. I really don’t.

Courtney: But that is more or less the end of the book. David goes away in anger and frustration and goes to find Louis, and he and Louis just… something off-screen, start developing some kind of relationship. Probably they just bitch about Lestat. They’re probably like, [laughing] “Yeah, that guy’s such an asshole, right?” So they both appear to him again at some point, and they’re like, “Hey, you want to go to Rio?” And Lestat’s like, “What?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we want to go to Rio.” Out of nowhere.

Courtney: “I was about to follow him out of the room when something caught my eye. It was on Louis’ old desk. It was the locket of Claudia. The chain was coiled there, catching the light in its tiny gold links, and the oval case itself was open and propped against the inkwell, and the little face seemed to be peering directly at me. I reached down and picked up the locket and looked very closely at the little picture. And a sad realization came to me. She was no longer the real memories. She had become those fever dreams. A dark, secret smile stole over my lips as I looked at her, bitter and on the edge once more of tears.”

Courtney: “I wanted to say something to her as I held the locket. I wanted to say something to the being she had been and to my own weakness and to the greedy, wicked being in me who had once again triumphed. For I had. I had won. Yes, I wanted to say something so terribly much. And would that it were full of poetry and deep meaning and would ransom my greed and my evil and my lusty little heart. For I was going to Rio, wasn’t I? And with David and with Louis, and a new era was beginning. Yes, say something, for the love of heaven and for the love of Claudia, to darken it and show it for what it is. Dear God, to lance it and show the horror at its core. But I could not. What more is there to say, really? The tale is told.”

Courtney: And that is the very last passage of the book. Final thoughts?

Royce: No, I think I said everything in the moment.

Courtney: The tale is told.

Royce: The tale of the body thief.

Courtney: [laughing] The tale of the body thief has been told!

Royce: For as thoughtful and conniving as evil wizard character was, it was really dumb —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — to have Lestat himself turn him into a vampire. Like, obviously he’s going to know. You just had vampire mind reading abilities. Did he do anything with vampire body? Did he cause any destruction?

Courtney: Some little isolated incidents. Like, they were able to sort of track, like, some suspicious murders, some break-ins, and so they were kind of — he kind of left, like, a trail that the Talamasca or various news reports were able to pick up on. So… but nothing, like, huge-huge. He did try to steal all of Lestat’s money, but Lestat’s lawyer knows him well enough. It was actually kind of funny. Because it was like, he’s got a French lawyer, and Raglan James could apparently speak enough to get by, at least, and was like, “I need all of my money.” And the lawyer, when talking to Lestat later, was like, “It was strange. A guy was pretending to be you, and he kind of sounded like you, but I’ve worked with you for so long, and you use such antiquated French. [laughing] You use such weird words that nobody today uses, and he wasn’t using any of those. So I knew it wasn’t you, so I told him no.” [laughs]

Royce: But yeah, of course, he just dies instantly when attempting to become a vampire, because you tried to get the one person who would want to kill you to turn you into a vampire.

Courtney: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah. I don’t know why he thought that would work. [laughs] I think he was a little desperate.

Royce: I mean, narratively, it closes the loop on the story.

Courtney: True.

Royce: Now you don’t have this body switcher out there —

Courtney: True.

Royce: — now controlling the Talamasca.

Courtney: Mmm, correct, yes. But yeah, now, David Talbot is a vampire, but he’s in a completely different body. He and Louis and Lestat are going to Rio.

Royce: Why not?

Courtney: Why not? But yeah, I really think, like, the becoming a human was the secondary component of this book. The main story is Lestat’s grief —

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: — and being haunted by Claudia. And this locket with a portrait miniature and her hair that is plaguing his dreams is the device for telling that.

Royce: The book opens with self-destructive tendencies and closes with the locket. The body switching, becoming human, was a lesser part of the book, in the middle, between that.

Courtney: Yeah! And I mean, it’s called Tale of the Body Thief, so obviously that is the plot that is happening, but it’s a means of showing the self-destruction and the attempt to prove a point, the attempt to turn back time, the attempt to distract yourself from this unbearable grief. And even though there are sex scenes, I think a lot of people [laughing] misremember them over time. And I don’t think they are the purpose. They aren’t nearly as important as most people remember them as being in the grand scheme of the story that’s actually attempting to be told here, in my opinion.

Courtney: So, on that note, I guess catch us next time, for when we talk about, uh… Memnoch the Devil is the next one. Oh boy, that one. That one’s interesting. That one’s real interesting. And meanwhile, maybe we’re just not gonna Tweet so much about Anne Rice’s vampires, because people can have their opinions, but they should not be so mean with them. [laughs]

Courtney: And until then, please make sure to give us some ratings or reviews on your favorite podcast platform or, if you’re listening on YouTube, you already know all the things to do there. It would be oh so appreciated. And we will talk to you all next time. Goodbye!