No More F$#@!Ng Vampires

The rumors about Professor G.W. Stephens were as weird as they were eclectic. Some said that he had murdered his first wife and buried her in the middle of the quad and that on the anniversary of her death, would sit and toast on the exact spot with champagne. 

Others claimed that he was actually a deep-state, CIA operative sent to infiltrate and dispel anti-government sentiment through brainwashing. 

There was the one about him being a television writer who was chased out of Hollywood after sleeping with the wife of a studio executive, or the one where he showed up to pitch his first novel completely nude and signed a seven-figure book deal, or the one where he set a student’s car on fire by dousing it in kerosene, using their term paper as the match.

Suffice it to say, that Creative Writing 267 had the longest waitlist of any class on campus. The legend of Professor G.W. Stephens was such that everyone from chemical engineers to athletes wanted to see the man for themselves. 

As a result, who actually got into the class was the source of much debate and brought with it’s own set of rumors. Some believed that it was meticulously curated by Professor Stephens himself - that he would comb through transcript after transcript, reading through every assignment you had written since Junior High to measure your worthiness. Some believed that he picked names in some hyper-curated, machiavellian fashion to teach those selected a lesson by torturing them for a semester. 

Either way, when I first arrived at the nondescript doorway of a small, windowless room tucked into the basement corner of a random University administration building, I was disappointed. I don’t know what I was expecting but I suppose I figured that his rockstar status would afford him a more glamorous venue or at the very least, a window. 

The plainness of the room was assaulting. The fluorescent lights hummed from the ceiling as you entered, passing worn brown desks that looked as though they were donated from an elementary school. I recognized a 300lb linebacker from our football team struggle to wedge himself into the tiny desk. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, squeaking it along the white linoleum tile and muttering profanities to himself. I remember because that was at 11:59. At 12:01, the shifting stopped. 

The door flew open and the whole room gasped as Professor G.W. Stephens stormed in carrying a small leather briefcase in one hand and his tweed sportcoat in the other. I must admit, he looked nothing like what I had imagined. I assumed he would be a tall, burly man with cool aviator glasses, impossibly thick hair for his age, and arms covered in faded tattoos. I don’t know why, but apparently, I was waiting for The Fonz. Instead, he looked straight out of Central casting for “lonely accountant-type” or “grizzled academic with a disappearing hairline”. 

He placed his items on the desk at the front of the room and turned with a look of discontent, a thick silver mustache making his frown all the more prominent. He stood like a hawk – surveying his domain from a tree branch, occasionally swiveling his head to indicate that he was in fact real and alive. 

For five minutes he stood like this, saying nothing. Finally, he sighed and made his way behind the desk, placing his palms down in front of him. 

“Well, what are you waiting for?” he asked. 

We looked around at one another in utter confusion. Professor Stephens pounded a fist on his desk, eliciting yet another collective gasp. 

“Write.” he commanded. “Now.”

In a flurry, we all reached for pens, pencils, paper, napkins, whatever we could find and began scribbling down a fury of words. The sound of the humming lights and the occasional crinkle of paper was all that filled the room. Except for the giant linebacker who inevitably returned to making noise as he squirmed in his seat. 

“Is there a problem Mr. Simons?” Professor Stephens rose from behind his desk. All the scribbling stopped. 

“Uh-no, sir. It’s just this desk is a bit small.” 

“Are my desks not good enough for you Mr. Simons?” he folded his arms as he peppered the linebacker. 

“Uh-no, sir. It’s just that I’m pretty big and–”

“Were you expecting special treatment because you tackle other men for a living Mr. Simons?”

“What? No. Of course not. It’s just that these seats are uncomfortable.”

Prof. Stephens clapped his hands together. 

“Ahh I see,” he said as he slowly walked to the front of his desk. “My apologies, Mr. Simon. It’s a new term and it was unfair for me to expect a level of lateral thinking from the stirring bowl of mush that is your concussed brain.” 

The Linebacker looked stunned. Most of us were too shocked to even giggle. 

“Mr. Simon, do you know what your biggest mistake was?”

The Linebacker shook his head with wide eyes.

“You believe that writing is supposed to be comfortable. So let me spoil it for each and every one of you – if you are comfortable while creating then what you’re creating is about as useless as the pile of mush inside Mr. Simon’s head. Our work cannot begin until you’re ready to be uncomfortable. This room is no mistake. Don’t like it? Then there’s the door.”

The 300lb linebacker had been shrunken down by a wiry old man in a tweed jacket. He stopped his squirming and picked up his pen. We all followed suit. 

These silent scribbling sessions as I came to know them continued for the first 3 weeks of class. Like clockwork, Professor Stephens would burst through the door at 12:01, and say nothing for the full 75-minute block. When the time was up, he’d walk up and down the aisles and collect the papers from our hands before walking out of the door. That was it. 

Until one day he strutted through the door, went directly to the chalkboard and began writing furiously. We all leaned forward, trying to decipher his message: 


When he finished, he wiped the chalkdust onto his slacks and pointed to me.

“You there – the strangely pre-pubescent one, what does that say?”

“Uh- No More Fucking Vampires?”

“Right. Exactly. Goldstar for Wonderboy. Care to venture a guess as to its meaning?”

“That we suck at writing?”

Professor Stephens paused and blinked at me, the faintest whisper of a smile seemed to form.

“That might have been so unbelievably humorless that it was hilarious. However, Wonderboy’s failed attempts at comedy notwithstanding he is half right. Yes, your writing does suck. But it’s how and why it sucks that this phrase speaks to. When I say ‘no more fucking vampires’, I mean that literally - no more fucking vampires, or unicorns, or fetishized fantasy sci-fi swill. I swear, If I read one more half-baked Hobbit ripoff, I will stand with a megaphone and read it aloud on the quad word for word.”

We knew better than to think that Professor Stephens would make idle threats. Some averted their gaze, others bowed their heads in embarrassment.

“Aha! And there it is. Do you feel it?” Professor Stephens leaped in a fervor. “That feeling that some of you have right now - it’s raw, it’s human. It’s animalistic instinct manifesting in the form of something we call ‘embarrassment’ or ‘shame’ because someone just ripped away the shield that you created to protect yourself. It’s nothing to fear - on the contrary, it’s your greatest weapon. Use it!”

A hand shot up from a spunky girl in the front row with a yellow ponytail. 

“Yes, what is it Miss overly-eager-to-please?”

“Are you saying that all works of fantasy and sci-fi are trash?”

“No, I’m saying that it has to be earned. Do you know why Tolkien created Middle Earth? Because he survived six kinds of hell in the trenches at the Somme and needed a way to make sense of it all. His fantasy lies in truth, yours lies at the bottom of some sheltered suburban landfill.”

The spunky girl’s pursed lips began to quiver. Her eyes primed and watery. 

“Now, now, there’s no need for tears.”

Professor Stephens placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Also, a centaur and a unicorn can’t have a baby. C’mon. That’s just wrong.”

“You read my story?” she asked through sniffles and tears.

“I read everything,” he replied. 

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