Monday, May 30, 2011

No Fracking Way - Part 1. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 1 of a serial story.

A blue tarp is a terrible shroud. Not that she'd be buried in the tarp, but I knew her, and I wanted more dignity for her remains that this. I also wanted to get the hell out of there before the vampire that got Belinda got me.

With anxious fingers I wrapped chord around Belinda's tarped body and tied it down, the best that I could, in the bed of the truck. Something moved behind me, a dark shadow against the wind. The vampire was out there, watching.

I vaulted out of the truck bed and yanked open the driver's side door. I quickly slammed the door shut behind me and locked it. Purse...where's my purse? Crap. My hands hopped around the dark cab like frightened bunnies, desperate for shelter. I touched the water bottle in the cup holder, considered it, and rejected it to search for the purse. I felt the purse strap with my fingertips just as the vampire threw its weight against the passenger's side door. The truck rocked and trembled.

Forget the purse. Just get the truck started. I wrestled the keys from the pocket of my jeans, found the truck key by rote and started the truck. The vampire slammed against the driver's side door. I took the truck out of park and floored it.

A nice thing about driving in wide open spaces in a beat up truck is not having to concentrate on steering. I jammed one knee against the steering wheel, keeping the truck on a steady course. I pulled the purse into my lap and unzipped it, searching frantically. Ah-ha! I felt the chain!

I pulled the silver chain with the cross pendant out of my purse and slammed on the brakes of the truck. There was a great thud in the truck bed. I grimaced, not sure if I had heard the vampire or Belinda's corpse. I quickly clasped the chain around my neck and undid two buttons on my shirt, so that the cross showed against my skin. The blood mark of vampire House Inceput near my left shoulder tingled with loathing. I gritted my teeth against the paradox I created.

Trepidatious but determined, I turned my head and peered out the rear window. The vampire stood in the center of the truck bed. I saw it from the waist down, a dark silhouette against the blacker night. Craning my neck didn't help me see the face. I would have to get out of the truck.

The prudent thing to do was drive on.  I'm frequently disinclined to follow the prudent path.

I got out of the truck, being sure to take the keys and the water bottle with me. The instant my feet hit the ground the vampire sprang out of the truck bed and disappeared. I ran to the front of the truck and stood between the headlamps.

“I'm not going to chase you,” I shouted. “If you want to end this thing, you're going to have to face me here.”

A shadow moved into the slice of light from the headlamps. I still couldn't see the thing's face. If only I'd turned on the high beams. Still, it could be worse. I could see it, but with the lights shining in the vampire's direction it would have a hell of a time seeing me.

“What's the matter, face to ugly to share?” I taunted. I popped the lid off the water bottle and prepared to throw it.

The thing didn't move forward. It lifted an arm and pointed at me.

“S***,” I said. There was no flesh on that hand. The light reflected off white, smooth bones. I'd seen hands like those before, on Vildru sorcerers.

I threw the water bottle at the Vildru and ran back to the truck cab. I didn't know if holy water had any effect on sorcerers, but it was the only weapon I had. I gotta start carrying more guns, or...

“Flares!” I shouted. Vildru are vulnerable to fire. I wrenched open the door and and dug under the seat, where I knew Roger kept emergency supplies. Two flares and a fire extinguisher. I grabbed a flare, broke off the cap, and struck the rough topside against the exposed surface.

A bony hand cracked down on my shoulder. I whirled around and stabbed the lit flare into the Vildru's stomach. Instantly, the sorcerer burst into flame.

Embers flew off the burning and screaming sorcerer. A patch of grass nearby lit up. Dang it, that was all I needed – start a wildfire that burns down a thousand acres because I took it into my head to light up a Vildru. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and put out the grass. Hating the circumstances that forced me to do it, I put out the Vildru too. He collapsed on the ground and exuded shivers of steam.

I jumped into the truck and shut the door. The scent of burned hair and flesh clung to me as I sped away.

Here's hoping I still have eyebrows.
© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

There's Fire

Parents had to evacuate their house again due to wildfires. It's much worse this time. I could see the smoke from the next county.

Book review planned for this weekend will post another day. New story WILL start tomorrow. Episode 1 is written and ready to post.

- M. M. Wells

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mutant of the Week for Friday, May 27, 2011

Do a seach for "croc" on the internet, and you get pages about shoes.  Add a "k" to it, and you get pages about cookware.  Replace the "k" with teeth and you get this:

Thank you to Jesse Garson for creating what may well be the world's cutest mutant.

Did you notice that the date on the picture and today's date don't match up?  Yeah.  We're still playing catch up on mutants.  Look for a double mutant post next Friday.

A Response to the Article "To My Vampire, If Any"

I thank Mr. Silva for his thoughtful and articulate piece on estate planning for the undead. While I agree with much of what he said, there are portions of his remarks regarding zombies that beg comment.

Mr. Silva states that zombies are not people, and uses that as the basis for his assertion that property rights should not be afforded to zombies. His basis for the claim that zombies are not people is his personal understanding that a zombie sees former family members as dinner, not kin. According to Mr. Silva, “This is categorically different from a vampire who retains the same sense of self that person had prior to their initial demise and subsequent reanimation.”

There are two problems with his argument. First, we do not know for certain that zombies lose their person-hood upon changing. A recently published novel, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, argues the exact opposite (I'll be posting of review of this book in a couple of weeks). Second, even if a vampire retain some memories of the past, it does not follow that they have retained humanity and the morals or scruples that go with it. A vampire would kill his own mother for sport.

Please do not take this as an assertion that zombies should be afforded the same property rights as zombies. The best estate planning tools for zombies are those related to guardianship and trust planning, not undead wills. I leave it to other scholars to discuss the nuances of such matters as they apply to zombies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where there's smoke...

Today's post was slated to be my response to yesterday's article. Change of plans. I'll post today's piece tomorrow, and do a second post for the Mutant of the Week.

Y'all might have heard about the lack of rain in the Texas Panhandle. In case you haven't, I'll fill you in. This is the driest start to a year for this part of the country since they started keeping rainfall records in 1891. Wildfires are a constant fear. We've already had several. It's a tinder box out here.

Yesterday a fire broke out inside city limits. I helped my mom evacuate, and brought her and the pets to my place to sit a spell. All's well that ends well, thanks to our local firefighters and the volunteers that came in from neighboring counties. It could have been much worse. There were several homes and schools in the path of the fire. But it sounds like there were no injuries or fatalities, and little property damage.

Somehow, in all the chaos, I didn't get around to writing. Imagine that. I'll make it up to y'all tomorrow.

Pray for rain!

- M. M. Wells

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Estate Planning: To My Vampire, If Any

Today we present the first academic article addressing legal issues of the undead. Our guest author is Steven M. Silva, Esq. His bio follows the article.

To My Vampire, If Any

Steven M. Silva

It is axiomatic that dead people cannot hold property. For one thing, their hands no longer have the ability to hold anything. The result of this physical and legal inability to hold property while deceased is the “estate” system. Upon expiration, the decedent’s estate takes all of decedent’s property that is not otherwise disposed of according to contract (life insurance) or operation of law (community property, joint tenants right of survivorship). The estate is then probated, and the decedent’s legal existence ceases.

Recent developments in metahuman rights have raised havoc with traditional estate planning. This article attempts to tackle best practices for attorneys dealing with clients wishes regarding vampires. This article does not attempt to establish an exhaustive review of this emerging area of law, but focuses on ways that attorneys can ethically insure that they protect their clients and themselves. This article assumes familiarity with basic precepts of estate planning and a basic understanding of recent revelations regarding the undead.

Whither the Vampire?

A vampire, as we are all aware, is a reanimated dead person (commonly referred to as undead). By operation of law, once a person has died they no longer own their property. The vampire who “wakes up” may be rudely surprised to learn that the house they have reanimated in does not belong to them. It belongs to the estate of their former human self. This poses a grave problem. A vampire may well consider himself to be the same person who died. It is manifestly problematic to say that such a person no longer owns their chattels and real property.

The “Undead Aren’t Dead-Dead”, or the “Wait and See if He Stays Down” Theory.

One possible solution is found by analogy in many States’ modern approach to the Rule Against Perpetuities, the wait and see approach. If the undead are deemed to have never been truly dead, then it is easy enough to wait and see if the ostensibly dead individual revives in some form. By sheer operation of law, if a person becomes a vampire, their property rights shall be undisturbed.

It is easy enough to establish a window for revival based on standard vampyric timelines. A ninety-day hold on probating an estate to wait and see whether a person will revive as a vampire appears to be a cautiously liberal timeframe, and likely applies as an apt timeline for reanimation as well.

However, a law that treats a vampire as having never died becomes problematic for non-probated assets. For instance, life insurance policies should obviously pay out to the beneficiary when a person has been killed and reanimated as a vampire. Treating a vampire as never-dead would result in policies that would not pay out when the human life expired. Similarly, vampire homicide would be eviscerated. A vampire who killed and turned a human would escape prosecution due to the legal fiction that their victim had never died.

The Dead Rise Again

The law should track reality, and that reality is that vampires are people who have died, and subsequently come back. At the moment of their actual death, the human who died is divested of all property interests. Those interests transfer to the estate. The estate then proceeds with probate.

A prudent practitioner will discuss drafting appropriate language concerning property. The best practice language would likely be along the lines of, “To my vampire, if any, I leave. . . .” This language should be the first bequest or grant of the will, to insure primacy if there is a dispute over terms. “If any” is important to insure that in the event that no vampire is created, there is no failed gift.

This is a simple and obvious step that all practitioners should take. Failure to account for possible reanimation may lead not only to a hotly contested will, but to serious malpractice claims. Should a client not wish to include language relating to possible undeath, a practitioner should absolutely create a memorializing document to that effect, preferably signed by the client. Only a stake or sunlight has been proven to kill vampires, but proper documentation can kill any law suit brought by the undead.

A related issue for consideration is the individual who for religious or moral reasons feverently does not wish to become a vampire. It has been reported that at least one cautious client has drafted instructions that his corpse should be staked through the heart to insure against reanimation. Sadly, the client specified a steel stake, as opposed to wood. This error may have haunted his attorney, but the client did not in fact reanimate. There appears no current impediment to the request of a human that he be prevented from reanimating. However, any instruction that a resulting reanimated vampire be killed is contrary to public policy and void. Such requests by clients should again be memorialized for the protection of the practitioner.

One potential point of objection to this system of recognizing actual death prior to reanimation as a vampire would be the payment of life insurance policies based on a person who voluntarily becomes a vampire. This ghoulish problem has been presented in vampyric scholarship since Stoker’s day. The obvious solution is to treat intentional vampirization as suicide for the purposes of life insurance policies. Intentional vampirization raises a host of unrelated issues not discussed in this article, including mental health commitments, the legality of suicide, and whether a vampire may be held liable for his human decision to die. In most jurisdictions vampires are liable for crimes and torts committed while human. Contract law has yet to reach a definitive consensus on whether unintended vampirization constitutes an excuse of performance.

Admittedly, tenancy in the entirety and joint tenancy with right of survivorship are problematic when dealing with vampires. A prudent practitioner would advise living clients to determine whether they ought to hold title as tenants in common such that they could direct the apportionment of their interest.

Zombie Rights? No, Sir!

A common argument raised against vampire rights is that it leads to a slippery slope to the legalization of zombies. This is absurd. Zombies are not people. Zombies have been shown repeatedly to have no continuity of personhood. The shambling corpse of your mother is not your mother. She does not think of you as her daughter, it thinks of you as dinner. This is categorically different from a vampire who retains the same sense of self that person had prior to their initial demise and subsequent reanimation.

With no personality, and no continuity of personhood, there is no legal, equitable, or moral reason to accord property rights to zombies. Further, property rights vested in zombies would strongly implicate dead hand control. While a vampire who has received property may decide to alienate the property in some manner, a zombie never will. To allow property rights to vest in zombies would incentivize proponents of the ancient fee tail to vest rights in their own zombie, set covenants, leases and use restrictions for the benefits of third parties, and then ensure zombification on death. Centuries would pass with the zombie legally “owning” the land and some covenant restricting use to a line of heirs apparent who may die out. This is an unconscionable restraint on alienation.

Vampires, however, are active participants in the market place. Therefore, a vampire who retains his or her property will be able to dispose of it as they so choose. Volition is possible the single biggest factor for differentiating between zombies and vampires. Volition and alienability militate heavily in favor of recognizing the right of vampires to hold property directly. Attempts to impair this right would only lead to trusts created for the benefit of vampires.

Other Considerations

A practitioner must be careful if crafting a future interest involving a vampire.

“Blackacre to O so long as Blackacre remains a house.” If Blackacre becomes a barn, then it should revert to O. However, if O has become a vampire O will not receive Blackacre. O has died, his reversion interests have passed on according to his will or intestacy laws. To date, no state has enacted an intestacy law that places a person’s vampire as the first heir. No state has enacted a law that grants automatic transfer of rights or interests to a vampire.

“Blackacre to O so long as Blackacre remains a house, if it does not so remain then to O’s vampire if any.” The Rule Against Perpetuities only applies to interests vested in third parties, and not the grantor. Should a vampire be considered the grantor, or is the vampire a third party? Does the vampiric self count as a “life in being”?

These cutting edge questions have not yet been definitively answered. A prudent attorney should discuss these issues with clients and discuss alternatives such as trusts. These discussions should certainly be memorialized so that if the law moves in a direction not anticipated by the practitioner, there is some security.

Ethical considerations must come into play as well. Many believe that vampires are evil. Even some attorneys truly believe that vampires are anathema. Currently no civil rights acts protect vampire rights from discrimination. However, the Model Code of Professional Conduct can certainly be construed to prohibit attorney discrimination against vampires. An attorney’s religious beliefs must not impair the attorney from providing accurate comprehensive legal advice. Should an attorney find themselves unable to competently represent individuals in matters involving vampirism, that attorney should consider an alternative practice area. At the very least, the attorney must disclose their opposition to vampires and be willing to refer the client out to a vampire-friendly practitioner or bar referral service. Attorneys must closely track the rights of vampires and judicial opinions concerning attorney conduct regarding the undead.


The modern estate planning attorney must consider a wide array of factors when dealing with a client’s post-life planning. By insuring the protection of a client’s possible post-human existence, an attorney can satisfy the mandate to competently represent their client.

Steven M. Silva, BA in Community Studies, magna cum laude, from University of Massachusetts, Boston. J.D. cum laude from California Western School of Law. Licensed in California. Specializes in property issues, including real property and estate planning. Currently serving as the law clerk for the Honorable Patrick Flanagan at the Second Judicial District Court for the State of Nevada, Washoe County. Steven is married to a woman of Transylvanian descent and supports equal rights for all sentient being regardless of living status. You can contact him at stevensilva at me dot com (replace 'at' and 'dot' with appropriate symbols).

The above article and bio were published with permission of the author, Steven M. Silva.  Mr. Silva retains all rights to his work.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's Coming Up...and the Truth About That Law School

Black Letter Law wrapped up last week. Next week we'll start a new story, No Fracking Way. This week, sandwiched between stories, will be a little different.

Tomorrow's entry will be an article on undead estate planning by guest author Steven Silva. Thursday I will post my response to his article, and give him an opportunity for rebuttal.

Friday will be Mutant of the Week day. Thank you, as always, to the incredibly talented Jesse Garson for allowing us to post his mutants.

Saturday I'll post a book review. You're crafting your summer reading list, and the UBA is here to help. I'll also post any comments I get on the Silva article and my response.

Before we know it, Monday will be here, bringing a new story with it! The new story reads darker than anything else we've posted so far. Now that the first origin story has posted, readers have a lot more information about the characters' pasts. I don't have to tiptoe around certain subjects anymore, and I won't. This story opens with a dead body and a Vildru attack, and things go downhill from there.

Ugh. There's a pun in that last sentence. Because I'm writing the story, I'm the only person right now who gets the pun. Annoyed.

Some brief notes on the last story, Black Letter Law:

1) The librarians at my alma mater were not vampires. They were closer to being guardian angels. More than once, their thoughtfulness and kind words preserved my sanity. Bill and 'Auntie' Linda in particular helped me cling to reality and my sense of self when everyone else in the law school tried to force me to become someone I didn't want...or be.

2) Our Dean dressed up as a vampire for Halloween one year. Yeah. Long flowing cape, tracks of fresh blood at the corners of his mouth, fangs...the whole nine yards. He dressed up like that and helped serve the law students a midnight breakfast. Not a thing easily forgotten.

3) There is some sort of hollow space under the floor in the law school vestibule, near the base of a statue. I was told there was a time capsule under the tiles.

4) There really is a pioneer ghost town next to the law school.

5) The law school does in fact have an attic.

6) Did any humans die in Black Letter Law? Maybe. Matthew Califf was slated to die. I polled readers about whether or not to kill the character off. All the men and one woman (Naomi) said kill. Other women said kill if you have to.

A teenage fan suggested I leave it open-ended. I took her advice. If you read the story carefully, it's not clear that Califf is dead. I might bring him back later. He could be useful.

Killing off characters, even minor ones, is not something I take lightly. Death should either factor into the plot directly, or drive character development, which moves the plot. The characters that die in my novels (fantasy series; currently unpublished and not related to the stories of this blog) drive the story and greatly impact the characters around them. I want it to be the same here, but because the blog stories involve living and undead, the event of death is more challenging to handle.

Enough rambling. Tune it tomorrow, y'all!

- M. M. Wells

Friday, May 20, 2011

Zombie apocalypse - where the CDC went wrong

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) jumped the shark this week when it allowed an employee to blog about preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

I posted an article about the CDC blog in my Amarillo Zombie Examiner column. It was an overview, limited in terms of content and space. I want to take this opportunity to develop some of my article points.

It is not the responsibility of an agency like the CDC to be trendy. Efforts by such an agency to ride the wave of pop culture minutiae accomplishes nothing beyond a loss of credibility.

People are talking about how cool the CDC is, because the agency acknowledges the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. The CDC isn't supposed to be cool. It's supposed to control diseases. This is like a mother wearing a bunch of colored rubber bands as bracelets to fit in with her daughter's friends. When the mother tries to give her daughter advice later on, the daughter won't listen. The mother has lost her standing as an authority figure. She appears ridiculous in her daughter's eyes.

If there's an outbreak of some serious disease tomorrow, the average person won't rush to the CDC for advice. They'll listen to the crackpot down the street first, and try to heal themselves with bizarre home remedies passed down to the crackpot from great-grand pappy, who had half a mouth of teeth on a good day. Why will people listen to the crackpot instead of the CDC? Because the crackpot has always been a crackpot, while the CDC is trying to morph from school nerd into Miss Popularity. Consistency is the foundation of credibility. By changing it's image, the CDC loses credibility. It's becoming a joke.

The argument against my thesis (the argument in favor of the CDC's tango with the undead) runs thusly: it was so clever, because it got people's attention and those that wouldn't normally think about disaster preparedness are now educated.

Are they really? How many people that read the blog post can recall anything the CDC wrote about disaster preparedness? HOW MANY PEOPLE EVEN READ THE POST? I have friends on facebook who posted the link yesterday and admitted to me later that they never read the article; they just shared the link because it was cool.

People get excited when lines are crossed, and the gap is closed between truth and fantasy. But life isn't all about excitement. There will come a time when people need cold, hard facts from trained professionals.

Don't expect to learn anything useful from the CDC. They can't even take themselves seriously.

- M. M. Wells

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peeps Battle: Part 2

Hope you had a great Easter. 

Got any Easter candy left?  We have a few Peeps still kicking around the offices of the Undead Bar Association.  Just enough Peeps for one more battle between Team Igor (yellow Peeps) and Team Little Zombie (green Peeps).

This round is sudden death:  2 on 2, all Peeps armed.  Er, toothpicked.  Peeps...don't have arms.

And the winner is..., that's messy.  Eh.  We'll give it to the green.  Congratulations, Team Zombie!

And now, the coaches shall celebrate in true undead fashion by...

...eating their teammates.

Any chance you two will use utensils?  No?  Nice.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mutant of the Week: 2 for 1 Friday!

We're still catching up on Mutants, so here are 2 brilliant creations from Jesse Garson's eYE iN tHE hAT productions.

Back to Black Letter Law on monday.  We're coming up the exciting conclusion.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Question: To Kill or Not to Kill?

Regarding the current story, Black Letter Law:

I'm thinking about killing off a minor character. No, it's not Gretta. I've already gotten fan mail on her, and I don't think I should kill her off...yet.

So without knowing any details, give me your opinion. Kill or no kill minor character? Shoot me an email.

May the Fourth be with you!

- Maryanne