Building Beyond is an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Let’s give it a try, together.
Behold the rise of VampCoin, the first ever Cryptidcurrency!
Alyshondra Meacham is the assistant to Hugo-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal. She is an incurable space enthusiast with the fashion sense of Ms Frizzle. When she isn’t wrangling emails or dreaming about being by the ocean, Alyshondra volunteers as a JPL Solar System Ambassador, creates geeky cross stitches and raises a small menagerie of children. Find her on Twitter @AlyshondraM.
The High Interlocking Convocation And Sitting Authority of Glorious Creatures* hereby declares the creation of VampCoin™, the first Cryptidcurrency. This is a way to ensure that vampires can be sufficiently recognized and rewarded for their masterful work in bringing Drama to their lives and to the lives of others. (Apparently we mortals don’t give enough credit, being too busy screaming, swooning, and staking.) The higher the Vamp Factor, the better each plasmavore will be compensated.
Edward Cullen, for example, has a low amount of VampCoin™. While his afterlife has been dramatic for him, it doesn’t really live up to the expectations of the High Interlocking Convocation And Sitting Authority of Glorious Creatures. While they watched the love triangle with interest and he had rocketing potential with his plan to sparkle in front of the Volturi, his stock plummeted when he resolved all issues. Also his fashion is just blah. Why blend in when you can stand out?
Nadja, on the other hand, is high in VampCoin™ standing. Elegant and magnificent, she puts effort into her glorious hair and layered outfits (layers, lace, and velvet, tend to score high for VampCoin™ rewards, especially if they have been created by local peasants). Her speech is everything a vampire’s should be, from the empowering “You Are All Such Strong, Beautiful, Vicious, Vibrant Women. How Did You All End Up Married To Such Boiled Potatoes?” to the incredibly accurate “Pablo Picasso? More Like Pablo Pic-A**Hole.”
Even some mortals are eligible for a high VampCoin™ rating. Elvira, Mistress of Darkness, has been honored before by the High Interlocking Convocation And Sitting Authority of Glorious Creatures for her sheer gumption in imitating the Enrapturing Ones and her dedication to the art of Vamp.
Dracula had a low VampCoin™ status (really? Staying around a small village in Translyvania?), until that stupid thrice-blessed author Bram Stoker decided to make his name synonymous with Vampire. No one in the High Interlocking Convocation And Sitting Authority of Glorious Ones is happy with that result.
Surprisingly to mortals, Count Von Count has a high VampCoin™ placing, even with his low body count. (Zero! Zero foolish mortals died ah ah ah!) He infuses bright Sesame Street with bats and thunder, he is consistent with his spooky laugh and his cape swirls, and most importantly, he is the originator of the beloved dance, the Batty Bat. Many other Enticing Ones have used the Batty Bat to their advantage in luring mortals to their everlasting doom.
Other cryptid groups have been watching the VampCoin™ release with great interest, and there are rumors of Bigfoot Bucks coming soon.
*Please note that the name of the High Interlocking Convocation And Sitting Authority of Glorious Creatures must never be shortened or abbreviated, to retain full Drama.
It was Sasha’s idea.
She pitched it like a joke: VampCoin, the internet’s first genuine Crypt-o currency. Or Cryptidcurrency, she couldn’t decide which. I told her cryptid sounded like we were yetis, so crypt it was.
It’s inaccurate, of course. I’ve not been one of—one of them? One of us? Either way I’ve not been for very long, but even so very, very few of us live in crypts, and the ones that do seldom have broadband.
Either way I didn’t think she was serious but that, she told me, was the point. The internet loves irony. Look at DogeCoin (not, she hastened to add, anything to do with the wolves). I told her that if she really wanted to monetize e-culture’s endless love of self-reference she should call it BaconCoin and have done with it, but she said that was already a thing, and that it had peaked at 0.3 to the dollar before vanishing. Besides, she liked VampCoin. The hiding-in-plain-sight of it all appealed to her.
So I set to work. Launching a cryptocurrency isn’t exactly difficult these days—Satoshi Nakamoto seems to have developed the original bitcoin in his (or their, it may well be more than one person) basement and the code has only got more refined and better understood since then. The problem is always uptake. But that was Sasha’s department. Mostly.
The dirty secret of money is that it isn’t worth anything. It’s a promise. You say to somebody if you give me that donut I will give you this token that you can, in the future, trade to somebody else for many donuts. It’s a system, a spiderweb that we’re all trapped in and connected by and the strands are so thin that most of us can’t even see them. It’s belief made physical. It’s a kind of magic. Perhaps that’s why Sasha is so interested in it. And the thing about crypto is that it seems more honest about what it is. When somebody offers to pay you in Tether or Etherium they’re making it crystal clear that all they have to offer is words—well, numbers, but data is data—but they think you’ll take it anyway. It’s a lie, sure, but it’s a lie that admits it’s a lie.
Then again, that’s a kind of lie in itself. And maybe that’s what Sasha finds so fascinating. Why she was always going to move into crypto at some point. She’d been in self-help in the ‘90s, had a small but effective religious movement built around her in the ‘70s. If there’s one thing she knows how to do it’s to make people trust her. Usually, she does it by telling them not to.
Sasha’s input into VampCoin was mostly marketing. The kind of behind-the-scenes, viral marketing you could do invisibly. But she did make one or two tiny changes to the code. I’m not sure when she’d learned to program, but then it wasn’t like she was short on time. She once told me she’d known Ada Lovelace, but I’d assumed she was trying to impress me.
Her one change to the code itself was a few lines that from what I could see were mostly junk. They wouldn’t break anything, but they also wouldn’t do anything. Just a few lines of meaningless functions, and the name of a dead god.
I didn’t try to delete them. I had a terrible sense something bad would happen if I did.
The launch went quietly. There was zero hype and minimal uptake, but there’re always some hardcore nerds and desperate speculators out there who figure they might as well take a punt on the next thing just in case. After all, what do they really have to lose?
Quite a lot, it turns out.
In retrospect I should have asked myself earlier why we were doing this. What possible need did vampires have for their own currency? Sure crypto was untraceable, which was useful for people who didn’t exist, but that was nothing BitCoin wasn’t already doing.
But why do vampires need a currency wasn’t really the question I needed to ask. Because, for all we talk a big game, cryptocurrencies aren’t really currencies. Not yet, at least. Most dollars are spent buying goods and services. Most bitcoins are spent buying dollars. In a way they’re parasites on currencies. And if there’s one thing vampires understand, it’s parasitism.
The first VampCoin-related deaths came about a month after the initial coin offering. Server fires aren’t uncommon in coin mining—rigs run hot and a lot of people, especially amateurs, don’t get the ventilation right. But there shouldn’t have been this many. And it wasn’t just fires. It was crypto-motivated home-invasions. It was people asphyxiating because their mining setup had spontaneously started emitting carbon monoxide.
Of course large number statistics are dangerous, and I’d have put it down to coincidence if I hadn’t also started to feel … different. I’ve been what I am for a good few years now and while I’ve never been the kind to run around a sewer eating rats I avoid human blood where possible and I’ve made it so far without killing anybody. But once the deaths started I felt stronger. Hungry and sated at once. My senses are sharper now. I move more quickly. If I shut my eyes, I can hear the heartbeat of the man in the apartment downstairs. Sometimes I think I could reach out and call him to me.
I’d wondered why vampires would need a currency but it turns out they don’t. It was never about the money. It was about the blood.
I look at Sasha differently now. For years I’d just seen her as that quirky gamer girl I’d met at a con in the early 2000s, with her pink hair and her T-shirt that says Fake Geek Girl, Real Geek Woman. But now when I look at her, really look at her, I see the thing inside. The thing behind her eyes that is ancient and hungry and wants me to be like it is. Or to be food. One or the other.
I think she noticed, the other day, the way I was watching her. And she smiled.
Both of these possibilities are just beginnings. Alyshondra's cryptidcurrency promises a future of competitive visibility for creatures of all varieties. Alexis' tale of unpredictable crypto justice makes way for a delicious and violent future -- and perhaps a delicious and violent romance?
How would your VampCoin be structured? How might it rise above -- or sink below -- the pitfalls of other cryptocurrencies?
Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.
If you haven’t heard, the third issue of my debut comic miniseries EAT THE RICH is out in the world TODAY! Find it at your local comic shop or at the BOOM! Studios webstore! If you prefer digital, it’s available at comiXology, Google Play, Kindle, and Apple Books. If you snag a copy, I would love it if you would post about it on social with the hashtag #EATTHERICH!
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In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.
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