In the World of Darkness roleplaying game setting, the vampires in that world refer to themselves as 'Kindred'. This name reflects the often-disputed but widely held belief that all vampires are descended from a single common ancestor, frequently held to be Caine, the First Murderer -- as in Caine and Abel. Note that "descent" here means that each individual in one's "ancestry" turned the next one into a vampire; it in no way implies a genetic or familial relationship as humans would understand it.

"Cainite" is the archaic term for vampires in the World of Darkness; this is stated frequently, and explicitly, in the sourcebook Vampire: The Dark Ages. This nomenclature has fallen out of fashion as time has progressed, however. Vampires of the Sabbat still call themselves Cainites in the Modern Nights, but Hardestadt the Younger and those other wussies in the Cam started calling themselves "Kindred" when the Camarilla was formed. Since the official Camarilla position states that Caine and the Antediluvians don't exist, it wouldn't very well do for Camarilla members to walk around calling themselves "Cainites". Hence, Kindred.

"Cainite" is also still used occasionally by elder vampires, or vampires trying to sound like elders, or vampires trying to sound scholarly and impress their elders, or... you get the idea.

So in the Dark Ages historical setting, all the vampires were called Cainites; in the modern setting, non-Cam vampires call themselves Cainites, and Camarilla vampires call themselves Kindred. Mages of the Order of Hermes call them massasa, and are secretly at war with the Kindred of Clan Tremere. Kuei-jin call them kin-jin or gaijin, usually with a "die, foreign devil!" in there somewhere. Garou just call them lunch.

Kindred is a bestselling novel by Octavia Butler that was originally published in 1979. It tells the story of a black woman named Dana who finds herself experiencing dizzy spells that result in her being taken back in time to an antebellum plantation in Maryland. At the plantation, she becomes embroiled in the lives of her ancestors: a spoiled, violent white slave owner named Rufus, and Alice, the free-born black woman he forces into slavery. The narrative switches between scenes in modern-day Chicago and the pre-war plantation, and at certain points Dana's white husband Kevin is drawn back in time along with her, and they must both struggle to survive the past. The book adeptly explores race, gender, power, trauma and offers a realistic depiction of slavery and slave communities.

Octavia Butler once described her supernatural, time-traveling neo-slave narrative Kindred as “a grim fantasy”. It’s hard to imagine any realistic treatment of slave life in the antebellum South as being anything but tremendously grim. The novel is most often seen as a historical fantasy, or a type of slipstream science fiction; nobody sees it a horror novel.

But horror and the evocation of dread are important elements of the narrative, and I was struck by how Butler layered horror in her descriptions. For instance, here’s the first time the narrator witnesses a slave being whipped:

I could literally smell his sweat, hear every ragged breath, every cry, every cut of the whip. I could see his body jerking, convulsing, straining against the rope as his screaming went on and on. My stomach heaved, and I had to force myself to stay where I was and keep quiet. Why didn’t they stop!

“Please, Master,” the man begged. “For Godsake, Master, please...”

I shut my eyes and tensed my muscles against an urge to vomit.

I had seen people beaten on television and in the movies. I had seen the too-red blood substitute streaked across their backs and heard their well-rehearsed screams. But I hadn’t lain nearby and smelled their sweat or heard them pleading and praying, shamed before their families and themselves. I was probably less prepared for the reality than the child crying not far from me. In fact, she and I were reacting very much alike. My face too was wet with tears. And my mind was darting from one thought to another, trying to tune out the whipping. (Butler 33)

In these paragraphs, Butler employs sensory horror throughout this violent scene in the form of the smell of the man’s sweat, the sound of the whip and his cries, and in the narrator’s nausea. But beyond the physical/sensory, there’s the emotional horror of the scene: the slave’s shaming, the narrator’s own sense of powerlessness and fear and self-loathing at what she perceives as her own cowardice.

Being forced to helplessly witness cruelty of that magnitude is in itself a form of violence, and the narrator (and consequently the reader) are forced to face the terrible life that the narrator’s ancestors must endure. Further, the narrator realizes that she’s less prepared to deal with this world than a small child ... which is all by itself a horrifying and humbling thought for any grown adult.

It’s all a visceral, vivid, microcosmic portrayal of the terrible damage that slavery did even to people who were free-born. The study of how Butler portrays violence and terror in the book is a useful one for any writer who seeks to write horror, but it’s especially useful for those who are writing historical narratives.



Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Boston: Beacon, 2003. Print.

Yaszek, Lisa. “‘A Grim Fantasy’”: Remaking American History in Octavia Butler’s Kindred”. Signs 28.4 (2003): 1053–1066. Web.

Kin"dred (?), n. [OE. kinrede, kynrede, kunreden (with excrescent d), fr. AS. cunn kin, race + the termination , akin to AS. dan to advise, G. rathen. Cf. Hatred.]


Relationship by birth or marriage; consanguinity; affinity; kin.

Like her, of equal kindred to the throne. Dryden.


Relatives by blood or marriage, more properly the former; relations; persons related to each other.

I think there's no man is secure But the queen's kindred. Shak.

Syn. -- Kin; kinsfolk; relatives; kinsmen; relations; relationship; affinity.


© Webster 1913.

Kin"dred, a.

Related; congenial; of the like nature or properties; as, kindred souls; kindred skies; kindred propositions.

True to the kindred points of heaven and home. Wordsworth.


© Webster 1913.

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