I would like to create a sci fi human faction that resemble vampires without many of the past tropes while reimagining some for a sci fi feel. I would like to avoid any magic and fantastical abilities.

I got some inspiration reading this article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/amp/321780

Basically humans afflicted by rabies exhibit some classical vampire traits. Such as wanting to spread infection through bites and aversion to sunlight. I would like a vaguely plausible vampire-like creature that exhibits increased strength, need for long regenerative rest in spaceship sleeping pods and increased life span while remaining a virus that infects others through a bite.

Would it be beneficial for the virus to prolong the life of the being it has infected? By what biological process could a virus increase the strength of the infected and to what benefit?

If we imagine an exploratory unit investigating a planet possibly harbouring new life. They encounter a group of vicious flying mammals that could resemble rabid bats. On their way back from the mission the explorers begin to infect the crew of the exploratory craft through uncontrollable biting. They will have to hide their affliction once back on their home planet. I will need a reason they would want to embrace their new desires - the obvious ones would be anti aging and possibly greater strength. I understand that rabies kills the victim eventually but in this case would like a reason why the virus / disease? would possibly extend the life of the infected and invigorate them.

Instead of coffins I could imagine they sleep in cryogenic pods for some reason.

Aversion to sunlight could just be an unwanted side effect of the space virus.

So would love very much if anyone could provide a reason why a rabies-like virus could prolong the life of the infected and a mechanism for increasing the Vitality and strength of the virus carrier.

Thank you for reading.

All pretty unoriginal, I know but below I have added my reasoning for wanting such a creature:

The following is not important but how I arrived at the answers in seeking. My nephew is into Warhammer 40k war gaming and wants me to play. I wanted a good villain for him to fight against but none of the published armies really appeal to me and I'm far too logical and rational to connect with the 40k fantasy setting. I bought some boxes of mind of various factions as I kept changing my mind. With my assortment of Harlequins (space elf ninja performers) and strangely, Cawdor Necromunda gangers (masked rag-tag humans) I stumbled upon a crazy idea. My army would be a Rogue Trader entertainment vessel that offers artistic performances (amongst other things such as exotic weaponry) for the insanely rich. Now all I needed was a reason for these to be villains. I realised that there isn't really a classic vampire race since 40k was based off it's fantasy counterpart. I imagine that once entertained, the guests would be wined and dined then consumed in an orgy of bloodlust. The vessel's crew would likely make planet fall then continue in the shedding of blood. Warhammer 40k's gothic imagery really suit a vampiric feel, as do rogue traders (space bound nobles) with their bloodlines and dynasties. Although the Chaos faction would offer similar appeal I don't really like the idea of space gods that feed off emotions.

Q: Why could a rabies-like virus prolong the life of the infected and provide a mechanism for increasing the Vitality and strength of the virus carrier?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it's only late hour, but I fail to see what is actual question here. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 16 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is late! Sorry for my brain dump. I'm asking for plausible virus mechanisms that could increase vitality and strength of an infected person. Would it be beneficial for the virus to prolong the life of the being it has infected? By what biological process could a virus increase the strength of the infected and to what benefit? $\endgroup$ – Mind of Cubozoan Jan 16 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MindofCubozoan, try to avoid answering in comments. You need to edit your question with the relevant info. You might also want to include the creature-design tag. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 16 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ A couple of comments there are Vampires in WFB and WHFR, the Vampire Counts under Von Carlstein, secondly in WH40K the Necrons are viewed by many as the equivalent of the undead. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Jan 17 at 3:25

I've always found it interesting just how many of the symptoms related to rabies sound similar to certain aspects of vampire lore, including how it can be spread by bats. There are marked differences of course, and these lie in the domain you're asking about - namely the longevity, accelerated healing and strength aspects of vampires. Can rabies be somehow modified to provide these traits, and if so, why would people actually want to spread it? Keeping it for themselves would provide them with a competitive advantage, but I digress.

Interestingly enough, the idea of sleeping in a cryotube ties in with one of the only known survivors of rabies, who survived by being placed in an induced coma.

Like Radiation poisoning and Death Cap mushrooms, all the damage with rabies is being done before the symptoms manifest. The way rabies works to kill the host is through neural disruptions that prevent the host from being able to control functions like breathing. This is also why hosts experience behavioural aberrations and aversion to things like sunlight. Rabies is neurotropic. So, by the time the patient in the article arrived at hospital, it was already too late for her to get the vaccines and immunoglobulins that would have saved her beforehand. So, the solution was to put her in an induced coma and effectively shut down the brain so that the virus attacking it has no effect until the immune system of the patient can combat it.

There are still lasting symptoms that something was wrong with her, but for the purposes of your story, that and the fact that the virus can sit dormant in a person for extended periods actually works in your favour. What follows is pure speculation, but hopefully plausible speculation for how a form of rabies could evolve into what you want.

Your rogue traders land on a planet with a pseudo rabies in the creatures, and contract it. They immediately retreat to their cryotubes with a view to getting off planet, and that saves them. Instead of killing them off, the virus modifies them physically, but not neurologically because their cryotubes have shut down brain activity.

This means that they eat normal food, but because of the physical 'damage' to their bodies, they also value the energy rich value of the blood of living organisms, especially humans because it's more readily useable in their own bloodstreams because of its similarity to their own blood. Their bite doesn't cause the blood they draw to go into the stomach, but a mutation draws it directly into their own bloodstream for assimilation. Their bite of course means their saliva comes into direct contact with an open would, and you have infection.

Their metabolisms are much slower, meaning they need to eat less, and live much longer, but the tradeoff (and there's no way around this) is that they're MUCH slower, and they take longer to recover. They'd also likely benefit from a much higher percentage of sleep, meaning that they retreat to their cryotubes between planets or combat.

Their extended lives is something they value, but they also know that they're vulnerable due to their slowness and their need for extended periods of sleep. They're traders because that way they CAN lure their targets into their ship. They wheel and deal, but they also ambush at least some of the party for the extended vitality of oxygen rich blood, kind of like the whole blood transfusion thing that Lance Armstrong admitted to, only on a more visceral scale.

In so doing, the infection of others is as a direct result of supplementing their energy production with what amounts to a transfusion of energy rich blood from victims or donors. This would also in turn explain why the blood should come from a live source and not a blood bag from a hospital, and why the victims would be offered food and drink first; it's an attempt to increase the blood sugars before the bite.

In this example, sunlight isn't going to kill them but it can easily be written in as the unwanted side effect like Earth-rabies, and there is an argument that for a creature with such a slow metabolism thanks to physical damage, sunlight could be considered too energy rich an environment for them to be comfortable. A slower metabolism after all is most efficiently gained through a lower body heat so your 'vampires' are going to find warmth a little too hot for their comfort. If they live on space ships trading from site to site, you'd find their ships would be set to low temperatures because that way their lower metabolisms would find the ambient temperatures more comfortable at (say) no more than 10o C.

All in all, this is an interesting thought experiment, and with a few mutations to the virus and with what we currently know about how rabies may one day be treated, could be reasonably plausible.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Tim B. This gives me a lot to think about. $\endgroup$ – Mind of Cubozoan Jan 16 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ One of your theories is contradictory. If "their metabolisms are much slower", then why would they "value the energy rich value of the blood of living organisms" so much? Slow metabolisms need less food, not more. An inability of their bodies to build new blood cells due to the virus mutating their bone marrow would seem more realistic. $\endgroup$ – Elmy Jan 17 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Elmy creatures with slow metabolisms still value energy rich foods because evolution has programmed them to through scarcity. This is one of the reasons why all the foods that are 'bad' for us taste so good; we're programmed to love the taste of energy rich foods because they used to be so scarce before humans started adapting their environment rather than adapting themselves. Besides, the energy rich foods would metabolise at a slower rate, meaning a less frequent need to feed. Think snakes. When cold, they still eat animals the same size as when they're warm, just less frequently. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Jan 17 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Elmy I will agree with you about the bone marrow comment though. That does indeed sound like a realistic reason for this adaptation. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Jan 17 at 22:21

The strange side-effects evolved for a reason

When wondering how any reproducing system could evolve in a particular direction, you need to think about what facilitates vs what inhibits reproductive success. Make it about the virus:

  • How does it help the virus for the host to acquire enhanced strength, vitality and lifespan?
  • Are there any hidden costs which would penalise the virus for taking this route?

Helping the host does help the virus spread

A host that is stronger, tougher and longer-living makes it much easier for the virus to spread:

  • An infected host that is strong will find it easier to overcome the defences of any victims.
  • If an infected host is not tough, it is easier for them to die, and the virus dies with them.
  • An infected host that ages slowly will on average increase the total number of uninfected exposures over its lifetime.

These benefits are strongly selected for in a spacefaring society, where a host might need to survive exposure to extremely hostile environments, or in the event of FTL engine failure, be left adrift in space for a long time until they can be rescued. A vampire that can remain dormant for centuries can remain adrift in the hopes of eventually having their distress beacon answered. A vampire that is extremely tough could also survive periods of exposure to vacuum even if caught off-guard without protective gear.

There are hidden costs, but they are outweighed by the benefits the virus gains

Given all the benefits, you might wonder why more viruses don't evolve to be helpful. The thing is, we don't yet have a spacefaring society. Given the cloistered environment of Earth as we know it, it is just too convenient for viruses to take the greedy approach and take as much as they can from their host as quickly as possible. There are plenty more hosts around.

When host density decreases, viruses do evolve to be less virulent. The vast distances of space take host density all the way down to basically zero. Then, viruses that take the greedy approach never get a chance to spread. Your vampire virus probably evolved in a society where it is normal to spend a great deal of time in the isolation of space.


you could use the bioengineering gone wrong angle to answer most of those problems. A virus meant to help has unintended consequences ie. I am legend. Leave the intentions of the creators ambiguous or use their back story as filler.


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