vampire-literature

“The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter, recommended by Kelly Link





Issue No. 158


AN INTRODUCTION BY KELLY LINK


If I tell you what I see in The Bloody Chamber, the things in it that I love and admire and think about, of course I’m telling you about myself as much as I am telling you about Angela Carter. There are ten stories in The Bloody Chamber. They overlap one another. There are stories about beastliness, about wildness, about marriage and sexual awakening, decay and transformation, about house cats and big cats, about wolves and people who behave as wolves. There are retellings, or, sometimes, more occulted echoes of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Puss in Boots,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Bluebeard,” and “The Boy Who Set Out to Learn Fear.” Carter was an admirer of Charles Perrault’s. There’s a bit of Boccaccio, whom she also loved, and whom I love, too, in her version of “Puss in Boots.” There are counts and countesses, dukes and a duchess, a marquis, an Erl-King, a young English officer, brides and husbands, fathers and mothers and grandmothers. There are only a handful of named characters. Mr. Lyon and Beauty, of course, are hardly names at all. They are signifiers. There is Wolf Alice. There is Carmilla, the former wife of the marquis, whose name is a wink to the reader of vampire stories. There is the blind piano tuner, Jean-Yves, the only person in the book to be given a name that is only itself, without the least bit of symbolic weight. And, of course, he is the particular invention of Carter: her own bit of business. So I notice him, particularly. He is kind, gentle, has a good ear and a pure heart. Like the English officer in “The Lady of the House of Love,” my favorite of all the stories in the collection, he seems to be a real person who has wandered, or been enticed, into the very old structure of a gothic or fairy tale.

I love “The Lady of the House of Love” for the luster of Carter’s language; the tensile strength of the prose; its luscious, comical, fizzing theatricality. The handsome and wholesome boy on the bike, the decayed wedding dress, the bird in the cage, and the countess herself, who would like to be in a different kind of story from the one in which she eats rabbits and men. I am troubled by the dreadful clamor of the refrain: “now you are at the place of annihilation, now you are at the place of annihilation.” Of course, if you are brave enough and good-hearted and do not realize you have stumbled into a vampire story, you might escape. In a fairy tale, innocence is a key that opens a door through which you can flee—without ever realizing that you were in any danger. (Experience is another key entirely.) In the real world, of course, there are worse things than vampires. The English officer gets back on his bicycle and rides off to join his regiment. It’s the eve of the First World War. “Next day, his regiment embarked for France.”

Carter gives us all the trappings of the gothic, the vampire narrative, and then briskly, explicitly dismantles the gothic stagecraft the next morning. Here the shadow of real horror hangs over the painted backdrop of the unreal.


Kelly Link
Author of Get in Trouble


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The Lady of the House of Love

by Angela Carter

Recommended by Kelly Link



At last the revenants became so troublesome the peasants abandoned the village and it fell solely into the possession of subtle and vindictive inhabitants who manifest their presences by shadows that fall almost imperceptibly awry, too many shadows, even at midday, shadows that have no source in anything visible; by the sound, sometimes, of sobbing in a derelict bedroom where a cracked mirror suspended from a wall does not reflect a presence; by a sense of unease that will afflict the traveler unwise enough to pause to drink from the fountain in the square that still gushes spring water from a faucet stuck in a stone lion’s mouth. A cat prowls in a weedy garden; he grins and spits, arches his back, bounces away from an intangible on four fear-stiffened legs. Now all shun the village below the château in which the beautiful somnambulist helplessly perpetuates her ancestral crimes.

Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors, each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful posthumous existence; she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly construing a constellation of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into a country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and the maiden.

Her voice is filled with distant sonorities, like reverberations in a cave: now you are at the place of annihilation, now you are at the place of annihilation. And she is herself a cave full of echoes, she is a system of repetitions, she is a closed circuit. “Can a bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song?” She draws her long, sharp fingernail across the bars of the cage in which her pet lark sings, striking a plangent twang like that of the plucked heartstrings of a woman of metal. Her hair falls down like tears.

The castle is mostly given over to ghostly occupants but she herself has her own suite of drawing room and bedroom. Closely barred shutters and heavy velvet curtains keep out every leak of natural light. There is a round table on a single leg covered with a red plush cloth on which she lays out her inevitable Tarot; this room is never more than faintly illuminated by a heavily shaded lamp on the mantelpiece and the dark red figured wallpaper is obscurely, distressingly patterned by the rain that drives in through the neglected roof and leaves behind it random areas of staining, ominous marks like those left on the sheets by dead lovers. Depredations of rot and fungus everywhere. The unlit chandelier is so heavy with dust the individual prisms no longer show any shapes; industrious spiders have woven canopies in the corners of this ornate and rotting place, have trapped the porcelain vases on the mantelpiece in soft grey nets. But the mistress of all this disintegration notices nothing.

She sits in a chair covered in moth-ravaged burgundy velvet at the low, round table and distributes the cards; sometimes the lark sings, but more often remains a sullen mound of drab feathers. Sometimes the Countess will wake it for a brief cadenza by strumming the bars of its cage; she likes to hear it announce how it cannot escape.

She rises when the sun sets and goes immediately to her table where she plays her game of patience until she grows hungry, until she becomes ravenous. She is so beautiful she is unnatural; her beauty is an abnormality, a deformity, for none of her features exhibit any of those touching imperfections that reconcile us to the imperfection of the human condition. Her beauty is a symptom of her disorder, of her soullessness.

The white hands of the tenebrous belle deal the hand of destiny. Her fingernails are longer than those of the mandarins of ancient China and each is pared to a fine point. These and teeth as fine and white as spikes of spun sugar are the visible signs of the destiny she wistfully attempts to evade via the arcana; her claws and teeth have been sharpened on centuries of corpses, she is the last bud of the poison tree that sprang from the loins of Vlad the Impaler who picnicked on corpses in the forests of Transylvania.

The walls of her bedroom are hung with black satin, embroidered with tears of pearl. At the room’s four corners are funerary urns and bowls which emit slumbrous, pungent fumes of incense. In the center is an elaborate catafalque, in ebony, surrounded by long candles in enormous silver candlesticks. In a white lace négligé stained a little with blood, the Countess climbs up on her catafalque at dawn each morning and lies down in an open coffin.

A chignoned priest of the Orthodox faith staked out her wicked father at a Carpathian crossroad before her milk teeth grew. Just as they staked him out, the fatal Count cried: “Nosferatu is dead; long live Nosferatu!” Now she possesses all the haunted forests and mysterious habitations of his vast domain; she is the hereditary commandant of the army of shadows who camp in the village below her château, who penetrate the woods in the form of owls, bats and foxes, who make the milk curdle and the butter refuse to come, who ride the horses all night on a wild hunt so they are sacks of skin and bone in the morning, who milk the cows dry and, especially, torment pubescent girls with fainting fits, disorders of the blood, diseases of the imagination.

But the Countess herself is indifferent to her own weird authority, as if she were dreaming it. In her dream, she would like to be human; but she does not know if that is possible. The Tarot always shows the same configuration: always she turns up La Papesse, La Mort, La Tour Abolie, wisdom, death, dissolution.

Keep reading

Just saw a post by someone cranky talking about how Bram Stoker invented vampires.

No. No he didn’t. The legends have been around forever. The 1700’s in Europe saw “epidemics” of “vampires” when exhumed bodies looked strange or misunderstood illnesses plagued a village.

They showed up in poetry all in the early 1700’s.

Dracula isn’t even the first vampire novel.

In 1819, Dr. John Polidori wrote the story The Vampyre. This was later adapted, along with other sources, into an opera that first played in in 1828.

Also in 1829, The Skeleton Court/The Vampire Mistress was published in a magazine. This may be the first published vampire story by a woman.


The character Varney the Vampire first appeared in “penny dreadful” books of the same name starting in 1845.

Carmilla was written in 1872.

Dracula was written in 1897.

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October Reads Book Photo Challenge #8: Vampires oh my!

I mentioned that I really like vampire books, right?  I started with Anne Rice when I was in middle school, and I never really stopped.  In order of my favourites, the books on this list are:

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Blood and Gold by Anne Rice
  • Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
  • Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice
  • Demon in my View by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  • Pandora by Anne Rice
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater Rhodes
  • The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice

Vampire enthusiasts should start with Interview with the Vampire, which is the first of Anne Rice’s brilliant series.  If you want to learn something about the psychology associated with traditional vampires, read Dracula, which will tell you everything you need to know about Victorian views on blood-drinkers, sex, and blasphemy.  It’s also good background reading for anyone who likes the genre, since most modern adaptations of vampires draw from Bram Stoker.  Don’t read The Historian until you’ve read Dracula, because you will be missing a lot of important information.  It’s an absolutely brilliant historical fiction novel about a family whose lives have been shaped by the hunt for Dracula.  Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is a good place for young readers to start on vampires, because they’re easy-to-read and short, but reasonably well-written.  Sunshine is still the best of the lot, and can stand alone without trouble.

Book Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Star Ratings:

Characters: ***** (5 stars)

Character Development: **** (4 stars)

Plot: ***½ (3 ½ stars)

Writing: ***** (5 stars)

Overall: **** (4 stars)

Review by Morgan.  Originally posted over at Navigating The Stormy Shelves.

I would need both my hands and somebody else’s to count the number of times that Sunshine has been recommended to me.  Rosie has been so fervent that I might still have the bruises to show for it.  I knew that Sunshine was a unique spin on a vampire-slaying story before I started reading.  I knew that Robin McKinley is a phenomenal writer with acres of imagination to cultivate at her disposal.  I also knew that a lot of this book takes place at a bakery, and that the descriptions of cinnamon rolls and “killer zebra” cakes were just as seductive as the harsh, dark vampire world she’d created. (After reading, I can say: Huzzah! All of these things are true!) Knowing all this in advance, I made up my mind in advance to read Sunshine slowly, so that I could enjoy the process of discovering it for the first time.  Four days, and many dessert-cravings later, I extracted myself from New Arcadia, blinking oddly in the daylight and wishing to know what would happen next.

Sunshine wakes up every morning at 4 am to bake cinnamon rolls at her step dad’s coffee shop.  She likes her life in the bakery: the regulars, her coworkers, her sorta-boyfriend Mel.  Then, when she drives out to the lake one fateful night to clear her head, Sunshine’s life gets torn to pieces.  A vicious gang of vampires kidnap Sunshine and bring her to a big abandoned house in the woods, where they lock her in a room with another prisoner: an old and very hungry vampire. They don’t expect Sunshine and the vampire to talk. She is meant to be dinner.  Instead, she draws on a secret magical skill from her childhood to free them both, thus binding her fate and Constantine’s together.  Now the evil vampire behind Con’s imprisonment wants both of them dead.

It’s hard to return to a life of rising dough and bustling kitchens after an ordeal such as that.  Sunshine can’t forget what happened to her, and she’s drawn the attention of some Special Other Forces agents.  The SOF keeps an eye on any activity relating to non-humans, ever since the “Voodoo Wars” changed civilization and demons, were-folk, and vampires became a part of everyday life.  With the protectors of humanity dogging her footsteps around New Arcadia, and a bunch of really nasty vampires stalking her in otherworldly realms, Sunshine has to team up with her co-captive to try and turn their fate around.  It seems like everyone in New Arcadia has a dangerous secret.  The further Sunshine digs into the recent traumatizing events, the more she begins to realize how unusual her own past is, and what a danger she could be to the people she loves.

I have so many things I want to say about Sunshine, and they all refuse to get typed into neat sentences.  This book was always tugging on one corner of my mind over the four days it took me to finish.  Layers upon layers of otherworldly drama and mysterious characters have a way of distracting a girl.

McKinley drops us into a world where paranormal creatures are as much a part of daily conversation as complaints about grumpy customers. The horrifyingly real vampires who mess around with Sunshine’s life seem extra threatening in contrast to the dramatic rumors and stories which circulate.  The particular existence of demons, were-people, vampires, and the like is never unveiled in explicit detail.  Sunshine thinks about Other activity a lot, so we aren’t left entirely uninformed, but you need to get comfortable with odd new pieces of fantasy popping up in New Arcadia until you can get your bearings.  It took me several chapters to just accept the fact that I would be confused about some things until McKinley felt like revealing the answer.  Once I came to terms with this, the reading was much easier. The vampire-slaying action gets overly complex at times; maybe unnecessarily so.  My head began to spin from all the charmed objects and alternate planes of reality.  But McKinley’s such a good writer that she twists it all together into a functional and intense sequence of events.

Alas for my inquisitive nature, there were a whole bunch of intriguing side-stories which took up a great many pages only to be left unresolved!  Rosie assured me, when I stomped downstairs to vent my frustration after finishing the book, that Robin McKinley has wanted to do a sequel for a while but hasn’t managed to write something that worked.  Fine, fine.  The semi-realistic fantasy world in Sunshine is convincing and engrossing. Nearly all of the characters had such unique backgrounds and motivations, I could happily read a book devoted to each. A twenty book series, please! I actually liked how some of the newly magical events in Sunshine’s life didn’t have any direct influence on her vampire adventure, because that’s how real life works.  Over the course of a very strange year, she learns that her friends aren’t always as simple as she thought they were, and that her own heritage is too complicated to tackle head-on.

The reason Sunshine is such a long book has a lot to do with the narrative style.  Sunshine tells us about the events in the first-person, so we read along with whatever happens to be on her mind.  When she dwells on her childhood before the coffee shop, we learn how she got her name by lying in the sunlight to heal after a bad illness.  When she worries about the Special Other Forces catching on to her dealings with Con, we get a better picture of how the agency works (or sometimes doesn’t work) to protect humans from non-human dangers.

Sunshine is an extremely introspective woman, and I must say that I could have done without some of the re-hashing and moral conundrums which sometimes bog down the story’s flow. The excessive amount of pondering gives lots of weight to so many of those side-stories which never quite reached a conclusion. On the brighter side, Sunshine is a pretty hilarious narrator. Her sense of humor goes into gear at all the strangest moments, and a few of the scariest scenes are made a little more fun with her eye for black comedy. All the extra detail does make every layer of Sunshine’s life – and all of life post-Voodoo Wars – seem intricately whole and thoroughly real. And if you’re a devoted coffee-shop regular, you’ll probably be happy to read pages and pages of bakery life, where the dark menace so prevalent in Sunshine can’t quite take away the appeal of cherry tarts coming out of the oven.

Want it short(er) and sweet(ish)? Here’s how I wrote down my feelings soon after finishing the book, for my wrap-up of what I read in September.

Sunshine is a smart urban fantasy with vampires and cinnamon rolls.  The future is weird.  The vampires are scary.  The bakery is wonderful.  McKinley’s writing was almost always incredibly strong, though I think this book could have been about 100 pages shorter and held my attention a little better. …  It stands out amongst a tired genre, that’s for sure, even though it was written several years ago.  Did you know that it was possible to get bent out of shape about baked goods, even while blood’s a-splatterin’ and curses are flying fast?  It’s possible and it’s fun.

Other vampire books I’ve reviewed and recommend:

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black

The Quick by Lauren Owen

Thoughts on Vampire Literature

By Rosie

Dear Readers, I started my foray into the world of vampires as a young and tender lass of twelve.  I suppose technically I think I read a Bunnicula book when I was eight or so, but I don’t really remember and anyway, Bunnicula was a rabbit.  It doesn’t count.  Back to the point - I started with Anne Rice.

I was a voracious reader at a young age, and I had actually tried to read Queen of the Damned when I was nine or ten.  My mother stopped me and told me that I wouldn’t understand it, and should read it when I was older.  She was, of course, entirely correct.  Anne Rice writes difficult books, and I simply didn’t have the experience or sophistication to appreciate her quite yet.  In seventh grade I was a world-weary almost-teen and I was definitely ready.  I read The Vampire Lestat first, even though it’s technically the second in the series.  It didn’t matter.  I was hooked.

Anne Rice is a sensual writer, (so much so that she has written straight-up erotica under a pen name), and she made vampires sexy.  I hadn’t read Dracula yet so I had no idea what literary baggage vampires might carry with them.  As far as I was concerned they were beautiful, deadly, occasionally amoral and frequently religious, and totally fascinating.  Rice tells her stories with a focus on character and history, which is something I haven’t encountered much in other vampire books.  Since her main characters are the vampires themselves, not humans interacting with vampires, she gets to play with a really long timespan.

The character of Lestat snagged me initially, but as I tore my way through her entire catalog of books the way she interacted with history was what kept me coming back for more.  Anne Rice’s true originality is that she gives you hundreds of years of history through the perspective of one character.  In my ten years of reading vampire fiction, I have yet to discover another book or author who does this successfully.

Eventually I did get bored with her.  There are a lot of things to be said about Anne Rice and one of them is that when you read fifteen of her books in a row they start to get repetitive.  This is probably true of just about any author.  There’s only so much tortured sexual bloodletting I can get my head around in a month.  So much for Anne Rice.  I didn’t want her, but I was still totally hooked on vampires - or at least what I understood vampires to be.  Unfortunately for me, I hit this point about a week after Twilight was released.

At the risk of sounding really hipster, I probably read Twilight before you.  I definitely read it before it got famous.  Like Harry Potter, Twilight took a little while to really hit the mainstream.  I happened to be looking for vampire books just as it arrived, so I snatched it up and read it immediately.  I was a freshman in high school, about fourteen.  Twilight knows its target audience.  I swooned.  I dreamed.  I loved it.  I read it over and over.  At about the fifth reading I realized that it was total crap and didn’t compare in any way to Anne Rice.  Sparkly vampires?  Seriously?  Even Rice, who writes pretty sympathetic undead characters, manages to make them menacing at least half the time.  The Cullens just aren’t scary.  Sorry.  Carlisle is a doctor for chrissakes. 

I could probably write you a dissertation on all the things I dislike about Twilight, but the only relevant one right now is that these were not the vampires I was looking for.  It did put me in a suitably angsty mood though, so I reread Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ books for fun.  I had read In the Forests of the Night when I was thirteen, which is, coincidentally, the same age she was when she wrote it.  I still have a serious soft spot for her.  Her early books aren’t particularly deep or meaningful, but they’re still a lovely little insight into the mind of a bored, angsty, somewhat counterculture thirteen-year-old girl.  Parents with rebellious teenage daughters should read her.  They might learn something.

Back to vampires - this was the point where I gave up and read Dracula.  I don’t know why I resisted for so long.  I’d seen the movie with Gary Oldman and enjoyed it.  Dracula pretty much set the canon for every vampire book that followed it.  It’s an important book to read if you like vampires, or horror, or fantasy.  I read it and all of a sudden my perception of vampires changed drastically.  Bram Stoker’s vampires are evil.  Like, seriously evil.  Dracula can turn into a bat, or a fog, or a wolf/dog and he really likes nubile virgins.  He’s still a highly sexual character (he sort of collects brides after all) but it’s bad sexuality, which I was not expecting.  There’s a lot of repression and Victorian stigmas about bodies and sex and fidelity in there that I didn’t understand at the time. 

Anne Rice and Amelia-Atwater Rhodes used vampires as main characters.  They were dark and occasionally scary, but they were also mostly the good guys.  Bram Stoker never even suggests that redemption might be possible for Dracula.  He is evil, he has no soul, and he must be destroyed.  The fact that he is a highly sexualized fantasy for the women of the story just makes him worse.  Mina and Lucy experience two different sides of his sexuality, proving him to be an emotionally complex character as well as a demon.  Suddenly the world of vampire literature actually became literature for me, not just escapism and indulgence.  Anne Rice took one aspect of Stoker’s vampires and expanded upon it, making them hypersexual and introspective.  Atwater-Rhodes took the same aspect and simplified it.  Stephenie Meyer took a flying leap off a cliff of Mormonisms and came up with glitter and abstinence.  Dracula was a complete vampire in a way that I hadn’t seen before, and it totally spoiled me.  Vampires are just way more interesting when they’re actually evil.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova could be read as a companion piece to Dracula.  It’s really a historical fiction more than a fantasy book.  Dracula himself is pretty much exactly as he appears in Bram Stoker, but Kostova focuses intently on the history of the man Vlad Drakul, the bloodthirsty Prince who actually appears in history.  The Impaler is known for massacring huge numbers of people by sticking them on pointed stakes and leaving them to die slowly.  This guy allegedly incurred the wrath of God and was cursed to live forever by drinking the blood of innocents.  Stoker got the idea for Dracula from these legends, and Kostova develops the same story into a rich tapestry of history and horror.  Her book was scarier to me than Stoker’s, because it’s written like a history book.  It feels true.  You absolutely cannot tell which parts are fact and which are fiction.  On the other hand, it’s kind of dense and hard to get through.  You really have to be down for absorbing the history part.  She’s not messing around.  I love The Historian but it’s not a book I recommend for the fainthearted.  It’s a fabulous addition to the vampire canon and I think any true vampire aficionado should read it, but it’s not for everyone. 

When I found Sunshine I fell in love.  Robin McKinley was already one of my favourite authors and now she was writing vampires?  Swoon.  And her vampires are super evil, the kind of evil that means they’re going to take over the world in a hundred years.  They’re the kind of evil that gets inside your mind and can’t even speak words that reference the sun.  They are also completely nonhuman.  Even Dracula can pass for a human occasionally, but McKinley writes vampires that are so alien you can feel them there even when they’re quiet.  They have no human traits.  They don’t even live in the same plane of existence.  Her vampires live in a kind of otherspace that coexists and overlaps with the human world, but also slides diagonally through and wraps around it and encompasses several more dimensions than we are used to. 

Sunshine doesn’t neglect the sexuality of vampires either.  There’s a two-page kiss scene that is possibly the sexiest thing I’ve read in a vampire book ever, and it ends in a completely satisfying way that leaves all the ends dangling.  Constantine, the major vampire character, shows definite signs of falling in love with the main character, Sunshine, over the course of the book.  She is definitely attracted to him but there’s an added dimension of ‘this can’t happen because vampires and humans just aren’t compatible.’  It makes for a lot of tension in the story, particularly because she also has a human lover with whom she shows no signs of falling out of love.  If you’ve read Dracula you may see some serious parallels.  

Robin McKinley took an aspect of Dracula - that of an evil vampire fascinated by a human - and rewrote it.  She expanded it and gave it depth.  Anne Rice focused on sex, Robin McKinley focuses on humanity.  Sunshine has to deal with a relationship with a creature that might kill her at any moment.  The book is surprisingly thoughtful.  It deals more with evil as a concept than Dracula does.  It also features as a main character a bitchy baker who just wants to make elaborate desserts for the rest of her life.  It’s more sensual than any vampire story I’ve ever read.

I love vampire literature.  I think the recent pop-culture trend towards vampirism is, like the undead, both wonderful and terrible.  I like that vampires are getting a lot of attention, because they’re fascinating and I think they deserve a lot more serious analysis than they get, but I don’t like the kind of vampire that keeps getting portrayed.  We’re not seeing the Constantines and the Draculas in vampire TV, we’re seeing the Edwards and the Aubreys.  We’re not seeing evil.  Maybe I’m complaining unnecessarily, but I just don’t like flippant vamps.  In my head vampires are all tied up with Victorian sensuality, and I want to see that portrayed, not angsty faux-goth love affairs with eyeliner.  I hope pop vamps lead people to the real meat of vampire literature.  I hope at least a few get addicted and go hunting for the heart’s blood of the genre.  I hope they find these books and sink their teeth in.  I hope they understand the struggle with evil.  I hope they find the literary merit of vampires.

Sorry I’ve been next to inactive on this blog! I appreciate everyone who still follows, and I apologize for lack of content outside reblogs. I’m actually working on a couple of things I’m hoping to post in the next month, which is actually why I’m coming to you now for a few recommendations.

Over Christmas Break, January term, and my first few weeks here in London, I read Ellen Schreiber's Vampire Kisses series to chart the character arc and growth of the main protagonist, Raven Madison, and compare her to some better-known teenaged girl heroines of the day. Surprisingly, she’s actually comparatively healthier as a role model than a few of them (think “baked” potato chips/crisps), but that’s a big, big write-up I’m planning on posting later. 

But the problem is in reading this series, I accidentally kind of got myself a bit… hooked. While I love all monsters, vampires are my favorite, and having a vampire book to read while I’m in an unfamiliar city has been a great comfort to me. But now that I’ve finished the series, I really don’t know what to read next. I finished Vampire Kisses, then read Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - which, while also YA, has a very different flavor than the sugar-skull fluff of VK. Not a bad one, but just different. I’ll also be writing about that in another post, because the use of social media (including tumblr) in their vampire-based media dystopia is pretty fascinating, actually. Then I tried reading Tom Holland's The Vampire, an alternate history based on the life of Lord Byron, but like a true Gothic novel the prose has me spinning in circles and I had to put it down for a bit, because I kept getting stuck in the same damn hallway, if that makes sense.

But this is the part where I come to you, dear fellow horror fans. Does anyone know of a good vampire book or some good vampire books I can read while I’m over here?

They don’t have to be YA, and they don’t have to feature romance, specifically. Schlock/Cheese factor is totally fine with me, and even a little appreciated. Series are fine, as well as standalone novels.

Anything would be appreciated! Anyone know any good reads I can (yes, I’m going here) sink my teeth into?

The Evolution of the Vampire myth

Vampires – whether they are sparkling, romanticized or more traditional ones like in horror films – are more popular than ever. Since there are so many different versions of the vampire myth it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of its appeal. Vampires represent an otherness no one can ever achieve. They have supernatural powers, are attractive, eternally young and they do not have to fear death.

Legends about vampires have existed for centuries in Eastern Europe. However, one of the first interpretations of the myth, as it is known today, was written by John Polidori. One night he and his friends, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, amused themselves by telling scary stories. In this night Frankenstein was born and also the lesser-known gothic novel The Vampyre. Another ground-breaking novella was Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The main character heavily influenced Lucy Westenra, main narrator of the first still popular vampire story. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897 and contributed many lasting elements to the vampire genre and is often used as reference by writers. During the first drafts the novel was set in Styria but when Stoker came across the name of Count Dracul, he moved the story to Transylvania. Apart from creating the archetypal vampire, Stoker also introduced the idea of the vampire hunter Van Helsing.

It is very curious that the romanticised version of the vampire myth appeared, almost a century before Dracula, the father of all monster vampires, was created. Lord Byron’s narrative poem, The Giaour,combined the vampire myth with lust and made vampires more human. Moreover, he was probably the first who came up with the concept of vampirism passing to the living through the process of feeding. One could argue that there are two archetypal versions of vampires, Stoker’s and Byron’s. What is seen in films and books today are modernizations of these archetypes, adapted to the values of today’s society.

The apparent preference for romanticized vampires may be due to technological advances. With the internet at their disposal it has become very easy for fan cultures to form. These fans, who are predominantly, although not exclusively, teen-aged girls have become an interesting target audience for publishers and film makers alike. Therefore the amount of material catered to them is also represented in the media, while other narratives, featuring traditional monster vampires, which bring in less money, are in turn less represented. Still, in the film industry there has been a strong interest in traditional monster vampires in the past decades. For example, there is the very popular television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and recent films, such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Maybe the true appeal of the vampire myth is its versatility. The idea of the vampire can be adapted to every time period. Therefore, even if vampires lose their marketability in the next years, it is very probable that sooner or later, a version of the old myths will have a Renaissance. For, as vampire hunters know, the undead are very difficult to kill.

By Julia Fellner for the Canada Square Gazette (x)

THE VAMPIRE by Jan Neruda (1884)



The excursion steamer brought us from Constantinople to the shore of the island of Prinkipo and we disembarked. The number of passengers was not large. There was one Polish family, a father, a mother, a daughter and her bridegroom, and then we two. Oh, yes, I must not forget that when we were already on the wooden bridge which crosses the Golden Horn to Constantinople, a Greek, a rather youthful man, joined us. He was probably an artist, judging by the portfolio he carried under his arm. Long black locks floated to his shoulders, his face was pale, and his black eyes were deeply set in their sockets. From the first moment he interested me, especially for his obligingness and for his knowledge of local conditions. But he talked too much, and I then turned away from him.

All the more agreeable was the Polish family. The father and mother were good-natured, fine people, the lover a handsome young fellow, of direct and refined manners. They had come to Prinkipo to spend the summer months for the sake of the daughter, who was slightly ailing. The beautiful pale girl was either just recovering from a severe illness or else a serious disease was just fastening its hold upon her. She leaned upon her lover when she walked and very often sat down to rest, while a frequent dry little cough interrupted her whispers. Whenever she coughed, her escort would considerately pause in their walk. He always cast upon her a glance of sympathetic suffering and she would look back at him as if she would say: “It is nothing. I am happy!” They believed in health and happiness.

On the recommendation of the Greek, who departed from us immediately at the pier, the family secured quarters in the hotel on the hill. The hotel-keeper was a Frenchman and his entire building was equipped comfortably and artistically, according to the French style.

We breakfasted together and when the noon heat had abated somewhat we all betook ourselves to the heights, where in the grove of Siberian stone-pines we could refresh ourselves with the view. Hardly had we found a suitable spot and settled ourselves when the Greek appeared again. He greeted us lightly, looked about and seated himself only a few steps from us. He opened his portfolio and began to sketch.

“I think he purposely sits with his back to the rocks so that we can’t look at his sketch,” I said.

“We don’t have to,” said the young Pole. “We have enough before us to look at.” After a while he added, “It seems to me he’s sketching us in as a sort of background. Well—let him!”

We truly did have enough to gaze at. There is not a more beautiful or more happy corner in the world than that very Prinkipo! The political martyr, Irene, contemporary of Charles the Great, lived there for a month as an exile. If I could live a month of my life there I would be happy for the memory of it for the rest of my days! I shall never forget even that one day spent at Prinkipo.

The air was as clear as a diamond, so soft, so caressing, that one’s whole soul swung out upon it into the distance. At the right beyond the sea projected the brown Asiatic summits; to the left in the distance purpled the steep coasts of Europe. The neighboring Chalki, one of the nine islands of the “Prince’s Archipelago,” rose with its cypress forests into the peaceful heights like a sorrowful dream, crowned by a great structure—an asylum for those whose minds are sick.

The Sea of Marmora was but slightly ruffled and played in all colors like a sparkling opal. In the distance the sea was as white as milk, then rosy, between the two islands a glowing orange and below us it was beautifully greenish blue, like a transparent sapphire. It was resplendent in its own beauty. Nowhere were there any large ships—only two small craft flying the English flag sped along the shore. One was a steamboat as big as a watchman’s booth, the second had about twelve oarsmen, and when their oars rose simultaneously molten silver dripped from them. Trustful dolphins darted in and out among them and dove with long, arching flights above the surface of the water. Through the blue heavens now and then calm eagles winged their way, measuring the space between two continents.

The entire slope below us was covered with blossoming roses whose fragrance filled the air. From the coffee-house near the sea music was carried up to us through the clear air, hushed somewhat by the distance.

The effect was enchanting. We all sat silent and steeped our souls completely in the picture of paradise. The young Polish girl lay on the grass with her head supported on the bosom of her lover. The pale oval of her delicate face was slightly tinged with soft color, and from her blue eyes tears suddenly gushed forth. The lover understood, bent down and kissed tear after tear. Her mother also was moved to tears, and I—even I—felt a strange twinge.

“Here mind and body both must get well,” whispered the girl. “How happy a land this is!”

“God knows I haven’t any enemies, but if I had I would forgive them here!” said the father in a trembling voice.

And again we became silent. We were all in such a wonderful mood—so unspeakably sweet it all was! Each felt for himself a whole world of happiness and each one would have shared his happiness with the whole world. All felt the same—and so no one disturbed another. We had scarcely even noticed the Greek, after an hour or so, had arisen, folded his portfolio and with a slight nod had taken his departure. We remained.

Finally after several hours, when the distance was becoming overspread with a darker violet, so magically beautiful in the south, the mother reminded us it was time to depart. We arose and walked down towards the hotel with the easy, elastic steps that characterize carefree children. We sat down in the hotel under the handsome veranda.

Hardly had we been seated when we heard below the sounds of quarreling and oaths. Our Greek was wrangling the hotel-keeper, and for the entertainment of it we listened.

The amusement did not last long. “If I didn’t have other guests,” growled the hotel-keeper, and ascended the steps towards us.

“I beg you to tell me, sir,” asked the young Pole of the approaching hotel-keeper, “who is that gentleman? What’s his name?”

“Eh—who knows what the fellow’s name is?” grumbled the hotel-keeper, and he gazed venomously downwards. “We call him the Vampire.”

“An artist?”

“Fine trade! He sketches only corpses. Just as soon as someone in Constantinople or here in the neighborhood dies, that very day he has a picture of the dead one completed. That fellow paints them beforehand—and he never makes a mistake—just like a vulture!”

The old Polish woman shrieked affrightedly. In her arms lay her daughter pale as chalk. She had fainted.

In one bound the lover had leaped down the steps. With one hand he seized the Greek and with the other reached for the portfolio.

We ran down after him. Both men were rolling in the sand. The contents of the portfolio were scattered all about. On one sheet, sketched with a crayon, was the head of the young Polish girl, her eyes closed and a wreath of myrtle on her brow.

Translation by Sarka B. Hrbkova

Historical Vampires

Watched Van Helsing last night and Richard Roxburgh being Count Vladislaus Dracula never failed to get me blushing. I always love his intimidating looks on this particular movie and his very good portrayal of the said character. But I am not really after him, I am more curious about Dracula himself. It makes me kind of wonder if vampires really exist. Or if they were really sexy and passionate as what they always seem to appear in books and movies. I know. It doesn’t sound normal. I mean, thinking about vampires and stuff? I know that’s a little funny. But being a huge fan of Anne Rice and this whole lot of Vampire Chronicles? I’m telling you, that was pretty much lovely!

Vampires are folkloric beings who are believed to feed on living creatures particularly in form of blood. Everyone heard about so many vampire stories as early as the 18th century. There are instances where this superstition caused mass hysteria to many different regions in Europe, and some people were even accused of vampirism. In the twentieth century, though, vampirism was given a scientific/biological explanation in the novel La Jeune Vampire, describing it as some sort of genetic mutation.

Two of the most legendary vampires that I love most ate Count Dracula and Lestat. Count Dracula is the primary antagonist of Bram Stoker’s 1987 gothic horror novel Dracula. His character was inspired by a real person - a Romanian General, Prince Vlad III, also called as Vlad The Impaler of the 15th century. He is a notorious Wallachian known for impaling his victims to intimidate his enemies. He even dines among these 20,000 impaled corpses, and this sight has sicken his enemies that made them decide to go back to their bases. Bram Stoker’s novel has incorporated Vlad the Impaler’s history as the fictional Count Dracula’s past. The year 2000 movie, Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, most accurately tells the life story of Vlad The Impaler but had a fictitious ending when he rises from the grave as an immortal with supernatural powers, which eventually made him the legendary vampire character, Dracula. But unlike the usual European vampires that are usually described as corpse-like creatures, Count Dracula exudes a veneer of real elegant charm. Very passionate about his warrior ancestry and always emotionally proclaims his pride. This character remained an iconic figure until the present time.

However, Lestat de Lioncourt may not be as appealing as my beloved Count Dracula, but the way his personality was described in the book is really intriguing. He has male and female lovers, both vampires and mortals, which obviously makes him bisexual. He himself even explained this by offhandedly saying that women are extremely distracting and was not as interesting as men. He is musically-inclined; He sings and plays instruments such as piano and violin. Though basically illiterate as a mortal man, he passionately learned how to read and loves literature. Lestat appears to be smart; he craves for knowledge. His entire life was afflicted by philosophical questions like Are my actions good or bad?”, “Is there a God?”, “Am I in His plan?”, “What happens after death?”, and “What makes a person happy?

The traits of the literary vampire have evolved from the often repulsive figures of folklore. Fictional vampires, if you notice, are usually romantic figures. They are often described as elegant and sexy. The mere reason why I find them very interesting - considering that they are some sort of evil creatures - is that they do not look like the usual horrible monsters at all. The way they moved, the way they show their passion. I may not get to have a close encounter with any of them, I mean NEVER, for sure. But I’ll always be very fond of these creatures and will always be amazed of their history. Well, I still wish to meet one. Who knows? =)

Greetings Earthlings and Possibly Others!

I will never rule out the possibility that aliens might read this blog.  Hi all!  Rosie here.  I know it has been simply ages since our last review.  Teaser: I’m on a true adventure stories kick right now, so it’s possible that you will get a review of (gasp!) nonfiction.  Or maybe not.  You never know, I’m a fickle creature.  For now, my thoughts on Vampire Literature.  I include a list of excellent vampire books for your edification and enjoyment.

[edit] The thoughts on vampires started getting really long, so I’m putting the book recommendations here for those of you who don’t want to read my frankly brilliant writing.  You can read these in any order, but if you’ve never read anything about vampires I’d recommend reading them in the order I have them listed.  At the very least you must read Dracula before The Historian.

  1. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (Interview and Queen of the Damned also good)
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  3. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

If you want a pretty comprehensive list of vampire books, you can check THIS site out.  Blood and books go pretty well together…

P.S. For younger readers (I have no idea how old you all are but my guess is 12-25) and people who want a fun, simple slice of a human jugular, try Demon in My View by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.  I have a serious soft spot for her because she bases one of her main characters in Concord, MA, which I know really well.  I actually know exactly which house she used for Risika’s house.  YUP.  I AM EXTREMELY NERDY.  Get over it.

THE VAMPIRES / STRIGOII by George Bacovia (1908)

The Vampires


With red lanterns, yellow, green
The vampires pass in night over wheat
And the dogs bark on in the night at the fields
The vampires have entered the loft of an inn,
And the loft is seen to be queerly lit
By red lanterns, yellow, green.

The vampires have returned to the loft to retrieve
Pledges left long ago in their lives …
So goes a story that now I’ve forgotten
That at night, in the inn, there appear silhouettes
With red lanterns, yellow, green.

But when the cock crows toward daybreak,
In a pack the vampires tumbles out of the loft,
`Cross the fields, and in chaos they all disappear,
Either red, yellow or green.

George Bacovia



Strigoii


Cu rosii fanare, galbene, verzi
Trec noaptea strigoii prin lanuri de grau
Si cainii spre lanuri in noapte tot bat
Stigoii la crasma in pod au intrat,
Si podul se vede bizar luminat
De rosii fanare, galbene, verzi.

Strigoii, din pod, isi iau inapoi,
Lasate din viata, demult, amanete …
Asa spune basmul ce azi l-am uitat
Ca noaptea, la crasma apar siluete
Cu rosii fanare, galbene, verzi.

Dar cand despre ziua cocosu-a cantat,
Cad buzna din pod gramezi de strigoi
Si-n hau, peste lanuri, strigoii se pierd
Rosii, galbeni si verzi.


Published first in 1908 in the magazine Romanul Literar and then included in the poetry volume Scantei galbene (Yellow Sparks) 1926