Starting with this post, I’ll be writing once a month about older vampire novels, some of them vintage classics of the twentieth century, others lesser known but worthy of wider recognition. In my “Vampire as Alien” post a few weeks ago, I talked about Suzy McKee Charnas’ award-winning THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, composed of five linked novellas about Dr. Edward Weyland, the only surviving representative of his species. That book answers the question, “How would nature design a vampire?” and draws us into the mind of a super-predator who suffers unwilling emotional involvement with some of his human “livestock.”
Today I want to introduce you to distinguished SF and horror author Theodore Sturgeon’s unique short novel, SOME OF YOUR BLOOD (1961). This book holds a special place in my heart as one of the earliest horror novels I read when first exploring the field as a teenager. Like Stoker’s DRACULA, SOME OF YOUR BLOOD is narrated in an epistolary format, as a collection of documents. In a provocative twist on this technique, Sturgeon includes a nameless frame narrator who invites the reader to delve into the psychiatrist’s file at the beginning of the book and reflect on the case at the end. How do we think the “vampire” should be treated, and why? “What is he to you?” the narrator asks.
An army psychiatrist receives a referral for an enlisted man who hit an officer with no apparent provocation. The psychiatrist tells the patient to write an autobiography, which he does in third person, calling himself “George.” George, a bright though not highly educated young man from a rural mountain community, is the son of Hungarian immigrants. The autobiography reveals him as an odd loner, abused by his father. Between the lines of George’s life story, however, lurk to clues to his dark secret—he drinks blood. The army doctor comes across as intelligent and likable, and his case notes as well as a lively exchange of letters with a colleague at another military base let us follow him step by step as he uncovers the truth behind the patient’s façade of quiet cooperation. The doctor’s notes include intriguing background materials about human blood drinkers of history, set in a Freudian framework. Young George emerges as a surprisingly sympathetic character for a sociopath (he isn’t a classic serial killer, committing his couple of murders almost by accident). In another neat touch, Sturgeon pays homage to the genre’s roots through “George’s” real name—Bela.
Margaret L. Carter