Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shattered Glass

by Margaret Carter

Elaine Bergstrom, in SHATTERED GLASS (1989) and its prequels and sequels, creates vampires of extraterrestrial origin but with such long-term residence on Earth that they consider this planet their home. Though clearly superior to Homo sapiens, most of them respect humanity. Like other more or less benign fictional vampires, Bergstrom's vampire clan, the Austras, balance their predation with service to the host species. The Austras contribute to humanity's long-term welfare through the products of their genius under the cover of their corporation, AustraGlass, whose creations in stained glass have adorned human architecture since the Middle Ages. Just as their empathic connection to their donors compensates for the blood they drink, their contributions to human culture balance (if not atone for) the killings some of them have committed over the centuries. Their weaknesses—particularly their reproductive difficulties—offset their superhuman powers. Not only do they take blood from human prey (as well as lower animals), they also need the human race to revitalize their gene pool. Austra females usually die in childbirth, typically producing twins or triplets. After her vampire nature is awakened by blood-sharing with Stephen Austra, Helen, the human-alien hybrid of SHATTERED GLASS, offers the promise of birth without inevitable sacrifice of the mother.

Stephen's twin Charles, unlike his brother, feeds on pain and terror instead of the positive emotions that constitute the Austras' more usual nourishment. Charles yearns for death. Because these vampires' instinct for self-preservation makes them practically incapable of taking their own lives, Charles goes on a murderous rampage in the city where Stephen has settled, hoping to get his brother to kill him in the vampiric equivalent of "suicide by cop." Not surprisingly, to attract Stephen's attention he threatens Helen and her family.

Bergstrom's very sensual vampires exert an irresistible magnetism over human beings, especially when the vampires hunger for blood. Also, because (like many fictional vampires) they possess telepathy, they can shape their behavior to satisfy the human partner's inmost desires. Beyond sexual union, the Austras use telepathy to satisfy the human yearning to know the Other. For the reader, they fulfill in fantasy the otherwise unattainable wish to plumb the depths of another's mind. While drinking a human donor's blood (and sometimes even without blood-sharing), the vampire can share his or her memories with the donor in a reenactment so vivid it seems actually to be happening. Other novels in the series move backward in history or forward to Stephen and Helen's married life and the birth of their children. Some short stories about the Austras have also been published, such as "The Ghost of St. Mark's" in THE TIME OF THE VAMPIRES, an anthology of historical vampire fiction, and "Ebb Tide" in the recent anthology VAMPIRES: DRACULA AND THE UNDEAD LEGIONS. I'm honored to mention that a version of this story, an outtake from SHATTERED GLASS, was originally published in the first issue of my fanzine, THE VAMPIRE'S CRYPT, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You can find a link to information about the zine (all 25 issues are still available) and the distributor's sales page on my website:

Carter's Crypt


Elie said...

I love it when the vamps in the story can build that connection with their donors, when it goes beyond blood donation. The only thing is when they have telepathy I often wonder if the connection is fake or the real thing. The donors lose free will.

Derek Tatum said...

An excellent series by an author long overdue for rediscovery.