Thursday, November 15, 2018

Stagestruck Vampires

If you have read THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, by Suzy McKee Charnas, you'll love her collection of stories and essays, STAGESTRUCK VAMPIRES AND OTHER PHANTASMS (2004). If not, check out this compilation, which includes a few samples to introduce you to that novel and its vampire, Weyland. "Unicorn Tapestry," the Nebula Award-winning central section of the book, in which Weyland submits to therapy as part of his human "cover," makes a good stand-alone read. "A Musical Interlude," a shorter selection from THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, unlike "Unicorn Tapestry" allows the reader to share Weyland's own viewpoint. "Advocates," a collaboration between Charnas and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, set in an alternate timeline in which vampires have taken over the world, introduces Weyland to Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain. Not surprisingly, they don't like each other much, although circumstances force them to work together. Charnas prefaces this story with an explanation of how she and Yarbro worked together on it.

"The Stagestruck Vampire" is a fascinating account of how Charnas adapted "Unicorn Tapestry" into a play, VAMPIRE DREAMS, and participated in its stage production at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 1990. The other nonfiction piece, "They're Right, Art Is Long," explores in detail the arduous process of transforming her first book, WALK TO THE END OF THE WORLD, from an "unreadable" first draft into an award-winning novel, which led to a four-book series. Anyone interested in a writer's creative process will enjoy these essays.

The longest, most complex, riveting non-vampire story, "Beauty and the Opera or the Phantom Beast," reveals, through Christine's first-person story, what "really happened" at the climax of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA—and it's not how the classic novel ends. To save her young suitor, Raoul, from the Phantom, Christine renounces Raoul and pledges to live with Erik as his wife for a fixed span of time, at the end of which she'll go free. Naturally, the "marriage" doesn't work out as she expects. An intense passion develops between the two, but the vowed deadline looms over them. Christine is a strong, pragmatic character whose narrative voice keeps the reader enthralled. My other favorite non-vampire story, "Boobs," gives us a first-person account of a teenage girl's awakening as a werewolf. In "Peregrines," the female narrator, a tarot card reader, encounters a magical boy and his bodyguard, who turn out to be fugitives from another world. The collection also includes two older, hard-to-find stories, "Evil Thoughts" and "Listening to Brahms."

Fans of THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY shouldn't miss this volume, which is in print at a modest price. If you're not familiar with Charnas's work, this would provide an excellent introduction.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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