Monday, March 14, 2022

Vamps

The anthology VAMPS (1987), edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh, reprinted sixteen stories of female vampires, mostly from the nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries, plus two more recent. Those two, "One for the Road," by Stephen King, and "Red as Blood," by Tanith Lee, may be familiar to many fans but not all. King's story revisits the abandoned town of 'Salem's Lot, where a few creatures of the night still lie in wait for unwary travelers. Tanith Lee creates an unforgettable dark fairy tale of Snow White as an unnatural child and her stepmother, the new queen, as a good witch intent on protecting her people.

This volume contains a few often-reprinted standards, making it a useful introductory text for novices in search of the female undead who lurk in the fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These include Theophile Gautier's "Clarimonda" (frequently published elsewhere under various English titles), J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla," F. Marion Crawford's "For the Blood Is the Life" (the exhumation of the terrifying yet pitiable undead girl presents one of the most chilling images in this subgenre, in my opinion), and Fritz Leiber's modern take on the psychic vampire in an age of mass communication, "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes."

Among the other selections appear two of Manly Wade Wellman's many vampire tales, "The Last Grave of Lill Warran," a rural folk horror piece starring investigator of the supernatural John Thunstone, and "When It Was Moonlight," wherein Edgar Allan Poe tangles with an undead woman while researching premature burials. Robert Bloch's delightful "The Cloak," which was adapted (with many changes) as one segment of the film THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, features an authentic vampire cape that transforms the wearer. Another sinister garment works a transformation in Richard Matheson's much darker story of a child vampire, "Dress of White Silk." We meet an energy-draining character in Mary Wilkins Freeman's "Luella Miller" and a wronged woman whose thirst for vengeance turns her into a revenant who returns with every snowstorm in "The Drifting Snow," by August Derleth. In one of my favorite vintage pulp stories, "She Only Goes Out at Night," by William Tenn, the young lady described in the title isn't evil at all, but the victim of a hereditary disease, ultimately controlled by modern medical science to give her a happy ending with the man she loves.

Julian Hawthorne ("Ken's Mystery," a tale of supernatural time travel in a haunted Irish countryside), David Keller ("Heredity," which draws upon obsolete concepts of "atavism" to explain its horrific scenario), and Seabury Quinn ("Restless Souls," one of many stories featuring occult expert Jules de Grandin) complete the roster of distinguished authors. Readers could hardly ask for a more wide-ranging yet deeply rooted overview of the female vampire trope in classic and vintage fiction. My only complaint is that the contents aren't in chronological order, as would be logical. Amazon offers reasonably priced secondhand copies of at least three different editions of this book.

Margaret L. Carter

Please explore love among the vampires at Carter's Crypt.

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