Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 12-Feb-2002

A version of this review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 25 (Spring 2002). The Vampire's Crypt web site is:

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women. Ed. Stephen Jones. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001. TPB ISBN 0-7867-0918-9; $11.95.

The good thing about really big anthologies is that they're bound to have something for everybody, just because there's so much to choose from. The bad thing is that it's practically impossible to write a comprehensive review of one -- in a reasonable number of words, that is -- because there's so much to choose from. This one contains thirty-three short stories, one poem, and an introduction by Ingrid Pitt. The last is typical Pitt -- chatty, entertaining, mainly a series of style-over-substance anecdotes about the making of several vampire movies. But don't you want to know what happened to the other half of Sandor Eles's mustache during the filming of Countess Dracula_?

Not only are the contents of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women many and varied, they are mostly new. Many of the stories were written for this anthology; chances are most of the reprints will also be new to you. There are a few old chestnuts -- "The Master of Rampling Gate" by Anne Rice, "Luella Miller" by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, "Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon -- but these are not representative of the bulk of the book, and very bulky it is, at over 600 pages. I had previously read only a handful of the other stories. Particularly noteworthy among the reprints is Connie Willis's "Jack," a long story full of ironies and quiet Dracula allusions about a vampire making himself useful during the London Blitz.

There may be such a thing as a typical vampire story, but most of these don't fill the bill. Some are typical for their authors: Only Poppy Z. Brite would turn convention on its head the way "Homewrecker" does, with its romantic gay redneck out to get the woman who stole his lover. The lack of vampiring and wry humor of "The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeakea" are pure Tanya Huff, with Vicki Nelson investigating accidents blamed on a local protective spirit. Sharper humor spikes "Vampire King of the Goth Chicks" by Nancy A. Collins, typical in its tone and setting if not its adversary for urban punk vampire-hunting vampire Sonja Blue. And Tanith Lee fans will rejoice that her contribution is written in Lee's typically lyrical and inimitable style. In "Venus Rising on Water" gothic isolation and futuristic technology combine for a young journalism student who travels to now-deserted Venice to study the house of a long-dead astrologer; Jonquil Hare's discovery isn't the usual resurrection of a dormant vampire, and her strange antagonist meets a most atypical end.

With "La Diente," Nancy Kilpatrick continues her practice of writing about good vampires that aren't goody-goody vampires; the vampire as a being to which one is transformed, and which in turn has the power to transform. Come from Ecuador to make a living for herself and her extended family, Remedios is taken aback at the rushed, unthinking, wasteful lives of the family she does housework for; it is in self-defense that she recognizes and comes into her own heritage in a world where the strong must be encouraged to survive. Kilpatrick's portrayal of the vampire as triumphing underdog in a completely mundane urban setting shows yet another facet of her ability to weave social commentary into horror. Most of these stories are horror pieces. Want paranoia? Check out "One among Millions" by Yvonne Navarro, with its protagonist learning just how inescapable a vampire's interest in her can be. Incurable disease? Ingrid Pitt proves herself adept at more than chatty introductions in "Hisako San," in which vampire attacks prove devastatingly fatal however slight the blood loss involved. Some of the most subtly delightful horror is in "Turkish Delight" by Roberta Lannes; the hope in young Andrew's heart that makes his unhappy home life bearable for him is also what makes him irresistible to a strange old man. Looking for an O. Henry finish? Louise Cooper presents "Services Rendered": a vampire's transformation is a gift selectively bestowed, and the terms on which she offers it lead to disastrous consequences.

Each story in this book is prefaced by a short piece by or about the author; these are always interesting in themselves and sometimes offer insight (but no spoilers) on the stories they precede. "The passion that the vampire seeks and that the victim wants to give is an appalling and consecrated gift," Mary Turzillo observes before launching into "When Gretchen Was Human." Storm Constantine tells how research that didn't fit into Stalking Tender Prey led to "Just His Type," and Gemma Files reveals the metaphor of aristocracy as vampires that helped inspire "Year Zero."

I'm not completely sure all the stories contain vampirism: It's barely even a red herring in "The Haunted House," a Victorian mad scientist story by E. Nesbit. Caitlin R. Kiernan says that "So Runs the World Away" is about vampires rather than ghouls, but I'm not convinced (which doesn't detract from the, well, casually ghoulish tone in this tale of living dead children). Whether the being in Christa Faust's "Bootleg" is vampiric in any customary sense is open to interpretation, but the protagonist who meets a facsimile of her alter ego certainly considers herself a victim.

It isn't quite an all-horror anthology: "Miss Massingberd and the Vampire" by Tina Rath and "A Question of Patronage" by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro are actually kindly. But don't expect the authors to have pulled any punches because of their sex. Sugar and spice and everything nice may be what little girls are made of, but these vampire stories by women don't sugarcoat anything and have a penchant for revealing the dark underbelly of practically everything nice.

Ingrid Pitt, introduction: "My Life among the Undead."
Anne Rice. "The Master of Rampling Gate."
Poppy Z. Brite. "Homewrecker."
Mary A. Turzillo. "When Gretchen Was Human."
Tanya Huff. "The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeakea."
Nancy Kilpatrick. "La Diente."
Tina Rath. "Miss Massingberd and the Vampire."
Fred Warrington. "The Raven Bound."
Nancy A. Collins. "Vampire King of the Goth Chicks."
Storm Constantine. "Just His Type."
Elizabeth Hand. "Prince of Flowers."
Louise Cooper. "Services Rendered."
Janet Berliner. "Aftermath."
Yvonne Navarro. "One among Millions."
Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman. "Luella Miller."
Lisa Tuttle. "Sangre."
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. "A Question of Patronage."
Ingrid Pitt. "Hisako San."
Kathryn Ptacek. "Butternut and Blood."
Wendy Webb. "Sleeping Cities."
E. Nesbit. "The Haunted House."
Robert Lannes. "Turkish Delight."
Tanith Lee. "Venus Rising on Water."
Gemma Files. "Year Zero."
Mary Elizabeth Braddon. "Good Lady Ducayne."
Melanie Tem. "Lunch at Charon's."
Elizabeth Massie. "Forever, Amen."
Ellen Kushner. "Night Laughter."
Christa Faust. "Bootleg."
Gala Blau. "Outfangthief."
Pat Cadigan. "My Brother's Keeper."
Caitlin R. Kiernan. "So Runs the World Away."
Gwyneth Jones. "A North Light."
Connie Willis. "Jack."
Jane Yolen. "Vampyr" (poem).

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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