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Mary Downing Hahn's Look for Me by Moonlight tells the story of 16-year-old Cynda. She spends the winter at her remarried father's isolated Maine inn, where she feels left out of his new family. She ignores the overtures of friendship from a fellow loner her age, Will, in favor of the only person that she feels understands her: the elegant, cultured Vincent, who is at least twice her age [well, actually more like 31.25 times her age, but he looks 30].

Vincent plays on Cynda's crush and enthralls her so that he may drink her blood. She finds herself powerless to resist his commands and even to tell her family how he is sapping her will to live. The climax occurs when Vincent manipulates Cynda's 5-year-old half-brother Todd into becoming his next victim. Wrenching herself from her enchantment, Cynda enlists Will's help and, with some supernatural aid from the ghosts of previous 16-year-olds that Vincent has drained, eradicates the vampire.

I fucking love this book! As a novel for kids from 9 to 13, it's written simply, but evocatively, with the usual mastery of creepy atmosphere demonstrated by Hahn in most of her stories. At the same time, even though it's a YA book, Hahn directly engages with the combination of sex and death that makes seduction by vampire so peculiarly potent. I mean, everyone in the entire book [including Cynda] worries about Vincent taking advantage of Cynda and even raping her, though, thanks to Vincent's machinations, Cynda's parents end up believing that Will represents a sexual threat to her. After reading so much YA paranormal romance bullshit [oh hey there, Twilight saga!] that doesn't seriously address the power differential between the mortal female protagonist and the vampire male love interest, I am so glad to read a well-written exposition of the temptation and also the supreme, cold ickiness of finding out that your fantasy is made of ice that wishes only to penetrate you and kill you to the core.

Look for Me by Moonlight reminds me strongly of Sarban's Doll Maker, another nearly allegorical, simply written, evocative novel in which a young woman dances with, goes under and then, finally, resists and pulls free from, an older man who sexually dominates her and prefigures death. As Cynda almost becomes Vincent's icy object, so Clare in the Doll Maker almost becomes Niall's doll, but they both end up overcoming those men who would occupy them. Interestingly, both of them use the ambivalent, cleansing power of fire to effect their final transformation from thrall to independent agent. [Kill it! Kill it with fire!!]

Look for Me by Moonlight also reminds me of Labyrinth. I mean, heck, it's about a 16-year-old girl [Sarah] who feels displaced from her family due to her mother's absence and her father's remarriage. She resents her half-brother [Toby] and spends much of her time living in fantasies [that damn play] where she is convinced that an older dude [Jareth] cares for her. Ultimately, though, she realizes that the older dude means death, so she must rescue her half-brother and herself from his clutches. Of course, Look for Me by Moonlight lacks the added layer that Labyrinth has of occurring entirely within the protagonist's mind. Therefore Cynda needs to neutralize Vincent, while Sarah, in my interpretation, should be doing something more complex than that with Jareth. In any event, I will never tire of reading feminist tales of girls kicking oppressive patriarchal ass and coming into their own power based on warmth, love and connection.

Jareth is such a pedophilic vampire. I mean the one in the movie.

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I'll say a phrase, and you tell me the first words that come to your mind.

Okay? Ready? Here we go:

"Lesbian vampire erotica."


Read more... )
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Just finished the third book in the Sonja Blue trilogy, Paint It Black by Nancy Collins. Kinda funny how she took the title from a Rolling Stones song that was more original, memorable and deeply felt in a few verses than the entire Sonja Blue trilogy was in 3 books. Anyway, I think there was something in there about Sonja's consummation of her quest for vengeance against her vampire maker, but it was lost in an incredibly tedious string of rape, murder, murder by rape and rape by murder that was trying hard to pass for plot.

I was mostly reading the book because I was curious to see how Sonja's adopted vampire/human hybrid daughter Lethe would turn out. When Lethe went into a cocoon, popped out as a teenager after a few weeks and raped her adoptive father [Sonja's partner], then flew around the world [without a plane], raping 24 other guys, with the goal of producing some sort of master race with super psychic powers, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the complete vacuity of the whole enterprise and its venomously misanthropic, morally bankrupt imagination. It was bad because it was stupid and stupid because it was bad.

I swore an oath to myself that I wouldn't swear any more in my LJ, but I have to break that oath now because the Sonja Blue trilogy was the shittiest shit that ever shat. It's an offense to good writing, good plotting and good character development. It's an offense to all people of any sex and gender presentation, but especially women. It's an offense against anyone who believes in kindness, respect, humanity and fairness. It's an offense to originality and creativity.

I've concluded that it's not actually a trilogy. Instead, it's an actively destructive vortex of hostility. It's a testament to the sad depths of banal depravity of the human imagination. It's a diseased mutation of novels, a literary cancer born from kyriarchical nastiness. It's deeply revolting on every level -- line by line, cliche by cliche, regurgitated theme by regurgitated theme -- and potentially damaging. I live in the kyriarchy; I already experience multiple axes of oppression daily; I don't need the inhumane dicta of the kyriarchy concentrated and injected directly into my amygdala in the form of this trilogy.

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to read a series that hates you and enjoys doing so, I heartily recommend the Sonja Blue trilogy. You can have my copies. Take them, please. I would burn them in cleansing fire, only I don't think there's any place around here where I can do so without violating some sort of city ordinance. Barring that, I'll settle for tossing them in the Dumpster or recycling them in the vain hope that the pages might contribute usefully to society in their next life.

I don't just hate this trilogy. I reject it. I repudiate it. It represents all the vile oppressions against which I struggle every day. This trilogy is just one of my many enemies and oppressors.

I will not let it win.
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A while back, when I still lived in Massachusetts, I was housesitting overnight at someone's house. I found some cheap paperbacks by Nancy Collins there -- Sunglasses After Dark and In the Blood -- and read them quickly, staying up late. They followed the adventures of Sonja Blue, a reluctant vampire trying to suppress her monstrous nature, which she termed "the Other," while also taking vengeance on her maker and ridding the world of supernatural menaces along the way. Back before urban fantasy devolved into a set of cliches, this trilogy [capped by Paint It Black] entertained me and made an impression on me in the way that Sonja's vampirism was portrayed as an alien entity in her head against which she struggled.

Harboring happy memories of this trilogy, I recently got all 3 books off Amazon.com and settled in for a bit of fun. I quickly realized that the Sonja Blue series is a) full of cliches [not urban fantasy cliches, but cliches in general] and b) horribly misogynist.

Speaking of a), I don't even know where to start. All the characters are stock types, and they all speak exactly as expected. For example, the British pimp spews a debased version of Cockney slang ["ducks?" "guv'nor?!"] dreamt up by someone whose experience with the British idiom extends to a single viewing of Disney's Mary Poppins. The oleaginous evil dude makes a suave proposal to our male protagonist of In The Blood that's all ominous inneundo and silly euphemisms. I could go on, but I'd exhaust myself in listing the ways in which the characterization is lazy.

Speaking of b), the series doesn't come right out and hate women blatantly, but it does so in more insidious, structural ways. Sonja moves in a world where most of the people she meets are men, while the women are usually reduced to sexualized window dressing. The one exception, her main antagonist in Sunglasses After Dark, Caroline Wheele, is defined as the widow of a charismatic evangelist [she killed him] for whom, with her psychic talents, she was the power behind the throne. When Caroline dies, the spirits of her victims pull her to pieces, reducing her to an insensate object in the very way that the author reduces all female characters.

The trilogy apparently really hates sex too. Any sex scene is one of transactional exploitation, without any appreciation or emotional connection. Sexual and psychic violation forge both Sonja's and Caroline's personalities, and they go on to perpetrate the same abuses on others. Actually, now that I think about it, there's almost no sex acts in the trilogy. It's all rape, all the time. Anyone whose perspective automatically makes sex an abuse of power has a serious problem. Of course, the trilogy's hatred for sex ends up being a hatred for women, since all the women are reduced to sex objects.

Finally, Sonja herself is constructed as a misogynist character. She doesn't hate -- or at least tolerates -- male characters, with whom she occasionally forms mutually beneficial relationships. But she really doesn't like other women. At best, she feels comtempt for them, at worst, as with Caroline, hatred. Furthermore, Sonja is that most tedious of types, the Exceptional Woman [see my criticism of Brave for details], whose value only lies in her repudiation of her status as a woman and her embrace of pursuits and skills coded as masculine. Blah blah blah yuck.

I'm finishing this trilogy, and then I'm getting rid of it.
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In A Discovery of Witches, magically gifted but power-blocked witch Diana finds a medieval manuscript that witches, daemons and vampires want, falls in love with a 1500-year-old vampire and struggles to prevent war between various groups of supernaturals, all while trying to master her own magic. Grace notes about the joys of old books and libraries, as well as a learned, persistent treatment of alchemy, make this one more interesting than the average, but it still is a heavily predictable and somewhat silly beginner for a trilogy. I'm still curious to read the sequels, though.
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So if there was a town that made a deal with death that the town would enjoy health and good fortune in exchange for everyone who was born there having to be buried there and made to keep from walking by a hereditary Graveminder and an Undertaker, and then the dead started walking and eating people because of a reluctant Graveminder, that would be a pretty cool story, wouldn't it?

Such is the conceit of Melissa Marr's Graveminder, in which Bekka, shocked over the death of the previous Graveminder, her grandmother, resists her fated role as stalker of the dead until it's almost too late. Throw in a preordained romance with an equally unprepared Undertaker, and you have the makings of a supernatural romance that might explore determinism vs. free will in an interesting way.

Sorry. No dice. Marr succeeds at fleshing out an original mythology, sustaining a mood of slowly increasing creepiness and making the walking dead scary but also kind of pitiable. Unfortunately, Bekka, the main character, who should be sympathetic or at least interesting, is nothing more than a dishrag who spends over half the book insisting that she is not in love with the Undertaker. Multiple scenes go by in which she and Byron, the Undertaker, dance around the subject of their mutual attraction and complicated past, then stall out. I keep wanting to yell at Bekka: "Stop it! You're preventing the plot from moving forward!" Alas, she does not heed me.

Yet, despite my objections, I am finishing the book because I want to see what happens.

Labeled "vampires" because it involves people coming back from the dead and eating other people.

EDIT: Well, things picked up toward the end when more dead people started going on a human-chewing rampage, and there was a bit of a conspiracy going on, but, all in all, this book was destroyed by repetitive conversations and poor pacing.
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Supernatural mashups are a thriving subgenre in which a modern-day author grafts supernatural elements -- most frequently vampires -- onto a classic of American or British literature and then watches the profits roll in. These books really owe a debt to the Internet renaissance of fan fiction, where people write stories in another author's universe, with another author's characters, for the sheer enjoyment of it. Just like fan fic, supernatural mashups provide clever and diverting amusement, illuminations on the themes of the original, if done right, but frustration and hebetude if done poorly...and they're very easy to do poorly. I am sad to report that, in my travels of YA fiction, supernatural romance, sci fi and fantasy, I have so far not come across any truly good specimens of supernatural mashup, though they must be out there....

Mashups I would like to see:
  • Emily Dickinson and vampires..."Birds, Hours, the Bumblebee...and bloodsuckers!"
  • Charles Dickens and vampires...I think Great Expectations could use some.
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman and steampunk
  • George Eliot and vampires...Middlemarch could be a great, sweeping portrait of vampire society and mores.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray and vampires...would certainly make Vanity Fair less of a boring slog.
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Signal boost for Vera Nazarian's monstrous mashup between Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and an original subplot containing mummies, vampires and other beasts. Regency manners meet things that go bump. Laughs result. It's Mansfield Park and Mummies!!
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So I was browsing around Aeclectic Tarot, idly looking through decks by theme, and of course I checked out the Vampire grouping. Among these I found not strictly a vampiric deck, but a dark and moody one in general, the Bohemian Gothic from Magic Realist Press. The deep, cool blues and jewel-like brights, the profusion of skulls and the disturbingly staring eyes, all in the style of Victorian lithographs, are heavily influenced by Gothic and Romantic tropes. Admire many of the cards at the deck's own Web site. Then weep because it's out of print and commanding nearly $400.00 on Amazon.com. Dammit...and I really liked that deck!
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Sadly, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot is never to be, but check out the crisp, clean darkness of the recently issued Vampire Tarot by Robert Place. Heavily inflected by the novel Dracula and other literary vampires of the 1800s, the Vampire Tarot has novel Major Arcana [such as Jonathan the Fool {hah!}, Mina, the Count, the Madman {Renfield}, etc.] and Minor Arcana. Its four suits are Garlic Flowers, Stakes, Swords and Holy Waters.

I am gratified to note that several of the cards refer covertly to the polymorphous perversity of literary vampires, with the Queen of Holy Water being the famous lesbian vampire Carmilla and one of the Major Arcana being the hungry, sadistic, omnisexual Brides [of Dracula]. Poe and his reanimated heroine Ligeia also appear, so the deck may more properly shade into Gothic and supernatural, rather than just the vampiric. It is pretty damn awesome, even though there is no Baudelaire card.
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Stuck at age 15 since 1973, Sydneyite Nina Harrison has no special powers as a vampire. In fact, she and her fellow support group members are weak, sickly individuals with extreme photosensitivity and an unfortunate propensity to drop dead from sunrise to sunset. They do not seduce, swoop or loom; instead they dither and bicker among themselves, activities that come to an end only when one of them is murdered. Only then do our crochety invalids come alive as they try to solve a murder mystery without involving themselves in violence or blood. Awkwardness results as the characters flail about, much in the way that real people might if they realized they were in a storybook whodunit. While the vampiric whininess gets tedious, Catherine Jinks compensates with non-stop action and plenty of twists and turns, all the while remaining true to her vision of vampirism as a combination of addiction and disability. Though Jinks does not have a sharp enough flair in her writing to pull off a biting satire [instead, it nips occasionally], her relentlessly realistic depiction of average people trying to be superheroic is consistently appealing.
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In a country where it's always snowing, 12-year-old Oskar, a boy as pale as the sun, meets an enigmatic girl one night, Eli, with her dark intense gaze. The two couldn't be more different -- he a scared, passive kid on the young side, she a solemn old soul -- but they're both lonely, and they both want to do violence to the people who threaten them, so that brings them together.

As Oskar struggles with bullying at school, he becomes friends with Eli, who solves Rubik's cubes instantly, but doesn't remember her birthday. About them swirl two mysteries. First, who is killing young boys around Vallingby, the suburb where the two live, and draining their blood? Second, what kind of creature is Eli, who must be formally invited in and who licks blood drops off the floor? Read more... )
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As I mentioned earlier, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have started a vampire trilogy with The Strain, first of three books about vampire-as-virus infesting New York City and the Holocaust survivor and public health official who beat back the plague.

In two words: don't bother. The thoroughly pedestrian prose takes way too long to get into the story. [Why NO, we don't need 50 pages about the strange airplane full of exsanguinated dead people; just tell us that it was creepy, but they're dead, exsanguinated, filled with white stuff instead of blood, and there was a weird coffin onboard that disappeared. You can do that in 20 pages, 15 even, and ramp up the tension even more.]

The cast is so large and fleshed out only so far as stereotypes allow that it's impossible to give a flying fuck about any of them. Their voices aren't very well differentiated, and, like I guessed earlier, there aren't any female characters worth blowing one's nose at.

Not even the innovative reinterpretation of vampirism as a cancerous sort of virus that is motivated by blood-hungry worms in one's veins can compete with the crashing bore of this book. del Toro's vivid, cinematic, disgusting and memorable imagination apparently doesn't translate well out of the filmic genre, even with the help of a ghostwriter. Stick to movies, Guillermo.

Verdict: Don't catch this disease.

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The Strain, written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, imagines vampires as a virus and apparently contains no prominent female characters, which is pretty mind-boggling, considering that over half the threatened human populace is female. Nevertheless, I will read it and report back to my loyal follower about my thoughts.
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In the summers between college, I worked at the Bailey Howe Library for the University of Vermont along with my sister. I got paid to be surrounded by the largest collection of books in the state, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Besides the scholarly titles available, the library also offered a selection of casual reading, which was displayed prominently, along with other new acquisitions, at the back of the lobby on the first floor. I found many books to consume by sorting through the returns, stumbling upon them in the stacks when I was ostensibly making sure books were in call number order and, finally, picking them from the new acquisitions shelf.

During the summer of 1997, I saw a book on the new acquisitions shelf called Daughter of Darkness by Steven Spruill. The cover and title showed all stereotypical signs of being a thriller, possibly with some supernatural elements. As I enjoy thrillers, suspense novels, mysteries, etc., I picked it up. I saw that it was a medical suspense/vampire novel about a hospital intern coming to terms with her peaceful vampirism in opposition to her father's murderous bloodsucking and picked it up. I read it quickly, liked it, then forgot it.

As soon as I forgot all the key details of the book, I wanted to read it again, primarily for the convincing biological interpretation of "hemophages," but I couldn't find it anywhere. It didn't help that all I remembered was the key invented term "hemophage" and the subtitle, "A Novel of Unearthly Thirst." Typing either phrase into search engines did nothing; neither did skimming my local library's catalog of vampire fiction or even that of Amazon. Rather frustrated but not obsessed, I thought I would never figure out what book I barely remembered.

This morning, though, someone requested a Paperback Swap book from me, so I sent it off, then poked idly around the site, looking for a way to use my remaining credits. Seeking an anthology of vampire viction, Blood Thirst: 100 Years of Vampire Fiction, that contains my favorite story by Tanith Lee, "Bite-Ne-Not, or, The Fleur de Fur," I didn't find what I was looking for.

However, I did come across what I wasn't looking for. A keyword search on Paperback Swap for "blood thirst" brought up tangentially related titles...one of which was Daughter of Darkness. The cover seemed familiar and the date, 1997, was approximately right for when I first read the book that I couldn't fully remember. Before my prefrontal cortex registered the title's significance, I felt a familiar rise of anticipation because the rest of me realized that I had been looking for this book for 12 years. Curious, I clicked.

Hooray! An end to my quest! As soon as I saw the subtitle, I knew what I had found.

In any event, I ordered Daughter of Darkness from Paperback Swap, then discovered that it was the second in a trilogy. I just now ordered the first book, Rulers of Darkness. When I get another credit, I will order the third book, Lords of Light, even though it sounds silly. I'm so very gratified to have found Daughter of Darkness, a gratification made stronger and more pleasing by the element of surprise, since I wasn't looking for it in the first place. Serendipitous discoveries make me bubble.

Riddances

Dec. 17th, 2008 12:06 pm
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I got rid of so many things recently. Then an equivalent number of things came into my life, mostly Rements and books. Paperback Swap, while great for getting rid of books, also tempts one to acquire more. Thus I have a huge pile of new-to-me books on my desk about vampires, New England and vampires in New England.

Also I got a Bratz doll, primarily for its shoes, which are appropriately fabulous and correctly sized for my 1:6ers. It also came with a useful microphone and keyboard and some useful pink and black hair. Tragically, none of the clothes fit ANY of my dolls, and the doll itself is hideous, made of vile-smelling plastic.

I need to retire from Paperback Swap and just donate unwanted books. Then I won't be tempted to get more.

I have some books on my shelf from which I only like one or two stories. For example, The Penguin Book of Witches and Warlocks stays in my collection solely because of the perfervid, perverse and gloriously overwrought "Sanguinarius." A recent acquisition, Whisper of Blood, only has one story to recommend it to me: the learned tale of archaeological horror "The Ragthorn." I need to just copy the single stories that I like and get rid of the whole volumes.



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No, seriously. It's the title of a real book. Since they're virtual, they aren't tied to a particular location, so why are they in Vermont, aside from alliterative value? Furthermore, what do they feed on: pixelated gore from first-person shooters?

EDIT: A riveting preview, full of One-Sentence Paragraphs Of Emphasis and Italics Of Doom!! Apparently nothing Vermont-related was employed in the creation of this hackwork entry into a series. How disappointing.

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Available online as an E-book. Looks like published conference proceedings covering Carmilla to BTVS. Super-chouette!

EDIT: This collection of rather short essays is at its best when covering modern vampires, although Hyun-Jung Lee's analysis of LeFanu's Carmilla as a threat to the very foundation of subjectivity is particularly good. In the section on vampires of today, one especially interesting essay by Elizabeth McCarthy addresses the importance of bodily mutilation inflicted by people on vampires to modern conceptions of the vampire legend. In another unusual essay, Pete Remington takes a look at Anne Rice's vampires and their relation to the experience of the depressive self. Five essays treat BTVS and Angel, mostly the sexually problematic characters of Angel and Spike, who both embody and undermine tropes of magnetic, violent, brooding, Byronic heroism. This is a varied collection with essays of uniformly high quality, although I do wish most of the pieces were longer, with more in-depth analysis.

Also possibly of interest: Monsters: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil, edited by Paul Yoder and Peter Kreuter, in the same series.

Also possibly of interest: The Monstrous Identity of Humanity, edited by Marlin Bates, by the same press.

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So I'm poking around on Amazon, looking for comprehensive reference books about vampires, and I realize the sheer number of books devoted to critical analyses of BTVS. In no particular order, here are the ones I found, excluding those that focus primarily on shows other than BTVS:Look -- a lors! )
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Step aside, all post-apocalyptic last-man-on-earth sci fi scenarios. Richard Matheson's 1954 novella, I Am Legend, did it first and best. A simply plotted but viscerally effective work, it focuses on Robert Neville's efforts to stay alive, kill vampires, research the vampirism plague and retain his humanity in the face of crushing loneliness. Matheson writes with a gritty compassion about Robert's messy desperate days, his horrific flashbacks about his wife's death, vampiric resurrection and death again at his hands.

The best parts occur when Robert thinks he's found other plague survivors: a dog, then a woman. Despite his best, most patient, grovelingly desperate advances, the dog dies after only providing a moment of tender respite to Robert. At this point in the novella, the reader feels about as broken-hearted as Robert; while Robert still stubbornly forges ahead in his habits of survival, the more emotionally astute reader begins to suspect that Robert's world has no hope for humankind. The vampires are taking over. By the end of the story, Robert has the hardest, most chilling realization of all. The vampires rule the world, and they regard him as a murderous relic, a frightening aberration in their new society. He is the monster, not them. I strongly recommend this book.
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Since I have problems finding this, here is my books Amazon list and my one for DVDs.
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On the eve of the movie debut of Twilight, much pissing and swooning occurs on the subject of vampires as depicted in this film. Lots of articles wonder about the attraction that the Twilight vampires have to their audience.

Rosemary Black, New York Daily News: 1) Women are drawn to Byronic heroes. 2) We desire them because the intense fear provides orgasmic arousal. 3) They're the ultimate symbol of a chaste sensuality. 4) They're perpetually young, sexy and intensely devoted to their mortal lovers.

Kate Harding, Broadsheet [Salon]: 1) New York Daily News is full of shit. All the article's arguments represent tired stereotypes about female sexuality. 2) Women are attracted to the recent crop of vampires because they are written by women and /or because there's a focused on well-rounded female characters.

Henly 424, Salon commenter: The current iteration of the vampire, an intensely devoted, magical, eternally loving being with awesome superpowers, recapitulates the old fantasy that a supernatural creature can somehow rescue an ordinary kid from a life of boring normalcy and transform him/her into something powerful and stupendous, merely by association with the undead.

There's not anything particularly attractive to women as a whole about vampires as a whole. For women as a whole to be attracted to vampires as a whole, both women as a whole and vampires as a whole would require definition as monadic entities. However, women are diverse in their attractions; vampires are diverse in their manifestations. The idea that "vampires" can reveal something "essential" about "feminine sexuality" can just go to hell.

Even if we're talking about the type of vampires shown in the Twilight saga [which we probably are, even though it's never explicitly stated], the question is still not "Why do women love vampires?" The question is "Why are these particular characters extremely popular among a huge subset of U.S. readers who are mostly teenaged and female?" There's no ahistorical answer. I can't stand it when people can't frame their inquiries with appropriate exactness.

As to why the Twilight vampires are so popular with their audience, I think Laura Miller's analysis of Bella as Mary Sue is an insightful start.

The LHF vampires are amused about the amount of critical ink being spilled in an attempt to explain their attractiveness to mortals. :p

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Available from Zittaw Press. I'm very keen on their scholarly edition of Varney the Vampire, or The Beast of Blood.
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How Stuff Works provides an overview of zombies, including some interesting info about Clairvius Narcisse, supposedly a verified zombie, and the ingredients of Haitian zombie powder, which may have ingredients scientifically proven to produce feels of paralysis and disorientation.

How Stuff Works also has an overview of vampiric creatures around the world, with an especially interesting segment on ancient Assyrian and Babylonian creatures.

The same site also discusses werewolves and the influence of Hollywood on traditional beliefs about these shapeshifters.

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On November 14th, Let The Right One In is coming to the Kendall!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also the book comes out in paperback on October 28th. I will read it.

EDIT: Let The Right One In has already been issued in paperback in 2007 under the title Let Me In. The upcoming release represents a title change and a tie-in to the US release of the film. Anyway, I'm getting Let Me In through interlibrary loan!!
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A picked-on little boy falls in love with a vampire girl. Winter, ice, moodiness and death result. Looks good. Based on a novel?!
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As suggested on this recommendation thread on Amazon.
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A kidnapper steals Susan's young daughter and delivers an ultimatum. Susan must follow a prescribed route through eastern Mass. in order to get her daughter back. But history lies uneasily in these small New England towns; in fact, as Susan makes each stop along the way, history rears out of its grave to shamble after her. As she races to protect her child, Susan discovers the truth, not only about the darkest moment of her own childhood, but also about a centuries-old, supernatural evil that's been haunting the region.

Schrieber pushes Chasing the Dead along with quickly paced prose full of nervous beating hearts and splattering viscera. His simple story trades in archetypes -- Mother on the Defensive vs. Sadistic Monster -- without complexity of character. Not a problem, though, because Schrieber is too busy grossing you out and pulling you along to the next chapter. The perfect mindless suspense novel, strengthened by the fact that Schrieber portrays a convincing eastern Mass. setting.

My one complaint is the gratuitous use of "voodoo" as the ultimate source of the centuries-old, supernatural evil. Instead of Haitian voodoo, the evil character could have been transformed by anything labeled "sinister magic."  Since the evil character started off as a white, English-speaking colonist, he could have made a deal with the Devil or some local New England witches, which would have made much more sense, considering his background and beliefs. Why toss in an unneeded exploitation of "voodoo?" Bullshit like this just reinforces the popular American misconception that Voudou/Voudun is some morally suspect practice involving zombie creation, rather than a legitimate religion.

[Filed under "vampires" for the use of unkillable, soul-sucking evil.]
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Vampress.net recommends books and movies with vampires. May be good for finding a few non-romance vamp titles...
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Summary: Brainy philosophy major student and her biochem boyfriend take different perspectives on the vampire haunting their lives. Is he a dream, a virus, a reality? One character is destroyed; both are transformed, and both learn more about the murky, shape-shifting nature of self and consciousness. Clarion writing, believable characters [especially Anne], unexpected plot twists that reflect great insight into workings of the human mind, a knowledgable representation of the geography of the human imagination -- all these elements add up to a cerebral masterpiece of psychological horror.

Okay, I exaggerate. 

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I'm currently reading Blood Colony, the last book in Tananarive Due's African Immortals trilogy. Details about some pretty awesome vampire novels inside. )
Verdict: With a sympathetic cast [including assertive and realistic women, woooo hoooo!], the pacing of a suspense series and a compelling moral exploration that most fantasy trilogies can't hold a candle to, the African Immortals trilogy provides an intelligent and delicious revision of vampire lore. 
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The Time of the Vampires, a 1996 anthology edited by P.N. Elrod and Martin Greenberg, is like Mary Quite Contrary: when it's good, it's very very good, but, when it's bad, it's horrid. The best stories use the bloody torture and redemption at the heart of Christ's suffering to inform plots about devout Christians attempting to minister to monsters. In "The Blood of the Lamb," by Lillian Carlisle, a nun tries to save the soul and life of an injured vampire. In "Faith Like Wine," by Roxanne Longstreet, a follower of Jesus', cursed with unending life, seeks an end to her torment in the person of a charismatic modern prophet. While these two stories rework the hunger, suffering and sensuality of the vampire myth, most other stories in the anthology try too hard to shoehorn vampiric explanations into actual historical events and personages. For God's sake, if you're gonna write about Oscar Wilde as a psychic vampire ["In Memory Of," by Nancy Kilpatrick], you should make him marginally charming, witty and original, instead of dull, vacuous and horrifically uninspired. Verdict: Not worth your time.

Fred Saberhagen's Dracula Tape is, quite simply, Bram Stoker's Dracula from Dracula's point of view. Liberally quoting the original in order to scoff, mock, undercut and controvert, the Transylvanian count insists that he is not a monster. He didn't violate Lucy, but loved her consensually, and, after her death, most of his actions can be explained by his desire to be united with his true love, Mina, forever. Also, Van Helsing, Harker and the rest of the vampire slayers are idiots. Best appreciated by people who have read Dracula enough times to be very familiar with its details [who, me??], The Dracula Tape is interesting, but doesn't build to any major revisionist revelation. It would make a great novella for an appendix to an authoritative, annotated edition of Dracula. Verdict: Not essential to anyone's enjoyment of Dracula, but stil mildly diverting.

I've really been shooting blanks recently, unable to find any good vampire fiction. Well, #3 in Tananarive Due's African Immortals series, Blood Colony, is waiting for me at the library, and I have high hopes for that, so it better deliver!!
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Bustin' by Minda Webber would like to be a light-hearted, wisecracking supernatural romance, but it fails. Heroine Sam, supposedly an exterminator of paranormal pests, suffers from a tendency to rant, which makes her seem unhinged and prejudiced, rather than charmingly eccentric. The setting suffers from gratuitous alliteration, unimaginative pop-culture puns and a cast of secondaries who compete with each other to see who can be the quirkiest. I hear that Sam exterminates ghosts [one of which is a soup-can-painting spirit named Andy *GET IT hah hah hah winkwink nudgenudge*] for a vampire prince, meanwhile falling in love with a werewolf, but I put the book down before the love interest arrived. As a native Vermonter, I could not forgive Webber for setting a book in Vermont and refusing to describe the state in any remotely convincing detail.
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American Gothic by Michael Romkey follows Yankee Civil War general Nathaniel Peregrine through three stages of his life. During the first, he becomes a vampire in New Orleans, LA, and, indulging in his grief over his family's death, he avenges himself on the South, including, in a very cool segment, planting the idea for Pickett's Charge into Lee's head. During the second segment around the time of WWI, Peregrine, now in rural Haiti,  commissions a Dr. Lavalle to find a cure for vampirism, meanwhile competing with the doctor for the love of some woman. In the final segment, Peregrine hops up to San Francisco, CA, and redeems himself by saving a Goth teenager from a psychopathic therapist. End.
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Got your attention, didn't I? Listen to this story.

In the 1800s, tuberculosis, then commonly known as consumption, was one of the most common, deadly and feared diseases. One of the families it struck was the Brown family of Exeter, Rhode Island. First the mother, Mary Brown, died of consumption in December, 1883. A little over half a year later, the eldest Brown daughter, also named Mary, succumbed. When a son, Edwin, contracted consumption a few years later, he was sent out west in the hopes that the salutary air of Colorado would halt his sickness. It didn't. When Edwin returned to Exeter, his sister Mercy got sick with the "galloping," or fast-acting, version of consumption. She died in 1892.

Edwin's condition worsened. Alarmed at the mortality rate of the Brown family, friends, neighbors and other townspeople began to worry that the Browns suffered from a vampire. What else could be systematically draining the vitality of parents and children except for some hungry relation come back from the grave? Encouraged both by this speculation and by desperation, the remaining Brown men took drastic action.Read more... )
 
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The Vampire Within: The Beginning by Drew Silver [hah!]

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
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Despite its silly title and remote, slow-moving beginning, The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy Charnas turns into a powerful meditation on humanity [well, that's how I interpret it]. Through several interconnected stories, Tapestry follows Edward Weyland, one of the most realistic vampires ever designed. A long-lived, emotionally remote predator who resembles his human prey due to extensive mimicking capabilities, Weyland approaches his existence without sentiment, moral qualm or engagement with the human world. He masquerades as a brilliant university professor involved in dream research, but a rare hunting mistake leads him to injury at the hands of a would-be vampire hunter. The rest of the stories follow Weyland imprisoned and harassed by New Age weirdos, in therapy (!) with a woman who falls in lust with him, viewing opera that touches him emotionally [much to his alarm] and otherwise forming a close bond with his prey. 
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Young Blood by Brian Stableford: a heavily psychological vampire story with a good dose of "imaginary demon lover" thrown in.
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Out to bust stereotypes of moany, moony, moody and thoroughly insufferable Goths is Raven, narrator of Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schrieber. Though the title purports that this book is yet another vampire romance, most of the plot consists of bubbly, impulsive, butt-kicking and cheerfully dark Raven's attempts to be herself in a school and a town determined to quash her weirdness.
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In Sunshine, Robin McKinley revisits her favorite obsession, Beauty and the Beast. This time, a cold, clammy and remarkably honorable vampire, Con [stupid name], serves as the Beast. Much to my frustration, however, McKinley takes an almost failproof idea [Beauty + Beast + vampires + magic = awesome] and sabotages it by not building it a foundation. 
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The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout has one interesting idea in its pages: the concept of the blood tie, a BDSM-like compulsion that exists between new vampires and the person who vamps them. The blood tie, like lust, short-circuits the new vampire's brain, strongly predisposing him or her to submission before his or her maker. The comparison between sexual desire and the blood tie is apt because, at least how Armintrout writes it, the blood tie often occasions hot monkey sex between maker and new vamp.
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You thought Peeps were just marshmallow chicks, right? Well, clearly you haven't read Scott Westerfield's YA novel, Peeps, in which the titular designation refers to those people who are "parasite positive." In Westerfield's world, peeps are human beings infected with voracious parasites that compel their hosts to transmit said parasite through blood contact. With hopped-up, superhuman senses, long lifespan, bloodthirsty instincts, perpetual horniness and aversions to sunlight, peeps are most commonly referred to as -- you guessed it -- vampires.
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I zipped through Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn, a metaphor-drugged story about Beckett, a young teen girl who grieves the death of her mother. When her father marries the school nurse and Beckett gets her horribly painful period, she suspects sinister and blood-related hunger lurking beneath the surface of her new stepmother. Eventually Beckett determines that her new stepmom is out for blood and that she, Beckett, is the Last Girl of the horror films, who must either confront the monster or become its culminating victim.

As you can see by the reviews on Amazon, this book is either a work of transcendent genius or a piece of unreadable, pretentious fluff, depending on the perspective of the reader. I personally liked it.
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Apparently the Anita Blake series started off interesting and slid into porn. For example, an Amazon reviewer savages Narcissus in Chains, a midstream book in the series, as follows: "This book brings in a new character, the male Nimir-Raj of another were-leopard pack, with whom Anita immediately has sex. And there's mental sex, virtual sex, interspecies sex... it gets downright tiresome. You never knew sex could be this boring." HAH!

Maybe I should go back and read some of the earlier books in the series? I keep confusing them with Nancy Collins' Sonja Blue series, which memorably has vampire protagonist at odds with her vampirism, personified as a sleek and crazy killer that squats in her mind and talks to her under its breath. I would reread Collins again just for Sonja's internal dialogs.
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So I finished Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, which was grotesquely overrated, unfunny and generally stupid. It's about a pretentious loser of a wannabe writer, Tommy, and his vampire girlfriend Jody. 

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After reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, I needed to wash my brain out with a vampire novel of higher quality. Since I've practically memorized Carmilla and Dracula at this point, I chose instead a modern classic: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. It tells the story of petulant, artistic and sensitive Zoe, 17, who feels as if her world is imploding because her mom is dying of cancer. She meets Simon, a sympathetic badass vampire bent on vengeance against his brother for killing their mom. Simon helps Zoe deal with her mom's demise, and she helps him achieve revenge.

Good things about The Silver Kiss: Klause writes in a fast-paced style, but with frequent flashes of poetry in her use of unexpected adjectives. From the title onward, she creates a fascinating atmosphere of magic and melancholy.  Her portrayal of the grieving Zoe's mood swings is accurate and compassionate, anchoring the book in a drama that readers can easily identify with. Unlike Meyer, who can't write an appealing, active character to save her life, Klause shows both Zoe and Simon as broken-hearted characters who think way too much and thus have a common bond that explains their attraction. Finally, Klause's use of vampires as a metaphor for the grieving process illuminates both Zoe's stories and vampire myths in general, offering a believable reason that such deadly humanoid parasites could be sympathetic.

Bad things about The Silver Kiss: Zoe does not read as a 17-year-old to me. Even making allowances for her grief and general strain, I find it hard to believe that her constant whininess and snappishness would come from someone over 15. Klause should have made her 15; I don't think the story would have suffered. Relatedly, I sympathize with Zoe because I've experienced death and know how it can punch one in the gut, but still...while sympathetic, Zoe is a hard character to like and follow along with. Simon is a bit better, although Klause tries too hard [e.g., in the scene where he beats up drunken doofuses and steals one of their leather jackets] to make him edgy. These lapses are forgivable, though, when compared to the main problem of the book: the ending. I accept Simon's suicide/sacrifice, but I reject Zoe's sudden confidence and lack of fear about dying. All along, Klause depicts grief as a tangle, and it's never unknotted so simply and completely. Even if Klause had written that Zoe "wasn't SO scared any more" instead of "wasn't scared any more," that would have been better.

Nevertheless, The Silver Kiss is a vivid, nuanced novel about vampires.

New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, is, however, not. It's just more of the same sluggish melodrama that we saw in Twilight. A coworker who borrowed Twilight from me summed up my feelings toward this series well when she said, "I finished Twilight. I stayed up late reading it." Thoughtful pause. "I didn't like it very much."

Next up: Blood-Sucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore.
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I don't know what the hullabaloo is about Sergei Lukyanenko's series about the Others: Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch, etc. It's about the LIght and the Dark in stalemates, each monitored by police forces from the opposing team, which sounds like it could be an interesting premise. 

However, what some people see as sharp, edgy urban fantasy I see as pointless action at the expense of character development. What some readers interpret as a fantastic revamping of fantasy I think of as retreaded fantasy cliches executed with little originality or flair and, even more damningly, very little sense of humor. What some read as a fast pace I read as a simplistic plot line with no subtlety or twists.

Additionally, the clunky translation by Andrew Bromfield states the obvious and uses too many exclamation points ["Things were looking really bad now!"]. Thus books [I've sampled Night Watch and Day Watch so far] seem immature and overwritten. 

Besides, in Night Watch, on top of not giving a key vampire a name, but just calling her "the vampire girl" dismissively throughout an entire chunk of the novel, Lukyanenko also succeeded in making vampires particularly dull, a crime that I can never forgive. Though, in the preface, the vampires truly seemed evil, seductive and magical, they flattened out in ensuing pages. His prefaces always start off exciting, but then the rest of each book falls flat. Bait and switch, BAIT AND SWITCH. :(

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While I was at W**-M**t buying my own copy of Twilight, I noticed an infestation of OTHER vampire romance novels all over the bestsellers shelves. I poked my head into Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole because it sounded vaguely promising. Neomi, insubstantial and glammy ghost ballerina, is bound forever to haunt her property, unseen by all. Fortunately, entertainment arrives in the form of Conrad, a slightly looney vampire whose specialties are frothing, gnashing and -- hooray! -- viewing Neomi. Plot ensues.

This one was hilarious, primarily because of Conrad. If you follow the link, you can read an excerpt from the book, which portrays his internal monolog as follows: "Tales of his insanity spreading once more. I've never missed a target -- how insane can I be? He answers himself: Very fucking much so." To such inane rhetorical questions, Cole also adds constant, redundant commentary on the action: "Just as his hands are about to meet around the Lykae's corded neck, the beast claps something to his right wrist. A manacle? Clenching harder, he grates out a rasping laugh." Furthermore, Cole makes Conrad curse constantly, just in case you haven't realized how BAD-FUCKING-ASS he is, okay? Conrad, incidentally, does not come across as particularly bad-ass. He comes across as a weirdo with a puppet show in his head.

I can't tell you what happened in the rest of the book because I didn't have time to finish it, but I assume that Neomi and Conrad had sex [somehow] and then lived happily ever after, at least until Neomi caught a whiff of his internal monolog and laughed so hard that she dissolved.
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Velde reimagines the vampire romance genre with Companions of the Night, a 1995 story of teenaged Kerry, whose trip to the laundromat to retrieve her little brother's teddy embroils her in torture, kidnap, robbery, arson and murder. When she defends Ethan against vicious kidnappers, she discovers that she got more than she bargained for, as Ethan is sneaky, unreliable and vampiric. Nevertheless, she must trust him and even adopt some of his tough, duplicitous ways if she is to rescue her family from an unhinged vampire hunter.

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