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!!