Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Female Vampire in Recent Fiction

Picture kindly provided by MariaLombide Ezpeleta.

As in the movies, Dracula and his male vampire kin dominated twentieth-century vampire fiction writing. However, some females vampires gained a foothold in the realm of the undead. Many of these have been the imaginary product of a new crop of female writers, though some of the most popular female vampire authors—Elaine Bergstrom, P. N. Elrod, and Anne Rice—have chosen male vampires for their protagonists.

The century began with an assortment of short stories featuring female vampires, including F. G. Loring’s “The Tomb of Sarah”, Hume Nisbet’s “The Vampire Maid”, and E. F. Benson’s classic tale, “Mrs. Amworth.” Female vampires regularly appeared in short stories through the 1950s but were largely absent from the few vampire novels. Among the first novels to feature a female vampire was Peter Saxon’s 1966 The Vampires of Finistere. Three years later Bernhardt J. Hurwood (under the pseudonym of Mallory T. Knight) wrote Dracutwig, the lighthearted adventures of the daughter of Dracula coming of age in the modern world.

In 1969, possibly the most important modern female vampire character appeared, not in a novel, but in comic books. Vampirella, an impish, voluptuous vampire from the planet Drakulon, originated in a comic magazine from Warren Publishing Company at a time when vampires had disappeared from more mainstream comic books. Vampirella was an immediate success and ran for 112 issues before it was discontinued in 1983. The stories were novelized in six books by Ron Goulart in the mid-1970s. Most recently, the character has been revived by Harris Comics and is enjoying new popularity.

Female vampires have continued to emerge as the subject of novels. From the 1970s one thinks of The Vampire Tapes by Arabella Randolphe (1977) and The Virgin and the Vampire by Robert J. Myers (1977). These were followed by the reluctant vampirism of Sabella by Tanith Lee (1980) and the celebrative vampirism of Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger (1981). Through 1981 and 1982, J. N. Williamson wrote a series of novels about a small town in Indiana that was home of the youthful-appearing but very old vampire Lamia Zacharias. The books describe her various plots to take over the world. In spite of some real accomplishments in spreading her vampiric condition, she never reached her loftier goals. Other significant appearances by female vampires occurred in Live Girls(1987) by Ray Garton, Black Ambrosia (1988) by Elizabeth Engstrom, and the first of Nancy A. Collins’s novels, Sunglasses after Dark (1989), which won the Bram Stoker Award for a first novel from the Horror Writers of America.

The 1980s ended with the appearance of the “Olivia” novels by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Olivia had first appeared in Blood Games, one of the more famous Saint-Germain vampire novels. However, beginning in 1987 Yarbro produced four lengthy explorations of Saint-Germain’s former love living on her own. These novels included A Flame in Byzantium (1987), Crusader’s Torch (1988), A Cradle for D’Artagnan (1989), and Out of the House of Life (1990).

Also memorable during the 1980s was Vamps (1987), an anthology of short stories of female vampires compiled by Martin H. Greenburg and Charles G. Waugh. It included some often-ignored nineteenth-century tales, such as Théophile Gautier’s “Clarimonde,” and Julian Hawthorne’s “Ken Mystery,” as well as more recent stories by Stephen King and Tanith Lee.

Novels featuring female vampires continued into the early 1990s. Traci Briery, for example, wrote two substantial novels, The Vampire Memoirs (1991) and The Vampire Journals (1992), chronicling the lives of two female vampire heroines, Mara McCuniff and Theresa Allogiamento. Kathryn Meyer Griffith’s The Last Vampire looked into the future to explore the problems of a reluctant vampire after a wave of natural disasters had wiped out most of the human race. And not to be forgotten is The Gilda Stories, a lesbian vampire novel by Jewelle Gomez, an African-American author.

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