Published by Night Shade Books (www.nightshadebooks.com)
John Joseph Adams’s Web site: www.johnjosephadams.com
By Blood We Live Web site: http://www.johnjosephadams.com/by-blood-we-live/
Having edited two definitive themed anthologies for Nightshade (The Living Dead and Wastelands ), John Joseph Adams turns his deft and careful hands to one of the most iconic of genre characters – the vampire. Adams provides a nice introduction, wherein he goes over the various incarnations of the vampire over the past couple of hundred years. The stories then begin with an appropriately dark vampiric twist on the Snow White story in Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman. Here, Snow White is not white for being pure as much as she is for being undead, Gaiman skillfully twists the classic villain of the stepmother into the struggling heroic character of the piece.
Anne Rice published only one short story, The Master of Rampling Gate, and it is collected here. It features all the hallmarks of her early Vampire Chronicles – subtle, an almost gothic sense of horror and tension, and beautiful vampires. This can be seen as a link between her Mayfair Witch stories and the Vampire chronicles.
Child of an Ancient City is one of Tad Williams rare forays into short fiction. The story involves a wampir, a middle-eastern version of the classic vampire story. Williams engenders his monster with a great deal of pathos in this story within a story that features a terrific ending. This story shows the range of Williams’s storytelling skills, for in the small space in this story (compared to his equally enjoyable doorstopper epics) he tells a great story.
Garth Nix’s (The Abhorsen Trilogy & The Keys to the Kingdom) Infestation is a fun, unexpected, and engaging look at alien vampires (reminiscent of E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth). There’s more to tell here and of the stories in this anthology, I think this is the one I’d most like to see expanded into novel length form.
Carrie Vaughn has made her name telling stories of werewolf Kitty Norville, but in Life is the Teacher she gives a snapshot of what it might be like to be a new vampire. The hook in this story is that the new vampire was turned to the undead by one of your own family.
Norman Partridge has received a number of awards and award nominations for his long and short fiction. Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu is a great ‘continuation’ of Dracula, which takes place in Texas and features Quincey Morris following the climactic confrontation between Morris, Jonathan Harker and the Count. Partridge captured the local flavor and put a terrific twist on the classic Stoker novel. One of the standout stories in the anthology
Joe Hill is one of the brightest new stars in the genres of Horror and Fantasy, having won Abraham’s Boys tells the story of how it would be like growing up as the son Dracula’s pursuer, Abraham Van Helsing. Hill’s story is very convincing – the boys are struggling with growing up as all kids do, with the added bonus of an uncompromising man who will not let them out at dark. I originally read the story in Hill’s award winning collection 20th Century Ghosts, but re-read it here because it was just so damned good.
Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlín R. Kiernan references the classic painting by Munch, who also painted the more famous painting, The Scream. The story is subtle and effective.
Robert J. Sawyer’s Peking Man is a terrific more scientific take on the vampire legend. Here, the vampire is looked upon not with horror, but as a coveted prize and part of an extremely long-lived lineage.
Undead Again by Ken MacLeod is not surprising framed more as a science fiction story than a straight out vampire story. Vampires are considered diseased humans, and in the course of the backstory of MacLeod’s story, are frozen until a cure can be found as the remnants of humanity board a generational starship and seek out a new planet to inhabit.
Ambiguity is the running theme of Charles Coleman Finlay’s Lucy in Her Splendor. Like MacLeod’s story, the vampiric affliction is initially thought to be a sickness, but more is revealed through Finlay’s skillful hands as the story reaches its excellent conclusion.
One for the Road is one of Stephen King’s earliest stories, connecting to one of the most defining vampire novels of the 20th Century – Salem’s Lot. Here, a traveler from New Jersey makes a pit stop at a gas station just outside the infamous town of Jerusalem’s Lot. The frightening thing about the vampires in this story is how they are familiar to one character who fears to admit the truth.
Other stories in this anthology include Under St. Peter’s by Harry Turtledove; Lifeblood by Michael A. Burstein; Endless Night by Barbara Roden; The Vechi Barbat by Nancy Kilpatrick; The Beautiful, The Damned by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; Foxtrot at High Noon by Sergei Lukyanenko; This is Now by Michael Marshall Smith; Blood Gothic by Nancy Holder; Mama Gone by Jane Yolen; Nunc Dimittis by Tanith Lee; Hunger by Gabriela Lee; Finders Keepers by L. A. Banks; After the Stone Age by Brian Stableford; Much at Stake by Kevin J. Anderson; House of the Rising Sun by Elizabeth Bear; A Standup Dame by Lilith Saintcrow; Twilight by Kelley Armstrong; In Darkness, Angels by Eric Van Lustbader; Sunrise on Running Water by Barbara Hambly; Hit by Bruce McAllister;; Necros by Brian Lumley; Exsanguinations by Catherynne M. Valente; and The Wide, Carnivorous Sky by John Langan.
All told, By Blood We Live contains three dozen vampire stories, ranging across the board in theme, scope, and tone. The stories are bookended by Adams’s aforementioned introduction and a great list “For Further Reading” by Ross Lockhart showing just how wide the spectrum of vampire fiction is.. As he’s done on Wastelands and The Living Dead, John Joseph Adams has given readers another definitive anthology.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford