Ever since Twilight came out in 2005 the battle has been ongoing: should vampires be scary and predatory like Dracula, or should they be Byronic heroes that can capture a young adult’s heart? I don’t really mind either way. What I love is when a vampire story jumps from this continuum to create whole new dynamics. Below you will find three books that are not simple tales about white Victorian men with a lust for blood and innocent maidens.
The Gilda Stories
The Gilda Stories is a collection of stories spanning about 200 years, written by Jewelle L. Gómez. As you can guess, the stories chronicle the life of Gilda. We receive parts of her immortal life as if through episodes: the end of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the lynching, but also the civil rights movement, the transformation of society and even the future. It’s not all politics and society, though. The beauty of these stories can also be experienced on a personal level. Gilda is a lesbian woman of color forming romantic relationships and strong friendships throughout her long life. These gentle interactions added a notable and enjoyable dimension to the story.
Fledgling is Octavia E. Butler’s last novel. I didn’t think much of it when I initially read it, but soon after it kept coming up in my mind and eventually I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In this book vampires are a species completely separate from humans. It’s impossible to turn a human into a vampire and vice versa. However, the two live in a questionable symbiosis. We follow a genetically modified 53-year-old vampire who looks like an eleven year old black girl. She wakes up in an unusual situation and can’t remember who she is and how she got there. Exploration ensues. This book, like most of Butler’s books, is written to be morally grey. At times it will make you squirm, and other times you’ll be able to sympathize with things you might have never imagined. At the end, I didn’t know how to feel. Would I want to be in the position of the characters? Could these things ever be ethical? I’m still not sure. However, I do know for certain that this is a very interesting read that I’ll be rereading several times.
My Soul to Keep
My Soul to Keep is the first in the African Immortals series, written by Tananarive Due. I might be cheating a little here, since the book doesn’t technically contain vampires according to traditional lore. However, there are immortals and they can turn another human immortal by passing on their blood in a particular ritual. Here we get a look into the life of Jessica, David and their daughter Kira. Their lives are slowly derailing, and we as the reader understand pretty quickly why and how. From that moment on, you’re glued to the pages, yelling at characters to act more like they probably would if they’d had your knowledge of what’s happening! This book stressed me out, but in a good way. It builds up slowly, but gets progressively more action-packed. Fortunately the book stands perfectly on its own, so it can be read without being forced to continue the rest of the series. I will continue, though!
What did you think of these stories? Do you know of any more diverse vampire books? Do let me know, because I’m always on the lookout for more. I would love to see some books that use paranormal themes to explore alternative structures of society, different types of ruling, varied justice systems, etc. Next on my list is Nalo Hopkinson’s short story collection Skin Folk, about all kinds of supernatural creatures. Have you read that one before?