A Little Horror

There’s something very saitsfying about picking up a book out of the Pile and finding it just as good as you hoped it would be.  This is one of my newest acquisitions, from Half Price the Thursday before I left for the weekend, and one of the books I’d stuffed in my bag against finishing Spinning Silver.

Some names I just take note of, even if they seem to come in pairs.  In this case, I was surprised to find an anthology (of course it’s an anthology) edited by Ellen Datlow, missing her partner in crime Terri Windling.  Then again, I was looking in the horror section, which probably explains the lack.  Yes, the two together have a tendency towards horrific fairy tales, but Windling is more fantasy and Datlow is more horror.  And if you know anything about me at all, you know that this anthology I pulled from the horror section is about vampires.

The title, Blood is Not Enough, is a dead giveaway there, but that and the editor alone weren’t why I picked it up.  The cover said I’d find stories from (the late great) Harlan Ellison and Fritz Leiber, and the inside cover added Tanith Lee, as well as that other standard pairing of Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, whom I hadn’t realized also wrote fiction, in addition to editing anthologies.  Oh, and Joe Haldeman also contributed.

I’ve read more authors here than that, of course, and it was very interesting to see which names are in my database multiple times as I went though, including Gahan Wilson (whom I last encountered in a fascinatingly visual story that started off Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman), Garry Kilworth, Harvey Jacobs, Edward Bryant (someone I originally read in Immortal Unicorn), and Steve Rasnic Tem.  That’s ten out of seventeen stories, and a fairly normal percentage for me.  Enough to have familiarity, but still room to find new names.  After all, every one of the authors I listed was new to me at one point and, as you know, the more I see a name the more likely I am to actually reach out and pick up a book based on that strength.  Well, maybe not a novel in most cases, but still, it adds weight to an anthology I’m considering.

As the title implies, Blood is Not Enough features more than just the traditional vampires.  Vampirism can take many forms, and there are stories here to showcase a multitude.  In fact, while most of the tales were written for this anthology, several are earlier works – much earlier in one case.  No date is provided to Leonid Andreyev’s “Lazarus”, which paints that Christian miracle in a much darker light.  The second oldest story is Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” from 1949 which captures a mediocre photographer’s growing fascination and horror with his model.  “Try a Dull Knife” by Harlan Ellison dates back to 1968 and it, in contrast, manages to capture one man’s panic and frenzy as he tries to lose the shadows in his mind.

The other older stories are all from the eighties, including Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann’s contribution, “Down Among the Dead Men”.  Now that is a story that I will almost certainly remember forever for its chilling imagery and impposible question of right and wrong morality.  Datlow’s note preceeding the story mentions that this story was rejected by the major science fiction magazines of the time (1982) because of the subject matter.  I can understand that, but I feel this is a tale that shouldn’t be forgotten.  It is a vampire story, true, but it’s also a Holocaust story, and kudos to the men who wrote it.

Another tale that stuck with me is “The Silver Collar” by Garry Kilworth.  It may have been inspired by his daughter’s wedding jitters dream, but he wrote a hauntingly compelling tale around it that evokes Dracula in almost every scene.  I do appreciate that in addition to the editor’s note introducing each story, there’s also an author’s note following, talking about where the idea came from, what the author sought to accomplish, or just what comes to mind as they revisit a story years later for this collection.  A real best of both worlds scenario for me.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Harvey Jacobs’ “L’Chaim!” being the Jew that I am.  He may call his vampires “yuppies”, but the story was still good even when I saw what was coming.  It’s on the shorter side, but well worth the inclusion.

It was “A Child of Darkness” by Susan Casper that gave me flashbacks to Sabella by Tanith Lee, rather than that own worthy’s contribution.  Scott Baker’s “Varicose Worms” was as disgusting as promised and Edward Bryant’s “Good Kids” took a turn for the interesting as I read.

I suppose I could go on with a sentence about each and every inclusion, but I’ve hit all the high points by now.  The fact is that I do like a well-written vampire story and it’s a creature that works as well if not better in short fiction as in long.  I just need to keep reminding myself that not all horror exists to make you jump up and scream, that much of it’s psychological and knows how to tell a good story.  I’ve never liked scaring myself just to feel fear and I can’t stand horror movies.  But literature is a different creature and I need to be better about remembering that.

Mostly I’ll just sit back tonight and appreciate the wonder of reading a book of stories I’ve never experienced before and thoroughly enjoying myself.

And no, I’m not adding a horror category.  It may be listed as a separate genre in bookstores, but for me it falls under the banner of science fiction/fantasy.

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