Thursday, August 04, 2011
First published: 1991, this edition 2004
The Gilda Stories are not your common-or-garden vampire stories. The novel – made up of a series of vignettes based around the vampire Gilda, and set through the ages – is certainly not a horror nor is it paranormal romance, those being the most common variety of vampire story at present. Rather it is a piece of literature that explores personal growth by viewing a single character through an extended timeframe.
The main character begins with no name; a runaway slave in 1850's Louisiana she kills a man, who finds her and is about to rape her, before meeting a woman named Gilda and her companion Bird. Gilda runs a brothel, but treats her girls well and takes the girl in, giving her a home and work (helping with the housekeeping rather than the sex trade). Gilda and Bird are also vampires.
The vampires in this are affected by sunlight but this can be countermanded through native earth carried – or sewn into the clothing they wear. They must sleep with native soil. They are telepathic and can be split into two camps. Bird, Gilda – and subsequently the girl, when she is turned and inherits the name Gilda – feed in a symbiotic way. Though they take blood from a victim, they do not kill and leave something behind, psychically, as a gift. Sometimes it might be the courage to chase their dreams, with another perhaps it might be a desire not to go and gamble their money away. The morality of this isn’t questioned but could be seen to be dubious, of course, the deliberate altering of a person’s course in life is a removal of free will. However, in context of the story the vampires believe they are doing the victim a service.
There are also vampires who feed on pain and suffering as much as blood. Gilda, through the years, does encounter such vampires.
The book follows Gilda as she grows as a person/vampire. She is a lesbian character and the book touches on this, racial issues and feminism as the ages change. By the end of the book we have reached a point in the future (2050) where vampirism is publicly known and vampires are hunted so that the rich can harvest their blood for their own immortality. It is an interesting turnaround of the standard tropes.
This was a fascinating, well written set of prose that tackled the genre in an unusual way and offered a thoughtful and thought-provoking view of society. 8 out of 10.