Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vampires: Romance to Rippers; an Anthology of Risqué Stories Volume 1 – review

First Published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Vampires! Glimpse into the steamy worlds of burning desire, and hot sex, where blood and lust collide. Explore some of the sexiest vampires to exist on this side of the grave. Essays, excerpts, and short stories from award winning authors Charity Parkerson, Kurt Kamm, Bertena Varney and more that will make you blush, satisfy your most carnal urges, and have you begging for more from the sexiest creatures of the night. Including a bonus story from BellaDonna Drakul that is sure to scare the pants off of you.

The Review: This is the erotica companion volume to the anthology of almost the same name and I want, unfortunately, to start with a critique of the introduction by Bertina Varney as, unfortunately, it was filled with aspects that I felt were inaccurate, misinterpreted or I simply did not agree with.

Varney uses the introduction to try and analyse the rise in vampire erotica and decides that a primary point was the fact that women write modern vampire erotica whereas the 19th century writers tended to be male. She cites a misogyny in the early vampire literature, which whilst it was there, was not in all influential 19th century literature. She begins with Varney the Vampire suggesting it was written by Prest when it is mostly agreed that Rymer was the primary author, indeed Curt Herr offers an authoritative argument for Rymer’s penning of the series. However, beyond the authorship (almost a trivial matter), she quotes the very famous opening feeding scene – where Varney feeds on Flora Bannerworth – and suggests that it is a rape scene. It clearly isn’t, there isn’t even a sub-text with which to argue that – the scene is simply a vampire feeding; no more, no less.

She then turns her attentions to Dracula and I do agree with her that the staking of Lucy is essentially a gang rape – I have argued much the same myself – but Lucy is a much maligned character done great disservice by both filmmakers and authors, and that tradition is carried on here by calling her promiscuous and suggesting that she “juggles three male suitors”. She, of course, does nothing of the sort – rather she receives three proposals in a day and physically cries at the pain she causes as she turns down the first two and steadfastly waits for the third proposal from the man she actually loves.

One problem I had with the argument was the fact that other 19th century literature was ignored, perhaps because it did not fit in with the theory. Some is obscure, for instance as early as 1825 Etienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon's novel The Vampire or The Hungarian Virgin had a female vampire who symbolised divine wrath, punishing the man who wronged her (thus avenging for misogyny suffered) and, in a more mainstream way, the erotic aspects of Carmilla occur between two women and whilst misogyny may be read into the authoritative actions of the father (and father figures) the erotica is sapphic in nature, including a thinly veiled description of an orgasm.

I think what mainly exasperated me about the introduction was the perception that vampires are now erotic exclusively because of female writers. Certainly there are many female authors who write vampire erotica (and paranormal romance) but there are male writers also. Nor is the subject matter/sub-genre the province of the female heterosexual; there are volumes of vampire erotica designed for straight and gay men as well as straight and gay women (and all points in between). In short I felt there was too narrow a view.

Unfortunately I have spent a long time critiquing the introduction – and will add that I did not have such thoughts with regards Bertina Varney’s introduction to the companion anthology, which did a sterling job. The volume then moves to an essay by the first author, J.B. Stilwell. I actually thought this would have made a better introduction and found it delightfully insightful. Not so much Stilwell’s next entry into the volume, an excerpt entitled “Hot Dark Comfort”. Not that there was anything intrinsically wrong with it but it was exactly the same excerpt that was published in the companion anthology with an added sex scene. Given that the two anthologies are related I thought that a unique piece would have been more appropriate.

You will see from the blurb that it mentions a bonus story by BellaDonna Drakul that would “scare the pants of you”. I was very much taken with the story submitted in the companion anthology by Drakul and again found myself enthralled by her prose, as she weaved a fascinating tale of a vampire artist and his macabre method of creating his masterpieces. It was not erotic (I suppose it helps fulfil the ripper aspect of the main title) but it was certainly evocative and, for me, was the highlight of the volume.

Some of the stories were more erotic than others, and the word “cooch”, used in one story, must list as the most un-erotic noun used to describe the female genitalia ever. “The Making of Marea” by Scarlette D’Noire was a tale of being turned and was, perhaps, less erotic but it was certainly interesting – especially around the power plays described – and I would very much like to read more of the story. Conversely Emily Walker’s “One Night with the Vampire” was excellently written as a piece of erotica but the story was a tad flimsy. I specifically want to mention Cinsearea S’ story “Love You to Death” as the author eschewed the “hunk” trope and used an emaciated corpse to excellent and sensuous effect.

The overall volume was smaller than the companion piece but, that said, none of the stories were actually poor and the prose was more consistently solid. Worth reading, especially for BellaDonna Drakul’s story. 6.5 out of 10.

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