Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Vampire Almanac vol. 1 – review

Edited by: J-M and Randy Lofficier

First published: 2015

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Stories by Matthew Baugh, Nathan Cabaniss, Matthew Dennion, Win Scott Eckert, Brian Gallagher, Martin Gately, Rick Lai, David McDonald, Frank J. Morlock, Christofer Nigro, Catherine Robert, Dola Rosselet, Frank Schildiner, Michel Stéphan and Artikel Unbekannt.

Featuring Alinska, Elizabeth Bathory, Captain Vampire, Carmilla, Nadine Carody, Dracula, Koschei, Lenore, Orlok, Ruthven, the Vampire City and the Vampires of Mars.

This dual nature of the vampire, stretching between love and death, creates a moral ambiguity which is omnipresent in its literary treatment, incorporating and contrasting seduction and horror, heroism and villainy. It only reflects the nature of life after death, and how it is perceived by its surrounding culture. Is it a desirable dream, or a hateful abomination? A reward or a punishment? And what price must one pay for such survival?

The stories contained in this collection, featuring some of the most famous vampires in literary history, incorporate all of these contradictions; in them, vampires can be both super-human and sub-human, sexual predators and impotent, romantic and passionate, and yet devoid of soul. Ultimately, the vampire is our own face, reflecting in the mirror of our beliefs, the incarnation of our spiritual choices.

The review: Blackcoat Press rapidly became one of my favourite publishers due to the obscure 19th century text they release (for me, of course, especially those centred on the vampire) making translations available often for the first time.

They also publish original material and I have had their annual anthology series, Tales of the Shadowmen, on my wishlist for some time. Whilst I haven’t yet read those, this collection (the first of two) dedicated to the vampire and reimagining many of the Blackcoat stable and others was irresistible. Actually, some of the stories herein were first seen in the Shadowmen series.

There is a wide variety of vampires captured from Lenore (who was not originally imagined as a vampire and, indeed, was not in a vampire poem – but who appears in Matthew Dennion’s Hope for Forgiveness, as a vampire, alongside the Scarlett Pimpernel and Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter) to Dracula himself. I’ve captured in the review some of my favourite moments.

Nathan Cabaniss wrote the story Schodinger’s Blood and features the vampire Alsinka from the Virgin Vampire but it is the clever premise of Alsinka’s curse that captured me, as she avenges the wronged woman, devouring her victim’s blood through Quantum Mechanics as she reaches from the past and drains his blood in the future.

Whilst the book is split into sections based on the primary character that character might also appear in other tales (and very few of the tales follow on one from another so continuity is not an issue). There were three Carmilla orientated stories. Martin Gately’s the Moon Hag needs mention for not only telling the story of Lafontaine’s cousin as mentioned in the original story (“Mademoiselle related that her cousin, who was mate of a merchant ship, having taken a nap on deck on such a night, lying on his back, with his face full in the light on the moon, had wakened, after a dream of an old woman clawing him by the cheek, with his features horribly drawn to one side; and his countenance had never quite recovered its equilibrium.”) but also for the creation of a vampire living in utero, which would emerge from the mother only to feed before retreating back into the womb.

However it was Dola Rosselet’s To Die For that stole the show of the Carmilla tales, for me at least, which makes a beautiful coda to the Carmilla story.

Those who have read Paul Féval’s Vampire City will be aware of the interesting lore of dividuality, where a vampire can absorb a victim and then make them a duplicate of themselves or change their appearance generally, whilst making them part of their collective whole. Brian Gallagher’s City of the Nosferatu interestingly takes this concept and then makes Graff Orlok an abandoned aspect of Count Dracula. Gallagher also has it that if one takes the heart of a vampire and burns it before it is dead (not all the vampires die due to heart removal) you can put the ashes into a bullet to make it a devastating anti-vampire weapon. Later on, in a section introduction, the editor’s describe the Orlok of Nosferatu as an anti-hero, which I think is a stretch – to me he is most definitely a villain.

It is not, however, just 19th century (and very early twentieth century) characters that get a look in. I mentioned the appearance of Kronos and Win Scott Eckert’s Les Levres Rouges is based on Daughters of Darkness. The story Blood and Fire, by Artikel Unbekannt, is based on Vampyros Lesbos and is probably my favourite story in the collection, simply because of the beauty of the prose.

I have barely scratched the surface, there are tales of vampiric possession and there are tales that connect in to the Lovecraft mythos. There are stories of love and stories of hate. This is a fine collection of stories that are based on the characters created by others but that are strangely refreshingly original because of this. 9 out of 10. The Blackcoat Press page for the volume is here.


JaredMithrandir said...

A story I wrote is in Volume 2, the Vampire of New Orleans. I hope you'll give special note to it. Though it is more or less in discontinuity from my other writing since I've abandoned Vampires for the time being.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jared - the review of volume 2 will be in a week or so ;)