the Little Red Reviewer

Vampires Don’t Sparkle! edited by Michael West

Posted on: November 28, 2013

Vampires Don’t Sparkle!  edited by Michael West

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Vampire fiction has been mostly a turn-off for me lately. I don’t want to read about vegetarian vampires, vampires who don’t want to hurt humans, vampires who are lonely and just waiting for the right mortal who could make this all worth it. I don’t want my vampires to be family friendly. Sexy vampires are always fun, and well, sexy, but I’d rather have the read thing. Give me some violent amoral bloodsuckers any day, give me some Jasper Kent, some Kim Newman, some gold old traditional Bram Stoker any day!  Good thing Vampires Don’t Sparkle! came along. Fifteen authors who agree with me. Fifteen stories where the vampire is the bad guy, the dangerous one, the thing to run away from. As editor Michael West says in his introduction, pop culture (and one particular author who changed the face of vampire fiction) stole vampires from us, and made them into something they’re not. It’s time for us to take them back! These stories aren’t all horror, not in the slightest. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, some of them cover the lonely and dangerous reality of what hunting humans entails,   there is a truly disturbing one about how one man learns how to destroy a vampire. They are all a throwback to what so many of us have been missing. Sick of sparkly vampires? This anthology is for you.

If you’re on the fence about if you want your vampires gentle and sparkly or violent and uncaring, be aware that there is straight up making fun of Twilight. No bones about it, some of these authors are pretty pissed at what Vampire fiction has become.

Each story opens with a short bio of the author, and who (or what) the author’s favorite type of vampires are, with shout-outs going to I am Legend, Salem’s Lot, The Historian, Kim Newman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even Sesame Street’s The Count among many others. I appreciated that editor West solicited stories from authors who have loved this type of fiction their entire life.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts on a small handful of the stories:

A New Life by J.F. Gonzales – Sammy makes his living breaking into RV’s and stealing what he can. The very few times he’s been caught, it’s as easy as a drunken sounding “sorry man, wrong RV”. He’s never been caught like this though. It’s as if the strange family living in this RV can read his mind, it’s as if they watched him go through their clothing when he was so sure the RV was empty. The family holds him hostage, and he slowly gets an inkling of what they are. This family, they need someone like Sammy, they need a human helper, especially since their current human helper is just about ready for a promotion. Sammy asks how long he would need to wait for his “promotion”, and the response is as long as it takes for them to find someone else, just like him. A fun romp that serves as a good introduction to the anthology, as we’re all about to take a ride with some secretive bloodsucking monsters.

What Once was Flesh, by Tim Waggoner – Do vampires have a soul? If they had a soul when they were regular mortals, what happened to that soul when they became a Vampire? Al is doing his best to train up his newly changed apprentice Dylan, but Dylan keeps asking such annoying questions! From the inside of their EMS ambulance (a brilliant place for vampires to hide. “Just taking this DoA to the hospital, officer”), Al tries to explain to Dylan what happened to his soul. You see, every vampire’s soul is still walking around, somewhere, like a doppleganger. The true cost of being immortal is the killing of one’s own soul, Al wouldn’t be a good instructor if he didn’t teach Dylan how to destroy his doppleganger. What a great twist on vampire lore! I love free-will stuff like this, I love that gaining something supposedly wonderful like immortality costs the person something awful. If Dylan is going to be a full fledged vampire, he’s got to make the choice to kill a part of himself in cold blood. Not an easy decision for someone who hasn’t been a cold hearted bloodsucker for very long.

Beneath a Templar Cross by Gord Rollo – One of the few stories that doesn’t take place in the present day, this one takes us back to 1870s Europe. After the death of his wife, Templar Arthur De Muur has been sent to live at study at Mont St Michel Abbey, in hopes the peacefulness of life there will bring peace back to his life. De Muur is intelligent and obsessed. He hasn’t been spending his time in France at all. He’s been holed up in an abandoned castle in The Netherlands, luring and capturing those he suspects of being a vampire, those who he believes can tell him what really happened to his wife. This story is horrific, disturbing, and one of the horror standouts of the collection. De Muur is doing horrible things to the creatures he captures. He drowns them, sets them on fire, leaves them out in the sun to burn. Is he justified in what he’s doing? By doing these things, is De Muur giving up his own humanity? Pretty damn amazing that a quick little fast paced short story would make me think so much. Do you really need to be bitten by a vampire to turn into a monster? Dark as hell and with mortals voluntarily giving up their own humanity (and justifying it!) this is my favorite kind of vampire fiction.

I Fuck Your Sunshine by Lucy A. Snyder – Yes, you read the title of that story correctly. Caught your attention, didn’t it? This very short and darkly funny story is told by a six hundred year old succubus. She’s known the vampire Baron Stierherzov since before he was turned, and these days, she and the Baron help each other out. Makes sense, as while they both require certain bodily fluids from mortals, they both require different bodily fluids, and can often feast on the same victim. The trends of modern life hasn’t made their lives any easier, what with taverns shutting down everywhere and every dead body being found in an alley put under a microscrope. There aren’t even plagues anymore. Stierherzov tries his best not to gorge, but when a twenty four hour gym opens up nearby, and fills up with steroid users, he can’t help himself. The character voice in this story is what really did it for me. Snyder has the succubus speak in a dialect of sorts, she skips specifying articles and determiners, ends sentences with “yes?” or “no?”. The more of her story she told, the more I was able to visualize her and quite literally hear her voice. Thanks to this very short story, I’ll be seeking out more of Snyder’s fiction.

Dracula’s Winkee: Bloodsucker Blues, by Gregory L. Hall – Another darkly funny one, especially if you can get past the purposely purple prose at the beginning (those horrible sexual euphamisms? Just go with it. It’s all part of the humor). Vampires are not exactly alive, they don’t have a heart beat, which means they have no blood flow. To be blunt, no blood flow means no erections. uggh, talk about erectile dysfunction! But thanks to things like Twilight, True Blood, and other vampire romance stories, superfans are expecting mind blowing sex from any bloodsucker they meet. Dracula likes the ladies, but he’s an epic fail in the sexual satisfaction department. Thank goodness he’s got the powers of glamour, because how else is he going to convince the women who track him down that they had the best sex of their life, when he can barely get it up? To make matters worse, one of Dracula’s housemates is Chad, a werewolf. Chad can successfully get it on with any woman he wants, and during the full moon he even gets to have hot animal sex. Doesn’t Chad understand how mean it is to rub this in the face of poor, depressed Dracula? This story will have you laughing out loud, feeling bad for Dracula, and extra thankful that you’re not a vampire.

Dreams of Winter by Bob Freeman – Doctor Landon Connors is a Harry Dresden type character, he’s skilled in magic, known for hunting monsters, and consults with the cops when they can’t crack a case. Written in a noir-ish style, Connors is pretty sure his latest dead body (a gothy teen whose bedroom is full of True Blood posters, and well loved novels by Stephanie Meyer, Charlaine Harrison and even Jim Butcher) comes courtesy of a cruor geminus, a type of vampire who mimics someone the victim already loves and trusts. And there have been other victims too. It would be easy work for a cruor geminus to convince a vampire romance lover that Edward Cullen or Eric Northman is knocking at her door. The plan that Connors comes up with requires using his assistant as bait. But remember how a cruor geminus can mimic someone you love and trust? Certainly not the most original tale in the collection, but it wins major brownie points for a wonderfully appropriate final line.

Sure, there are some outright jabs at urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but all the stories in Vampires Don’t Sparkle! are written in good fun, and the vast majority of them will put a smile on your face. This isn’t an anti-PNR collection, and if Edward Cullen is your first love this book doesn’t exist to offen you. You can love Bram Stoker and Jasper Kent and still love reading Stephanie Meyer. I don’t care what kind of vampire you prefer, I just don’t want you to forget where that legend came from.

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5 Responses to "Vampires Don’t Sparkle! edited by Michael West"

I’m very snobbish when it comes to vampire stories and your opening paragraph pretty much nails it as to why. My first experience with the vampire was reading Dracula by Bram Stoker and it remains one of my favorite books. I have a hard time being accepting of any other version of a vampire besides one who is purely evil. And once I read something as amazing as Dracula it is hard to even want to read any other interpretations. I’ve read some I’ve liked over the years (the first del Toro/Chuck Hogan book was enjoyable) but like you I want to stay away from the sparkly stuff.

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Yeah, I’m really tired of the current trend in vampire fiction. I will definitely be giving this a look….I don’t mind conflicted vampire protagonists, so long as there’s no glitter. Angel, I’m good with. Thomas Raithe, likewise. Edward Cullen…..he needs a stake.

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I’ve read soooo many vampire books over the years – think I’ve read nearly everything. Out of all of them my favourites are Dracula and the Danilov Quintet – I don’t mind some of the newer books but when it comes down to it I like my vampires to be predators. Mean and dirty. Although I don’t mind a good looking blood sucker – I mean, if you’re gonna be drained it might as well be by somebody who’s easy on the eye! I’m not into this trend of tofu eating vampires though. It’s like reading about a lion that eats grass! Just no.
Lynn :D

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That sounds like a vampire book I might actually want to read!

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Reblogged this on Astrid Cook – The Right Writer and commented:
This. Is. Awesome. Congrats to the friends who were included in this anthology.

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