Capitalizing on the vampire’s near omnipresence in pop culture, from books, movies and television, editor Otto Penzler has created a fantastic tome for readers to sink their teeth, or fangs, into. Similar to his Big Book of Pulps, The Vampire Archives is must-have for fans of the genre as it gathers 82 short stories from a talented group of writers.
Authors Kim Newman, Neil Gaiman, and Penzler begin the book with a little history, some personal, about vampires in literature and movies. Although Bram Stoker’s Dracula is inarguably the most famous, Newman points out that John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven from The Vampyre (1819), a result of the same challenge Lord Byron issued that inspired Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to create Frankenstein, “deserves to be remembered as the first vampire;” however, Penzler finds him “far too tedious to include in this collection.”
The book is broken down into themed sections. “Pre-Dracula” is the first and it starts with M.E. Braddon’s “Good Lady Ducayne” whose main human character coincidentally, or not, is a young girl named Bella, similar to the Twilight series. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” was an influence on Stoker and for the lesbian vampires subgenre. It has been adapted to film a number of times with varying degrees of explicitness.
“That’s Poetic” offers three poems: “The Bride of Corinth” by Goethe, “The Giaour” by Lord Byron, and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci: A Ballad” by John Keats. My advance copy has them in italics, which is a poor choice visually.
A number of well-known authors are featured in this collection. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia” the narrator’s drugged-induced hallucinations bring into question whether he is really seeing his dead wife. H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Hound” is a fun tale about two grave robbers who quickly learn they chose the wrong amulet to take. The story is also credited as Lovecraft's first mention of the infamous Necronomicon. The title character in Stephen King’s revenge-fantasy “Popsy” serves a great comeuppance to a man who unknowingly kidnaps a young boy who is not what he appears. Other familiar names for genre fans are Charles Beaumont, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Richard Matheson, Anne Rice, and Roger Zelazny.