VAMPIRES NEVER GET OLD Edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker
Titan Books, s/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Everyone knows vampires – in popular fiction, they are often depicted as handsome Caucasian males (see Dracula, Edward Cullen, Lestat de Lioncourt and others). They fear garlic, sunlight, silver, crosses, stakes through the heart and beheading. They can turn into wolves, bats, mist – all very familiar attributes.
This collection of short stories breaks that mould with a bang – in a world as diverse as ours, why wouldn’t there be vampires that aren’t white, straight males? Obviously, different countries have their own vampire myths – the Jiangshi, a Chinese hopping vampire; the Indian Chedipe witch-vampires; the Pishachas in Hindu mythology; even the South American goat-sucking Chupacabra. This set of tales, though, introduces other vampires to the reader.
The opener, ‘Seven nights for dying’ by Tessa Gratton, sees a bisexual teenage girl approached by a vampire named Esmael with the offer of living forever as ‘a child of the night’. Instructed by him over the course of seven nights on how to live as a vampire, he doesn’t force himself or the choice onto her but allows her to make up her own mind.
Rebecca Roanhorse’s ‘The Boys from Blood River’ tells of a gangly LGBTQ youth, First Nation high-schooler working in a diner who is obsessed with the legend of the titular boys – a gang of outlaws that committed atrocities and can be summoned by singing a song about them. It’s not too long before he realises what The Boys are and finds himself having to make a deadly choice.
‘Senior Year Sucks’ by Julie Murphy introduces us to Jolene, a 13-year-old vampire slayer who is also a cheerleader in Sweetwater, Texas. All sounds fairly familiar until we learn of the haven for vampires nearby that are trying to become better members of society – only drinking donated blood. One vampire escapes and joins the slayer on the bus back from a football game. It all seems like things will kick off until the vampire confesses that she didn’t get the chance to finish her senior year at high school and just wants the chance to live that final year of high school as a normal girl.
All of the tales in the book give us glimpses into vampire life with a difference – ‘The Boy and the Bell’ by Heidi Heilig sees a resurrectionist discover that a corpse she hopes to sell to a doctor to fund her medical training is actually a newly turned (and rather arrogant) member of the undead. ‘A Guidebook for the Newly sired Desi Vampire” by Samira Ahmed is cleverly written as though it’s said titular guidebook. Full of very inventive humour and tips for the newly sired vampires, it was a real stand out for me. ‘In Kind’ by Kayla Whaley has a disabled girl turned after her father thinks he has murdered her. This gives us the first wheelchair-bound vampire that I’ve encountered and shows that becoming a vampire isn’t a panacea for all ills and disabilities. There are many more exploring as diverse a bunch of vampires that you could wish for – all thoroughly enjoyable and challenging the stereotypes that we all know.