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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

19 versions of DRACULA

Back a million years ago when I was a university student, I made money ushering at a movie theater at night. And so I saw a lot of horror movies (midnight sessions were particularly grim), including several goes at the great Bram Stoker-generated vampire genre. And at the age of 17, Bela Lugosi still resonated, even at the 15th viewing.

That might have been the reason I picked up this book as I whistled past the library shelf in a hurry. I like short stories, I love science fiction, and I was curious to see how many versions of Dracula there could be in one volume.

And I didn't regret it.  The book is a lot of fun. Just as expected, there is that great energy and enthusiasm and willingness to think outside the square that characterizes SF writers.  All the stories are well written, but with surprising differences in approach.  There were some echoes, as three writers explored the impact of AIDS on bloodsuckers -- or the reverse, how vampires caused and spread the vile disease. A remarkable number were laugh-out-loud funny, including one ("A Matter of Style") where the novice vampire had trouble forming a body that would snare the babes. Dan Simmons' "All Dracula's Children" had a dark, disturbing social message, and others had a go at being scary.

The most successful, in my opinion, was Karen Robards's "Sugar and Spice and..."  First, it was original.  Second, it was creepily close to everyday reality. Third, it was so deftly written that what could have been a mildly amusing Wimpy-Kid-meets-Dracula's-Daughter became genuinely terrifying. A story to ponder after it has been read.

Note to self.  Look out for more of her work.

The Master of Rampling Gate - Anne Rice
All Dracula's Children - Dan Simmons
A Matter of Style - Ron Dee
Selection Process - Ed Gorman
The Vampire in His Closet - Heather Graham
The Tenth Scholar - Steve Rasnic and Melanie Tem
Nobody's Perfect - Philip José Farmer
Dracula 1944 - Edward D. Hoch
The Contagion - Janet Asimov
Sugar and Spice and... - Karen Robards
Vampire Dreams - Dick Lochte
Much at Stake - Kevin J. Anderson
The Name of Fear - Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Dark Rising - W. R. Philbrick
Los Ninos de la Noche - Tim Sullivan
A Little Night Music - Mike Resnick
Mr. Lucrada - John Lutz
In the Cusp of the Hour - John Gregory Betancourt
Children of the Night - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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