August 28, 2012

Teeth: Vampire Tales

TEETH: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, (Harper, 2011)
GENRE: Short Stories / Vampires in Multiple Genres

As with all of their anthologies, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have put together a formidable collection, this time on the now ubiquitous subject of... Vampires. What more could there be to say, one might ask? Windlow and Datlow answer this question with a surprisingly scholarly, yet undeniably compelling "well, quite a lot".

The collection's introduction is written in Datlow and Windling's trademark voice - earnest, accessible, in touch - and yet, they concisely cover the multi-cultural history of vampire literature in a matter of pages, giving the reader (whom both the editors and authors do not coddle) the background needed to fully appreciate the layered aspects of the stories that follow. That said, some of the stories, though beautifully written, lack a certain bite (please forgive the pun). Elegant though it is, Tanith Lee's "Why Light? " trods well-trodden ground, while Ellen Kushner's "History" takes a potentially interesting premise down a disappointing, anticlimactic road. That said, there are gems of inventive beauty in here too - most notably Catherynne M. Valente's "In the Future When All's Well", a 1st person account of life after humans begin to spontaneously turn (the language, characterization and society are subtly addictive), while the collaborative efforts of Holly Black and Cassandra Clare make "The Perfect Dinner Party" by turns hilarious, shocking and grim as they take the child vampire trope to an entirely new place.

These two stories alone are worth the price of the collection, though none of the tales disappoint. With substance, intelligence and snap, these stories ask the reader to look beyond tortured anti-heroes and the mortal women who love them, and to once again consider the real strength of the vampire in literature as a metaphor for the moral tangle of ourselves and our society.

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