The Plot Thickens: Vampires Never Get Old
An anthology chock full of author faves writing about one of fiction’s favorite supernatural beings, Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite is a tome teeming with love stories to the genre by vampire lovers. Each author — Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley — presents us with visions of what a vampire revival could look like if helmed by Desi, Black, Latinx, queer, and disabled writers, and what a vision it is! Every story truly makes points, but I’ll use this review to sum up the stories that stand out to me.
Friend of BGC Mark Oshiro’s Mirrors, Windows, and Selfies places us in an unknown town with a boy whose entire life has gone purposefully unacknowledged, because he’s not supposed to exist. After finding community in blogging what seems to be fanfic, Cisco, goes from living a life half glanced through poor reflections in the nearby river or windows to understanding more about his atypical, yet not uncommon, vampire existence. Similar in its exploration of hidden identity — yet placing the vampire as the villain and a grave robber as the protagonist — Heidi Heilig’s The Boy and the Bell is the historical fiction remix to the buried alive vampire superstition that I didn’t know I needed. In this story we follow aforementioned grave robber and medical student Will as he encounters a rich, snotty and adversarial vampire willing to out Will’s gender to serve his ends — and it all happens in a graveyard. The Boy and the Bell is definitely a story to read at night if you enjoy being spooked, and leads into what this anthology also does well: contrasting the horror of human interaction with the lethal nature of vampires.
In Kind by Kayla Whaley, A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed, and Vampires Never Say Die Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker work through the ways vampirism can be salvation for those threatened with death. Grace Williams, protagonist of In Kind, is victim of society’s abhorrence of the disabled existence which literally shows up when (CW) her father premeditates to murder her via morphine, due to her disability. The praise he receives by the media and their community afterwards reinforces responses we’ve seen in real life. Luckily, a guardian vampire intervenes before Grace’s death and she is turned, but not in such a way that disposes of her disability, giving her the opportunity to work through what vengeance may mean. Cruelty perpetrated by vampires is explored in A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire, a story told through app tutorial, for a teenage protagonist who has been turned by a colonizer vampire bucking the international restrictions decided by vampire society, as colonizers are wont to do. Unfortunately in this story, this cruelty has occurred so much in India that an app has been developed to teach new vampires the way during the day when the network has to remain away from the sun. We see vampires on both sides of human treatment in Vampires Never Say Die, which introduces us to Instagram friends Brittany and Theolinda who become more than friends when Theo’s surprise birthday party for Brittany goes all kinds of wrong.
Once upon a time (in the 2000s), the world felt overrun by vampires in books, on TV, and in movie after movie. The populace was so oversaturated with tales that there seemed to be a backlash against the genre, with vampires being staked into dust across these mediums almost as abruptly as they’d appeared. Vampires Never Get Old is a beacon to those who wanted more from the vampire stories of yore or would just like to spice up their vampire-loving lives. Authors included in this anthology make apt observations and build intricate worlds that provide us such wisdom as: Samira Ahmed’s “And we’re not technically your aunties. We’re actually teenagers, like you. But we’ve been teenagers for decades, some of us even longer, so our pop-culture references are sometimes off. Don’t criticize. One day you’ll be us.” It’s a quote that captures so much of my former teenage fears and my current 30-something-year-old acceptance as well as summing up vampire existence in a resonant tongue-in-cheek way.
From Dhonielle Clayton’s majestic The House of Black Sapphires, we get insight into an immortal heroine who is no less enchanted by life: “But sometimes Bea wanted trouble. Anything that made her eternal existence a little more entertaining. Her stomach tangled with all the things she might unravel and uncover in this peculiar version of this peculiar city [New Orleans].” It’s a testament to the apropos name of this anthology, acknowledging that though vampires may live through ages, they never have to become old.
Córdova and Parker give us a call out of male abuse of power with Brittany’s consideration of being sired: “He may have been the catalyst of my transformation, but I was the architect. Every choice I made thereafter was a response to his opening argument. If his argument was something along the lines of being more powerful than me by virtue of his sex and his circumstance, then I have been crafting my answer ever since.”
Vampires Never Get Old truly calls to those with love for vampire tales outside of the typical pale. May these quotes lure you into reading these stories, much like a glamour draws those beset by a vampire’s gaze.
*Special thanks to Hear Our Voices Book Tours and Macmillan Imprint for giving us access to the advance review copy of this book.*