This is either the greatest treasury of vampire stories ever published or the greatest disappointment ever to hit the market. Or, maybe it's a little of both. It's hard to really judge a book like this unless you judge it as a whole and as a series of parts. The thing is that so many of the stories could easily have appeared in other categories than the ones that they appear in. "Replacements" by Lisa Tuttle could easily have appeared in the PSYCHIC VAMPIRES category just as well as the category that it does appear in. Ditto for "The Girl With The Hungry Eyes" which could have appeared in either PSYCHIC VAMPIRES or MODERN MASTERS. Dion Fortune's "Blood Lust" is just as easily a THIS IS WAR story as it is a LOVE . . . FOREVER story, and isn't "Place of Meeting" by Charles Beaumont a THEY GATHER story just as it is a HARD TIMES FOR VAMPIRES tale? And so forth and so on.
The problem isn't the quality of the writing of the stories, after all, if you don't like one, you can just move on to the next one. The main problem, amongst several others, is that this anthology is pretty much monothematic. The majority of the stories here follow a simple formula: Boy meets girl, girl turns out to be a vampire, girl seduces (or attempts to seduce) boy, then eats (or attempts to eat) him alive, or suck him dry. There can be a slight variation to this formula ("Camilla" and "Chastel" deal with lesbian vampires), but a slight variation still doesn't help much when this formula tends to repeat itself time after time after time until you can pretty much predict how any of the stories will progress. Even a feminist writer like Lisa Tuttle in "Replacements" makes the female a femme fatale of a sort. This leads to a feeling of misogyny to the whole book, and if I were a woman, I'd probably be offended by this seemingly one-note attack on women.
Then there are the few stories that break this formula, "The Living Dead", "Down Among The Dead Men", and "A Dead Finger" have nary a man-eating babe in them to support this formula. And Mary A. Turzillo ("When Gretchen Was Human") and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ("The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire") take this "bad woman" formula and turn it on its head, giving this anthology two of its best stories.
Then there is the style of the writing. Sixty-five of the eighty-five stories here were published in 1940 or before. The problem with this is that there is a style of writing that most of these stories are written in from this time period that eventually gives the anthology a sense of dry sameness, the sense of sameness that often makes this anthology a grindingly slow read, as the stories begin to run together so that they eventually all seem to be written by the same person.
This leads to two separate problems: the first being that ALL of the stories here are either horror stories or weird stories attempting horror or a grim weird atmospheric feeling. The only story that attempts something different is "The Werewolf And The Vampire" (R. Chetwynd-Hayes) although this one ends badly, just like most of the stories here. This gives the impression that Penzler is an uncomprisingly conservative literaturist as despite the fact that vampire literature has changed and evolved over the years, Penzler just digs his heels in and basically serves the same meal over and over again. Are there any science fiction vampire stories here? How about vampire oriented romances? This may be that out of eighty-five stories, sixty-five were published in 1940 or before, or that of eighty-five stories here, ONLY FOUR were published after 2000, and that two of these came from the SAME original anthology, and there are NO stories reprinted here that were published post-2002.
What with Penzler's literary conservatism, and his insistence in ignoring anything that has happened in the last fifteen years of vampire literature, whether it be vampire gothic, horror, fantasy, fantastic adventure, science fiction, war, romance, super-hero, erotic, or detective stories, often makes this anthology a grindingly slow slog to read. It took me almost two months to read, and I still had to take time off to read other things to wash the sameness out of my mind, and there were times that I had to force myself to come back to continue reading it. Perhaps this book could have been broken into two volumes, 1940 and before, with the second being post World War II.
This would also have made "The Vampire Archives" a little more palatable as it also suffers from the fact that all of the serif font style here is shrunk down to an almost unreadable level, then printed on cheap dull paper that will also allow the ink to bleed through to the other side, and the poor choice by somebody to print the stories in two columns, makes "The Vampire Archives" very hard on the eyes. This caused me reader fatigue and kept giving me headaches, blurred vision, and kept causing my attention to wander. In the end, an anthology like this shouldn't be work to read, I shouldn't have to force myself to continue to read it, and at times this book WAS work, with only my obsessive/compulsive disorder making me continue.
Of the eight-five stories here, Hume Nisbet, Tanith Lee, Algernon Blackwood, Clark Ashton Smith, Frederick Cowles, Manly Wade Wellman, and E. F. Benson all have two stories apiece, with M. R. James having THREE stories. Perhaps a rule of only having one story per author would have forced Penzler to give the anthology a more varied contents. It would also have helped if all of the stories included here were vampire stories. Several were just ghost stories or something else. We could have had Robert Silverberg's "Warm Man", or stories by Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, or Jack Ritchie, or by new authors like Charlaine Harris, Marjorie M. Liu, or Caitlin Kittredge. Which leads to a final complaint, virtually all of the stories here are either extremely serious, grim, or horrific. How about a couple of stories with a sense of whimsy or that have some real humor to them? R. Chetwynd-Hayes tries to give his story a sense of whimsy but eventually screws it up, and the Brown and King stories are essentially gag stories. Brown's works because it is only one page long, but King's doesn't because it suffers from King's typically sloppy plotting, turning his story into a mediocre revenge fantasy.
Of the eighty-five stories here, three are full-length novellas. Carmilla: A Tragic Love Story By J. Sheridan Le Fanu still pretty much holds up, The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle just dates badly, and Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson shows Wilson's conservatism in his inability to think outside the box; that while his novella has extreme violence, his vampires are also extremely clichéd, unimaginative, and seemingly racist as Wilson picks out the Jews for some particularly vicious derision.
I'm giving this anthology only three stars because of its monothemism, the conservative unimaginativeness in "Vampire Archive"'s contents. On the other hand horror archivists may raise it a star or two because it DOES reprint a lot of rare material, and it is a good reference tool. The bibliography alone is almost worth the price of the book.
Nowhere here is there listed what the contents of this book are. So below is a listing of all of the stories in "The Vampire Archives". An asterisk before a story means that I found it to be the best, or among the best in that category. Two asterisks mean that this story is among the best in the anthology. Words in all capitals are the categories that all of the stories are separated into, and the story's authors are in parenthesizes.
PRE-DRACULA: **Good Lady Bucayne (M. E. Braddon), *The Last Lords Of Gardonal (William Gilbert), *A Mystery Of The Campagna (Anne Crawford), **The Fate Of Madame Cabanel (Eliza Lynn Linton), Let Loose (Mary Cholmondeley), The Vampire (Vasile Alecsandria), *The Death Of Halpin Frayser (Ambrose Bierce), Ken's Mystery (Julian Hawthorne), **Carmilla (J. Seridan Le Fanu), The Tomb Of Sarah (F. G. Loring), Ligeia (Edgar Allan Poe), The Old Portrait (Hume Nisbet) & The Vampire Maid (Hume Nisbet).
TRUE STORIES: *The Sad Story Of A Vampire (Eric Stenbock), *A Case Of Alleged Vampirism (Luigi Capuana) & An Authenticated Vampire Story (Franz Hartmann).
GRAVEYARDS, CASTLES, CHURCHES, RUINS: *Revelations In Black (Carl Jacobi), *The Master Of Rampling Gate (Anne Rice), The Vampire Of Cathedral History (Frederick Cowles), **An Episode Of Cathedral History (M. R. James), Schloss Wappenburg (D. Scott-Moncrieff), *The Hound (H. P. Lovecraft), **Bite-Me-Not Or, Fleur De Fur (Tanith Lee), *The Horror At Chilton Castle (Joseph Payne Brennan), *The Singular Death Of Morton (Algernon Blackwood) & *The Death Of Ilalotha (Clark Ashton Smith).
THAT'S POETIC: The Bride Of Corinth (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe), The Giaour (Lord Byron) & La Belle Dame Merci (John Keats).
HARD TIME FOR VAMPIRES: Place Of Meeting (Charles Beaumont), **Duty (Ed Gorman) & A Week In The Unlife (David J. Schow).
CLASSIC TALES: *Four Wooden Stakes (Victor Roman), **The Room In The Tower (E. F. Benson), *Mrs. Amsworth (E. F. Benson), Doctor Porthos (Basil Copper), For The Blood Is Life (F. Marion Crawford), Count Magnus (M. R. James), When It Was Moonlight (Manly Wade Wellman), **(The Drifting Snow (August Derleth), *Aylmer Vance And The Vampire (Alice And Claude Askew), Dracula's Guest (Bram Stoker), *The Transfer (Algernon Blackwood), *The Stone Chamber (H. B. Marriott Watson), **The Vampire (Jan Neruda) & **The End Of The Story (Clark Ashton Smith).
PSYCHIC VAMPIRES: The Lovely Lady (D. H. Lawrence), The Parasite (Arthur Conan Doyle), *Lonely Women Are The Vessels Of Time (Harlan Ellison).
SOMETHING FEELS FUNNY: *Blood (Fredric Brown), Popsy (Stephen King), The Werewolf And The Vampire (R. Chetwynd-Hayes), *Drink My Red Blood (Richard Matheson) & Dayblood (Roger Zelazny).
LOVE . . . FOREVER: *Replacements (Lisa Tuttle), *Princess Of Darkness (Frederick Cowls), The Silver Collar (Garry Kilworth), *The Old Man's Story (Walter Starkie), Will (Vincent O'Sullivan), *Blood Lust (Dion Fortune), The Canal (Everil Worrell), **When Gretchen Was Human (Mary A. Turzillo) & The Story Of Chugoro (Lafcadio Hearn).
THEY GATHER: The Men & Women Of Rivendale (Steve Rasnic Tem), **Winter Flowers (Tanith Lee), **The Man Who Loved The Vampire Lady (Brian N. Stableford) & *Midnight Mass (F. Paul Wilson).
IS THAT A VAMPIRE?: **The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire (Arthur Conan Doyle), A Dead Finger (Sabine Baring-Gould), Wailing Well (M. R. James), Human Remains (Clive Barker), The Vampire (Sydney Horler), *Stragella (Hugh B. Cave), Marsyas In Flanders (Vernon Lee), **The Horla (Guy De Maupassant) & **The Girl With The Hungry Eyes (Fritz Leiber).
THIS IS WAR: *The Living Dead (Robert Bloch) & **Down Among The Dead Men (Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann).
MODERN MASTERS: Necros (Brian Lumley), The Man Upstairs (Ray Bradbury), Chastel (Manly Wade Wellman), Dracula's Chair (Peter Tremayne), **Special (Richard Laymon), *Carrion Comfort (Dan Simmons) & The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be (Gahan Wilson).
THE VAMPIRE: A BIBLIOGRAPHY by Daniel Settler.
I don't want to leave the impression that this was a totally awful anthology, it wasn't. Some of these stories are important because they are rarely seen, like anything from Anne Crawford who is F. Marion Crawford's obscure sister, or an occult detective story from mostly forgotten occult writer Dion Fortune. Some are important because despite just being good fiction, they also worked on a different level, like the stories "Replacements" or "The Man Who Loved The Vampire Lady" that also worked as thoughtful metaphors for slavery, or how "The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire" explores internecine violence among children, or Eliza Lynn Linton's "The Fate Of Madame Cabanel" which is an absolutely scathing and courageous indictment of willful peasant ignorance, a subject of increasing relevance lately, all the more amazing since Linton was criticizing her own target audience. Or how Mary A. Turzillo broke through the turgid formula of most of these stories to give her readers a serious look at how a mother is willing to sacrifice her own children's love for her if it means that she can possibly save her daughter's life. On a personal, gut level, this is an emotionally wrenching story that is easily one of the best stories in this whole eighty-five, thousand page plus anthology.
Also of interest is that there are several stories here that will remind you of other stories. Except for the possibly lesbian vampire, the only other interesting thing about the by-the-numbers story "Chastel" is that it has some serious echoes of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot", and despite Tuttle's obvious disgust at (women) pet holders, is that you will find vague echoes of her "Replacements" in Sarah Pinborough's "Breeding Ground". Again, one of the few things that will break the book's required vampire formula, is the post-apocalyptic is Richard Laymon's "Special", one of the few good things that I've read by him, and will remind many of parts of the later SS concentration camp exploitation/vampire/zombie novel "Roses Of Blood On Barbwire Vines" by D. L. Snell.
Other problems would be easily corrected omissions like "Roses Of Blood On Barbwire Vines" by D. L. Snell is listed, but not the previously published novella the novel is based on. The is no effort to try to connect authors with their easily known pseudonyms, an example would be that Richie Tankersley Cusick has a separate listing as does Richie Tankersley, why not reference each other? Is D. N. Simmons and Dan Simmons the same person?
There is no artwork other than the cover, which is a so-so, but probably scarce, Dracula movie poster. A reprinted illustration from one of the stories would have more appropriate.
THE VAMPIRE: A BIBLIOGRAPHY by Daniel Settler. "The Vampire Archives also has a 110 page bibliography of vampire fiction, excluding comics, plays, movies, tv episodes, radio dramas, most poetry, and scripts. I was surprised by the obscura that he has listed, like "Who Killed The Vampire?" (Carter Brown) or The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel "The Vampire Affair" (David McDaniel), he did manage to overlook a few things, which I have listed below. On the other hand the list has the feeling of being tossed together quickly, as it is rift with typos and easily corrected mistakes like John Ruddy instead of Jon Ruddy, or there is no distinction between a book for the under eighteen crowd and the under ten crowd. All are listed as juveniles. All of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" material is listed, but some is listed as being part of the series, while others are listed anonymously, some are listed as tie-ins, some as novelizations, and some aren't tagged at all. While Settler's list seems pretty complete as far as heterosexual erotica is concerned (?), except for Carmilla and Jewelle Gomez' Gilda stories, if you want to what exists in the gay/lesbian vampire field, and there can be quite a bit, forget it. I have only listed the John Michael Curlovich novels because I'm a fan of his other stuff. But there is so much more. Here is just some of the stuff out of my collection that he missed, and I don't even have a very extensive collection of the stuff. My cut-off point was 2008, the year that this book was copywrited.
*Anna, Vivi. "Mahina's Storm." In Nocturnal Bites. Toronto: Silhouette, 2008.
*Blish, James. "The Unreal McCoy (a. k. a.: The Man Trap)". In Star Trek #1. Bantam Books, 1967 (tv novelization).
*------------. "Wolf In The Fold". In Star Trek #8. Bantam Books, 1972 (tv novelization).
*------------. "Obsession". Star Trek #9. Bantam Books, 1973 (tv novelization).
*Brook, Meljean. "Thicker Than Blood." In First Blood. New York: Berkley, 2008.
*Collins, Nancy A. Vamps (Vamps #1). New York: Harper Teen, 2008 (juvenile).
*Cornell, Paul. Goth Opera (Doctor Who: Missing Adventures)." UK: Virgin/Doctor Who Books, 1994.
*Curlovich, John Michael. The Blood of Kings: A Novel (Jamie Dunn I). New York: Alyson, 2004.
*------------. Blood Prophet: A Novel (Jamie Dunn II). New York: Alyson, 2006.
*Doyle, Debra & James D. Macdonald. "Philologos, Or, A Murder In Bistrita." The Magazine of Fantasy And Science Fiction, February 2008.
*Evens, Peter J. The Unquiet Grave (Durham Red #1). UK: Games Workshop, 2004 (comic tie-in).
*------------. The Omega Solution (Durham Red #2). UK: Games Workshop/Black Flame, 2005 (comic tie-in).
*------------. The Encoded Heart (Durham Red #3). Games Workshop/Black Flame, 2005 (comic tie-in).
*------------. Manticore Reborn (Durham Red #4). Games Workshop/Black Flame, 2006 (comic tie-in).
*------------. Black Dawn (Durham Red #5). UK: Games Workshop/Black Flame, 2006 (comic tie-in).
*Fujisaku, Junichi. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex #3: White Maze. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2006.
*Garson, Vaseleos. "The Little Pets of Arkkhan." Planet Stories, Summer 1947.
*Green, Chris Marie. "Double the Bite. (Vampire Babylon)". In First Blood. New York: Berkley, 2008.
*Hogan, Robert J. "The Vampire Staffel." G-8 and His Battle Aces, February 1934.
*------------. "The Bloody Wings Of The Vampire." G-8 and His Battle Aces, December 1938.
*Ikehata, Ryo. Blood+ #1: First Kiss. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2008 (animé novelization).
*------------. Blood+ #2: Chevalier. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2008 (animé novelization). .
*------------. Blood+ #3: Boy Meets Girl. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2008 (animé novelization). .
*------------. Blood+ #4: Nankunaisa. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2009 (animé novelization). .
*Kai, Tohru. Chibi Vampire: The Novel #1. San Francisco, CA: Tokyopop, 2007 (manga tie-in).
*------------. Chibi Vampire: The Novel #2. San Francisco, CA: Tokyopop, 2007 (manga tie-in).
*------------. Chibi Vampire: The Novel #3. San Francisco, CA: Tokyopop, 2007 (manga tie-in).
*------------. Chibi Vampire: The Novel #4. San Francisco, CA: Tokyopop, 2008 (manga tie-in).
*------------. Chibi Vampire: The Novel #5. San Francisco, CA: Tokyopop, 2008 (manga tie-in).
*Liu, Marjorie M. "The Robber Bride." In Huntress. New York: St. Martin's, 2009.
*Massie, Elizabeth, and Stephen Mark Rainey. Dreams of the Dark (Dark Shadows). New York: Harper Entertainment, 1999 (tv tie-in).
*McCarthy, Erin. "Russian Roulette (Vegas Vampires)." In First Blood. New York: Berkley, 2008.
*Murphy, Kevin Andrew. "The Lotus of Five Petals, or, The House of the Infamous Lady Miao." In The Quintessential World Of Darkness. Clarkston, GA.: White Wolf, 1998.
*Odom, Mel. Blade (Blade #1). New York: Harper Entertainment, 1998 (movie novelization).
*Rhodes, Natasha. Blade: Trinity (Blade #3). UK: Games Workshop/Black Flame, 2004 (movie novelization)
*Rice, Jeff. The Night Strangler. New York: Pocket Books, 1974 (movie novelization).
*Rowe, Michael. "In October." In Triptych Of Terror. New York: Alyson, 2007.
*Sizemore, Susan. "Cave Canem (Laws of the Blood)." In First Blood. New York: Berkley, 2008.
*Tamaoki, Benkyo. Blood the Last Vampire 2002. San Francisco, CA: Viz Media (graphic novel).
*Werner, C. L. "A Choice Of Hatreds (Mathias Thulmann)." In Lords of Valour. UK: Games Workshop, 2001.
*------------. "Meat Wagon (Mathias Thulmann)." In Swords of the Empire. UK: Games Workshop, 2004.
*------------. Witch Hunter (Mathias Thulmann). UK: Games Workshop, 2004.
*------------. Witch Finder (Mathias Thulmann). UK: Games Workshop, 2005.
*------------. Witch Killer (Mathias Thulmann). UK: Games Workshop, 2006.
*------------. "Witch Work (Mathias Thulmann)." In Mathias Thulmann: Witch Hunter. UK: Games Workshop, 2008.
*Whiddon, Karen. "Mate of the Wolf." In Midnight Cravings. Toronto: Silhouette, 2008.
*Wilson, Colin. The Mind Parasites. Sauk City, Illinois:Arkham House, 1967.
*------------. The Space Vampires. Random House, 1976
All the stories in "BloodLite" edited by Kevin J. Anderson. New York: Pocket, 2008.
In the end, I can only give the book three stars, despite the impressive work involved because of it's monochromatic look at the vampire theme, the concentration on mostly older, older than your grandparents, material, the monochromatic writing style, the absolute refusal to consider and kind of revisionist look at vampires, Penzler's playing favorites with his authors, and the whole damn construction of the book which makes it a very difficult read. Still, it's a good book, and may even be an essential one for the older stuff, but for the fiction post 1950, well . . .