Every so often I get a hankering for some good old gothic literature. The stories tend to be short, most of them can be found around the Interzone for free (at places like Project Gutenberg and Bibliomania) and I can read them on my phone.
Granted, these classics can seem a far cry from literature you might pick up in the paperback aisle today, but those long-dead authors were the trailblazers and the inspirations for some of our most beloved modern characters.
Enter Carmilla. She is the prettiest creature you have ever seen. Slender, graceful and tall. Thick, dark brown hair and large, dark eyes. Languid, melancholy and secretive in an evasive and mysterious manner. She’s also as deadly as any of nature’s creatures. A revenant with a taste for the blood of young women. A horrid creature of the night that beds down in a coffin full of blood.
In 1872, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu brought his story of the beautiful, lesbian vampiress to print. A full twenty-five years prior to Stoker’s famed character. Just as later authors drew from Le Fanu (Stoker’s Dracula is certainly influenced by Carmilla), he took inspiration from early works in crafting the creature. Works with such inspired names as “Treatise on Vampires and Revenants” and “The Book of Were-wolves”.
Much of Le Fanu’s temptress actually differs in glorious ways from the supposed canonical writings of Stoker that are referenced as Vampiric Holy Writ these days. Our fair lady was a daywalker, to name just one main point. Despite the differences, both Count Dracula and Carmilla are intriguing and beguiling evil villains.
Written in the first-person style, from the point of view of one of Carmilla’s victims, Le Fanu paints a tremendously fun world with his Victorian language. The story is well worth it for anyone that would enjoy the Victorian Gothic Romanticism, but also for its place in the pantheon of vampire lore.
I’ve no idea what I’ll read next, but keep your eye open for my stellar commentary.