|Suzy McKee Charnas: Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms|
Tachyon Publications (Hardcover), ISBN 189239121X
Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms brings together a host of short stories previously printed in such prestigious publications as Asimov's Science Fiction and OMNI along with two new essays by Charnas.
The stories range from the "true science fiction" of "Listening to Brahms" to the Twilight Zone-ish "Evil Thoughts." Three of the selections star the vampire of the book's title, Dr. Edward Lewis Weyland.
Every writer who attempts to write about vampires creates their own personal take on the myth. Dr. Weyland certainly qualifies as a different sort of vampire. He drinks blood, yes, but without the inconvenience of fangs to hide from the public. When we first meet the good doctor, in "Unicorn Tapestry," he places himself in the care a therapist in order to preserve his employment situation with a university. The resulting story takes some dark turns as it probes the mind of a creature who must feed on human blood to survive, yet seems otherwise the epitome of a cultured university professor.
Two more stories feature Dr. Weyland, "A Musical Interlude" and "Advocates," the latter co-written by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro for the anthology Under the Fang. These give the reader even more insight into the graceful, deadly creature.
In "Boobs," Charnas takes a delightful stab at a woman's monthly visitor. I mean, come on! What girl wouldn't gladly give up having her period if it meant she turned into a werewolf instead?
Arguably my favorite fiction in the collection, "Beauty and the Opera or The Phantom Beast," retells the Phantom of the Opera story from Christine's point of view. With a twist, of course. In Charnas's version, Christine strikes a bargain with the Phantom to stay with him for five years if he spares her lover's life. The resulting symbiotic relationship sucked me in and held me through till the end.
Writers of all genres, persuasions and statures will certainly enjoy the final two selections, the essays "The Stagestruck Vampire" and "They're Right, Art is Long." I highly recommend them to anyone who ever attempted to write anything, let alone get it published or produced.
The former chronicles the adaptation of a novel into a stage play. If writing a novel equals giving birth, then allowing someone else to adapt that novel rivals sending that child to boarding school overseas. I can only imagine the neurotic fits caused by giving my baby up to other writers and a theater company thousands of miles away from my home!
The latter essay details the journey of writing a novel, specifically the first novel in Charnas's Holdfast series. It tells of writing science fiction as a woman in the early 1970s when men still ruled the genre as both writers and customers.
Ultimately, Charnas puts together a very satisfying, eclectic read. But I'll warn you. You might need a nightlight.
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