We’ve established that vampires are sexy, and if you find lesbians sexy too, then lesbian vampires are even sexier. Girls Who Bite is a collection of erotic tales, and sexy is what it’s all about.
However, an anthology of vampire stories that feature solely female vampires and victims is something that’s very necessary in the vampire world, if you ask me. Most vampire stories involve some play with heterosexual sexuality, and the role of the male in particular. Though intrinsically queer, and sometimes—as with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles—explicitly so, a vampire story usually has a male reference point.
The cliché of the powerful, ancient, male vampire and the innocent female “victim” (willing or otherwise) is alive and well. The Twilight series has strengthened it further. When we think of a vampire, more often than not, we think of a male figure. Though there have been many female vampires in literature—going back at least to Geraldine in Coleridge’s Christabel—and several lesbian vampires too—Carmilla giving us the supreme example—they have usually been “made” by male vampires in the story, beginning as victims themselves, or they are in the story to represent the dangerous threat of unfettered female sexuality to the heterosexist status quo. Stoker’s Dracula gives us Lucy Westenra, for example—victim then vampire—beautiful and desired by more than one of the male characters, penetrated first by the Count’s fangs, then her fiance’s stake through the heart. It is possible and enjoyable to read Carmilla as a sexy lesbian tale, but really it’s about female sexuality—represented by the “lesbian” vampire herself who visits her virginal victim alone in her room at night—being a threat to innocence and the established order of things.
Of course, recent books, TV, and movies have given us stronger female vampires who we are encouraged to sympathise with rather than fear and who are more than simply sexual beings with a bloodlust: Selena in the Underworld movies, Twilight’s Alice Cullen and more than one TV character. But the shadow of the powerful male vampire is ever present. Selena battles against male patriarchs, and Alice lives in a “family” with a male head and exists in a story in which it is her “brother” who has the most interesting role. The pattern repeats time and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with heterosexual vampire stories, or male vampires in general. I enjoy them. But it would be nice to have a change.
A lesbian anthology excludes men by its very nature. The victims are women, but so are their powerful, supernatural, mythical lovers. This posed an interesting question for me, as I sat down to write ‘She Knows I am Watching’. Do I create a female vampire who embodies the old-fashioned male-defined alluring femininity and risk furthering the cliché? Do I create a vampire who is a very recognisable character, essentially “masculine” but just happens to be a woman? And what of the typically swooning, submissive victim? Should I reinforce the usual gender play-off of vampire tales since time began?
It is hard to create a vampire who is not a cliché.
Eventually, my story took shape. A tale which takes place in my vampire’s mind, more than the real world, where appearances are less important and power is a game of give and take. My female vampire is defined only by herself, and not at all in relation to male characters or heterosexual norms. And she knows she is a fantasy too. My story is all about fantasy: women’s fantasy. Not a man’s idea of what women fantasise about, or a man’s fantasy of what lesbian vampires might get up to. Nor is it a fantasy for a male vampire transcribed onto a female character. I focused on the emotional, maybe even psychic, connection between the women and made it an entirely lesbian fantasy.
That’s what Girls Who Bite is all about. Fantasy, of the lesbian variety. It’s about girls in their own fantasy space. It adds something new and different to the vampire genre. And that’s why I’m so excited to be part of it!
Excerpt from ‘She Knows I Am Watching’:
She knows I am watching. I am her comfort and what makes her thrill with fear. I know she thinks of me when she is alone in her little college room in the lingering dark hours of the night. She believes I am a figment, a dream or a shade, an idea given life by her imagination alone, a result of too much reading, too much solitary longing. She does not realize she knows my appearance because she has seen me, a glimpse in the periphery of her vision, every day for six months.
She’s a clever woman, the one I watch, with her stacks of books and hours spent clicking away on her computer. Clever, but with a soul aching for release from the lure of printed words and the struggle to achieve, from success measured in numbers and percentages. Her intelligence is something beyond these limited assessments. She craves her freedom. I give her that release even now, a fantasy promise of what I could grant, if I chose it.
This city is inhabited by many souls like hers, the life being drawn from all of them. Oxford is a vampire city. The ancient honey-gold college buildings, the Gothic arches and gargoyles, the flagstones and sun-drenched quadrangles, the old brick and the worn statues, all of it is steeped in the souls and the stories of those who were here before. The very masonry draws on the life force of those who pass through this place, drinking in a little of their glory, taking a taste of their intellect, nourished by their inspiration. The city is beautiful and celebrated only because of them; a dream of a city, fed by hopes and aspirations, more insidiously glorious than any place on earth. A vampire greater than any who ever lived. And I have known many in my time.
Is it any wonder I was drawn here? A traveler from the New World, where to be what I am is suddenly to be noticed, to be desired and copied. I exist in shadows and dreams. To be exposed is a trauma I feel in every cell. The movies, the books, the fashions, they have all come just a little too close. I fled to a place where the shadows of history are long, and the minds are far too busy to pay me any real heed….
All of it made sense to me when I found her. I had to come here because she is here. All the currents and tides of time, and history, and fate brought me to her, to watch her like a guardian angel and breathe vitality into her fantasies. I am not a death-bringer as the movies would have you believe. I am a life-giver. I do not look like an angel or a demon. When you see me in the edge of your vision I am merely a woman, my pale skin only remarkable if you were to run your fingers over it. I am not cold like death, but I do not feel human to the touch. You would feel it as a tingling in your fingertips, as you made contact with something only half of your world. The human body has merely five limited senses. You would need far more to understand me.
I saw her first when the sky was blue but the leaves brown, the days rapidly sliding into winter. In a steady shadow close to the library I lurked, watching all of the world pass me by. And then all else lost its color and life and there was only her, a slender woman descending the library steps, clutching two heavy books. Casual jeans and a gray blazer, the blue college scarf, could not hide a Pre-Raphaelite beauty manifested in fiery hair with languorous natural curls, skin almost as pale as my own. Anastasia. Stacie to her friends, the few she has. I know all of her friends. I always watch.
My thirst is under control. I have lived too many years to be prey to irresistible urges. But I cannot deny the longing I feel to taste her. I anticipate the flavors of her essence, of her lifeblood, every time I am with her. I catch her scent in the air and my tongue throbs with want for her. Not merely the physical sensation, the nourishing goodness of the liquid in her veins, but the taste of every part of her, of her knowledge and her emotions, of her experiences and her desires. I would taste all of it.
Today she was reading Shakespeare, the sonnets. They make her heart ache at the same time as they expand her mind, her wisdom. Her blood would be sweet today, a long draught of mellow and overripe summer fruits, a hint of honeysuckle and rose. She will taste of old England and of love. Last week she was reading stale academic texts, the analysis of the already overanalyzed. Her blood was bitter like coffee then, pulsing with frustration and want, sharp and intense. I love her most at night when her taste is as ancient and sweet as the honey of mead, and yet spicy and hot like cinnamon and ginger: the taste of desire unfulfilled.
I know already, you see, how she will taste, though I have never approached her. I only watch and nourish her. The world would call me vampire and yet, for now, it is she who draws on me. I see the changes; I smell them when she is very close. Her skin is pinker, her body somehow more voluptuous, though she remains as slender as when I first laid eyes on her. Her eyes glisten with a secret she wants only for herself. She is cold no longer. I have made her warm…
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