The Best of Dreams of Decadence
(Roc, US$6.99 / Canada$9.99, 337 pages, paperback, 2003.)
This anthology Dreams of Decadence,
a justifiably famous magazine devoted to vampires. The style runs to
literary, going far beyond the routine blood-and-gore of the horror
genre and even the soon-jejune subgenre of vampire romance/erotica.
In these pages you'll find complex characters, tangled plotlines, and
new interpretations of old myths. Expect the unexpected.
some of the most outstanding material from
The stories range in length from short to rather long, and in tone
from wicked to passionate to downright dark matter. Sharon Lee's "Passionato"
features a vampire who prefers to feed on artists, because the vibrant
energy of humanity runs strongest in those who create. "All Things Being
Not Quite Equal" by Diana Pharaoh Francis explores what happens when
a new convert turns out to be the antithesis of vampiric ideal. Warren
Lapine's "Mona Lisa" makes a splendid contrast to "Passionato" in its
treatment of art and vampirism, in which a great painter faces a degenerative
disease. In "Presumed Icarus," Tippi N. Blevins demonstrates the true
nature of loyalty, love ... and faith. Tanith Lee's "Vermilia" asks,
Who hunts the hunters? "Feeding the Mouth That Bites Us" by L. Jagi
Lamplighter takes a hard look at female psychology, using vampirism
as an apt metaphor for womanizing and domestic abuse.
Another unusual aspect to this anthology is its inclusion of poetry
as well as fiction. The editor chose some remarkable verses, and I'd
like to see others follow suit. Anne Sheldon's "Murava" presents an
unusual type of Slavic/Finno-Ugric vampire, beginning life as a human
infant born with a tooth showing. "She Dreams in Color" by Ann K. Schwader
again touches the theme of painting. In "Vampire Standards", Uncle River
suggests what is really wrong with the world today.
In all aspects, The Best of Dreams of Decadence rises above
the competition. If you love vampire fiction, this is a must-have. If
you love vampire fiction but you're tired of all the cheap Anne Rice
knock-offs ... it's all the more a must-have. Creative folks should
also give it a peek, vampire buff or no; the many explorations of inspiration
and creative drive are well worth reading. Most highly recommended.
Review by Elizabeth Barrette.