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by John Joseph Adams


How do we define the vampire? Are they barely animated corpses, of a horrific visage, killing indiscriminately? Or are they suave, charismatic symbols of sexual repression in the Victorian era? Do they die in sunlight, or does it only make them itch a little, or, God forbid, sparkle? Do crosses and holy symbols work at repelling them, or is that just a superstition from the old times? Are they born, or made by other vampires? And anyway, are these vampires created through scientific means, such as genetic research or a virus, or are they the magical kind? Can they transform into bats? Or are they stuck in the appearance they had when they were turned? Are we talking the traditional Eastern European vampire, or something more exotic, like the Tagalog mandurugo, a pretty girl during the day, and a winged, mosquito-like monstrosity by night? Do they even drink blood, or are they some kind of psychic vampire, more directly attacking the life-force of their victims?

Vampire stories come from our myths, but their origins are quite diverse. Stories of the dead thirsting for human life have existed for thousands of years, although the most common version we speak of in popular culture originated in eighteenth-century Eastern Europe. Why is the notion of the dead risen to prey on the living such an omnipresent myth across so many cultures?

Perhaps the myth of the vampire comes from a little bit of projection on the part of the living. We have a hard time imagining our existence after death, and it may be easier to imagine a life that goes on somehow. But what kind of life would a corpse live? Our ancestors were intimately familiar with decomposition, even if they didn't precisely understand it. If I were dead, I know I would have a certain fixation for living things. And perhaps I might, finding death an unagreeable state, attempt to steal from the living some essence that defines the barrier between the living and death. Blood stands in for the notion of life easily enough. Now I just have to get that essence inside of me somehow, hmm. . . slurp.

Or perhaps there's a darker, more insidious reason for the pervasiveness of the vampire story. Is there some kernel of universal truth behind all these stories? Many of the tales included here will offer their own explanations for the stories and myths. Because if there's one thing we love almost as much as vampires themselves, it's exploring their true natures. With the wealth of material accumulated on the nasty bloodsuckers, no two authors approach the vampire myth in quite the same way. The commonality of the vampire's story means their tales can take place in any time and in any place. The backdrop changes, and the details too, but always, underneath it all, there is blood. All draw from those dark, fearful histories, but provide their own fresh take, each like a rare blood type, to be sought by connoisseurs such as yourself.

Hear again one of our oldest and most well-known fairy tales from a new, darker perspective in Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples." And just who is the mysterious Tribute in Elizabeth Bear's "House of the Rising Sun"? He seems so familiar. . . Visit the Philippines in Gabriela Lee's "Hunger," and see the world from the eyes of a creature of decidedly non-European origin. If that is not exotic enough for your tastes, then travel into the future and beyond with Ken Macleod's "Undead Again."

Is your thirst still not satisfied? Hunt through these pages for stories by authors such as Stephen King, Joe Hill, Kelley Armstrong, Lilith Saintcrow, Carrie Vaughn, Harry Turtledove, and many more. There is a feast here to be had. Drink deeply.


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