A Whisper of Blood edited by Ellen Datlow

This post originally appeared on I Read Everything

Title: A Whisper of Blood: A Collection of Modern Vampire Stories

Author: Edited by Ellen Datlow

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection

Why Did I Read This Book: I love short stories. I love short stories about vampires. I love Ellen Datlow. I saw this in the bargain section at Barnes & Noble and I love cheap books. (It seems like I love a lot of things, doesn’t it?) It’s actually a book that contains two books of vampire fiction Ellen Datlow edited, Blood is Not Enough and a Whisper of Blood. So really it was a two for one bargain book. How could I lose? So I grabbed it and saved it so I could read it close to Halloween.

Availability: Released by Fall River Press in 2008, it no longer appears to be in print, but you can get a used copy here:

Comments: This is a hard one because overall most of these stories were entertaining and well-written. Yet many missed the point entirely or I am being too strict in what I consider a modern vampire story. I tend to think it is the former. Many of the stories really pushed the boundary of what it means to be a modern vampire story and not in a good way. In a “this really has nothing to do with vampires in any way, shape or form unless one redefines the notion of vampire to have nothing to do with the concept of a vampire in a context in which vampires are recognizable” sort of way. Yeah. Seriously, that mangled sentence is the mental gymnastics one must go through to find vampires in some of these stories.

A vampire does not have to suck blood to be a vampire. Most vampire fans also do not demand a strict adherence to vampire canon in order to find worth and entertainment in a vampire story. But on some level, the vampirism cannot be so postmodern in its interpretation of vampires that an audience has to analyze the story to the point of banality to find the vampiric element and too many stories in this collection demanded that sort of analysis.

I’m not going to discuss every story in the book but I’ll hit what I consider the high lights and low lights.

The ones that did not work for me:

“The Pool People” by Melissa Mia Hall uses rape as a metaphor for vampirism and while the story is intriguing, the fact of the matter is, this is one of the stories that stretches the notion of being a vampire. A teacher being assaulted by students is horrific, not vampiric. This story stretches vampirism into a metaphor for all modern violence and in so doing, stretches the concept of the “modern” vampire to the breaking point.

“Dirty Work” by Pat Cadigan flat out is not a vampire story. Period. Full stop. It’s an interesting science fiction tale but it has no place in a modern vampire anthology. I did my best, I questioned myself and asked if I was being too literal in my interpretation and came to the conclusion that asking for some form of vampiric behavior in a story included in a vampire anthology is not too much to ask. It’s a story of a “pathosfinder” who is overwhelmed mentally by an empath in a futuristic world. This was possibly the most tiresome story in the book for me, 35 pages of not very much happening at all, just… I think the issue is that I am not a fan of this sort of sci-fi, especially when I encounter it in a book ostensibly about vampires.

Interestingly, one of the other stories that did not hit me right was also a Pat Cadigan tale called “Home by the Sea,” wherein people are dead in a sort of post-apocalyptic world but still move around. They’re not really vampires so much as they are sentient zombies. A wife has sex with a man who is ostensibly still alive and he gives her the gift of life. Again, sort of entertaining, but also again, not really vampires in any sense, even modern. Vampires take life, they don’t give it, and given the zombie-like nature of the characters, it was hard to see what the point was of the story exactly other than just existing as a horror tale. It works as a horror tale. It does not work as a vampire story.

The last story I speak of in the “do not want” camp comes from Edward Bryant, “Good Kids.” This one I just plain didn’t like. In it, four girls in night-time child care facility discover their caretaker is a vampire. They turn the table of violence on him when they encourage the rest of the kids in care to act with them in an ending with a TWIST. Bleah to red herring endings and double bleah to precocious kids who as a group don’t speak or act as any kids I have ever known.