- The Name of Fear
- The Art of Dying
- Eye of the Beholder
- I Was A Bestselling Teenage Werewolf
- Blood Feud
- George Pinkerton and the Bloodsucking Fiend of Brokentree Swamp
- Worthy of His Hire
- The Pimp
- The Note Beside the Body
- The Pick-Up
I don't remember where I first encountered the idea of vampires; it seems I've always known about them. They're everywhere. As a kid I watched "Dark Shadows" on TV, caught old Dracula movies on Channel 9 out of Nashua, read vampire stories in comic books, and found them in paperbacks by the likes of Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch.
I read Dracula when I was a teenager. I picked up Interview with the Vampire when it first came out, long before Anne Rice was a household name, and read Salem's Lot when King was still a rising star. I read McNally and Florescu's biographies of Vlad Dracula, the fifteenth-century Wallachian prince whose name Bram Stoker had borrowed. I read hundreds of books and stories and articles about vampires and Bram Stoker and Vlad Dracula, both fiction and non-fiction, and I saw dozens of movies. I became familiar not just with Dracula or Lestat, but Varney and Carmilla and Lord Ruthven and a horde of others.
Once I became a professional writer the possibility of writing my own vampire stories inevitably occurred to me, and I began plotting a novel entitled Queen Vampire -- and then Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned was published, and I threw out my notes. The plots weren't actually very similar, but I still thought I'd look like a copycat if I tried to sell mine.
That was the hard part, I thought -- doing something new with vampires. I was planning to try it someday, but there wasn't any hurry.
And then one day I got a call from the editor of a book called The Ultimate Dracula, who was coming up on deadline and still needed a few stories; did I by any chance have a Dracula story handy? If not, could I write one? Quickly?
The money was good, so I gave it a shot, and wrote "The Name of Fear."
The story, incidentally, is as historically accurate as I could make it. The descriptions of Vlad the Impaler's actions are all drawn from fifteenth-century sources. He did die in the time and place I describe, but it's unclear just who or what killed him. He was entombed in a church, but his bones are missing. It wasn't hard to work all that into a story.
So I'd written my first vampire story.
Then Jane Yolen announced that she was editing an anthology of vampire stories for the "young adult" market, and she wanted good, traditional vampires, but no sex or gore.
A traditional vampire story with no sex or gore? That was a challenge! I responded with a story called "It's My Body and I'll Die If I Want To," which Jane accepted on one condition -- that I change that idiotic title to something more appropriate. It's been called "Richie" ever since.
And with that, I had a track record, and started getting invited to contribute stories to vampire anthologies and magazines.
White Wolf Publishing, the company responsible for the wildly-successful "Vampire: The Masquerade" role-playing game, asked me to write a couple of stories set in the "Masquerade" world -- "The Art of Dying" and its immediate sequel, "Eye of the Beholder." These were written as work-for-hire, meaning White Wolf owns them outright, but I was careful to ensure that the contracts guarantee me the right to use them in single-author collections like the one you're reading.
There aren't any particular special circumstances behind "The Pimp" or "Blood Feud" or "I Was A Bestselling Teenage Werewolf," which appeared in Weird Tales, Cemetery Dance, and Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters, respectively. "Worthy of His Hire" was written for 100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories, and I figured I had better do something with a vampire no one else would do if I didn't want my entry to get lost amid so many vampire stories.
"George Pinkerton and the Bloodsucking Fiend of Brokentree Swamp" was originally, believe it or not, a bedtime story I told to my kids -- there was an entire series of stories about George Pinkerton, the monster-hunting librarian. Three of them eventually made it into print in a series of anthologies Bruce Coville assembled, and benefitted greatly from Bruce's expert editing -- Bruce suggested adding the narrator, Billy, and changing the stories from third person to first.
As for "Efficiency" -- back in the 1980s, "cyberpunk" was a fad in the science fiction community (not unlike steampunk today), but by the early '90s it was clearly fading into the background, and people began speculating online about what the next trendy sub-genre would be. "Vampire unicorns," I said. I even posted steamy excerpts from non-existent vampire unicorn novels. It was a joke, and most people recognized it as such and laughed, but one of the editors of Midnight Zoo e-mailed me to say that yes, she understood I was just being funny, but if I ever wanted to write a real vampire unicorn story, she'd buy it.
So I did, and she did.
Then I got the writers' guidelines for a planned anthology -- I don't think it was ever completed and published -- and noticed that the editor had slipped up, and had said "and" when he meant "or" in a list of things he didn't want to see in any of the submitted stories. I found the way that changed his meaning to be highly amusing, and deliberately wrote a story that violated the guidelines as written, rather than as intended. I didn't send it to that anthology, though, but to one that paid much better, and "The Pick-Up" appeared in The Ultimate Alien.
After that, I felt I'd had my say on vampires, at least for awhile. I was drifting away from writing horror, and from short fiction in general.
But I wasn't quite done after all. One day in 1997 I was out shopping and running various errands, and the sentence, "If you let me in, I'll kill you," got stuck in my head, and began growing. By the time I finished my errands and got home, the whole thing was complete in my head, and all I had to do was sit down and type it up.
(I've had one or two other stories happen that way, but they weren't about vampires.)
Once that was done it was out of my head and there wasn't any hurry about doing anything with it, but eventually I got around to selling "The Note Beside the Body" to Dreams of Decadence.
I think it's worth noting that it's one of the few stories where the title is an essential part of the narrative; if you leave off or change the title, it doesn't work.
So those are the stories I've gathered into this collection, ranging from silly humor to (I hope) the genuinely creepy. I believe they're all the vampire stories I've written to date; if I've missed any, I hope you'll drop me a line and tell me, so I can include them in an expanded edition.
One final note, though -- I threw in a ringer. One of these stories does not have a vampire in it, but I thought it belonged here anyway. You've been warned.
-- Lawrence Watt-Evans
Takoma Park, 2011
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: