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Suffered from the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula

Fiction | Poetry
254 pages
6” x 9” perfect-bound trade paperback
First Edition
Lethe Press
New Jersey, USA
Available HERE
Review by Racheline Maltese

Despite my understanding that vampires are out of fashion right now (zombies and shifters both being far more popular), I came of age sexually, politically, and as a reader, in an age of them. Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat was released when I was thirteen, and say what you will about the author now, that book taught me a tremendous amount about desire, chosen family, and giving myself permission to exist in the world with a bit of arrogance and with little apology.

Thus, Lethe Press’ anthology, Suffered from the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula, is uniquely and personally up my alley. Editor Steve Berman introduces the volume with an intriguing and enjoyable introduction on Stoker’s fascination with Whitman and potential feelings regarding homosexuality that I would happily read in far longer form.

But much of what is truly queer about vampire mythos remains unexamined in Berman’s introduction, instead flourishing throughout the anthology. This queerness is tied closely to themes which feel almost unacceptable in the face of today’s often assimilationist queer culture and the frequent insistence that queer writers and readers should move beyond themes of the forbidden.

Lush prose which eroticizes blood, feels tinged with danger throughout the volume, not because of the risk of the supernatural, but because of the specter, not solely a memory, of AIDS. The focus on decay, however—Stoker’s undead are compelling but not always as beautiful or luminous as later vampires—snaps us back from romanticizing the danger of blood too much. This push and pull ratchets up the tension from the first story (Lee Thomas’ excellently paced “The Tattered Boy”).

The volume largely maintains this tension (Damon Shaw’s “Seven Lovers and the Sea” is particularly effective in this regard.), but there are moments in which it slackens. The first half of the anthology is worth reading in a singular burst. But more varied pacing and styles—often less formal—in the second half means that section of the anthology works better when the stories are separated and indulged in at a distance from each other.

Regular readers of romance and erotica will find much to appreciate here. The presence of both M/M and F/F stories in the same volume (as necessitated by the source material), felt like a real treat for me as a reader and writer of both. Livia Llewellyn’s “Yours Is the Right to Begin” is delightful for how it places us as Mina and makes us immediately an object of desire welcomed into the world of this deepened source material.

The lushness of language throughout, even in Sven Davisson’s uniquely modern “A Closer Walk with Thee,” is a pleasure, although it may irritate some readers. Certainly, a number of stories are written in the present tense, which I enjoy, but recognize as an acquired taste. However, I would encourage the hesitant reader to consider the usefulness of the immediacy of the present in stories related to eternal life. The significant use of first-person narrative—which also seems to be a staple of vampire literature—also makes this volume not for everyone.

Overall, I heartily recommend Suffered from the Night for those looking for a different sort of supernatural experience than is currently the rage in paranormal circles. While the anthology suggests a true opportunity for LGBTQ romance to lead the way in resurrecting the vampire subgenre of paranormal literature, it will likely be more enjoyable for slightly older readers (like me) whose first introductions to queer literature were not about triumph over darkness but instead a powerful and vindicating descent into it.

RACHELINE MALTESE lives a big life from a small space. She flies planes, sails boats, and rides horses, but as a native New Yorker, has no idea how to drive a car. A long-time entertainment and media industry professional, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their two cats. With Erin McRae she is the co-author of the LGBTQ romance series Love in Los Angeles, from Torquere Press. Their M/M romance novella series Love’s Labours, set in the theater world, is from Dreamspinner Press. You can find her on the web at Avian30.com and on Twitter at @racheline_m.
• The reviewer purchased it from the publisher because he thought it looked interesting. The reviewer does not know the publisher or the author. • Permalink • Tag: The Volt •

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