By Derek Newman-Stille
These are a few of my favorite Canadian vampire stories (note that I say ‘a few’, I want to save several for Vampire Week next year). Some of these stories challenge the genre, pushing it into new areas, and some represent those classic vampire ideas for a Canadian audience. There is something about the Canadian vampire that differs from others, and something about the modern vampire that appeals to Canadians: it’s ambiguity, its ability to raise questions without providing answers, its ability to transcend cultural divides and express multiculturalism in one body, its ability to represent the repressed, and its ability to embody the fringe, the outsider, the abject.
Here are a few Canadian vampire stories that are chilling even in the Canadian summer. This is only a short list – there is a lot more out there lurking in the dark.
Nancy Baker’s A Terrible Beauty
Plays with the image of entrapment and seductive beauty. This novel brings starving artist and starving vampire together in the cold of the North, forcing them to confront themselves and the self-perceptions and delusions that have guided their lives.
Nancy Baker’s The Night Inside
Delves into the monstrous appetites not of the vampire, but of the human beings who exploit them. What happens when a research student, driven by schedules, control, and predictability suddenly is cast into the ultimate unpredictable role? Put into a cage next to a vampire at a research company, Ardeth must expand her understanding of the human experience, question her own judgment and change everything about herself. This book illustrates the dangers involved in the mixing of science and the supernatural and the exploration of the cold rationalism of science encountering the cold body of the vampire.
Tanya Huff’s Blood Books Series
Positions the vampire as a figure of ambiguous sexuality, willing to engage in homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Huff’s vampire is the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, having to explain his odd behaviors by constructing an identity as a romance writer (to explain his eccentricities and unusual hours). He and detective Vicki Nelson, a detective who is going blind due to retinitis pigmentosa find a balance for themselves on the fringe and Huff shows that by touching the abject, the ignored, one can see a whole world of reality around oneself that is often unseen.
Drew Hayden Taylor’s The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel
Challenges the all too dominant image of the white, aristocratic vampire by creating a native vampire, dispossessed and removed from his land by colonial invaders. He is robbed of his identity with his culture, and his humanity, paralleling the experience of many indigenous people who were torn from their homes and forced into residential schools.
Lynsay Sands’ A Quick Bite
Looks at Toronto as the perfect environment for vampires with its longer winter nights and prevalence of covered walkways. Her vampires are a holdover of ancient Atlantean society: an nano-technological experiment in longevity that has resulted in a blood lust as a cost for immortality. It is a fusion of dark fantasy and science fiction. But, what happens when a vampire has a phobia about seeing blood?
Kelley Armstrong’s Learning Curve In Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead
Zoe is being stalked, and she is tired of it. She knows she is going to have to fight her stalker, but she doesn’t like releasing her dark side. But, what is a vampire to do when confronted with an angry teen who wants to be a Vampire Slayer? Armstrong explores the Buffy phenomenon from the vampire’s perspective, quipping while dodging blows like the best Buffy sidekick.
Kelley Armstrong’s Twilight In Many Bloody Returns
Despite the title similarity, there is nothing in common between Armstrong’s vampire Cassandra and any of the sparkle-covered vampires of that OTHER twilight story. Cassandra is an aging vampire having to face the notion that in order to stay alive for another year, she is going to have to sacrifice the life of another human being. Birthday for this vampire is deathday for a human being and Cassandra has to face her own conscience as she decides whether another year of her own life is worth a human life.
Nancy Kilpatrick’s The Vechi Barbat In By Blood We Live
The vampire in this story is only revealed to the reader through the words of a mental patient. This story explores the battle between tradition and modernity, age and youth, and myth versus the medical profession.
Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick
Evolve Cover Courtesy of Nancy Kilpatrick
Explores the altering form of the vampire in Canadian literature. This volume is an all-Canadian set of vampire stories and gives a great introduction to the nature of the Canadian vampire. It explores a diverse range of vampires, diverse mythologies, natures, and relationships with the vampire – it stretches the nature of the vampire.
Evolve II: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick
Is a precognizant look at the future of the vampire and the way the vampire is developing in Canadian literature. Where does the vampire go from here? Kilpatrick and the authors in this volume look at the changing nature of society and how that is reflected in the vampire – what are the trends for the future of Canadian society and how is this reflected in the vampire as a representation of Canadian fears and speculations?
Of course, in preparation for my Interview with Nancy Kilpatrick later in Vampire Week, I strongly recommend reading any of her fiction. She has also written some brilliant essays on the Canadian vampire as introductions to the volumes The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick, Evolve, and Evolve II