“Saint Louis, 1990” by Jewelle Gomez from Night Shadows: Queer Horror (Bold Strokes Books 2012). Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann.

“Gilda was more than alive.”

What a great opening line. Who in their right mind could look away after that? What a way to characterize vampirism. Not “undead” but “more than alive”. That’s fantastic.

In the last review I didn’t go into the mechanics of the immortality in this series. Gilda and the members of her vampire family do not kill when they feed, and they always give something back in the form of a psychological boon. They are somewhat telepathic in that they can read a person’s thoughts, or maybe sense their emotions. They can get a bead on what it is that a person—I hesitate to use the term “victim”—fears or desires most, and they implant an idea related to that in their minds, in exchange for the blood they’ve taken. They boost the person’s confidence or allay their fears. That might not be the sort of vampire story you’re seeking, but it works for me.

When we catch up to Gilda this time she’s hurrying home to her partner, Effie. She’s waylaid by Samuel, a rogue member of their vampire family. He holds a grudge against Gilda because he feels she replaced him as the favorite of the vampire who created them. He’s right, but it’s not Gilda’s fault, not owing to any action she took. Samuel can’t understand that, though, and he’s seeking revenge.

Gilda arrives home to find Effie gone, but no signs of foul play. Instead there’s a note telling her that she’s gone to meet up with two other members of their vampire family, who are back in town. Sorel and Anthony were mentioned in yesterday’s story, and it was nice to learn more about them here. I wasn’t expecting to change viewpoints to Sorel, and that was a bit jarring, but overall the shift was welcome. I liked being able to see Gilda and the entire situation from another perspective. Sorel is even older than Gilda, and doesn’t share her romantic notions about existence. His take on the disgruntled vampire Samuel and what must be done about him is not nearly as sympathetic as hers.

There’s a lot of back story interspersed with the current action in this installment. Now, I’m one for lots and lots of detail, but even I began to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the information I was being asked to digest. That said, I absolutely loved the unfolding theme of the piece, about the dangers of ignorance and self-pity combining to create a fear-filled, destructive, and ultimately irredeemable being.

I can’t wait to read the rest of Gilda’s stories.