Blood and Other Cravings, ed. Ellen Datlow

2012 Book 147: Blood and Other Cravings, ed. Ellen Datlow

Reason for Reading: This seemed like a good book to read in October. I chose it because it’s currently being considered for the World Fantasy Award.

My Review  
This is an anthology of vampire stories…but not just ANY vampires.Vampires are inundating the market these days, and they’re beginning to get a tad predictable and boring. This new collection is meant to delight the reader by displaying the variety of thirsts that plague vampires (and humans). There are your classic blood-sucking varieties, but there are also soul-sucking vampires, and vampires from different folkloric traditions, and vampires that…well, ARE they vampires, or are they humans…or…are humans really vampires at heart?

Although I thought the theme of this anthology was creative, and I generally enjoyed the stories, I wasn’t wowed. I’m not a huge short story reader because I really like plot and character development, and short stories simply don’t have the space for such development–unless they really pack the info in. And in the case of THOSE stories, I tend to feel a little bogged down and need to read very slowly to pick up all the information. For me, these stories were either too insubstantial or too substantial. 😉 Being unaccustomed to reading anthologies, I don’t know if this issue was because I have difficulty with short stories, or if it was because the anthology was less than fantastic. Either way, I thought the anthology was interesting, but I’m glad to be moving on to other books. 

I was originally going to share a mini-review of each story. But these stories are so short, and the joy (for me) depended entirely on not knowing what sort of “vampire” I was reading about. There’s just not much to say about the individual stories without giving spoilers. 

All You Can Do Is Breathe, by Kaaron Warren: When a mine collapses, a minor is trapped for several days. He keeps himself alive by remembering the good things in life. But he keeps a dark secret from the media-craze that descends upon him when he is rescued. A scary “long man” came to him while he was trapped…a man who didn’t want to rescue him. 

Needles, by Elizabeth Bear: Two vampires descend upon the home of a tattoo artist. Do they want more than just a tattoo? 

Baskerville’s Midgets, by Reggie Oliver. A boardinghouse landlady befriends a set of 7 midgets and pays a dire price.  ***This one was darkly funny. One of my three favorites.

Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow, by Richard Bowes: A woman in need of money seduces her rich ex-lover to come back to the dark-side.  

X for Demetrious, by Steve Duffy: This is a fictional story based on the true-life news story of a man who, in January 1973, was found dead on his mattress–having choked on a bulb of garlic. The room was filled with crucifixes, sprinkled with salt, and “protected” with salt-laced urine and garlic-laced excrement. ***This was one of my three favorite stories in the anthology. It was thoughtful and a bit frightening.

Keeping Corky, by Melanie Tem: A mentally disabled woman who believes that she has the power to “punish” people by sucking away bits of themselves becomes angry when she is not allowed to write a letter to her biological son Corky, who’d been adopted by a couple years ago. But does she really have the power to punish?

Shelf Life, by Lisa Tuttle: While rummaging through her parent’s attic, a woman finds a dollhouse that she’d become obsessed with as a child. She takes it home and gives it to her daughter–with disastrous results. Some people just shouldn’t have dollhouses. 

Caius, by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg: Caius is a radio talk-show host who has an almost magical power to resolve people’s internal conflicts and make them feel satisfied. They flock to him. But what’s really going on?

Sweet Sorrow, by Barbara Roden: When a little girl disappears in a quiet neighborhood, her friend Brian feels that his elderly neighbors are acting suspiciously. They seem to thrive on the grief around them.

First Breath, Nicole J. LeBoeuf: A mysterious narrator goes on a trip to “find herself.” 

Toujours, Kathe Koje: After dedicating the later years of his life to help a young fashion designer become famous, Gianfranco jealously guards the young man from encroaching threats–like love interests.

Miri, by Steve Rasnic Tem: Ricky is a devoted husband and father, but something is lacking. He constantly seems drained and distracted. He spends a lot of time thinking about a woman from the past…

Mrs. Jones, by Carol Emshwiller: Two old-maid sisters entertain themselves through a long, dreary life by intentionally annoying one another. Then one day, a little demon shows up in their lives…and everything suddenly changes. 

Bread and Water, by Michael Cisco: The story of a vampire plague from the perspective of one of the original hospitalized patients. 

Mulberry Boys, by Margo Lanagan: Fifteen-year-old John helps hard-hearted Phillips track down and surgically care for a Mulberry Boy. As talks to Phillips for the first time in his life, he learns more about who the Mulberry Boys are and begins to wonder who’s the REAL monster. ***This was my third favorite story…and it was definitely the most memorable for me. I’ll probably look for more works by this author.

The Third Always Beside You, by John Langan: Weber and Gertrude suspect that there is another woman involved in their parent’s marriage. When curiosity finally overcomes Gertrude and she asks a family friend, she finds out much more than she’d bargained for.  

6 thoughts on “Blood and Other Cravings, ed. Ellen Datlow

  1. Vampires do seem to be the rage. Currently, I'm reading Interview with a Vampire, which I'm enjoying. I do enjoy short stories, but I have to be in the mood for them. Happy reading!


  2. I wish more World Fantasy Award contenders were available at my local library. Because I feel tempted to buy them all 😉

    Anthologies are difficult to review, but you've done a great job: I really like the idea of writers playing with the vampire concept, without succumbing to the cliche!


  3. Thanks Chinoiseries! I'll have to develop my own strategy for reviewing collections and anthologies…Like you said, they're difficult to review and I have very little experience. It'll probably get easier with time.


  4. Interesting book. From the stories you have reviewed I think I might like it.
    Have you read The Vampire Archives, edited by Otto Penzler? It's a BIG book (around 1000 pages including a list of vampire novels) with plenty of short stories, most of them very good.


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