Thursday, February 22, 2018

Women in Horror month 2018 - Finale

As February comes to a close, our last guest Victoria Dalpe will be rounding out this year's guests.

Have a good read and do check out her site/books if you've liked what you've read.

Hello and Welcome to my guest post!

First off, thanks so much for opening up the facebook page for a woman takeover. As with most things, I think the sheer volume of women horror lovers, readers, writers, and fans is under reported.

To that point, here’s a great article about women accounting for 50% of horror fandom:

My name is Victoria Dalpe, and I am a writer and visual artist based out of Providence, RI. I am also an unabashed lover of horror, monsters, gore, the gothic, the gruesome, the weird and all that all of that entails. My short fiction has appeared in various anthologies. Take a look here:

My first novel, Parasite LIfe, put out by ChiZIne Publications, is a horror YA novel that features a sapphic coming of age story. It was directly influenced by Le Fanu’s 1872 book Carmilla and the films of Jean Rollin, in particular The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante) from 1982.

So that is what I am going to talk about today: the intersection of vampires and lesbians.


Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla is without question the wellspring from which most lesbian vampire fiction sprung: A classic gothic tale of two gal pals, where one girl gets stronger while the other weaker. Carmilla was distinctive in the staunch Victorian period it was written: She was a female character who only preys on women, and is actively courting/seducing Laura. Carmilla was the first female vampire in Victorian fiction; she predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by almost 20 years. Carmilla is a predator. She is inhuman and yet seemingly starved for love and affection. A creature centuries old, moving from one victim to another, ancient but also unchanging, forced to be a young girl forever. The book asks a great central question: If you could make someone love you, make them die for you even, and you had to kill them to live… how would that change how you saw the world? How would that affect your emotional life?

Since Carmilla was published, there have been many attempts at updating its themes and character relationships for modern audiences.

One of the best examples is the recent Canadian Carmilla web tv series. (Fun fact:  it is sponsored and heavily advertised within by Kotex, which is so apropos it just cracks me up). The show updates the story by both bringing it into the modern day and by severely shifting the tone away from the gothic and towards a kind of post-Buffy pop culture sensibility. Perhaps the best thing about it is its almost blase’ approach to same sex relationships. Carmilla just happens to be a lesbian and a vampire. The two lead’s relationship is treated as part of the story but not the whole story. Check it out here:

Vampirism has always been an effective metaphor for homosexuality because it allowed authors to pair same sex relations in the safe place of genre fiction. It was okay that they were two women or men, because one of them was a monster. Using mesmerism and coercion, characters could interact in ways that normally would be seen as taboo. An article about homosexuality and vampirism if you want further reading on that:

The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein also explored the Carmilla story and grappled with that quandary. Klein’s story deals with it by using an unreliable narrator as a protagonist. This protagonist is questioning her sanity as well as her sexuality. The book (and the film based on it) are ultimately more about jealousy and feelings of displacement than sexuality. The issue of whether or not the protagonist is in love with her friend Lucy is not the key issue, instead it is merely a part of the larger question of if Ernessa is a vampire, or even real at all.

In Jean Rollin’s film Living Dead Girl, best friends deal with a most unfortunate conundrum: one of them is newly back from the dead with a hunger for blood, and the other is loyal and desperate to help.

Rollin’s film explores how hard it is to be in a lopsided relationship. Vampirism is the perfect metaphor for a toxic/unbalanced relationships. In Rollins’ hands, it is a sweet/sad story that shows the inherent tragedy of both love and vampirism.

Rollins’ take on this was a big motivation for my book. His film presents an honesty to the women’s  relationship that connected for me. It manages to take the stark, exploitation elements of a lesbian vampire story and turn them into fertile emotional territory.

Every relationship in the works cited above is toxic to some extent. They also all tell their tales largely from the perspective of the victim, of the partner in the relationship that is being taken from.

In writing Parasite Life I wanted to approach the standard tropes of Carmilla from the other perspective.

Which is to say, Parasite Life isn’t written from the perspective of the human lover. It’s not a victim’s tale. It’s the story of the vampire. How does it feel to be the aggressor? What if you couldn’t stop being the taker no matter how hard you might want to? If you can coerce your partner, where is the line between consent and rape?

How does it feel to be inside the head of a teenager, raging with latent sexuality and confusion, who also needs blood to survive?

I felt it was important to explore vampirism and sexuality without making Jane’s sexuality the big deal within the book. Taking a page from the Carmilla web series and The Living Dead Girl, I felt it was important to approach the character’s sexuality with a light touch, because I didn’t want to conflate homosexuality and “monstrousness.”

I tried to load my story with as much teenage emotion and angst as possible. It is about sexuality, yes, but also about issues of abuse, parental neglect, and the resultant emotions. It is a book about feeling like an outsider… and then realizing that you are an outsider and what that means. I thought this might all bring a fresh perspective to a well-worn tradition.

And now I will put it out to you readers, got a favorite lady vampire? And what fictional characters/books/movies have inspired your work?