Stagestruck Vampires & Other Phantasms is a collection of short fiction and essays by award-winning author Suzy McKee Charnas.
Although best known for her feminist science fiction Holdfast series, Suzy McKee Charnas has written many excellent short stories. The first in this collection “Beauty and the Opera or The Phantom Beast,” a 1997 Hugo nominee for novelette. Charnas reinvents the end of the familiar Phantom of the Opera story by having Christine stay with the Phantom. While Christine originally makes the bargain to stay five years so that her lover can escape unharmed, over time she becomes attached to the phantom. The pace of his story is very slow and I probably would have stopped reading if it hadn’t been for Charnas’ talent with imagery.
Three stories in this collection center around Dr Edward Weyland, who is also the subject of her novel The Vampire Tapestry. The first is “Unicorn Tapestry,” a 1980 Nebula winner. In it we meet college professor Weyland as he is under the care of a therapist for a ‘breakdown’ before he will be allowed to return to his teaching position. The second is “Advocate,” a Bram Stoker award nominee co-authored by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Weyland finds himself the captive of ‘human vampires’ for feeding upon them (he says he was never a human turned to a vampire, but rather a different creature altogether). While the tone and feel of this story is out of place in this collection, this was my favorite of the three Weyland stories. The final vampire story is “A Musical Interlude.” Weyland, now teaching in New Mexico, finds that the opera Tosca affects him in a very primal way.
“Boob” was both a 1989 Nebula nominee and a 1990 Hugo winner. An 8th grade girl returns to school after summer break only to be teased about her developing body. When she starts her period, it suddenly stops and she finds that she has the power of becoming a werewolf. Any girl who has been teased by immature boys will cheer her on as she takes her revenge.
“Evil Thoughts” is an odd, fun story. A woman is bothered by the mushrooms that have been pooping up on her lawn. When a sourly annoying old woman down the street tells her they are her evil thoughts given a form, she becomes obsessed. This story had me thinking of some of the lighter Twilight Zone episodes and was one of my favorites in this collection.
Until this collection, “Peregrines” had only been available online at SciFiction. A young shaman and his protector come to a bookstore to seek shelter from an evil that is following them. Edie, who reads tarot cards at the store is wary of their intentions and afraid that their presence will catch the notice of Homesec, a future version of homeland security. She sees that the boy has powers and reluctantly accepts that she also has a power that can help him.
“Listening to Brahms” is the story of a few astronaut humans rescued by an Earth-obsessed alien race after the Earth is destroyed. Told in journal form, the story follows the thoughts of one human as he watches this alien race affect the behaviors of human culture as they interpret them. I was stuck by how realistic the characters seemed through the narrator’s eyes. Initially, he is indifferent to the alien, but gradually learns to hate them as he sees more of his own culture corrupted by the ‘snakes.’
Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasmsis a wonderful collection of unusual stories, full of strong characters and vivid descriptions. I highly recommend this book for readers of dark fantasy.
Stagestruck Vampires & Other Phantasms is available at Amazon.com
I was provided with a free review copy of Stagestruck Vampires