In Search of Alpha Vamps and Stephen King on stage (Mania.com)

By:Denise Dumars
Date: Friday, November 17, 2000

If You're an 800 Year Old Vampire, Why Are You Still in High School?

That's a bumper sticker I saw at Hot Topic, and it seems to fit with the first book I mention this time...ah, the wonderful world of romance novels! All those heaving bosoms...and those are just the pectoral implants of the male cover models! My close encounter with Fabio in West Hollywood (he scowled at me from behind the wheel of a black Rolls Royce) has led me to take a closer look at this genre, at least its supernatural side. The Romance Writers Association even has, I'm told, a special subgroup for those who write SFnal, paranormal, and supernatural romances. One such writer recently profiled in Romantic Times magazine is Christine Feehan, who writes a series of vampire romances.

Her vampires, called Carpathians, are hunky guys who resist their vampiric urges. They are rather soulless, dead creatures who cannot even see colors until they meet the love of their lives, and then their senses arise, so to speak. Her latest offering, called Dark Challenge, concerns Julian, a Carpathian who meets his match when he comes across a beautiful, 800-year-old troubadour named Dasari. Usually Feehan's vamps meet human women who are psychic, so this is the first time she treats us to vamp-on-vamp love. Could be fun. Heaving undead bosoms. No stakes allowed.

All the News That's Fit to Download

Just when you think Stephen King can't come up with anything new, along comes the word that he's collaborated with rock musician John Mellencamp (didn't he used to be John Cougar? John Cougar Mellencamp?) on a musical for the theatre. It's about two brothers who hate each other and their dead uncles who also, apparently, hated each other. It could open on the stage in New York next year. Now, if I want to see that sort of thing, I can just go home for Thanksgiving...This is actually not King's first theatre piece; according to DarkEcho Newsletter his 1988 stage adaptation of Carrie totally bombed and closed after five performances.

The Design Image Group, Inc., recently sent me some nice horror novels that I may actually find time to review some day. Now word comes that they're starting up a new line of 'dark mysteries,' whatever those are. They're looking for submissions, so if you're interested, email them for info at dig@designimagegroup.com.

As the election goes on and on and on it might be worth mentioning that Anne Rice supports Gore. As I stated in an earlier column, Marilyn Manson supports Bush. Now, to me the perfect way to end this nightmare would be to have Rice and Manson in a live-action, non-lethal version of Celebrity Deathmatch. Whoever doesn't get his or her wig pulled off or special effects contacts knocked out decides the election. Why not? It would sure beat the endless lawsuits we're going to have for the next four years.

As you know, I aspire to be the very paragon of literary correctness, so I ask you, whatever happened to a word or phrase standing the test of time before it made it into the dictionary? I heard on the news that the new Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by Elizabeth Knowles, contains the word Hogwarts, which is the name of the school those dreary little brats attend in the Harry Potter series. In case you're wondering what kind of book this is, it is a lexicon of folk customs, mythology, superstitions, popular media, etc. Oxford, no less. What is this world coming to!

Fiction Everywhere I Look

According to author's representatives that I know, there ain't a lot of fiction being accepted for publication anymore. If that's so, then where the hell are all these books coming from? I had so many to choose from on the new bookshelves that I could hardly decide which to mention for this column.

The first one I'd like to suggest is Killing Time, the latest book from Caleb Carr. This one differs from his previous highly respected mystery-suspense novels in that it's set in the future, and takes full advantage of SFnal tropes to treat us to a dystopian nightmare where the Web has virtually (no pun intended) ruined the world. 'Information is not knowledge,' is the catchphrase of the novel. Not only is the protagonist a super-duper, state-of-the-art detective; he's also in a race against time to keep the last vestiges of civilization from falling apart. Or something.

If you prefer something lighter in the science fiction vein, why not try Monty Python alum Eric Idle's new novel The Road to Mars. Subtitled 'A Post-Modem Novel,' it's clear that this is played for laughs, but is touted as being real SF as well. In the book we meet some silly people and an android who looks like David Bowie, as well as people aboard a space cruiser named Princess Di. Probably this one is best for Monty Python fans and fans of humorous SF.

Something that's almost a cliché in the mystery genre these days is the real-life historical personage as detective. I seem to remember books in which the likes of Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe were cast as detectives. Now we have J. Madison Davis's Alfred Hitchcock in the Vertigo Murders, a murder mystery set in 1957 L.A., which has Hitch tracking a murderer after the death of a starlet. Could be fun, especially if Hitch's marvelously droll humor is reflected in the dialogue.

Speaking of film, sort of, after viewing the stupifyingly boring Ralph Fiennes version of Puschkin's Onegin, I suddenly remembered that Ralph's late mother, who had the wonderfully theatrical name of Jennifer Lash, was an author. Her last novel, Blood Ties, has just recently come out, and it sounds like it might be a sort of high-class English gothic, with one of the improbable families that only seem to exist in English novels and films. If you like creepy family sagas, this is probably for you.

Though Ramsey Campbell has written numerous successful novels, I've always felt that he was a better short story writer than a novelist. So I was thrilled to see a new hardcover collection of his horror fiction. Ghosts & Grisly Things contains 20 stories, some published originally as early as the 1970s and some published quite recently. A quick look at the book did not reveal stories I was familiar with from other collections, so this is probably a really great buy for Campbell fans. And if you've only ever read his novels, I implore you to try his short fiction. If you like traditional horror tales, you gotta get this book.

Notable Nabobs of Nonfiction

OK, so I ran out of ideas for subheadings. Anyway, our nonfiction selections this time take us from outer space to ancient history to popular media to metaphysics.

First off, I was captivated by a tome called Eve's Seed. This book, by Robert S. McElvaine, purports to look at history through the biology of the sexes. One of his assertions, if I understand him right, is that the reason women have been put down for so long is that 'hell hath no fury like a man scorned,' i.e. men were upset that women can bear and nourish children and they can't and that's where all this sexism comes from. In any case, it appears to be a good book of herstory, looking at prehistory through biology.

While we're in a scientific mood we can check out The Neptune File by Tom Standage. Apparently the discovery of the planet Neptune took place after a young English mathematician noticed that Uranus was acting terribly strange.* When you stop laughing, I recommend that you check out this book on the dramatic events leading up to the discovery of the 8th planet in our solar system.

'There goes my idea for Wicca for Dummies,' said Lori Cadena when she found this next volume on bookstore shelves. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wicca & Witchcraft, by Denise Zimmerman and Katherine Gleason, is a book we really wanted to hate but couldn't. It is a very thorough introduction to the rhyme and reason of Wicca and to modern Witchcraft practices. It is particularly good for the beginner who wants to know where to start and what to do. We were particularly charmed by the drawings in the text of a rather buff pagan guy...let's just say he seems atypical of the breed. Buff pagan guys who wish to prove me wrong, of course, may email me at Denise@fandom.com.

While we're still in the land of the supernatural it's worth mentioning Ghost Stories of Hollywood by Barbara Smith. Probably not much new here for those of us in the know, but for a first-time visitor to L.A. or someone who wants to read up on the haunted history of Hollywood this looks pretty good. The book covers such famous hauntings as those at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, Griffith Park, and no doubt goes over the whole sordid story of Jayne Mansfield and what did or did not lead up to her spectacular death. Let's just say that Uncle Anton (as in LaVey, for you uninitiated out there) figures in the mix somewhere; she reportedly haunts her old Pink Palace.

Last but certainly not least is the book every Fandom reader has to have, the second volume of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Watcher's Guide by Nancy Holder, Jeff Mariotte, and Maryelizabeth Hart. It's chock full of great photos, bios, quotes, storylines, character notes, etc. It's worth noting that Hart is the owner of Mysterious Galaxy, the best specialty bookstore (carrying SF, fantasy, horror, and mystery fiction) in San Diego, CA.

Speaking of the Buffy cast, I personally have yet to come to terms with seeing Anthony Stewart Headwho plays priggish Giles on the showdressed as Frank N. Furter during VH1's recent 25th anniversary showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Great legs, Anthony; I mean it.

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*Aberrations observed in the planet's orbit led to the mathematical conclusion that some unknown gravitational force was at work, hence the search for and discovery of Neptune.