Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Nancy Kilpatrick

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On Writing, with Nancy Kilpatrick

The launch for Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead (Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing), edited by Nancy Kilpatrick, is on Friday, April 9th at The World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto. See Open Book's events page for details.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your book, Evolve.

Nancy Kilpatrick:

Evolve emerged out of my lifetime love of and fascination with vampires. This is the 10th anthology I’ve edited, and I’ve published novels and short stories about vampires. But I have always wanted to edit a book on the undead that reaches a bit into the near future. Because of how the vampire has gone in recent years, this seemed like the perfect time for such a project.

I found seven vampire stories in the submissions to Tesseracts Thirteen, which I co-edited with David Morrell, stories we couldn’t use in that anthology. I realized that these stories advanced the vampire enough that I was inspired to edit an entire anthology of stories and managed to persuade the publisher at Edge SF&F that Evolve would make a great book of short fiction. Happily, he agreed. These stories show the vampire at the edge of what we see now in literature, film and television and the jump into what happens next.


Why do you think vampires in English literature evolved into to the New Vampire in the mid-1970s? Can you tell us about the "old" and the "new" vampire?


The vampire in English had been, traditionally, upper class, almost a political statement by writers about the class system in England, where the first stories (in English) were published. That vampire was one that preyed within its class, the vampire being upper class too. You see this in Dracula, Carmilla, Varney the Vampire and the first short story in English “The Vampire”. These are the original works in English.

The vampire has always been popular in the west as well as in many countries and regions of the world. The undead take different forms, depending on the culture the stories are penned in or the mythology from which they are derived. But the old vampire of English lit was generally a hideous creature that was able to "pass" for human. Yet, ultimately, they slept in a coffin or crypt or even just a dirt grave. They stank of death. They exhibited on occasion animal-like characteristics, with teeth and claws, and sometimes transformations into wolves and bats. They were only appealing because they put people under their spell through a kind of mesmerizing technique that was part of being a supernatural creature that dwelt in a realm where they were neither alive nor dead.

We’ve had vampires in English since those early stories, but not many. Some writers have tried to modernize the undead: “The Cloak” (1939) by Robert Bloch and “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (1949) by Fritz Leiber. These stories are set in the time in which they were written and the vampire is no longer wealthy, but part of the environment in which the story is set.

I go into a lot of other books in my introduction but, ultimately, this was modernizing the same repulsive figure. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the vampire took on a different demeanor. Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro were instrumental in this change, as was Fred Saberhagen. These three (there was also Stephen King, but he took the more traditional approach) shaped the infancy of the vampire as we know him/her today. We now had a creature not so revolting but rather appealing. Rice created an erotic, philosophical vampire, Yarbro created one with high moral values who refrained from killing, Saberhagen devised a Dracula figure that could be very helpful because he wasn’t nearly as bad as we had painted him. These all set the stage for the vampire that would follow. Readers, it seemed, wanted to like vampires.

That "new" vampire has now evolved again.


In your introduction, you write, "the vampire has moved into the here and now, residing alongside homo sapiens…." Why do you think writers and filmmakers are now mixing their creatures of the night with the day-to-day lives of the living?


I think this absorption of the vampire into society has come about with a lot of the changes the world has undergone in the last 25 years. We are now that global village that was promised and because we can communicate with people everywhere, around the world and see that we are all just human beings, there’s a tendency to want to incorporate, rather than exclude. Apparently this also means monsters.

I wouldn’t say that people no longer believe in the supernatural. Every Halloween, there’s another survey in the newspapers about the percentage of people who believe in ghosts, and it’s always high. Ditto vampires, even though almost no one will say they have met an actual blood-drinking vampire, at least one counted among the undead; there are, of course, plenty of fetishist out there!

Also, psychology has developed since Jung, Freud and Adler, and the tendency is to recognize that this shadowy figure, the vampire, is us. Anyone can commit an evil act. We just need to watch the news to be convinced of that. This absorption of the vampire-within has allowed readers to take the undead in literature, film and television and relate to him/her.


Vampires have been popular figures in European and North American pop culture for centuries. Why has the myth of the vampire endured and captured the imagination of so many writers and filmmakers?


I’d say that beyond the traits that vary and are able to be manipulated by writers, the biggest aspect of the vampire that has captured all of us is that they were once us. They look like us, appear to be like us in many ways, are not hideous and mindless like zombies, and yet, they are our predators. Predators in a manner that no serial killer can emulate. They need us to live, or at least our blood.

We are the top of the food chain on this planet. The most evolved species. And yet, the vampire tops us. We don’t like that. And we love it. There’s danger inherent in our status, and a challenge. The bottom line is, no matter how much vampires can "love" a human being, they always have the upper hand. They can always take our blood and our life. We become the ultimate victims, standing on tenuous ground. If that predator/prey relationship isn’t the undercurrent of a story — no matter how evolved said vampire is — there’s no tension in the writing. In fact, I’ve been on panel discussions where Edward Cullen is described as the "good boyfriend" rather than a vampire. This is where the vampire is on the brink of turning from undead to human. But there are many other versions of new vampires that do not sparkle and yet are still appealing. We, as humans, should never be fooled. Even Edward can be a killer – it only takes the right set of circumstances.


Tell us about the contributors to Evolve.


Edge SF&F Publishing has a mandate to publish Canadian writers, and for anthologies, they like to include people from all over the country, as much of the country as it is possible to represent. For Evolve, we have a good selection, even a writer in the Yukon. But there are provinces and territories we missed, mainly because of time limitations — we wanted to launch the book in Brighton, UK at the World Horror Convention, March 2010 and that required some fast work to get the manuscript to the printer in time for that date.

The publisher decided to do some special editions as well, some signed, and that was another time constraint. Those special editions are on the website and the prices remain through April.

We will be doing a Canadian launch as well which we hope can be coordinated in several cities at the same time. The Toronto event is being held at the Ad Astra convention, April 10th, from 2 to 3:30 pm. That is, of course, closed to all but convention attendees.

But we are doing a signing the night before, Friday, April 9th at 7 p.m. at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in downtown Toronto. Please come by and say hello. If you buy a book, you can get it signed by all those attending, which includes the following contributors:

Kelley Armstrong
Natasha Beaulieu
Gemma Files
Sandra Kasturi
Claude Lalumière
Kevin Nunn
Jerome Stueart
Rio Youers
Nancy Kilpatrick, Editor


What's the next stage in the evolution of the vampire?


Actually, I’m in discussion with the publisher right now about that, so I’ll keep you posted.


Who are your top three favourite vampires from the page or the screen?


I have so many favorites it’s really hard to choose. I love Tanith Lee’s 1984 short story “Fleur de Feu or Bite Me Not” and I adore the 1971 stylish vampire movie from Belgium Daughters of Darkness. Nadia (1994) is also a favorite. I prefer style and mood in a story. But even as I say that, there are modern and edgy novels like They Thirst (1981) by Robert McCammon and films like The Addition (1995) staring Lili Taylor that have stuck with me. I’d probably have to name my top 100 favorite books and another top 100 favorite films!


What's your next project?


I have short stories I’ve promised editors and have been working on two new novels for the last while, wishing I had more time to devote to the writing. I’m so swamped with work of all sorts, writing about a short story a month for the last couple of years and editing two anthologies in less than two years, and I also teach writing online for George Brown College and other schools, including mentoring for the University of Toronto….I need a few more hours in a day.

Some of my recent short fiction appears in:

“Hope and the Maiden” in The Bleeding Edge
“The Promise” in Hellbound Hearts
“Traditions in Future Perfect” in The Bitten Word
“The Vechi Barbat” in By Blood We Live
“The Age of Sorrow” in The Living Dead
“Vampire Anonymous” in Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions
“”In Winter” in Darkness on the Edge
“Bitches of the Night” in Blood Lite
“Windows to the Soul” in Don Juan and Men
“”Ecstasy” in Traps
“Sick” in Bits of the Dead
“Sara” in Campus Chills

Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published eighteen novels, over one hundred and ninety short stories, five collections of stories, and has edited nine other anthologies. Much of her body of work involves vampires. Nancy writes dark fantasy, horror, mysteries and erotic horror, under her own name, her nom de plume Amarantha Knight, and her newest pen name Desirée Knight (Amarantha’s younger sister!) Besides writing novels and short stories, and editing anthologies, she has scripted four issues of VampErotic comics. As well, she’s penned radio scripts, a stage-play and the non-fiction book The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press — October 2004).

Nancy won the Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery story, is a three times Bram Stoker finalist and a five times finalist for the Aurora Award.

For more information about Evolve please visit the Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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