For centuries, creatures of the night have proven mostly unkillable in popular fiction, adapting to changing tastes with the ease of practiced chameleons.
Next summer, Daniel Hornsby (Via Negativa) will bring upper-crust literary bloodsuckers into the 21st century with Sucker (Anchor, July 2023), a Silicon Valley satire of nepotism, the biomedical tech industry, and the appetites of the undead. “Deep down, all of us—even the sad billionaire fanboys—know the richest people on Earth feed off the rest of us, that they suck up more resources and play by different rules,” Hornsby says. “We’re living in an age of real vampires. The superrich are investing a lot of money in figuring out how to guarantee they never kick their golden buckets.”
In a genre that has long illuminated the shadowy dangers that lurk in the dark, new stories continue to offer fresh perspectives on the horrors of class disparity, the wide spectrum of human sexuality, and the difficulty of maintaining relationships through the passage of time. PW speaks with five authors who are leaving their marks on this season’s vampire fiction.
Nicole Arend’s trilogy-launching debut, Vamps: Fresh Blood (Atria, Jan. 2023), follows Dillon, a half-vampire outcast who enrolls at an academy in the Swiss Alps for upper-class vampire society where only the most cunning and merciless survive. But while he may not have the pedigree of a full vampire, he’s got something else in his blood that not even his sharpest competition could ever have prepared for.
“A genre convention I enjoy in vampire fiction is the tension around the necessity to keep the vampire world secret. In Vamps, Dillon is shocked to discover that vampires are embedded in the higher echelons of human society and are actively influencing world events. The biggest lesson the young vampires must learn is to maintain the status quo by controlling their most basic instincts and especially the desire for human blood. At the end of the book, and as the trilogy progresses, this delicate balance between the human and vampire worlds is tested and becomes increasingly tenuous.”
Mike Chen (Light Years from Home) explores family, alienation, and the unifying force of punk rock in Vampire Weekend (Mira, Jan. 2023), a story that aims for the genre-savviness of What We Do in the Shadows combined with the long-night-of-the-soulless introspection of Anne Rice. Louise Chao, an undead live music fanatic who’s spent decades avoiding serious connections, finds an unlikely kindred spirit in her long-lost great-nephew Ian, a bitter kid with a love of loud guitars.
“I think every generation will have young readers who, like me, found solace in gothic visuals and vampire stories. And those young readers grow up to be creators willing to play with genre conventions while staying true to vampire mythos. That’s why the idea of vampires will always work. In the end, it comes down to trading your humanity for immortality, which can be a great literary metaphor for trauma, relationships, and capitalism.”
Rin Chupeco, author of several YA fantasy and horror novels, explores vampire society and monstrous found family in Silver Under Nightfall (Saga, Sept.), “their sensual and thrilling adult debut,” per PW’s review. When a virus mutates members of the vampire population into even deadlier enemies, outcast vampire hunter Remy finds unlikely bedfellows in Xiaodan Song and Zidan Malekh, a vampire couple who may provide answers on how to defeat this new terror—even as they threaten to undermine Remy’s long-held beliefs about the company of the undead.
“The vampires that most people remember are the ones who have an air of tragedy about them, who have some noble reason for doing what they do even if they’re being villains. It’s not surprising that there are certain romantic elements imbued within the genre right from the start—that thrill of having some strange and twistedly powerful creature fall for you and want to claim you for their own has a lot of appeal. It’s not that they’re powerful that makes them appealing; it’s that they’re powerful and they want you.”
S.T. Gibson’s A Dowry of Blood (Redhook, Oct.) is a loose reimagining of Dracula that shifts the focus from the Count, who goes unnamed in this telling, to his vampire bride Constanta, a medieval peasant embraced into his intoxicating world. She slowly unravels the extent of her husband’s brutality as she deepens her bonds with rival consorts Magdalena and Alexi, in what PW’s review called “a messy, in-depth portrait of emotional abuse” that’s “thorny, fast-paced, and unabashedly queer.”
“While A Dowry of Blood is obviously a direct response to Dracula, its preoccupation with intimate immortal relationships and the way they can damn or save us, the frequent use of religious metaphor and spiritualized language, and the dark eroticism of the book can all trace their roots back to Anne Rice. In my opinion, the greatest vampire stories are the ones that aren’t afraid
to explore the ecstasies and horrors of the undying life. We’re all afraid of death, to some extent, so I think a fascination with the living dead is natural.”
Alexis Henderson follows 2020’s The Year of the Witching with House of Hunger (Ace, Sept.). “Breathlessly paced and dripping with gothic decadence,” per PW’s starred review, the new book “combines gory but gorgeous imagery and searing social commentary.” In
a tale inspired by the real-life 16th-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, Marion Shaw, a young woman from the slums, is swept up into the lavish court of the hypnotic Countess Lisavet, where wealthy elites literally feed off the poor.
“Some of the most popular vampire myths depict them as immortal beings. But at the same time, vampires are masters of disguise, seamlessly adapting to the different eras of their long lives. They are, by nature, transformative creatures. I think this combination of their immortality and penchant for adaptability directly correlates with their longevity in the popular imagination. Every generation has the opportunity to reimagine vampires because the myth of the vampire is at once immortal and ever-changing.”
Katee Robert’s previous books include the Dark Olympus modernized Greek mythology series; three installments to date have sold a combined 304,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan. The forthcoming Court of the Vampire Queen (Sourcebooks Casablanca, Sept.) is a steamy paranormal romance that follows half-vampire Mina as she struggles to navigate lethal court intrigue and escape the control of her powerful father, all with the help of a reverse-harem of three gorgeous members of the undead.
“I cut my teeth on the popular urban fantasy series of the early- to mid-aughts—Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, Jeaniene Frost’s Cat and Bones, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, and so many more. It was only a matter of time before a few decades of inspiration percolated long enough for me to take my own spin with the archetypes. There’s something really attractive about the dangerous stranger lurking on the edges of society—it leaves a lot of room for a wide variety of stories to be told, and a wide variety of readers to see themselves in those stories.”
Lillian Boyd is a writer and editor who lives in Southern California.