Margaret L. Carter's News from the Crypt No. 3
- Welcome to my newsletter, "News from the Crypt," and please visit
Carter's Crypt (www.margaretlcarter.com), devoted to my horror,
fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires
and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for
vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled
"Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe." For my recommendations of "must
read" classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the
As of December 2005 Amber Quill Press (www.amberquill.com) has just
released the new fantasy novel BESIEGED ADEPT by my husband Les and
me, sequel to WILD SORCERESS, also published by Amber Quill. Facing
the challenge of integrating untrained neophytes into the Sorcerer
Corps and putting down a rebellion of Neo-Aggressors led by a renegade
sorcerer with an unexpected connection to herself and her twin Coleni,
wild sorceress Aetria delves deeper into the secrets of her own past
and how magic works in her world. She also learns much more about the
dragons she thought were "imaginary." A short excerpt appears below.
Supreme movie event of the past month: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF
FIRE. If you've read the book, you'll immediately notice how truncated
the film's opening segments are. No interlude at the Dursleys' house
and only a couple of minutes at the Burrow, followed by a very brief
treatment of the World Cup match. Many other details are omitted to
make the story fit into two and a half hours. There are no house elves
in the film at all. Rita Skeeter is used solely for fleeting comic
relief; she serves no plot purpose. Although Sirius Black appears
(sort of), he also performs no plot function. At the end, there's no
long talk between Dumbledore and Harry, just an exchange of a couple
of sentences that wouldn't mean much to anyone who hasn't read the
book. (Admittedly, not many people of that description are likely to
be found in the audience!) Another two minutes of dialogue to explain
"Prior Incantatum" (which an Auror demonstrates after the World Cup
disaster in the book but not the movie) would help a lot. All the
story essentials are present, though, and what IS done is done
beautifully. The special effects, naturally, are dazzling, especially
the underwater sequence. The graveyard and the Riddle house convey
deliciously creepy Gothic horror. The opening scene in the deserted
house is perfect, and the climactic graveyard confrontation is almost
as good except for being a little too short. Also, I don't think the
pre-regeneration Voldemort is quite gruesome enough; on the other
hand, his "rebirth" includes some wonderfully unsettling imagery. The
unmasking of Barty Crouch is equally effective. As for the death at
the end of the tournament, I cried, though I didn't when reading the
Next, I'm waiting eagerly for the big-screen debut of THE LION, THE
WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I attended Darkover Grand Council, as usual.
Contrary to the name, this con no longer focuses strictly or even
mainly on the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley. It has become a cozy
(about 300 people) general SF and fantasy convention, with a couple of
good-size dealer's rooms, delightful music programming, and many
panels of special interest to writers, such as dealing with rejection
slips and the ever-popular topic of creating effective villains. I
appeared on the "obligatory vampire panel." The con is held every year
at the Holiday Inn in Timonium, just north of Baltimore. You can find
out about it at www.darkovercon.com.
We've recently returned from a weekend cruise to the Bahamas, which my
husband's company gave the employees for free to celebrate the
company's tenth anniversary. It was the first one we'd ever taken.
Interesting experience, although not something I would have done on my
own initiative. I've never quite seen the point of a cruise ship,
which I envisioned as (1) an expensive luxury hotel, (2) with dinky
rooms for the price, (3) but great food, (4) that floats. You could
stay in a land-based luxury hotel, with a much nicer room and food
probably just as good, for less money with no danger of getting
seasick. Well, I didn't get seasick (I took Dramamine the first
evening, just in case, and discovered that combined with only a small
amount of alcohol, a double dose of Dramamine makes a highly effective
sedative), and the food was very good, although the rumors of lavish
buffets continuously available were slightly exaggerated, at least as
far as this ship was concerned. It felt great to leave winter behind
for a few days of temporary summer. We visited the Pirate Museum in
Nassau, a fascinating place with realistic, full-size tableaux of
pirate life and plenty of historical information. We came home in the
midst of rush hour to the first snow of the season, unusually early
for this area; thank goodness, the road surfaces weren't bad, although
the traffic was duly congested.
Some books I've read lately:
CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT, by Anne Rice. Rice again shows herself
to be a daring writer in her latest novel, which not only retells
Jesus' childhood in Egypt and return to the Holy Land with his family
(done before by other authors) but narrates it in the first person.
This novel was no sudden whim, as evidenced by the Afterword, in which
she discusses her own spiritual journey and the years of extensive
research behind the book. She borrows some incidents from the
apocryphal infancy gospels, such as the opening scene of Jesus'
accidentally striking a playmate dead, then resurrecting him. The one
review I've read considers the story lacking in supernatural, numinous
qualities. While I'm not sure how I feel about that dimension or lack
of it, I think (in disagreement with the reviewer) that Rice made a
good decision in having the child Jesus ignorant of his true nature
and the circumstances of his birth. He could hardly be both fully
divine AND fully human (as orthodox theology maintains) if he had a
fully developed consciousness of his divinity from earliest childhood.
Although Rice's choice to write this book may seem like a major
departure from the vampires and witches for which she became famous,
it's not necessarily so. Spiritual struggles have been a part of the
Vampire Chronicles from the beginning, notably in MEMNOCH THE DEVIL,
which struck me as mainly a self-indulgent diatribe that one would
expect from a lapsed Christian who (to quote approximately the words
of C. S. Lewis about his own youthful atheism) "didn't believe God
existed, was very angry at God for not existing, and even angrier at
Him for creating a world." But there's no denying MEMNOCH's sincerity
and passion. Anyway, if nothing else, CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT
presents a lifelike, well-researched picture of politics and daily
life in Roman-occupied Palestine, and it will be interesting to see
what Rice does with future volumes in the series, when she'll have to
grapple with the more delicate challenge of portraying the interior
life of a Jesus who has become fully aware of his nature and destiny.
FLEDGLING, by Octavia Butler. As one would expect from a distinguished
science fiction writer, this "vampire as alien" novel is an exciting,
fresh approach to the motif of vampires as a naturally evolved
species. (Although they have their own origin myths, they don't know
for sure whether they came from another planet or evolved alongside
humanity on Earth.) The Ina, as they call themselves, cannot breed
with Homo sapiens, but they depend on human "symbionts" not only for
blood but for emotional connection. These vampires' venom is
addictive, so that once bonded, their symbionts, of which each Ina has
a household full to avoid draining any one individual, can't leave
their Ina or even want to. In addition to the ravishing pleasure of
giving blood and sometimes sharing sexual passion with the Ina, they
also gain the advantage of improved healing faculties and extension of
their lifespan to a couple of centuries. Shori, the first-person
narrator, looks like a child, even though she is really over fifty
years old (still childhood for her species). At the beginning of the
novel she has lost her memory in the aftermath of a brutal attack that
destroyed her home and killed everyone in it except her, both Ina and
human. A young man driving by picks her up and quickly becomes
enthralled by her. Gradually she discovers her true nature, connects
with other Ina clans, gathers a new group of symbionts, and searches
for the murderers of her family. She discovers that she is targeted
for assassination because she's the result of a genetic experiment in
adding melanin to vampires' bodies through insertion of human DNA, in
order to make them less sensitive to the sun. (Ina don't disintegrate
or burst into flame in sunlight like movie vampires, and unlike any
folklore or pre-NOSFERATU literary vampire. They are simply terribly
vulnerable to its damaging effects.) FLEDGLING offers a clear example
of how two authors with no mutual influence can accidentally produce
books with superficial similarities, a frequent occurrence that makes
me generally suspicious of accusations of plagiarism except where
blatant verbal echoes or extended point-for-point plot likenesses
exist. My e-published vampire novel CHILD OF TWILIGHT (released
several years ago), like FLEDGLING, starts with a prepubescent,
confused vampire girl on the run, who gets a ride from a human male.
My character Gillian, like Shori, is loathed by some of her vampire
kin because she has a partly human background. My vampires also have
addictive relationships with human bond-mates. But in all other
respects the plots differ, and I am as certain as I can possibly be,
short of hearing it from Butler's own lips, that she has never seen a
copy of CHILD OF TWILIGHT. (I wish! <G>) Within a given genre or
subgenres, certain motifs simply get "into the air."
ANANSI BOYS, by Neil Gaiman. A hapless young man called Fat Charlie
(even though he hasn't been fat since a short period in late
childhood) discovers that his (allegedly) deceased father was the
African trickster spider god Anansi. Moreover, Charlie has a long-lost
brother, Spider, who shows up out of nowhere and takes over his life,
including disguising himself as Charlie to seduce the latter's
virginal girlfriend. A wild ride of humor, suspense, and numinously
mythic incidents in the spirit world, peppered with witty lines
reminiscent of Terry Pratchett (with whom Gaiman, of course,
collaborated on an early fantasy novel, GOOD OMENS). ANANSI BOYS has
been compared by reviewers to Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS; both novels turn
powerful supernatural entities loose in contemporary American culture.
Charlie, trying to get rid of his brother, makes an incautious deal
with a bird goddess. When he finds out the consequences for Spider are
worse than he intended, Charlie has to plumb the depths of his own
dual nature to rescue his brother. A lively read with an upbeat ending.
An excerpt from BESIEGED ADEPT, by Leslie Roy Carter and Margaret L.
Carter (Amber Quill Press, 2005):
"I can't go home," she cried in her weepy, childish voice.
"You can never go back, but you can return home, Little One," Rajii
said softly back to her, his razor-sharp, taloned hand stroking her
"You're talking in riddles again, Dragon. Why do you say I can never
go back, but can return? I'm confused."
"You always are when you visit me of late. You can come when all is
well, Aetria, you don't have to come just because you are afraid."
The little girl turned to look up at her protector and friend. The
sadness in his eyes told her he knew what she was going to say before
she did, but she said it anyway.
"When I am not afraid, I don't need you."
The dragon laughed gently, his fangs opening up into a fierce grin
that the little girl loved so dearly. "I would rather you come out of
love than out of need, but I will welcome you for any reason."
Aetria struggled out of the crook of Rajii's huge left arm and tugged
her dress back into place. She marched purposely away from him toward
the edge of the clearing and stood looking at her shining path. Rajii
lowered his massive head onto his arms and watched as she turned and
marched around the clearing, passing out of view behind him but easily
tracked by his swiveling ears. When she had returned to her path,
Aetria faced the dragon, her arms crossed sternly across her chest. In
a serious voice, she asked, "Where is Coleni's path, Rajii?"
Stamping her right foot in frustration, the little girl fussed, "I
know that, Dragon. I can see it's not here! But it used to beso where
Rajii shifted his long tail carefully forward, lifting its spiked end
over his ward's head and around in front of his face, looping his
body. He lifted his head up and tightened the coil until he could rest
his chin on the scale-covered skin of his tail. Aetria waited, her red
curls wafting in the breeze as her dragon shifted his wings more
comfortably on his back. She knew he was taking his time in
answeringhe always did this. It made her so mad sometimes.
"Her path died when she did, Little One."
"She is not dead, RajiiI brought her back to life."
"She is dead to me."
"Then accept her living and let her come back."
The dragon sighed deeply, smoke puffing out in a long stream from his
flared nostrils, a tiny flame popping out at the very end of the
breath. She had once seen a raging fire erupt from the dragon,
incinerating a deadly serpent that had threatened them years before.
This sigh was his way of showing frustration.
Aetria stamped her foot again. "You can't? You know she is alive."
"I know. I can't make her path appear. I tried. Someone is blocking
the path. I don't know who. It could be Coleni. Maybe she doesn't want
to come to me." Tears formed in the huge black eyes of the dragon and
streamed slowly down away from the corners. "Maybe she no longer needs
me, nor loves me."
Aetria's heart ached for her saddened dragon. She ran to wipe the
tears from his eyes with her dress hem, soaking herself in the process.
"She loves you, Rajii. She told me so. She doesn't know why she can't
come. She asked me to find out."
-end of excerpt-
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Happy holiday season to all!
"Beast" wishes until next time
Margaret L. Carter