April 9, 2010 There’s nary a hormone-charged teenager in sight, but Dracula’s Guest: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories will chill the blood of serious readers wondering how vampires managed to sink their teeth into the popular imagination. Patricia Altner, writing in this week’s issue of Library Journal, gives the book a starred review. “[Michael] Sims, editor of this brilliant collection, gathers stories of the undead during what he loosely terms the Victorian era.” Arranged to demonstrate how vampire legends evolved, the collection includes work by Lord Byron and Bram Stoker, among others. Praising the book for its “wonderful, over-the-top atmosphere,” Altner issues her verdict: “An excellent addition to popular fiction and literature collections.”
Sims, whose own writing focuses on nature and science—or, more precisely, the ways in which nature and science intersect with human imagination—has developed an entire sideline as an editor of too-long-forgotten classics. Dracula’s Guest is his fourth collection and comes closest to bringing together his interests as both a writer and an editor. “I think the most fun was being able to merge two of my major interests—natural history and Romantic and Victorian literature—in writing the 5,000-word introduction, which is basically a natural history of vampires: how peasant superstition promoted the natural changes of the body in the grave into a supernatural vampire mythos,” he tells Chapter 16. “The big surprise was finding out how much the late Romantic origins of vampire stories depended upon the peasant superstitions of eastern Europe, and how quickly the authors added in the element of decadent aristocracy and innocence betrayed. We’re talking about the very genesis of the modern infatuation with the undead.”
Look for Dracula’s Guest in stores in July. Sims’s fifth collection, The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime, is due later this year. In the meantime, read an essay by Sims here and a review of his last classic collection here.
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