I am in the middle of reading yet another collection of chilling stories collected and edited by Ellen Datlow (this time, she edited the collection alone). A Whisper of Blood: 18 Stories of Vampirism doesn’t focus on traditional vampires, however. With one exception so far, the stories largely deal with psychic vampirism and other forms of living off another being without actual blood drainage.
Whether I am just burned out on vampire stories or because this week has been a difficult one, I am not sure, but I just haven’t been enjoying this book as much as the majority of books that I’ve ready by Datlow. It seems like these stories just aren’t as gut-punching as the stories I’ve read in Datlow’s other collections—nor as scary.
That said, the stories are still enjoyable enough to read. One in particular had me at hello. Called “The Slug,” this short story by Karl Edward Wagner is something that every writer should read. It details the account of a writer who finds himself being preyed upon by another writer, who slowly absorbs all of his stories and success as the writer finds himself finally desperate enough to commit murder as he struggles in poverty. The end of the story has a nice, although predictable, twist, too.
I am not really sure the word slug works with a parasite, however—this is even addressed within the story. Still, it is something that all writers can relate to, as we all have been interrupted by that well-meaning friend who thinks, “Oh, he could use some company!” or, “She’s probably not doing anything anyway. I’ll only stop by for a few minutes.”
Those few minutes, as we all know, can KILL a piece. A sentence we once had is now lost forever, never to be committed to paper or file. My own husband could enter the room meaning to be helpful or to share some funny little tidbit he overheard, thereby ruining an entire story I’m working on. After sixteen years, he still doesn’t get this.
The author’s note itself gives a fantastic, and humorous, explanation, describing an uninvited guest as an entire day lost much better than I ever could: “The imaginative is the choice prey of the banal, and uncounted works of excellence have died stillborn thanks to junk phone calls and visits from bored associates.” The entire few paragraphs are worthy of distribution! In fact, I want to put this little note on a piece of paper and paste it to my office door for well-meaning but uninvited company to read before daring to enter! In fact, I’d like to read it into my answering machine as well.