BOYS OF THE BITE: A GAY VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY Cecilia Tan (ed)
This is an anthology by new e-publisher Ravenous Romance. I accepted a review copy based largely on the strength of Tan's reputation as an editor. As is often the case with anthologies, Boys of the Bite includes stories of mixed tone and quality.
Wanting Having Needing by R R Angell has excellent contemporary world building and a believable protagonist, but the plot--such as it is--depends on a twist that is broadcast well in advance.
To Be Beloved by Pepper Espinoza is a Dracula-esque historical story with a very appealing first-person protagonist. This story updates the Victorian approach by more strongly evoking the morbid pleasures writers of that time could only elude to--as the victim sinking all to willingly into the fatal embrace of a vampire. This story is exquisitely well written but without the moralist ending that would once have resolved the tale it feels rather unfinished.
Lost in Translation by Tammy Jo Eckhart is well written but essentially just a story of a modern surfer becoming the slave of a vampire scholar, which is not the sort of story I enjoy.
The Love of a Faithful Servant by Teresa Noelle Roberts is again wonderfully written but basically a 'being made into a vamp' story. At this point I am beginning to wonder why so many authors write a wonderful vignette and so few produce a fully plotted (beginning-middle-end) short story.
The Cold Color of the Heart by Eric Del Carlo and Amber Jane Dodd is a emo first love story with a well-imagined vampiric twist.
The Sin Eater's Prince by Keta Diablo is another first time story combined with strong high fantasy world building.
The Conservative Dark by Connor McKay is yet another first time story with the standard OMG-what-if-I-hurt-my-mortal-lover plot.
The Last Brother by Ken Panadero describes a high fantasy order of vampire monks, but is also yet another falling in love story.
I support this as a romance publisher, but in the absence of other plots the stories are starting to feel monotonous. Each is in a different world, a different culture, a different kind of vampire, a different kind of man, and a different writing style, and yet.... it is not just that each story is a vampire and a human, but the human is a nervous virgin etc. Perhaps I am too demanding having been raised on classic collections of sci fi short stories which each made a different kind of conceptual point rather than the same basic point ('love redeems') in different ways.
The Devil's Half Acre by Ryan Field introduces a world weary vampire moving into a town, segues to a pick up and sex scene and then ends. Of all those stories it has some of the best erotic content but is the furthest from really being a fully realized story.
VAMMP: Conquering Dissension by Bryl R Tyne was a story I found very hard to follow and make sense of. The editing also seemed a little off; there were many awkwardly constructed sentences. For example: "Alan sensed the scrutiny tossed at his still-booted feet and warmth flushed his face." And only in this story did the intricate world building seem really rather supernumerary to the plot of (surprise surprise) lust and longing finally requited (the ol' destined life mates thang).
Based on her previous anthologies I know Tan knows good writing when she sees it. However I think the last story ends this collection on a low note. The world building the writing style of each writer is excellent and idiosyncratic, but the old vampire and M/M tropes become repetitious by the end. It might be best read in snatches rather than in one sitting. A reader who has read these two genres less exhaustively might not feel the same ennui.
Overall I would rate Boys of the Bite well worth the price of entry, and a nice sampler of gay erotic romance stories that put a twist in the old tropes but never escapes or subverts them. I would certainly be interested in reading longer works by most of the authors included in this collection.