Bloomsbury paperback now available.
An essay on the natural history of vampires, "All the Dead Are Vampires," requested by the Chronicle Review (in the Chronicle of Higher Education) when Dracula's Guest was published in the U.S.
Responses to the Chronicle essay from the New York Times, Harper's, and New York.
Chosen as a "2010 Adult Book for Teens" by LIBRARY JOURNAL.
Chosen as one of "The Best Christmas Books for Older Children" by the EVENING STANDARD (England).
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS
"An impeccably edited, beautiful book, with an excellent selection of stories and stimulating commentaries by the editor. . . .The main introduction is dense, informative and a pleasure to read. Each tale is preceded by a one-or-two-page long introduction which provides a context for the tales, and can turn even an average story into a rewarding experience. The non-fiction part includes documents central to the vampire writing tradition. . . . The juxtaposition of stories of diverse origin and time, and of varying quality indeed makes for interesting contrasts and the reader will marvel at the vampire’s capacity to colonise different genres and traditions. The book contains writing in the decadent and sensational style, a detective story, and stories about artists and creation. Some tales have several narrators, others contain embedded stories; some are told by external observers, others are told by those—and there seem to be many, it is a comfort to learn—who escaped from the vampires’ fangs. . . . Readers used to contemporary vampire fiction may be surprised by the scarcity of blood in the tales, but before they end the collection, they will have realised the truth of the Gothic writers’ motto: less is more, and Michael Sims’s book gives much more than its title promises."
—Nathalie Saudo-Welby, CERCLES (France)
"Michael Sims, in Dracula’s Guest, provides [a] straightforward explanation for the gruesome apparition [of vampires]. . . . An agreeable compilation, starting with early eighteenth-century accounts from Hungary about vampire-slaying. . . . Each story is prefaced by Sims with a useful bit of background, and the collection is arranged chronologically. . . . An engrossing morality story."
—Toby Lichtig, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, cover story (London)
"As Michael Sims points out in his introduction, 'Vampires are already dead; they’re coming back from the grave despite this considerable handicap; and they’re out for blood.' Vampires are the powerful progeny of folklore and fantasy. They are creatures who are trapped in an agonising limbo between life and death, compelled to ensnare victims to perpetuate their shadowy existence. . . . Vampires have long been favourites with supernatural buffs because they are more versatile and charismatic than the likes of flesh-eating zombies. Also, there’s something compelling about their predicament that has inspired writers over the last 200 years, as Dracula’s Guest so entertainingly demonstrates. . . . These are tales about vivacious beauties who waste away; howling wolves and shrieking winds; strangers with glassy eyes and chalky complexions. All of which sound like the stuff of spoofs, but possess the power to conjure up uneasy thoughts and visions in the middle of the night. For as Sims contends, vampires are the essence of nightmares: 'The dead coming back for the living, or breaking their contract with life by never dying at all.'"
—Supriya Sharma, TIMES OF INDIA
"Sink your teeth into this suspenseful collection of bloodsucking tales, perfect for reading aloud in front of the fire on a dark night. . . . The sinister selection includes the ‘real life’ accounts of the antics of the undead that inspired the Romantic poets, whose stories also feature alongside tales by prominent Victorian novelists, such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon. There’s even a missing chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Simmering sexual intrigue; bristling social snobbery; intangible riddles; life pitted against death—it’s all here."
—EASY LIVING (England)
"By way of respite from the downright anachronistic elements of most historic fiction of this kind, there's an enjoyable compilation of the real stuff in Dracula's Guest . . . including Alexei Tolstoy and MR James. Better prose, then, than most contemporary horror stories."
—Melanie McDonagh, "The Best Christmas Books for Older Children," EVENING STANDARD (U.K.)
"Edited with academic authority and gleeful zest. . . . There are gems here, such as Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s story ‘Luella Miller,’ which Sims implausibly claims ‘reads like a fragment of a supernatural Winesburg, Ohio or Main Street,’ and which, more implausibly, turns out to be true. Sims’s assiduous research has turned up stories from a legion of forgotten authors such as Mary Cholmondeley and Stirling’s Hume Nisbet . . . names that are themselves ghosts now, condemned to haunt musty old magazines and newspapers. Sims let them loose."
—Teddy Jamieson, SUNDAY HERALD (Scotland)
"A treat. An excellent selection of tales from the era that created the modern idea of the vampire, changing the monster found in old folk tales into the handsome aristocrat. Sims has thought long and hard about the stories he’s included and what they tell us about the birth of the modern vampire. The book features a number of contemporary factual accounts of outbreaks of vampirism which highlight the mingling of superstition, religion and scientific discovery that defined the Victorian times. . . . The book is a great reminder that although vampires haunt the multiplex and TV listings more successfully than the graveyard these days, their popularity is part of a grand tradition. They’re thrilling creatures, and no matter how ancient their origins, their charm never grows old."
—Alice Fisher, OBSERVER (England)
"A splendid compendium of Victorian vampire stories, a widespread genre that culminated famously in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. This heady mix of sex and death gripped the 19th-century imagination, but the sheer extent and variety of interest in the undead—including a Gothic horror story by Leo Tolstoy’s less famous cousin Aleksei—is fascinatingly brought together here. . . . Beautifully designed."
—Charlotte Cory, COUNTRY LIFE (England)
"This selection of less familiar vampire stories is richly contextualised by Michael Sims’ introduction. While acquainting us with each author, he sheds light on original convictions of vampirism by explaining how corpses rot (“growing” fingernails, bloody mouths). . . . Herein lie all the old motifs: waxen faces pressed against frosted windows; gaunt, fleshless, reaching hands. A fine collection, by turns humorous, foul and ghastly."
—Jazz Jagger, FINANCIAL TIMES (England)
"This creepy conoisseur’s collection of Victorian vampire stories is packed with pointy-toothed blood-suckers and gruesome ghastliness. . . . Think Christopher Lee in his coffin, red eyes snapping open, dust off your wooden stake and garlic necklace, and blame the 18th century Eastern Europeans whose peasant superstitions spawned the whole gory vampire genre."
—Val Hennessy, DAILY MAIL
"This book isn't just a source of ripping (and biting) yarns. The editor, Michael Sims, presents a scholarly yet personal introduction and a copious bibliography of suggested further reading at the end. He remains an ever-present voice in the collection, introducing the authors and setting the stories in their historical context, adding both knowledge and a dry wit. He also provides a necessary introduction to some long-forgotten authors. . . . Sims has managed to combine a book of rollicking reads with an analysis of the history of vampire tales and the natural history of vampires."
—Pauline Masurel, THE SHORT REVIEW
"At the risk of being hopelessly behind the times, there’s something to be said for vampires that actually scare people. Here’s a starting point: Michael Sims curated a collection of some of the best vampire lit ever written. . . . If you’re going to make a turn through the bloodsucker backstory, this is the best way to do it."
—Randy Goldberg, KEMPT
"Michael Sims’s engaging compendium reveals the literary and anthropological texts which led to—and often away from—the familiar profile. . . . Each selection comes with an amusing introduction from Sims, a genre enthusiast with a near-vampiric elegance of address. . . . The real delights are the straight-faced accounts of folklore. . . . Here, perhaps, is fresh blood for a now rather drained-looking genre."
—Sam Munson, THE NATIONAL (United Arab Emirates)
"This new collection goes back to the roots. . . . These are vampire stories written before Stoker’s Dracula, when the idea of vampires and what made a vampire was ever changing and evolving. But the sexual tension is present no matter the circumstances. We get vampires that are invisible, vampires that only go after family members, and people who become vampires because they were excommunicated when they died. You can see the growth and progress of the vampire mythos in this wonderful collection."
—Kevin Winter, SACRAMENTO BOOK REVIEW
"Indispensable for someone wanting to gain a solid background in the vampire fiction field. Presented in chronological order, the stories have detailed prefaces about their authors (if known) and circumstances of original publication. . . . The editor's excellent introduction explains his choices. . . . These are the roots of the genre that flourishes nowadays in such abundant variety."
—Margaret L. Carter, VAMPCHIX blog
"Long before vampires were sparkly and romantic, they were actually scary. This collection brings together some of the Victorian era's most chilling bloodsucker fiction."
—ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, "Best New Paperbacks"
"Long-awaited and terribly refreshing. . . . Instead of a dark, brooding, ‘vegetarian’ vampire (and isn’t Edward Cullen just a wimpy rip-off of Angel?), these precursors of modern-day bloodsuckers were freaking evil with a capital ‘E.’ Sims gives a brief overview of the contemporary understanding of death, which gave rise to the vampire mythology, then kicks into overdrive with stories like John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre.’ Here’s the deal: There is an inverse relationship to amount of fang shown and the height of terror reached. Read Anne Crawford’s ‘A Mystery of the Campagna,’ or M.R. James’ ‘Count Magnus,’ and then see just how romantic vampires remain."
—Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review
"A superb collection of vampire fiction—and non-fiction—from writers dealing with the undead. Michael Sims has culled stories from the Victorian era to make a collection guaranteed to delight anyone who enjoyed Bram Stoker's Dracula. . . . Eastern Europe is just the best known source for vampire tales. ‘Luella Miller’ is placed in a New England village. Sweden is the setting for ‘Count Magnus.’ A chilling story, ‘A Mystery of the Campagna,’ is based in Italy. . . . There are very few happy endings here. Sims' introduction covers the reality of death and how the legends of vampires might have come into existence. There are several non-fiction pieces and an excellent bibliography provides more sources and websites."
—Tish Wells, McClatchy News Syndicate
"Vampire stories didn’t begin with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, Anne Rice’s bayou bloodsuckers or even Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. What one finds, in reading Dracula’s Guest, is that these creatures emerged from 18th century accounts of Eastern European peasant superstitions, then got a boost from the Romantic movement. . . . Almost from the beginning, the vampire story wasn’t just a creepy encounter with the Other Side; it was thinly veiled erotica. The undead were hot long before Hollywood and the fan obsession surrounding Eclipse, the latest installment in the Twilight series."
—Michael Harris, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Michael Sims brings together some of the most influential vampire-based short stories in literary history. . . . To have these pioneering works together . . . is nothing short of amazing. Readers can see the influence of these works on modern horror stories and films. . . . In addition to the short essays appearing before each story, Sims wrote an extensive introduction examining the reason there were so many vampire stories that crawled to the surface of various Victorian publications. Granted, some of these stories, which were surprisingly graphic for the times, were enjoyed by a select audience. But there is no denying that the themes bled into the general culture . . . ."
—Scott Iwasaki, DESERET NEWS
"I had a nightmare last night, but I don’t remember it. I woke up scared, confused about whether I was alone or not. . . . Other potential sources of my mysterious nightmare: Victorian vampire stories, which I’m reading because Michael Sims has edited a volume of them and I love Michael Sims. . . . The teenage Sims, after reading the ghost story 'The Monkey’s Paw,' dreamed that his dead grandfather limped up the gravel road from their family cemetery in eastern Tennessee and tapped on his bedroom window: 'He wanted me to join him. Of course he did; the dead always want us to join them. They frighten us because we know that someday we will.' The living terrify us too, of course, and we terrify ourselves. . . . The thing about nightmares is that they are all real."
—Elizabeth Bachner, BOOKSLUT
"Unlike the rather lovable vampires that currently clutter popular culture, the old-fashioned monsters in Sims's collection are actually monstrous, though sometimes they possess a villainous charm. . . . As Sims notes in his entertaining introduction, we have a horrifying, ineluctable bond with the dead. . . . The stories are dark and gruesome enough to satisfy any contemporary horror fan. Sims, with his usual sparkling style, provides abundant annotation on the stories, and his introduction is a terrific short course on the origins of the vampire myth. Edifying and entertaining, Dracula's Guest is a welcome—and needed—addition to a literary marketplace awash in vampire stories."
—Maria Browning, CHAPTER 16
"Only about a third, including Bram Stoker’s title story, of the 22 stories in Dracula’s Guest, edited by Michael Sims, duplicate those in Otto Penzler’s massive anthology The Vampire Archives, and Sims also offers considerable editorial content. Thus, blood-drinker buffs will surely want both books."
—Jon L. Breen, ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE
★ "Sims, editor of this brilliant collection, gathers stories of the undead written during what he loosely terms the Victorian era. . . . In an entertaining introduction, he writes of the themes and images that occur. . . . Do not expect sparkling Twilight vampires or even the good-guy types that sometimes appeared in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise. Stories include classics by such writers as Lord Byron, Bram Stoker, and M.R. James, as well as lesser-known authors like Johann Ludwig Tieck and Théophile Gautier. The anthology is arranged to show how vampire tales and myths evolved. The last story, Stoker's 'Dracula's Guest,' was never part of the novel, but it still has that wonderful, over-the-top atmosphere. VERDICT An excellent addition to popular fiction and literature collections."
—Patricia Altner, LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)
"Dracula’s Guest invokes the dangerous shadows of Victorian culture, those dark places where passion, terror, pathos, and sorrow mingle and merge. Gathering together canonical works along with less familiar knock-out masterpieces, Michael Sims has produced an anthology designed to keep us all up at night."
—MARIA TATAR, Professor and Chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University, author of The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales and Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood
"In this fine new anthology, Michael Sims brings to bear his extensive knowledge of Victorian tales and their tellers on the vampire genre. Despite the title, Sims’s nets have caught fascinating material that pre-dates Dracula and the Victorians. Some will be familiar (excerpts from works by the Abbé Calmet, Lord Byron, John Polidori, and Varney the Vampire, for example), but other authors and stories will be new to many, revealing an unexpected depth and breadth to the thrall of the undead. With a thoughtful introduction to the volume as well as each story, this book belongs in the crypt of every student of the creatures of the night!"
—LESLIE S. KLINGER, author of The New Annotated Dracula and The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
"Everyone loves a good vampire story, but it takes a true aficionado with an insatiable thirst for knowledge to ferret out the roots of these monsters' enduring appeal. There is no better guide to the natural history and mythology of the Undead than Michael Sims."
—JENNIFER OUELLETTE, author of The Physics of the Buffyverse and Black Bodies and Quantum Cats
"We tend to think of vampires as safely locked away in the realms of fiction. Yet, as the wonderfully smart, terrifyingly readable stories in Dracula's Guest remind us, tales of the undead come from a time when people believed that such creatures walked at night. Editor Michael Sims weaves the nightmare stories of fiction writers together with the real history and science behind our vampire fascinations so skillfully that you may find yourself—as I did—looking over your shoulder at those shadows in the night."
—DEBORAH BLUM, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz-Age New York
"I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips."
Jonathan Harker, who makes this confession in Dracula, wasn’t the first or last person to be drawn toward the dark allure of the undead. Before the bestsellers and blockbuster movies—before Twilight and True Blood, Buffy and Anne Rice and Bela Lugosi—vampires haunted the nineteenth century, when writers all over Europe indulged their bloodthirsty imagination, culminating in Bram Stoker’s legendary 1897 novel Dracula.
Acclaimed nonfiction author and anthologist Michael Sims brings together the very best vampire stories of the nineteenth century—eerie tales of vampire lovers and strangers, children and parents and even grandparents; of ancient and young and invisible vampires. Sims gathers tales from England, America, France, Germany, and Russia, forming a unique collection that highlights their cultural variety. In his surprising introduction, Sims asks, Why did so many people believe that vampires were real? What natural circumstances did they misinterpret into supernatural narratives? He explores the natural history of vampires, the real-death circumstances that led people to believe that the deceased were leaving their coffins at night and preying upon the living.
Beginning even earlier, with allegedly eyewitness accounts from eighteenth-century eastern Europe, Dracula’s Guest provides a thrilling roller-coaster ride of great writing, while also demonstrating how Romantic and Victorian writers refined the raw ore of peasant superstition into a whole vampire mythology of aristocratic decadence and innocence betrayed that continues to haunt us. Even in the twenty-first century, the undead still walk among us.