Benjamin, Larry. “Vampire Rising”, Beaten Track Publishing. 2015.
To Be a Vampire…
What is it about gay literature and vampires? This is the question you should keep in mind while you read Larry Benjamin’s “Vampire Rising”. Set in mid
” twenty-first century, there is no longer anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia to deal with as they have all been eschewed. The world is now run by “the state,” headed by Christian zealots, who use the of fear and oppression to govern. Vampires are despised, and feared, and must deal with discrimination and unspeakable violence. Because they are the undead ands unholy, they have no basic human rights. We meet Gatsby Calloway who lives on the fringes of society and avoids humanity. , But then he meets Barnabas, a young painter. When Barnabas is mortally wounded during an anti-Vampire attack, Gatsby must forget everything he has known, and learn to trust.
While Gatsby Calloway is a vampire, he is far from the Hollywood “Dracula” stereotype. He is a professor, a concert pianist, a debonair party host, and a really nice guy who is unable to resist his attraction to a handsome former student, Barnabas who is now an artist. However, Barnabas has a good deal of self-loathing and guilt over “turning” a dying human he had feelings for many years ago.
In this novel, “vampirism” is caused by the “Human Vampire Virus” that only infects gay men. With straight men and women, the disease fails to replicate. We see that only a small percentage of the population are victims of the disease and they are easily marginalized, discriminated against, and even persecuted. They don’t kill people, and actually only feed on each other and when they do, they gain a supplement that increases the virus’ strength in their system. People are suspicious of them and they re hated so there are not many of their kind left. Nonetheless, they cause suspicion and hatred (mainly from fundamentalist religious groups). What vampires still posses, however, is immortality and great super-human strength., mainly — that they’d have been wiped out entirely if it weren’t for helpful side-effects like immortality & super-human strength.
Even with this much negativity, Barnabas wants Gatsby to turn him but Gatsby refuses to take on that kind of responsibility. Yet, as the two become more involved, Barnabas studies vampire culture and learns about all the difficulties and prejudices facing them. He discovers a grassroots movement by vampires that is demanding equal rights and secretly plans to attend a big vampire rally where the featured speaker is the dynamic and controversial vampire speaker Malcolm V. Unfortunately the rally does not come off as planned and there is bloodshed and death. I am not about to reveal what the result of this was but I can tell you that if you regard the vampires and their society as allegory, you will find you have learned something here. We begin to understand what happens when a group in society is denied basic rights.
Writer Larry Benjamin successfully brings together the future and the gothic in this very short novel. This is also a story about the battle between what Barnabas feels is unrequited love and what Gatsby feels is forbidden love. We get a great mixture of social commentary and how love stands against intolerance.