Vampires: they’re one of horror’s most prolific and beloved monsters. Granted, every once in a while, you hear someone say that the vampire craze is over for good, but that’s honestly never going to happen. Because the truth is the trope is so much more malleable than many give it credit for. From the bloodsucking cowboy vampires of Near Dark to the aristocratic creatures of the night in Interview with the Vampire, vampires can truly be anything you want them to be. They’re all our desires and our fears wrapped into one.
So for your bloodletting pleasure, here are five fearsome vampire tales to sink your teeth into. Just be sure to sleep with a wreath of garlic around your neck when you’re done.
“The Familiar’s Assistant” by Alma Katsu
Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror
Edited by John F.D. Taff, the Dark Stars anthology from Tor Nightfire features so many gems that you can literally turn to any page and find a great horror tale.
And if you’re looking for a remarkable vampire story, then you’re in luck because I can’t recommend “The Familiar’s Assistant” highly enough. Author Alma Katsu is already a legend in the horror community, and this story that follows a man who’s dedicated himself to meeting a vampire is just further evidence of why she’s one of the top voices in the genre today. Like so many of the tales on this list, this story seems to be headed in one direction, only to end up in places that feel at once fresh yet inevitable. A well-written and unnerving vampire tale to be sure.
“Desiccant” by Craig Laurance Gidney
SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire
Released in 2020, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire is an anthology focused on vampires of the African Diaspora and edited by the immensely talented Nicole Givens Kurtz.
All the stories in this anthology are more than worth your time, but if I have to pick one, let’s go with the incredible opener, “Desiccant” by Craig Laurance Gidney. Gidney is regularly crafting some of the most unique horror and dark fantasy works out there, and “Desiccant” is no exception. This particular tale explores an entirely new perspective on vampires, one that’s filled with amazing prose and features a memorable and fully-realized Black trans protagonist. An absolutely essential story if you’re looking for a new take on an old trope—one that will surprise you in all the best ways.
“No Such Thing as a Vampire” by Richard Matheson
The Best of Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson remains in the pantheon of great horror fiction writers of the twentieth century and for good reason. A scribe of The Twilight Zone as well as genre touchstones like I Am Legend, Matheson has long been among my favorite horror authors. While he wrote many tales of the undead, his strange story, “No Such Thing as a Vampire,” is one that will stick with you long after the last page. This tale starts out looking like it’s going to be quite a traditional take on vampires, only to veer in directions you’ll never see coming. A worthy addition to the vampire canon, and a fun and creepy tale that shouldn’t be missed.
“The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber
Anybody who knows me is well aware that I’m a huge Angela Carter fan, so it probably comes as no surprise that this is one of my very favorite vampire stories of all time, if nothing else because it’s so incredibly weird. An unusual amalgam of Nosferatu and Sleeping Beauty, this tale, which is collected in Carter’s pivotal The Bloody Chamber, follows the daughter of a vampire as she copes with her lonely life in a decrepit castle. A young soldier shows up at her door one night, and she suddenly sees a way out for herself. But will they be each other’s salvation or doom? Carter weaves an intoxicating tale that takes you into arcane places most vampire fiction doesn’t even ponder. A lush and unforgettable story.
Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski
I’ve already raved about this novel elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating: this is one of the most intriguing and extraordinary debuts of the last few years. A retelling of the horrific true story of real-life vampire Elizabeth Bathory, this book transforms the historical record into a terrifying fairy tale that deals with themes of power and danger in such wholly unique ways. While this novel is focused more on witchcraft and other horrors than bloodsucking, anything with Bathory certainly earns its place on a vampire list. Over the past few years, K.P. Kulski keeps making herself known in the horror genre with amazing tales like this one, and it’s clear she’s only getting started in what’s sure to be a long and illustrious career. So if Fairest Flesh isn’t already on your bookshelf, then reserve a place for it immediately, and also make room for Kulski’s newest book, House of Pungsu.