The first vampire story written by a woman was "The Skeleton Count", by Elizabeth Caroline Grey, in 1828. It was published in a weekly magazine and would have been lost if a collector didn't kept a copy of one episode. It is now reprinted in "The vampire Omnibus" (Peter Haining, editor - Orion Books Ltd. 1995). The story was subtitled "The Vampire Mistress" and the Vampire was not in fact the Count, but his lover Bertha. (thanks to Mark for this info)
Written before Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (1897), Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" (1872) is the first vampire tale to sustain a consistent atmosphere of menace. Le Fanu was careful to recapitulate the actual folklore of vampirism, including the bite on the neck, the stake through the heart and many others well-known details. But, the real interest in his tale is its sexiness...
We have to remember that this story was written and published during the Victorian Era. In those dark ages of sexual repression, it was more than suggested that any female sexuality was a threat to moral conduct, and evil in itself. No mention of any sex-oriented subject was ever spoken of in front of women, many of which had no concept whatsoever of sexuality, or their own body, before marriage.
At this time, in fiction literature, the sexy appearance of female vampires served only to lure men, a hook designed to gain access to blood, their only goal. They were more or less part of the furniture, the writer using them to attract the reader interest, without looking too directly into the psychology of the character.
Those sexy females were lecherous beautiful women seen as totally evil. They were always disposed of long before the climax of the story; like the three females attacking the all-too-human Harker, in Stoker's novel. Their "Master" treat them more as pets than equals, for no woman is man's equal in Victorian days (or nights). This moral law has to be maintained with vampires too.
That is, until Le Fanu story's gets published. The theme, in Nineteenth Century literature, of an emerging female sex drive that men cannot handle, is one of the richest sources of tension and terror. Carmilla proved to the World that a woman can assume her sexuality, if only after death. Thus, if she had to wait until she became a vampire to satisfy her own carnal desires, it has to be blamed only on the strict moral code of the Victorian Era. For the sex drive, Le Fanu gives her one. But he does more. To make her a lesbian and to depict her as much as a victim herself than a predator was enough to turn this tale into a "classic" from the day it was published. Until the open-minded approach to sexuality in the sixties, this is the only well known, and still published, story of a sexually active female vampire as the main character.
Of course, the feminist liberation movement did well to put women as main characters in all sort of fiction literature, but the lesbian character has to be handled carefully. It is still carefully watched over by scores of censorship organizations, seeing sex between two women (with a truly dominant one as in the case of vampires) like so much pornography and women's exploitation.
Too many times the female vampire returns to her supporting role in a book. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Anne Rice, both female writers, depicts very few "fangy" females. They seem more at ease with male vampire heroes. Hopefully, female vampires, like their male counterparts, don't die easy. At the end of Le Fanu's story, Carmilla is staked, decapitated and her remains cremated. Yet, Baron Vordenburg, the vampire expert, claims that: "on its expulsion from this bodily existence, the vampire is projected into a few more horrible life."
In other words, Carmilla might still be around... in any shape or form.
On a technical note, all books on this list are referring to the paperback ISBN unless noted otherwise.
Also, note that book covers change for every edition and reprint, so you might see the same or a different one in bookstores and libraries.
If you want to add a title (or more) in this list, please give me those informations, or as much of those as you can get :
ASIN / ISBN-10 / ISBN-13 number for the paperback if possible
A short description of the story -- but not the ending, please.
Please note that a female vampire has to be a valuable part of the story, either as a main character or an important suportive character.
For example, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, doesn't make the cut, even if it has four vampiresses. Dracula's three wives are barely mentioned, and Lucy Westenra disappears from the story almost as soon as she becomes one of the undead.
Name of the submitter will be added as reference --- no hyperlink though.
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