The story of Carmilla, a female vampire who predates Dracula

For some reason, I was unaware until now that there was a vampire novel that predates Dracula by about 25 years — a novel called Carmilla, featuring a female vampire of the same name who ravishes a young woman at a country estate in the 1800s. I found out about it because I read a fascinating interview with Carmen Maria Machado, a short-story writer who provided the introduction for the latest re-issue of the Carmilla story (which was written by an Irish Gothic writer named J. Sheridan LeFanu).

The interview is entitled “A Perfectly Normal Interview with Carmen Maria Machado Where Everything Is Fine,” but it is anything but. It starts out like a normal author interview, wherein Machado is asked about the theory that Carmilla was in fact based on the love letters between a woman named Marcia Maren and her lesbian lover Veronika Hausle, which were released during the former’s trial for “morbid harlotry.” The first clue that things aren’t what they seem comes when you click some of the links to the supposed research on the case, or on the details of the professor who supposedly came up with the theory. They are all 404.

Then, in the second half of the interview, things take a strange turn and just keep on going, and it becomes clear that this is a work of fiction as much as an interview. Here’s a section:

TM: Certain vague and strange sensations visited me in my sleep. The prevailing one was of that pleasant, peculiar cold thrill we feel while bathing, when we move against the current of a river. This was soon accompanied by dreams that seemed interminable and were so vague that I could never recollect their scenery and persons. But they left an awful impression and a sense of exhaustion, as if I had passed through a long period of great mental exertion and danger.

It’s a lot of fun, anyway, and really well done. I wish more author interviews were like this! Be sure to click on all of the links.

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