Caitlín R. Kiernan, Author of “Ode to Edvard Munch”

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

It was inspired, in part, by Robert Nathan’s novel, Portrait of Jennie, and by William Dieterle’s 1948 film adaptation of the novel. The pianist encountering the strange girl in the park, that part I pretty much borrowed from Nathan, but then I had all this other stuff in my head, Lilith and Edvard Munch’s painting, The Vampire. I was much more interested in writing a story about immortality and time, about our smallness in the face of the passage and the gulf of time, than I was in writing a traditional vampire story. I was also reading Elaine Pagel’s Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, at the time, and Saki and Virginia Woolf, and doing a lot of research on Lilith. My stories are almost always a synthesis of disparate inspirations; this one’s no different in that regard.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I think I was trying to say something about loneliness, in particular, about having coped with loneliness at different points in my life.

What is the appeal of vampire fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

Entire books have been written on this subject, and I’m not sure I have a great deal to add. But I usually account for the prevalence of the vampire in modern literature to the marriage of sex and death. In the vampire tale, and especially in the more romantic sort, we have a sort of socially sanctioned necrophilia. Though, I expect many readers and writers wish not to acknowledge this A vampire is essentially a cannibalistic corpse, through which a “kiss” combines the act of feeding and copulation. To be preyed upon by a vampire is to become Death’s lover, and it’s hard to imagine a more powerful frisson.

What are some of your favorite examples of vampire fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Actually, there’s not a great deal of vampire fiction I enjoy. Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” and Stoker’s Dracula, of course. I’m still fond of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, and think it’s a shame she didn’t stop after those first two novels. More recently, I was impressed with Andrei Codrecu’s The Blood Countess, and with Tomas Alfredson’s film version of Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In. There are a few short story’s that deal with vampires and vampirism that I’m fond of, such as Gahan Wilson’s “The Sea Was Wet as Wet Could Be” and Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl With Hungry Eyes.” Some of the very best vampire stories have no fangs whatsoever.