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Suzy McKee Charnas (1939–2023)

Author of The Vampire Tapestry

35+ Works 2,459 Members 56 Reviews 11 Favorited
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About the Author

Image credit: Permission of SMC


Works by Suzy McKee Charnas

The Vampire Tapestry (1980) 759 copies
Walk to the End of the World (1974) 319 copies
Motherlines (1978) 229 copies
The Furies (1994) 188 copies
The Bronze King (1985) 142 copies
The Slave and the Free (1989) 139 copies
The Conqueror's Child (1999) 112 copies
Dorothea dreams (1986) 104 copies
The Silver Glove (1988) 70 copies
The Kingdom of Kevin Malone (1635) 65 copies
The Golden Thread (1989) 63 copies
Radical Utopias (1990) 60 copies
The Ruby Tear (1997) 41 copies
My Father's Ghost (2002) 20 copies

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories (1987) — Contributor — 878 copies
Teeth: Vampire Tales (2011) — Contributor — 294 copies
A Whisper of Blood (1991) — Contributor — 255 copies
Modern Classics of Fantasy (1939) — Contributor — 202 copies
The Urban Fantasy Anthology (2011) — Contributor — 192 copies
Under the Fang (1991) — Contributor — 182 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women (1995) — Contributor — 164 copies
The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men (1994) — Contributor — 158 copies
Vanishing Acts: A Science Fiction Anthology (2000) — Contributor — 152 copies
Black God's Kiss (2007) — Introduction, some editions — 145 copies
The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Two (2010) — Contributor — 129 copies
Nebula Award Stories Sixteen (1982) — Contributor — 124 copies
The New Hugo Winners, Volume III (1994) — Contributor — 124 copies
Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe (2009) — Contributor — 123 copies
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 Edition (2010) — Contributor — 111 copies
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #10 (1981) — Contributor — 109 copies
Fantasy Annual IV (1980) — Contributor — 100 copies
Visions of Wonder (1996) — Contributor — 89 copies
Blood Thirst: 100 Years of Vampire Fiction (1997) — Contributor — 85 copies
Mammoth Book of Short Fantasy Novels (1986) — Contributor, some editions — 77 copies
Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women (2015) — Contributor — 73 copies
The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2012 Edition (2013) — Contributor — 71 copies
Fantasy Annual III (1977) — Contributor — 56 copies
Skin of the Soul (1990) — Contributor — 56 copies
Virtuous Vampires (1996) — Contributor — 53 copies
The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons (2013) — Contributor — 52 copies
The Fourth Omni Book of Science Fiction (1985) — Contributor — 49 copies
Isaac Asimov's Werewolves (1999) — Contributor — 42 copies
Baker's Dozen: 13 Short Fantasy Novels (1984) — Contributor — 39 copies
New Dimensions 11 (1980) — Contributor — 34 copies
The Seaharp Hotel (1990) — Contributor — 34 copies
Women of Vision : Essays by Women Writing Science Fiction (1988) — Contributor, some editions — 33 copies
The WisCon Chronicles (2007) — Contributor — 31 copies
New Voices III: The Campbell Award Nominees (1980) — Contributor — 27 copies
Sextopia: Stories of Sex and Society (2001) — Contributor — 26 copies
Omni Best Science Fiction One (1992) — Contributor — 23 copies
Future Females: A Critical Anthology (1981) — Contributor — 17 copies
Novel Ideas-Fantasy (2006) — Contributor — 16 copies
Streets of Blood: Vampire Stories from New York City (1998) — Contributor — 11 copies
Science Fiction — Contributor — 6 copies
Sinister Wisdom 17 (1981) — Contributor — 6 copies
Ainsi soit l'ange : 18 contes entre ciel et terre (1999) — Contributor — 4 copies
Territoires de l'inquiétude. 7 (1993) — Contributor — 3 copies
Harper's Magazine 1989 Oct. — Author — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



Suzy McKee Charnas (1939-2023) in Science Fiction Fans (January 5)


Third in the series set in a post eco-catastrophe world, this follows the adventures of Alldera, the woman who escaped to the grasslands at the end of book 1 and ended up the de facto leader of the other 'free fems' who had already escaped there. At the start of this book, the fems have made their way back through the desert to the Holdfast despite the objections of the Riding Women, who we met in book 2. Sheel, one of the sharemothers of Alldera's daughter, Sorrel, and for years an antagonist, follows with a small group of other Riding Women and becomes a reluctant witness to, and occasional participant in, the often bloody dealings of the fems as they confront their former masters in what is left of Holdfast society, following the civil war at the end of book 1. The fems' mission is two-fold: rescue any surviving female slaves, and make the men pay for their terrible cruelty.

This is a complex book dealing with well-realised characters who are all flawed, and the complexities and conflicting priorities of the various groups of women. At first, Alldera has difficulty in keeping them from killing all the men in revenge, and has to show that she is not 'squeamish' about doing it herself on occasion. The fems are almost drunk with joy at finding and freeing other women; a joy quick to turn to a killing frenzy, especially when friends are horribly murdered by stray men. The challenge is not only to keep the remaining men alive in such a climate, so that younger women can use them for breeding, it is also to balance the conflicting desires of the different groups of women, the older ones who have returned with her from the grasslands, done the bulk of the fighting, and hate the men, and the more conciliatory attitudes, sometimes bordering on collaboration, of the recently freed fems who, being a much rarer commodity after the men's excesses during the civil war, have in most cases been treated a lot better than the slaves who escaped.

Compounding Alldera's problem in managing all this is her own personal conflict when she finds her old master alive, and the increasing attack she comes under from her refusal to have him sacrificed as part of the Moonwoman religion. This is a practice led by one of the free fems which is increasingly followed among them but which she views as superstition. Despite her legendary status even among the rescued fems, her sense of connection with her ex-master - who freed her at the end of book 1 after she convinced him to at least some extent of her humanity - leads to a underlying tension which Alldera, always a blunt, straightforward person, fails to appreciate, with dangerous consequences.

Meanwhile, Sheel and the other Riding Women have their own difficulties, with some taking to the drugged drink some of the fems brew, and others becoming curious about what sex with men entails (the Riding Women's ability to self clone is explained in the previous volume). Sheel suffers from home sickness though she and Alldera eventually reach an understanding and acceptance never granted them before.

This is a vividly realised account of the tensions and often wilful misunderstandings of a bunch of often mismatched people, with a clear style of prose that does not get in the way of the story while managing to convey the settings and mood of their surroundings, and the emotions of the characters. The viewpoint of the mad enuch Setteo is a case in point; to the women, he is a figure of fun, a mascot or an irritation while to himself he is a type of seer or visionary who is interceding between various supernatural creatures - the different groups of women (the fems are the Blessed; the Riding Women are Angels) - and the savage Bears which no one but he is aware of, and which he tries to placate or trick. The best book of the series so far and therefore deserving 5 stars, though with a caution that it does feature quite a lot of violence.
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kitsune_reader | 1 other review | Nov 23, 2023 |
This is the sequel to Walk to the End of the World, but is a very different book in approach and structure. Whereas the first book is clearly divided into different viewpoints - mainly of male characters - this is more organically told from different women's POVs, including Alldera, the woman from the first volume.

At the end of the first volume, Alldera escaped from the nightmare of the Holdfast in the middle of a civil war. As this volume opens she is wandering the forbidding country beyond. She is pregnant from having to 'service' her various masters, and this imperils her already precarious survival. But strange footprints lead her to a food cache. In the hope of catching up with the monsters who made the tracks, before the food runs out, she follows and finds monsters indeed - with two heads: one human. Only at the last moment does she realise they are human beings riding animals (for there were no animals in the Holdfast, not even domestic ones), and that the 'men' riding them, who she anticipates will kill her, are actually women.

These Riding Women take her into their community and nurse her so that her child is born healthy. They are the descendants of women who were genetically engineered to have a double set of DNA in their ova, for reasons that don't entirely make sense, but possibly were intended to create a set of well understood experimental subjects with little genetic drift. The scientists who worked on their development ensured that they can conceive - parthenogenesis, found in nature in species such as the aphid - by their ova being triggered into dividing and eventually becoming clones of themselves. Implausibly, those scientists ensured this could be done only in the presence of horse semen, which leads to an 'inevitable' conclusion and a 'sex with horse ceremony' scene where the young women are 'mated' with young colts while lying in a contraption to hopefully allow them to survive the experience. A lot of readers might find this risible or repulsive. It certainly wasn't the only method that could have been employed, but is part of the ambivalent bond that the women have with their horses. Ambivalent, because the women also routinely kill their horses for meat.

The various tribes of women consists of an extended web of connections, with identical mothers and daughters of different ages spread out between the tribes. They depend on their horses which they have bred for toughness, especially the mares, and live in harmony with the environment. Crucially however, this is no paradise: apart from the raiding between groups which sometimes lead to deaths or injuries, and the predations of a vicious creature which sounds like a genetically engineered rat, there are tensions among the women, sometimes resulting in feuds where they injure or kill each other. However, to some extent, they make allowances for their mutual flaws as they know the traits of each 'Motherline'. In a sense, everyone is predictable, which is not the case with Alldera or the 'free fems' a population of escaped fems from the Holdfast who trade with the women and live in an uneasy accord with them. Alldera had always believed the 'free fems' to be a myth. Her original mission in the Holdfast had been to escape and find them to ask for their help in freeing their fellow captives, but by the time she does meet them, she discovers that they are full of talk rather than practical help.

The main hardship of Riding Woman existence is that when the grass wears thin due to the rains coming late, they have to slaughter horses, and Alldera witnesses this in a graphic scene. This notion leads to a rather silly scene when a wild mare she has tamed is killed: although the women don't truly understand the genetic basis of their creation, surely they would realise it would be better to breed from this mare to introduce some needed variation into their herds? Anyway, this aspect will probably put some readers off.

Alldera finds it hard to fit into such a close knit community where only her daughter will be truly accepted - because the sharemothers - the group of women who 'adopted' them both - have all breastfed the child in the hope she will somehow develop their trait. The sharemothers care for the baby, while Alldera remains ambivalent: she had had two daughters in the Holdfast but both had been taken from her as usual and left to fend for themselves in the 'kit pit' so she has never been in daily contact with a child. Among the Riding Women, once children can run about they raise themselves in a 'child pack', so her daughter disappears into the group of wild children soon enough, only to emerge at puberty.

Alldera eventually leaves to join the 'free fems'. To her disappointment, she discovers they have not matured mentally or emotionally from the enforced infantile behaviour of their previous existence. All the fems kowtow to one individual in particular, and Alldera is disgusted by their petty jealousy, pilfering and sometimes vicious rivalries, finding herself an outcast here too. Their talk of returning to the Holdfast to overcome any male survivors and to free any surviving fems is just futile talk. She draws their hostility by running by herself and staying out of their feuds, and also because she didn't bring her child with her - their numbers are finite and will decrease as they die off, since no fems have escaped from the Holdfast since she did.

Eventually, she makes her way back to the Riding Women after overcoming a crisis of confidence, but by then, other fems have seen the attraction of learning to ride a horse as she does and using weapons, and the dream of returning becomes much more of a reality. By the end of the story, the fems have toughened up and lost most of the traits that beset them. They have won grudging acceptance by the Riding Women and Alldera has become their de facto leader.

The story in this book is much more involved with the characters than in volume one which concentrated on a lot of info dumping about the men's society and how it had arisen. This time there are no chunks of info-dumping. Instead, we gradually learn about the various communities through the personalities of different women and their POVs, and the story is much more involving. Therefore for me it earns a 4-star, with the warning that there are scenes of violence towards animals and also sexual scenes which may upset some readers. As a minor note, the cover of this edition is extremely misleading - at no time do any women lead another woman around by the neck and none of the characters wear clothes the slightest bit like those in the illustration either!
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kitsune_reader | 4 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
In this age of the twinkling, bubble-gum card vampire, Suzy McKee Charnas’ [The Vampire Tapestry] surpasses Stoker, the master and father of all vampire lore, delivering an ever-hungry animal, but one conflicted in a singularly human way.

Dr. Edward Lewis Weyland is a vampire who sees the humans around him as little more than cattle on which to feed and sustain his solitary existence. A notable anthropologist, Weyland conducts a study of sleep patterns and dreams at the Cayslin College Center for the Study of Man, nightly feeding on the life-blood of the student test subjects. When he targets the recently widowed Katje de Groot, he finds that her demure façade conceals the heart of a huntress. Having recognized Weyland’s predatory nature, Katje is prepared when the animal tries to run her to ground and she coolly shoots him. Weyland flees the campus only to be captured and imprisoned in a New York City apartment, held against his will as a carnival side-show type attraction. Mark, the adolescent nephew of his captor, sees more than just an animal in a cage and frees the vampire before he can be killed in a cult-like ritual. Free and physically healed, Weyland is reluctant to give up the anthropologist professor identity that allows him easy feeding opportunities and a measure of notoriety. To rehabilitate his name and reputation, the creature submits to psycho-therapy, claiming to be under the delusion of being a vampire. During weekly sessions with Dr. Floria Landeur, as Weyland honestly describes his life as a vampire, hoping to lend an air of credibility to the idea of his delusion, the therapist intuits the truth. Weyland coerces a letter of good mental health from the doctor and reestablishes himself at a southwestern college. But Weyland cannot regain his unfeeling predation, finding himself more and more affected with the emotions and experiences of those he counted as mere cattle.

Charnas tells over half of the creature’s story through the eyes of three of his potential victims Each sees something different in Weyland, and, in turn, finds something in themselves. Katje, the meek widowed professor’s wife, recognizes the spirit of a kindred predator in Weyland. Shooting him quickens in Katje a fierce zest for life learned from a childhood spent hunting big game in the African bush. Mark, the child of a bitter and broken home, identifies with the captive Weyland, seeing his own manipulated and trapped existence in the vampire’s predicament. In freeing the animal, Mark frees himself from blind obedience to the undeserving adults in his life. Floria, a therapist who has largely lost her way, finds in Weyland a similarly bruised and dull psyche. In awakening the vampire’s buried humanity, the therapist awakens her own, breaking through to a world of emotion and feeling she’d long thought lost. Weyland, the consummate Machiavellian, expertly plays the roles each of these humans expect of him, gaining exactly what he needs to survive. Though when the narrative resumes from the vampire’s perspective, it becomes clear that Weyland has been feeding on more than just his victim’s blood.

Charnas constructs the most unique and well-reasoned physiology and psychology for the vampire since Stoker first put his mark on the legend. In shaping the creature, Charnas used none of the Candyland-type fantasy, so popular of late, that has made everyone want either to be a vampire or to date one. She also shied away from the zombie-type mentality that completely de-humanizes the vampire from the start, often to the point of losing the point of the legend. With Weyland, Charnas has returned to the theme of isolation and lost humanity so prevalent in any good creature story, and that makes Shelley’s [Frankenstein] so poignant. In this case, Weyland has so embraced his unique place in the world that he isolates himself as superior to the human cattle on which he preys, looking down his nose at any experience he equates with humanity. What the creature in [Frankenstein] longs for, Weyland has buried, choosing to ignore his humanity as too painful to carry from century to century and too dangerous for a true predator to indulge.

I had high hopes for this novel, as it is from a local author, and I wasn’t disappointed. This makes my short list of All-Time Favorites.

5 bones!!!!!
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blackdogbooks | 24 other reviews | Aug 13, 2022 |
Nokkuð öðruvísi vampírusaga en maður á að venjast. Við fylgjumst með blóðsugu sem reynir að lifa á meðal manna sem sníkjudýr. Taka nóga næringu til að lifa af en ekki svo að eftir honum verði tekið auk þess sem hann þarf reglulega að búa til nýja persónu og bakgrunn til að komast af. Tilnefnd til þó nokkurra verðlauna þegar hún kom út 1981.
SkuliSael | 24 other reviews | Apr 28, 2022 |



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Associated Authors

George Barr Cover artist
Joyce Kozloff Cover artist
Yvonne Gilbert Cover artist
Rick Berry Cover artist
Bobbie Russon Cover artist
Carol Russo Cover designer
Anne Yvonne Gilbert Cover artist
Jon Sullivan Cover artist
Delia Sherman Introduction
Anna Tambour Cover artist
Ron Walotsky Cover artist
Tristan Elwell Cover artist
John Picacio Cover artist
Paul DiFilippo Introduction
Walter Brumm Translator


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