Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Short Story: O Captain, My Captain by Katherine V Forrest

"O Captain, My Captain" is an amazing, captivating and sensuous science fiction vampire story by Katherine V. Forrest. Found in an old anthology of hers called Dreams and Swords (reviewed here), it's a gem that isn't as easy to find as it deserves to be. I've picked this story out of the anthology for a separate review, because it really doesn't deserve to be lost among the dry, average and mostly very short stories that make up the rest of the collection.

This story also appears in Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Tales, a more intellectual collection of lesbian vampire stories that focuses on the more realistic side of being a female vampire (so less in the way of sex scenes, more in the way of female empowerment).

Harper is a part of the galactic military, assigned to a ship with a single captain, on a salvage mission into a dangerous asteroid zone. Alone with her unusual host for days, she falls into her thrall - and then discovers that her host isn't exactly... human.

Drake is a smart, solitary woman who has learnt that losing people is too hard to risk attachments, but that blood is not the only bodily fluid she can take nourishment from. Having survived the hard way over many centuries, she took the opportunity to educate herself and now lives fairly securely hidden in the labyrinth of futuristic bureaucracy. She's 700 years old.

Harper initially feels useless and alienated, then slowly notices more and more oddities in her host (who is more than capable of handling everything herself). Each night, Drake draws her into revealing her past, and eventually that tips over into desire and sex. While Harper is aware of the power imbalance, that something's strange about Drake, and that she's falling into her thrall... she also can't do much about it. Until Drake is forced to stay up during the Terran day, and changes to a bat in front of her, and she is forced to confront both her suspicions and Drake.

I didn't exactly like the way Harper 'turned' lesbian, abandoning her safe, normal male lover without a thought at the end, but it was a fascinating and sensual story that drew the reader in under Drake's spell along with Harper. It was also a very believable (once you get over the 'vampires!!' bit obviously) and interesting tale of how one vampire might have lived and survived.

Dreams & Swords does offer something for scifi and mystery fans, and for people interested in Katherine V. Forrest and early lesbian publications.

But if you are more interested in lesbian vampires - or want a Kindle version - get Daughters of Darkness, where it sits in such good (or at least, interesting) company as the original lesbian vampire story, Carmilla (reviewed here), and the story that spawned the award winning novel, The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez.

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