Welcome to our new series, which will focus on reviewing QUILTBAG+ classics of speculative fiction—you can read the full introduction here. Today, we will begin by taking a look at a vampire novel with a time span ranging from slavery in the American South to the science fictional future: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez.
The Gilda Stories is a Black / Indigenous lesbian vampire novel from 1991; it has recently seen its twenty-fifth anniversary reissue, in an expanded form. Gilda, the vampire heroine of the novel, also appears in a number of standalone short stories—I first came across a Gilda story when it was reprinted in one of the Heiresses of Russ lesbian SFF year’s best anthologies. (Specifically, the 2013 volume edited by Tenea D. Johnson and Steve Berman.)
Gilda is a fascinating character: she uses her superhuman strength and quasi-magical powers to support humans and fight for them, and also to build and defend her vampire family. Despite the grim subject matter, this is a very comforting book. Several of the vampires are genuinely kind—which is even more striking if you consider that the novel was written and published well before the trend of humanized vampires became widely popular. But where did this kindness come from?