The Original Lesbian Vampire Novella
If you have ever wondered why Dracula’s victims were always female, I think I have a theory for you: the author, Bram Stoker, subconsciously made the vampire prey on women to assert an implied heterosexuality that’s been interwoven with the mythos of the creatures for centuries. It’s no surprise that popular vampire media of today has human girls in love with young-looking male vampires. The trope has been there for a long time, but it hasn’t always been the central relationship in a vampire novel. The grand exception is Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
The novella, which is included in Le Fanu’s story collection In a Glass Darkly, was published 26 years before Dracula and was actually a major influence in its writing. The story of Carmilla is told through the eyes of Laura, a young woman who lives in a secluded villa with her father and her blossoming ‘friendship’ with a mysterious girl named Carmilla who is entrusted to their care. Laura begins to suffer from nightmares and bites on her neck, all the while Carmilla makes romantic advances. All the classical vampire tropes are here, with the beautiful difference of the vampire’s gender.
The love between the girls is treated with tact, given the time the novella was published, but reading between the lines is not hard at all: Carmilla was indeed attracted to Laura. The book is a short but fun read, and one that will certainly help you understand the layers of sexual tension underlying other vampire stories.