When the other writes back: "Poaching," "bargain shopping," and rewriting the vampire narrative in Jewelle Gomez's "The Gilda Stories" and Octavia Butler's "Fledgling"
Williams, Shana Marie
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This paper will examine Jewelle Gomez's The Gilda Stories and Octavia Butler's Fledgling, two contemporary vampire narratives written by black women writers who rewrite traditional vampire mythology by casting black women as vampires. Conventional vampire folklore arose out of a fear of the Other, specifically the racialized Other, and because of this, I will argue that it is necessary that the black female writer offer a new vision of the figure of the vampire. Many of the familiar characteristics of the vampire imply that the creature is intended to be a metaphor for the outsider or marginalized individual and demonizes the individual by deeming the Other as monstrous. Race becomes a marker for monstrosity. Therefore, I will argue that it is necessary for the black female writer to transform these monstrous images from mainstream horror into figures of empowerment and redirect audience sympathy towards the "monsters" rather than normal human victims. I will begin by offering a brief history of the fictional vampire and how it has come to function as a metaphor for the Other, narrowing in on Bram Stoker's Dracula because Stoker's vampire is recognized as the most familiar fictional vampire, and many works of vampire fiction use Dracula as a template. Furthermore, Dracula was crafted as a representation of the racial Other, specifically the Jew. Using this figure as a representation of the traditional vampire, I will then examine the very different ways that Gomez and Butler conceptualize their vampires in an effort to show how their respective takes on the vampire narrative seek to reconfigure difference and rewrite Otherness as a subject position of strength.