Monday, December 24, 2012

A Vampire Christmas by Tracey Sinclair:A Dark Dates Short Story The Cassandra Bick Chronicles

If you haven't read Dark Dates yet, (something you need to rectify right now)  this short story does contain some spoilers.  It's Christmas time in London and Cassandra is feeling down.  Christmas is a time of celebration and family but when your parents are dead and all of your friends died when you were in college, it's not hard to get a little bit depressed.  Her lover Cain is off doing his things and that leaves the vampire Laclos to attempt to gain her attentions. He is most certainly not above bringing his own mistletoe to secure a Christmas gift.

Wanting to give back to the community, Cassandra has decided to maintain her yearly ritual of working at a shelter.  Things go fine until a drunk man is denied entrance after claiming that a vampire ate his friends. Of course the workers at the shelter see Billy as just another one who has lost his way and give his tale little credence but Cassandra, with her ability to sense the supernatural is sure that Billy is telling the truth.  Determined to get to the bottom of what is going on, Cassandra enlists the help of  Medea and Katie.  Is there a rogue vampire preying on the population of London and if so, can Cassandra bring this to a stop without further endangering herself, her friends or her business? 

I kind of love that Laclos is one big walking vampire stereotype.  Seriously, a vampire who wears glitter, how can you not giggle at that?   Sinclair has once again filled her story with plenty of pop culture references and though Cassandra declares that she and her friends are not like Buffy and the scoobies the warmth and the budding relationship is clear to see.  I look forward to seeing how the relationship between Madea, Katie and Cassandra goes.  Clearly, Madea has moved from being an employ to someone Cassandra can count on.

I continue to have the same problem with Cassandra as I did in Dark Dates.  Unfortunately, every woman she sees is more beautiful than her and she seems to walk around with a constant sense of inferiority. 
While I was wearing a black dress now liberally streaked with glitter, she looked the epitome of style, as ever. Her red dress clung to every curve – and they were curves worth clinging to – jet black hair piled up in a loose chignon and secured with jewelled gold pins, the outfit completed by heels that would put me in hospital but that didn’t impede her elegant glide. Always beautiful, tonight she was radiant; her coffee coloured skin glowed, eyelids lined with kohl and slicked with some iridescent shade that brought out the dark chocolate of her eyes. I would have envied her, but some levels of beauty simply make envy redundant, and all you can do is admire them like a natural phenomenon. It would make as much sense to envy a sunset. Besides, despite her ability to render all women in the vicinity invisible to the human eye, I really liked Medea. (page 5)
 While I am tired of the ass kicking, bomb exploding female protagonist there has to be some middle ground between that and totes, everyone is more beautiful. The idea that someone is nice despite the fact that they are physically attractive is a problem. In this vein it makes women competition for each other than potential allies and friends.

This short story had a lot of GLBT representation as Madea and Katie who are a lesbian couple were very heavily featured. The love between Madea and Katie is very real and is actually the only established loving monogamous relationship in the series to date.  For me, in a genre that is filled with erasure, this is a huge win. 

I didn't realise in Dark Dates that Madea is a woman of colour.  I have to say that I really liked this.  Not only is she sensible where Cassandra is flaky, she confidant and happy. I like that she never slips into the role of wise person of colour and seems just generally to be a realist.

Another thing worth mentioning is the focus on homelessness and how needless it is in first world countries. Sinclair makes a point of discussing class and pointing out that including all of the privileges that come with being a vampire, Laclos has extreme class privileges.  She even discusses the fact that sometimes the desire to help someone comes from a place of self pity and wanting to someone worse off than yourself.  In many ways, though A Vampire Christmas is short, it is unflinching.

For me A Vampire Christmas is yet another winner from Tracey Sinclair.  I love the popculture references and I love that Cassandra is willing to do what she feels is right and fight with her purse as a weapon if she has to. The writing is fun and filled with social messages that urban fantasy hasn't bothered to pay attention to.  A Vampire Christmas is yet another winner for Tracey Sinclair and yes, I have officially become a fanpoodle of her work.