"The Odalisque's Dream" by Katherine Harbour
"Lover's Triangle" by Colleen Anderson
"Ebb and Flow" by Patrick Thomas
"The Hunger Dance" by Krista Jones
Dreams of Decadence, subtitled Vampire Poetry and Fiction, is a full-sized, saddle-stapled magazine with a glossy, full color cover. The inside layout is clean and easy to read, and the stories and poems are accompanied by black and white artwork. The fiction and poetry are entirely devoted to the vampire genre, though this leaves plenty of room for inventiveness. Senior editor Angela Kessler offers four stories, along with 11 poems and a music review column.
"The Odalisque's Dream", by Katherine Harbour, is the first prose offering. In it, Hester, a young, spiritually inclined woman, struggles with her fascination and fear of a mysterious entity called the Odalisque. When the life of her friend is threatened, Hester must ultimately face a being that is anything but human. The writing here is descriptive and lush, but I have to admit to some confusion as to how everything works. There are hints of real magic and an easy acceptance of all that such magic might bring, but the way it all fits together never quite fell into place. Still, the detailed writing, an original vampire, and an interesting resolution make for an enjoyable read.
The strength of "Lover's Triangle", by Colleen Anderson, is its unique world. Agate, a mortal woman with a gift for telling fortunes, lives in a world populated by creatures that seem to be formed out of some strange mixture of technology and magic. She meets Gamaliel, a vampire, in a dance club and is irresistibly drawn to him. Her attraction wars with her upbringing and fears, and as she gets drawn in deeper she faces making a decision that could compromise all her beliefs. The most original aspect here is the world Ms. Anderson created, a world we don't get to see enough of since the story maintains a tight focus on Agate and her relationship with Gamaliel. Unfortunately, as far as stories about relationships between mortals and vampires go, this one didn't really add anything new, and Agate's reasoning behind the choice she eventually makes didn't strike me as particularly convincing.
"Ebb and Flow", by Patrick Thomas, also takes a look at a relationship between a vampire and a mortal, this time from a hunter/victim viewpoint. Layla is a former social worker who wages a constant struggle to retain her humanity after becoming a vampire. She meets Jerry, a 35 year-old mortal who is in the act of committing suicide by way of slitting his wrists. Before he passes, he and Layla share a conversation, the gist of it being Layla trying to convince Jerry that he shouldn't kill himself and Jerry steadfastly clinging to his decision. Layla was an interesting character, but this would have worked better for me if I had a more thorough understanding of Jerry and why he had made this choice.
Stepping outside the boundaries of the traditional blood-feeding vampire, Krista Jones gives us "The Hunger Dance." Nenya, a loner and subscriber to the Goth subculture, meets a stranger named Marcus in her favorite dance club (vampires and their victims obviously like to dance). Nenya's past haunts her deeply and Marcus is able to offer an opportunity for cleansing while at the same time taking a step closer to his own goal. Although many elements here are cliché (the mysterious attractive man who turns out to be a vampire, the mysterious attractive woman tortured by her past, the requisite Goth dance club), this story manages to transcend all that by delving into the characters and twisting the vampire legend just enough away from the norm.
Overall, this issue does a good job presenting what it sets out to present: stories involving vampires. They are nicely written, though for the most part they don't break any new ground. "The Odalisque's Dream" and "The Hunger Dance" skitter enough off the well-worn path to stand out–one because the vampire breaks the traditional vampire mold and the other because of the depth of character. More tales such as these would go a long way toward helping the fiction in DoD distinguish itself from the plethora of vampire hunts, vampire feeds, vampire makes little vampires, and mortal must choose between mortality and immortality stories out there.
David L. Felts is a webmaster and sometimes writer who currently resides in Palm Harbor, Florida. His stories have appeared in Writer's of the Future, Gothic Net, Neverworlds, Flesh and Blood, and others. He's also the publisher and editor of the hard-copy semipro magazine, Maelstrom Speculative Fiction (maelstromsf.tripod.com).