Although we can easily celebrate Anne Rice for her reinvention of vampire literature (and for introducing not a small amount of homosexual erotica into the genre), I am more a fan of her non-horror work, most notably her erotica.
Anne Rice died recently. She was 80. And at this count, she has published over thirty books, thirteen being part of her “Vampire Chronicles,” which started with her Interview with the Vampire, published in 1976. One could easily argue Rice influenced “Twilight” and “True Blood,” and turned on a whole generation to the classic, sexy tropes of vampirism…not to mention bringing the homosexual touchstones of the genre to light, as I mentioned. But as I say, it’s books like her “Beauty” series, Exit To Eden (I warn you, never watch the movie made of this book!) as well as my favorite Anne Rice novel, and one of my favorite books of all time, Belinda, that cemented the lady in my mind as a wonderful writer.
In fact, it was the one-two publication punch, in 1985 and 1986 respectively, of two Anne Rice books that laid me out, as much as sang perfectly to my own writer’s journey. Yes, I know, we writers are a sad lot, so often trying to fit our imagined square peg into the round hole of some other writer’s career/journey/tribulations; it’s a form of hero-worship, so many of us do. But I bought a book called Exit To Eden in 1985, written by Anne Rampling, an author I had never heard of. I can still remember stretching for the hardcover in a mall bookstore, intrigued by the title.
Rampling was Rice, writing under a pseudonym, something nobody knew, even though Rice had a rabid fanbase at the time, of which I was one. Rice did not want to, as yet, ‘out’ herself for writing the erotic Exit to Eden. Fast forward a year later, Anne Rampling publishes the spectacular Belinda, this time though Rice lets the world know she is Rampling, by stating across Belinda’s cover: “Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling.”
Rice was letting the world know she was Rampling matched with the story of Belinda in that the lead male character comes to terms not only with the mystery of who Belinda is, but how the art he is suddenly creating because of her is going to change his life. This art, wildly different than the work that has made him rich and famous, could bring his mainstream career crashing around him if exposed. But on this new path, the man finds the truth of his life while creating his best work: just like Rice’s erotica vs. her vampire fiction.
For me, around this time, I was coming to write erotica. I had no idea I had a talent or even a genuine desire to do so, but once the stuff came flowing out of my pen (there were no computers way back when), I found it just as important as whatever else I was writing, some of which was children’s songs.
And the Anne Rice erotica doesn’t end there.
Beginning in 1983, Rice published the “Beauties” series under the pseudonym of A. N. Roquelaure. These books (they would come to a total of four in all) are kinky little spins on the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale. Again, here was another instance of Rice hiding (at least initially) fearing repercussions of outing herself for writing what is solidly BDSM literature, with a female sub. I can fully understand why she was treading with caution, as much because of the stuff she was better known for as how feminism viewed stories like this at the time. My friends and I devoured these books as well, kinky little fuckers that we are!
All good art is relatable to a broad human experience. This is why it touches so many and lasts so long. But not every artist’s story of creation relates. At that time, the Anne Rice/Anne Rampling interplay related to me personally and warmed my heart. And for me, this is how my tribute to this great writer spins. God’s speed Anne Rice.