Anne Rice—Author, Visionary, Immortal. May You Rest in Peace.
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Back when I was in 5th grade, I found a book in my house, and to this day, I'm still not sure where it came from. Up to that point, it was the single fattest book my 10-year-old self had ever seen. I thought some of Tolkien's books were long, but I never could have imagined that so many pages would fit inside anything other than a dictionary.
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
I was immediately entranced by the sheer heft of it, not to mention the beautiful cover art. Now, at this point in my life, I'd read so much, including occult studies, that I knew off hand precisely what the witching hour concept meant. But a whole 1,000 pages of a novel written about it?
I began reading it and found it impossible to put down. It was a story unlike anything I'd ever read. Which, looking back, still holds true, even though I was only 10 at the time. It may have been my first real Gothic supernatural horror story. It had a certain feel, impact, and a long-lasting effect.
Who was this Anne Rice that wrote it? And what else had she written?
I grew up in an incredibly rural place without a library or bookstore for miles. Not only that, but my childhood was in a part of the country that didn't take kindly to authors like Anne Rice. Being caught in possession of a book about vampires instantly got you tagged as troublesome—both at school and, well, really everywhere.
Still, I connected with it in a way that I never did with any other type of book. A few years later, the Interview With the Vampire film was released. I'd seen plenty of vampire movies before, as I grew up watching old Hammer Films and Full Moon B-movies. This one, though, was special. It was the first to breathe life into the vampire characters, to make them complex, and as a result, they felt authentic. Don't get me wrong, Bram Stoker's Dracula is a favorite, but Interview With the Vampire broke into entirely new territory.
I spent a lot of my childhood away from people. Rural living means no neighbors, and I homeschooled for years due to health problems. Finally, just before high school started, I ended up back in the public school system, with real people at an actual school building.
Obviously, I didn't fit in. Or, so I thought—at first. I found some people who weren't like the rest. The quiet ones, loners, all-black clothing, piercings, the ones hanging away from everyone else. The ones watching, suspiciously, from a distance. I learned pretty quickly that I connected with them.
How? I didn't grow up with them. I never knew these people, and I was never exposed to any so-called alt culture. And yet, it was easy for me. For us, to connect. I finally found others who not only knew who Anne Rice was but had read her work and loved it. Not only that, but the very nature of them felt genuine to me compared to most other people I'd met.
Most had some pretty messed up home lives and had already gone through more horrible things than anyone should in an entire lifetime—things that should never happen to children. Many who experience trauma early in life end up rejecting societal norms. And, why not? After all, society looked them straight in the eye and gave them that trauma. Then, set the blame squarely on the victims. We were damned.
In The Vampire Lestat, and then later in The Queen of the Damned, she introduced the character Akasha, the source of all vampires, connected to them all by the blood and spirit they collectively share.
Throughout my life, I've met others like me. We gravitate toward one another, toward the dark and macabre, individually and together. We form a different kind of culture, our own culture—one that raises an eyebrow at fake niceties and seeks to understand what terrifies others.
Through Anne's writing, she had cleverly woven an invisible thread that connected each and everyone one of us. It wasn't just her works, as her influence spread far and wide through the world, and it still touches us today. The effect of her work embodies the idea of her own character, Akasha, connecting like-minded people, the ones society has damned, with an understanding and spirit we collectively share.
Rest in peace, Anne, our Queen of the Damned. You will be missed. Your work has found its own immortality, and so have you. I never found out how your book ended up in my house, but I'm thankful that it did.