Pat, Marcella, and the KidDavid Lee Summers
What sort of fiction might one expect from a scientist? Meticulous? Wooden, perhaps? In the case of astronomers, imagination plays as important a role as scientific rigor in their work.
Soft-spoken Las Cruces astronomer David Lee Summers penned the novels The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars. He also edits and publishes the science fiction and fantasy magazine Hadrosaur Tales out of Mesilla Park, New Mexico. Along with small press venues, his short fiction has appeared in the pro market Realms of Fantasy.
While studying German at California State College in San Bernardino, Summers was bitten by the vampire bug via exposure to the 1979 Werner Herzog remake of Nosferatu. In October, he completed the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which, as of this writing, he's shopping around for publication. His chapbook, Pat, Marcella, and the Kid, is the third chapter. It appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of a magazine called Night to Dawn.
In Pat, Marcella, and the Kid, Summers relates the turn-of-the-century narrative of the beautiful Marcella Dubois. Fate corkscrews Marcella's life as a Louisiana schoolteacher when she has an encounter with seductive Frenchman, Roquelaur, who turns out to be neither gay nor married but a vampire.
When the lustful town preacher comes to call on the once-bitten Marcella under the pretense of concern for her welfare, budding vampiric instinct drives her to attack. The town's people throw her into a swamp as so much gator chow. Shaded from the sun, barely surviving for months on small creatures, she wastes no time when she happens upon two unfortunate hunters in a clearing: "... My teeth tore into his neck and I fed on that luscious human life—my breasts swelled ever so slightly—my thighs and calves firmed, giving me the strength to run after his friend. Before giving chase, I cradled the body of my victim and longed for my own lost humanity."
All of which brings us to the top of page four!
Thus strengthened, drawn by the lawlessness and, most importantly, the bloodshed of the Wild West, Marcella decides to eschew small towns. She lands in, ironically enough, Las Cruces ("The Crosses"), New Mexico. Since there aren't many openings for graveyard shift school marms, she procures a job at a cathouse called The Long Dobe, which suits her schedule and dietary needs nicely. "... Just a little blood. Not enough to kill. Leaving soon after, they would tell their friends to visit the French Gringa for the bite ..."
Marcella is swept off her feet by fellow Cajun Pat Garrett, and is not so swept off her feet by Henry McCarthy, better known as Billy the Kid.
If Summers' writing is meticulous, it's certainly not wooden (no stake intended), and imagination is one thing this astronomer has in spades. While I am not a fanatic for the bloodsucker genre, I expect that Vampires of the Scarlet Order will give it a creative transfusion.