I sometimes buy vintage fanzines on eBay or, occasionally, at a local second-hand shop. I have no memory of picking up the first two issues of the vampire zine Pernicious Anaemia, so I’m guessing that I must have got them as part of a bulk purchase at the latter outlet.
Bound in black tape at the English village of Tividale, Pernicious Anaemia was published circa 1990. Neither instalment contains a specific date, but the second issue identifies Susy McKee Charnas’ 1980 novel The Vampire Tapestry as having come out ten years previously, giving a pretty good clue as to the zine’s vintage.
Not only is this before Twilight, Buffy and True Blood, it is before Gary Oldman swooped across our screens in his much-ridiculed bouffant. Aside from the immortal works of Bram Stoker and Sheridan le Fanu, the dominant texts for a young vampire enthusiast of this period would have been Salem’s Lot, Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Anne Rice’s first three Vampire Chronicles books and television repeats of old Hammer films. A quite different scene to today.
Searching online, I was able to find exactly one reference to the fanzine’s existence: a post at (where else?) Vault of Evil.
The Tividale-based Pernicious Anaemia (1990) is one of the few I’ve a complete run of (1-3). The articles are pretty much what you’d expect – Elizabeth Bathory, Dracula on stage and screen, C. Lee, a review of Near Dark, etc. – but the fiction is something else. All the stories are written from the vampire’s point of view and there’s a sincerity and conviction about them that I still find adorable.
The fanzine’s creators worked under pseudonyms, with all artwork in the first issue credited to “Jezebelle”. I was a teenager of the 2000s, and while a number of my angsty online peers drew vampires, they invariably imitated manga artwork. Jezebelle, on the other hand, seems to have been trying to emulate Harry Clarke, or perhaps Aubrey Beardsley.
“Gehenna” was the zine’s resident fiction author. They contributed two pieces to the first issue: “Imagine” and the BDSM-tastic “Heart of the Hunter”.
“Joachim”, meanwhile, was interested in what went on behind the scenes of the most famous vampire story of all: in issue 1 he provided a potted biography of Bram Stoker, while issue 2 discusses the stage and screen incarnations of Dracula. Above is an excerpt from the Stoker article.
Another non-fiction contributor was “Saul”, who wrote an article about Vlad the Impaler. The first page is above.
“Ianoe” was also interested in the supposed truth behind the vampire legend. Their first-issue contribution discusses modern-day vampire beliefs, mentioning the Highgate Cemetary vampire and the death of Demetrious Myiciura, who accidentally choked on some garlic while trying to ward off evil.
The issue is rounded out with three reviews credited to “The False Prophets”. These mysteriously-monickered critics cover Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned (“these books lead us to see vampires not as ravening monsters but as creatures, almost human, desperately striving to find truth and meaning in their immortality”), Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers (“The strength of the film lies in its scenes of nudity and lesbianism rather than in gouts of fake stage blood”) and the short stories of Clark Ashton Smith (“Caught between the love of a vampire and a human… the hero chooses the beautiful vampire. We would have done the same”).
Finally, the back cover showcases a creative collaboration between artist “Vanity” and poet “Ianthe”.
So, there we have it: a fanzine put together by (I presume) teenage goths in a small West Midlands village a little over a quarter-century ago. It is easy to forget now, in our current era of WordPress, that even the most amateurish fan project of this type would have taken a great deal of passion to put together and distribute. So, hats off to the creators of Pernicious Anaemia: their youthful enthusiasm for their chosen subject matter shines through.
I will be scanning issue 2 shortly.