Are There Lesbians? Yes
Gay Things! Finally! Laura lives with her father and two female teachers in a castle in Austria which is explicitly also mentioned to be in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowhere and suspiciously close to a creepy long-abandoned village. When Laura’s father agrees to take in Carmilla after her carriage crashes on the road outside their castle, the girls are immediately drawn to one another and Laura is caught up in the whirlwind of Carmilla’s changeable moods. When Laura’s health begins to deteriorate she and her father accompany an old friend on a picnic to said creepy abandoned village and the truth of Laura’s condition and Carmilla’s origins are revealed.
It is with utter relief that I write this. The problem with having a blog based in reviewing things solely on whether or not they contain lesbians is that you realise just what a dearth of feminine homosexuality there is in the market. Which was in part the reason for starting this blog – to help people find what little there actually is out there.
We’re popping back in time for this one – you’d think that the modern age would be one for the lesbian romances but in fact, Carmilla, is a classic – published in 1872 it predates Dracula by about 26 years. Knowing this, I found Carmilla much easier to read than I had anticipated, perhaps if it had been longer it wouldn’t have proved so, so I guess I also appreciate the length. It does however end rather abruptly – the majority of questions do get answered but this is mostly done through the outsider figures of the Baron Vordenburg and the General Spielsdorf.
One problem I do have with Carmilla being lauded as lesbian fiction is that the romance between Carmilla and Laura is explained away as a vampiric trait, the Baron Vordenburg mentioning that the vampire “is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence, resembling the passion of love, by particular persons.” This is not to say that Carmilla herself doesn’t have a marked preference for female victims, but such an explanation does undercut the whole thing. A second issue I have is that the romance seems almost entirely one-sided, Laura is more confused by Carmilla’s ardour than anything else, and repeatedly mentions that she is uncomfortable with its intensity. There is however, an interesting dialogue in Chapter IV where Laura discusses the complexity of her feelings. She mentions being “conscious of a love growing into adoration, and also of abhorrence” and also entertains the notion that Carmilla could be a “boyish lover” who “sought to prosecute his suit in masquerade.” This, I think, is the most telling argument for Carmilla as a work of lesbian fiction, and hints at something going on behind the scenes both physically and emotionally, that is not explicitly discussed within the body of the text as a whole.
If you’re looking for some good, old-fashioned vampire-related light-reading, this is definitely one for you. Carmilla has all the qualities of a gothic romance with the additional bonus of not only passing the Bechdel test and the Sexy Lamp Test, but also the single, defining “Are There Lesbians?” test.