Robert R. McCammon: Under the Fang

Under the Fang

The HWA Anthology Edited by Robert R. McCammon

Cover art

In 1991, the first of a series of "shared world" anthologies the Horror Writers of America (HWA, now the Horror Writers Association) was published. The anthology, entitlted Under the Fang, was edited by Robert R. McCammon and Martin H. Greenberg, and featured stories from HWA members.

In a shared world anthology, different writers contribute stories that share settings, situations, and/or characters with the other stories in the collection. McCammon developed the "world" setting for Under the Fang.

The basic premise for Under the Fang is that vampires have taken over the world and there are pockets of humanity living "under the fang." The anthology is the first book McCammon has edited. "It's been a blast for me to do this. It's been exciting, with so many good ideas, and I wish I could have asked to see more stories," McCammon told Lights Out!

The anthology featured stories written by the HWA's lesser-known authors and such "established" members as Thomas F. Monteleone, Al Sarrantonio, Brian Hodge, Lisa Cantrell, Nancy A. Collins, and Richard Laymon. HWA president Chelsea Quinn Yarbro collaborated with Suzy McKee Charnas on a tale bringing together the two main characters from their vampire novels.

Robert R. McCammon's original premise for Under the Fang has been reprinted below with his permission.

Under the Fang
Copyright © 1989 by Robert R. McCammon

They've won.

They came in the night, to the towns and cities. Like a slow, insidious virus they spread from house to house, building to building, from graveyard to bedroom and cellar to boardroom. They won, while the world struggled with governments and terrorists and the siren song of business. They won, while we weren't looking. And now that we see them—now that we know them—it's much, much too late.

The ancient hordes are the conquerors now, and the remaining herds of humanity are living under the fang. From Moscow to Tokyo, New York to Los Angeles, the vampires have come to power, and what will they do with the world they've won through years of nighttime combats and bloodsucking in the dark?

Some humans have become their allies, walking an uneasy razor's edge of truce. The vampires need them, to watch the hiding places by day. Some humans will do anything for a taste of power—even power reflected from those that cast no reflection. But it's whispered through the villages and towns, from Europe to America, that the vampires are at work in the halls of science. They're creating hybrids of human and the living dead, and what might come of that combination no one knows. The vampires are creating their own economy, with their own structure of society: a nightmare world, with unholy religions and barter for blood and other things best kept secret. The vampires have their own entertainments, events that would make the most debased emperors of Rome blanch and sicken. The vampires have created coliseums and "entertainment" spectacles that harken back to the days of gladiators and Christians versus the lions, only these "entertainments" have a decidedly wicked vampiric bent.

But a few ragtag armies of humans remain, scattered in the desolate places. They vow to fight on, against overwhelming odds. The stories abound: some say the vampires, over the course of many years, have built underground railroads that carry cargoes of blood from point to point. Some say not all the vampires are evil, but that there are those in high places that are actually helping the human cause. And what of vampiric politics? Kingdoms rise and fall, cities become fortresses, wars between vampires are common horrors, and God help the human herds who get in their way.

Love among vampires? Is there such a thing? Perhaps there is. Hate there certainly is, and plenty of that. The vampires have taken control of television networks, satellite systems, radio stations, newspapers and magazines; they've created their own fads and sports, they make movies and write books in a bizarre mockery—some would say a twisted memory—of what it was like, a hundred years ago, to be human.

When did this begin? It's lost in myth. When will it end? That is a wish, as yet unknown. Until then, the society of vampires thrives on the dwindling human herds and the human soldiers captured in the endless war between the living and the dead. The vampires have their own version of a judicial system, their own torture chambers and executioners. It's said that some of the vampires have studied the black arts well, and have learned to truly hold hands with the Devil, while others curse the darkness and long for light. But, as in any species, the vampiric strain has a predominant need for survival, for the conquering of their environment and the continuation of their way of life—even if it is a life lived as a terrible echo of what humanity used to be.

Away with moldering caskets! Away with crucifixes and holy water! No garlic served here! The vampires are of the computer age, and the hideous future yet to be. Vampires in space? Exploring other worlds? Space stations and Star Wars manned by the undead? Vampiric scientists, creating what kinds of blasphemy in the labs? Vampiric ad agencies, promoting what products for the masses?

And where do we go from here, those humans who are left? Do we die as cattle, hanging from our heels and bleeding into bottles on assembly lines? Do we rise up and try to fight, or is fighting a useless dream? Where do we go, in a world transformed into a cauldron of black magic, dark hearts, and unholy desires? Is there any hope for humankind, crushed under the fang?

Or would it be easier—and so coldly sweet—to offer our throats and wrists and let the humanity rush out of us in a red tide, so we can learn what it's like to live forever?

© 2020 Robert McCammon Last updated 2020-07-17 00:17 Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha