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Dec 12 2021
Anne Rice, VAMPIRE Queen, Dies @ 80 Comments (0)

Anne-rice-knopf-boycultureRice at the time of the publication of The Queen of the Damned (Image by Victoria Rouse/Knopf)

Anne Rice, the prolific novelist whose queer-friendly Vampire Chronicles — kicked off by Interview with the Vampire in 1976 — helped propel her to household-name status, has died following a stroke. She was 80.

In the '80s, when I still read books, I was wandering around Meijer's Thrifty Acres, a large sort of pre-Target we had in Michigan, looking to spend my money on vinyl and paperbacks. I had already, in my short life, consumed racy fare by Harold Robbins and (gasp!) V.C. Andrews, so maybe my softcare porn-dar was well-developed, because when I saw the cover for the paperback of Rice's Interview with the Vampire, by then an old book, I just knew it would have sex in it, and maybe even gay sex.

Rice's vampires don't have sex, but they experience all the longing and romance, and when I read her florid, easy-to-visualize prose, it felt like a gay kiss. I was hooked, and so were scores more LGBTQ readers, who she openly supported her entire career.

When I went back and read Cry to Heaven — about horned-up castrati — Jesus, it was even more intoxicating. It was a safe way to buy a “gay” book without arousing suspicion, all the while arousing me.

Anne-rice-vampire-boyculture(Images by Matthew Rettenmund via Knopf)

When I was in college in Chicago in '88, I was just beginning to explore the idea of meeting famous people at events when I heard Rice was having a book signing. I took the bus and showed up with my paperbacks and my Sting album (he had a song devoted to Rice's writing) and was shocked by the giant line. I don't think I'd know how popular she really was. I remember one thing that was funny was we were handed slips to write our names and any inscription we wanted, and one lady near me asked her to write, “Thank you for inspiring all my books, I couldn't have done it without you,” and she wrote it!

I'll have to check my journals, but my memory of meeting Rice was she was tickled to sign the Sting album and when I asked her about casting for a potential movie, she was high on Rutger Hauer as Lestat. (Sadly, we got dreadful Tom Cruise. She denounced that movie initially, as I recall, before settling down.)

I didn't keep reading her — or keep reading! — but I will always cherish her words.

Her death was announced by her gay novelist son Christopher, who wrote:

Dearest People of Page. This is Anne’s son Christopher and it breaks my heart to bring you this sad news. Earlier tonight, Anne passed away due to complications resulting from a stroke. She left us almost nineteen years to the day my father, her husband Stan, died. The immensity of our family’s grief cannot be overstated. As my mother, her support for me was unconditional — she taught me to embrace my dreams, reject conformity and challenge the dark voices of fear and self-doubt. As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions. In her final hours, I sat beside her hospital bed in awe of her accomplishments and her courage, awash in memories of a life that took us from the fog laced hills of the San Francisco Bay Area to the magical streets of New Orleans to the twinkling vistas of Southern California. As she kissed Anne goodbye, her younger sister Karen said, "What a ride you took us on, kid." I think we can all agree. Let us take comfort in the shared hope that Anne is now experiencing firsthand the glorious answers to many great spiritual and cosmic questions, the quest for which defined her life and career. Throughout much of her final years, your contributions to this page brought her much joy, along with a profound sense of friendship and community. Anne will be interred in our family's mausoleum at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans in a private ceremony. Next year, a celebration of her life will take place in New Orleans. This event will be open to the public and will invite the participation of her friends, readers and fans who brought her such joy and inspiration throughout her life.