Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn

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(1942-    ) US writer whose work of genre interest began with "The Posture of Prophecy" for If in 1969, and whose early work – like Time of the Fourth Horseman (1976), Cautionary Tales (coll 1978) and False Dawn (in Strange Bedfellows anth 1973 ed Thomas N Scortia; exp 1978) – was generally sf. Since then she has concentrated on Horror and Supernatural Fiction, and is now best-known for the Saint-German Vampire tales, the main sequence of which is Hôtel Transylvania: A Novel of Forbidden Love (1978), The Palace (1978), Blood Games (1980), Path of the Eclipse (1981), Tempting Fate (1982), The Saint-Germain Chronicles (coll of linked stories 1983), Out of the House of Life (1990), The Spider Glass (1991 chap), Darker Jewels (1993), Better in the Dark (1993), The Vampire Stories of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (coll 1994) and Mansions of Darkness: A Novel of Saint-Germain (1996). A second sequence, featuring Atta Olivia Clemens, Saint-Germain's lover is A Flame in Byzantium (1987), Crusader's Torch (1988) and A Candle for D'Artagnan (1989).

The 4000-year-old Saint-Germain – loosely based on the historical Count de Saint-Germain (?   -1784) – is perhaps the most extreme example to have become popular of the vampire as hero. He is saturnine and very attractive to women (like Lord Byron), but his powers are limited to his apparent Immortality and his paranormal strength; his vampiric kiss – described gently by CQY – is conceived of as a way of passing on the gift of life; his technical impotence (he is without semen), plus the fact that once transfigured into vampires his women can no longer sleep with him, generate a sometimes sentimental poignance. CQY likes Saint-Germain thoroughly, and, because of his wisdom, his learning and his gift of life, so (it seems) should we. Certainly most of the elements of horror in the sequence are generated by humans, not by the smooth swashbuckler Magus.

The sequence has not been published in order of internal chronology, and individual volumes tend to be relatively autonomous. The first tale is set in 18th-century France, and establishes the identity between the real and the fictional Saint-Germain; the second is set in 15th-century Florence; the third in Nero's Rome; the fourth in 13th-century Asia (featuring Genghis Khan); the fifth in 20th-century Austria; the sixth in ancient Egypt; the seventh in 16th-century Russia; and so forth. The stories are romantic and packed with historical verisimilitude. The Atta Olivia Clemens tales are darker and more violent, perhaps because, as a woman, Clemens is less in control of events.

Other works of fantasy interest by CQY include: Ariosto: Ariosto Furioso, a Romance for an Alternate Renaissance (1980), partly set in a world derived from Ariosto's own Orlando Furioso (1516-1532) and partly in an Alternate-World version of Renaissance Italy; The Godforsaken (1983), a Werewolf tale of the Spanish Inquisition; Beastnights (1989), a werewolf tale of contemporary San Francisco; and A Mortal Glamor (1985), set in 14th-century Avignon, where a convent is invested by the Devil.

CQY is a committed believer in Occultism and a professional Tarot reader. Unsurprisingly, her supernatural fiction is notable for a sense of advocacy – a sense that the strangenesses being described would do the world good, if only the world would listen. [JC]

other works: The Ogilvie, Tallant & Moon detective series, with some fantasy elements, being Ogilvie, Tallant & Moon (1976; vt Bad Medicine 1990), Music When Sweet Voices Die (1979; vt False Notes 1991), Poison Fruit (1991) and Cat's Claw (1992); the Michael series of occult quasifictional tracts, comprising Messages from Michael on the Nature of the Evolution of the Human Soul (1979) and More Messages from Michael (1986); Dead & Buried * (1980), a movie tie; Bloodgames (1980); Sins of Omission (1980); On Saint Hubert's Thing (1982 chap); CQY (1982 chap); Hyacinths (1983), sf; Nomads * (1984), a movie tie; Signs & Portents (coll 1984); Locadio's Apprentice (1984) and Four Horses for Tishtry (1985), both associational; To the High Redoubt (1985); A Baroque Fable (1986), humorous fantasy; Floating Illusions (1986); Firecode (1987); Taji's Syndrome (1988), an sf medical horror novel; The Law in Charity (1989), a Western; Crown of Empire (1994), #4 in the Crisis of Empire sequence created by David Drake.

Other work (as Vanessa Pryor): A Taste of Wine (1982).

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.