In less than 120 pages, Tansy Rayner Roberts has not only told a kick-ass series of interlinked stories in Love and Romanpunk, she has also, quite possibly, kicked off the next historical period for writers to mine. For such a slim volume, it packs a wallop.Rayner Roberts’s ancient Rome was infested with all models of allegedly mythical creatures, like harpies and basilisks. Most troubling are the lamias, which are vampire-esque bloodsuckers who favor adolescent boys. In the first short story in this chapbook, ‘‘Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary’’, we learn that those with some form of ‘‘Julia’’ in their name are strong and quick enough to make a dent in the undead population.
But the story doesn’t stop in Rome. In the next tale, ‘‘Lamia Victoriana’’, we move, natch, to Victorian-era Europe, then to modern-ish day Australian in ‘‘The Patrician’’, which can easily stand alone and should make it’s way onto a few best-of ballots, and, finally, to an airship-filled future in ‘‘Last of the Romanpunks’’. The airships, as Helen Merrick’s introduction to this short book explains, are what make it -punk.
The obvious comparison for Rayner Roberts’ work here is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They both have vampires, slayers, and meaty relationships. But Love and Romanpunk is its own, self-contained vision, one that turns the wit and heart up as much as any story could sustain. Rayner Roberts’ lean prose draws you in from the first few paragraphs and keeps that pace going straight through.