D is for Dracula


imagesI’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until last year (hangs head in shame).  I knew of it, of course.  I’d read Frankenstein and other classic horror, but somehow, I just never got around to Dracula.

That changed when I had an idea for a vampire story.  I started doing a great deal of reading on vampires on the internet, and pretty much smacked myself in the forehead when I realized that I’d skipped Dracula.  I had an idea what it was about, collected from other references, so I didn’t think it would offer me many surprises.

I ended up pretty much being wrong.  That’s the story of my life.

I never know if classic novels are going to be hard to get through or not, and this one turned out to be a really good read.  The creepy atmosphere gave me chills and made me want to stay inside after dark.  I didn’t sleep with a stake by the bed or anything, but… let’s just say I’m glad I enjoy garlic.

I’d gotten used to the modern vampire.  You know, the sexy one who can be domesticated and play nicely with humans.  I loved the fact that Dracula was straight up evil.  That he had his “human” personality, but when he was being a vampire, he could not be tamed, reasoned with, or seduced.  The only way out was to outwit him, use a stake, garlic, or a cross.

I don’t want my wolf to put on a sheep suit, sit at the table with me, and pretend that he’s not eyeing up my dog for dinner.  I want that wolf to have dripping fangs and red eyes, to growl and make his intentions clear.

Dracula reminded me of how scary horror can be.  Modern fiction wants antagonists who have motivation, who are understandable and maybe have sympathetic elements.  And while that’s great and all, sometimes, in fiction, I just want a bad guy to be a bad guy.

Life is complex.  Now and then, I just want my fiction to be black and white.

“How good and thoughtful he is; the world seems full of good men–even if there are monsters in it.”

-Bram Stoker, from Dracula

Happy Birthday, Vlad!

Today is Vlad the Impaler’s 580th birthday!  Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Dracula.

Vampires were known throughout time as corpse like creatures that fed on humans’ life force.  It was more of a spiritual thing than an actual “drinking blood” thing.  In 1819, a novella called The Vampyre by John Polidori was published, leading the evolution of vampires from something akin to an animated corpse to the suave and sophisticated creature more often written about today.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula came out in 1897, and is the quintessential vampire novel.  Most vampire novels share some similar characteristics.  Vampires have some sort of problem with sunlight, they feed off blood (most often human), and they’re immortal unless staked in the heart or cut off at the head.  Wood hurts them most.

While I wouldn’t call Twilight, by Stephenie Meyers, great literature, what was interesting about it as a vampire novel is that it broke many of the “molds” of other vampire novels.  Many vampire novels and movies make vampires at least a little scary along with sexy.  Twilight’s vampires are almost a sanitized version of vampirism.  In my opinion, one of the reasons it was successful is that it took an existing mold, and instead of being faithful to it, twisted it into something recognizable, but something different.

In writing, it can be hard to come up with new ideas.  Twilight shows that you can dust off an existing idea, perhaps even one that’s been done to death, and showcase it in a new and interesting way.

Here’s a link to an interesting “alternate” take on Twilight.  If you’re a Twihard, this might offend you…