Featured

Bram Stoker – Dracula: The Victorian Monster

May 26, 2015

Bram Stoker – Dracula

Dracula

The Victorian Monster

The origins of the modern vampire myth are taken from many alterations on the idea of vampirism in both popular culture, as well as folklore specific to certain areas of the globe. Specifically, the modern vampire is a breakaway from the first iterations of the literary vampire, and the most popular of these is, without any doubt, Count Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula. The vampire, the lord amongst the lesser of his line, is a monster by the same name, who rules his land as he has done for four hundred years, since his mortal inception, in the Romanian ruler, Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia. Stoker plucked this character from history, in order to create what, for the time of the novel’s publication, was a compelling villain. Vlad Dracula (meaning son of the dragon/devil, depending on the dialect and context) was a medieval ruler of Wallachia, fighting the Turkish infiltration of his orthodox country. He was, historically, a great ruler, cruel, but effective, and, were it not for Stoker, his name may have been lost in the annals of history, for being exceptionally cruel as he was by many modern standards, he was no more or less cruel than other ruling monarchs of the time.

There are many rumours about the practices of Vlad III, but very few certainties. What is known of him, was that he was prone to practices of impaling his enemies, and of harsh, torturous judgements on those that broke the law; theft and adultery were mercilessly punished, and it is said that a goblet of gold and jewels could be left at well springs for villagers to drink from, as no one would dare to steal under his rule. There are many rumours, of his practices; nailing hats to the heads of Turkish emissaries, cutting genitalia off of adulterers, and worse. And it has been said that he drank the blood of his enemies, those that were impaled for crimes against the kingdom. Many sketches of this ruler, portray him feasting in the midst of a forest of stakes. What is imperative to acknowledge here, is the image that this creates by modern standards, of a true villain. Not simply an antagonistic figure, but, a villain, who does evil, for the sake of the evil in himself that needs to be fed with cruelty and torture.

dracula_cover2

 

It stands to reason that the distinction between an antagonist, and a villain, ought to be taken into account at this juncture. Villains do not earn perspectives in any novel, or work of literature, however, antagonists may very well have their own perspectives, their own desires, that simply happen to counter-act the goals and ambitions of the hero(s). Those goals cannot be a simple need to perform evil acts. A serial-killer who knows that his actions are evil and cruel, and continues with that chosen path irrespective, torturing, raping, killing, with seemingly no reason other than it makes him/her feel alive, is not a compelling antagonist. Villainous, yes, fear-inducing, but, not necessarily sympathetic by any means.

The character of Dracula, as seen in the Stoker novel, is no antagonist, though he has goals, his goals are not flushed out clearly. One could assume that, he strives to escape the “old world” that he has presided over for such a period of time. As it is isolated, and, night by night, becoming more so. For a creature that requires people to live, to feed, on warm, human blood, sensibly, he needs to move forward, and, that is the plan that he sets forth. All this is perfectly reasonable. It is a clear ambition, with evident imperatives, drawn from his lacking physical security. But that does not explain his a-moral nature, his actions; his cruel disregard for human life.

The structure of Dracula is, typically, the formation of a group of “good” people, enveloped in darkness, and fighting against it. Notably, the “darkness” to which we refer here, in a Victorian age, is the fear of that which lies beyond the boundaries of the West, the civilised, progressive world. Dracula, the character, is a symbol of that which Stoker intended to represent as wicked. Sexuality, the darkness of the Eastern reaches of Europe, non-Christian values, and, generally, the fear of that which stands outside the boundaries of Victorian civilisation and comfort.

If we break the story down, what we see is, the darkness, trying to seep out of its own world, and into the modern world, to infect it, spread its blood-drinking, mindless spawn, by feeding an unquenchable hunger, that, somehow, is spread through a series of feasts that are sexually heated with the closeness of flesh against flesh. A small bastion of light, strong, cultured and accomplished men, bolstered by a strong feminine presence, set out to fight against the darkness. And somehow, these few good men, chase it back to its homeland, far from the safety of their world, where it is now banished, and destroy the evil, and return to the sanctity of their faithful universe, free of the darkness, and somehow unaffected, in spite of it having touched some of them personally, infectiously.

tumblr_md6cl6dhmm1qd6pkuo8_500

There is a misconception, that Dracula is a Byronic Hero, that, he introduces the concepts of sexual freedom, and non-Christian values, and, the East, as a whole, and all the alternative elements that it represents, to the cloistered comfort of that which is known and trusted. That Dracula is, in fact, misunderstood, by the heroes, when, deeper, he is a romantic soul, buried beneath all the hints at his cruelty. But, truthfully, in the original text, there is no indication of the character’s misperceived “dark romance.” In fact, this view, is, more likely than not, a cross-contamination with later iterations of the text in film, and unofficial sequels. Francis Ford Coppola made of Dracula a sorrowful figure, cruel out of his own loneliness and possessiveness of the character of Mina Murray, who so resembles his dead wife. In the text, Dracula, there is no romantic connection between Dracula and Mina. He is described as repulsive, with hairy palms, and foul breath, that, even as he seduces his victim, violates them, also inspires disgust and hatred in them. And his “tryst” with Mina, as he forces her to take his blood, and slowly become like him, is nothing more than a form of punishment against her “men” who dared to stand against him and thwart his plan. At no point, does the character display aspects of humanity, moral equivocation. He remains, from the beginning to the end of the novel, purely monstrous and despicable, and his ultimate destruction, comes as a relief.

If there truly was an aspect of heroism to the character, his death would have had a bittersweet note of sorrow to it. Relief at his destruction, with a twang of regret. But, no. It remains a blessing, when the good finally crushes the dark, the monster that threatens the sanctity of their world. Where sexuality is kept hidden, and faith is sacred, and culture holds no surprises, or threats of change and, dissonance. With age, popular culture becomes high literature. And so, Dracula, a horror novel, written by a relatively unknown author, grew from near obscurity, to a standard study in classic literature. But its themes are not deeper than they may at first appear. What stands out on a first reading is, almost entirely, the full depth and content of the piece. Dracula is no hero. And, for this reason, he is more compelling, in deviations from the text, than he is in the original.

Print Friendly
Featured

Secrecy and Vampires

March 15, 2015

Untitled

 

Vampire Bibliographica is the pet project and author page of author and general wordsmith, Carmen Dominique Taxer. All articles posted here are written by Carmen, unless specified otherwise.

A guest post by Richard T. Wheeler, co-founder, and writer, of Sanguinem Emere and webmaster at DauntlessWriting.com and RichardTWheeler.com

Secrecy and Vampires

If they existed, chances are we wouldn’t know about it.

What would be the natural result if vampires “came out of the coffin” today, and conclusively revealed their existence to mankind? We have many literary examples of this event in our milieu, notably the Southern Vampire Mysteries, also known as The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris. How would people react? In the Vampire Mysteries, the whole event is treated to some extent like a mass LGBT outing, complete with political television debates and rallies for and against, religious extremism and divided families. Would it be that blazé?

Why such an event would even occur? What would vampires gain from outing themselves?

Let’s look at possible benefits:

Outed, vampires can more directly influence policies to benefit them. I’m reaching, I can feel it. Whether or not they would be able to pass any suggestions into law is a pretty slim hope, because of simple mathematics. There are a lot more of us than there are them. Why would sheep accept and acknowledge the presence of wolves? And then go ahead and give them rights?

Maybe vampires want mainstream acceptance and love. They are (mostly) human after all. That might be fine for a paraphiliac in love with the Great Pyramid of Giza, because she is not likely going to eat you, after she eats your children. Would you love and accept something that must cause harm to the people you love simply to be? Small chance there then as well.

These are both slim benefits. The truth of the matter is vampires must hide to survive. The sheep outnumber the wolves a million to one, not to mention that the sheep are fanatically protective, religiously delirious, and above all heavily armed and industrious. The moment vampires are revealed as the apex predator, they cease to be the apex predator. For reference, see every predator that ever deigned to eat long pig.

An argument can be made for veggie vamps, such as the toothless muppets that make up the Cullen’s in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, but even there, the temptation is too great for any fanger worth his sparkles to resist for too long. When you’re immortal, eventually might as well be today. They seem to be the exception, rather than the rule. Besides, do you want to be the self-righteous vegetarian at a table full of full blooded, proud and suck-in-their-ways master hunters? You are already a pariah as a vampire, (the outsider is the point of vampire literature as an entity), why alienate yourself completely amongst the few peers that you might have? And wasn’t the whole of vampire kind bent on ruining the Cullen’s baseball game by the end? If I remember correctly, they were only saved by bad writing How it Should Have Ended: Twilight.  So that’s not an option really. In the high-school clique that is the vampire social structure, the trend is to pick on the weird ones, and executing them if they seem like even the slightest threat to your eternal prom.

nightmare650x440

 

What would they lose?

How long would it take for the religions of the world to universally call vampires the agents of the devil? Is there a negative unit of time in existence? What then? Religion still has a lot of fans. I used the word “fans” because it’s the derivative of the word “fanatics”. There would be a holy target for the holy mother church to levy her holy hand grenades of Antioch at for the first time in centuries. On a rational note, every vampire in existence is a serial killer. Every single one. Even the ones that say they never killed anyone, for reference, read any vampire book, any. If the law can get to the vampires before the church does, the whole lot will undoubtedly be up for several life terms, which would be inconvenient. More likely, there would be some sort of worldwide vigilante mob storming every precariously positioned castle on every mountainside on earth. Humans usually kill for less than that. Daddies already want to put a bullet through that misbegotten boy on the porch’s fat head for wanting to stick his man-jubblies into his daughter, what wouldn’t he do to protect her from fang-rape?

So it makes sense for vampires to hide.

The kindred of Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem by White Wolf Games both build their society around a tradition of hiding from their food in what they sensibly term “The Masquerade.” In literature, at least some effort seems to be expended to hide the monsters from the outside world, with the notable exception of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles where indiscriminate prostitute killings in hotel rooms and vampire vocalists are more the norm.

However, even in cases like that, would a few bitten and bloodless streetwalkers be enough to out vampires to the world? Let’s say Lestat gets a bit messy and leaves the one or two evildoers per night for the cops to find. What then? Would a coroner, whose professional opinion is the difference between an innocent man incarcerated and a mass murderer free to go, risk the psyche evaluation that would result from a verdict of: “Yep, that’s a vampire bite all right. Incisors are the right length. Neat too, must be an old one.” Murders happen all the time, we’re a vicious enough bunch as a species to hide the one or two odd vampiric screw ups in a tidal wave of mundane cadavers. At worst, a serial killer or a satanic cult would foot the blame, and there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but no public outcry to take out vampire-kind once and for all. Even if the coroner was convinced of a vampire pandemic, would he risk his career, as well as all the cases where his opinion was used as evidence to convict real, human bastards, in order to out a mythological creature?

What if a vampire decided to out vampire-kind as a sort of suicide bombing of an entire race? To try and entice humans to eradicate him, and his ilk, due to terminal self-loathing? Do yourself a favor and Google “Real Vampires on Youtube.” At best, he will be patronized. At worst, he will be given air-time and mocked. I suspect that his fellow non-suicidal suckers might not take too kindly to it and deal with it in some manner. Let’s say our suicidal twit gets himself to a biologist or an anthropologist and convinces the poor sot that he’s real. Do you have any idea how long it takes to be published in an academic journal? Not to mention that the reply to the first thousand requests for peer-review would be: “Are you kidding me? Is this a joke?” In either event, it’s more than enough time for his non-suicidal fellows to apply PR-fu and make the whole thing go up in a torrent of ennui at the attention whore, where after he can be carefully disappeared into the Battycave Asylum for the Terminally Stupid (or BATS, for short).

Now let’s assume that vampires have the notion that it’s in their best interest to be secretive. Secrets are known to make it to the light of day, and mysteries have a habit of being solved. Humans are inquisitive little buggers. Tell a really juicy secret to one person and it might as well have been broadcast over the internet. It is for this reason that most conspiracy theories are bull. (How many people would be required to remain resolutely quiet to make the staging of 9/11 plausible? Probably more than one, thus no chance of that secret being kept.) But what needs to be taken into consideration here is that vampires universally have superpowers. They can read and alter thoughts, their blood is an aphrodisiac drug that enslaves, they are as strong as ten men and they live a long, long time. With multi-generational experience of hiding and a culture of secrecy, it might be impossible for us to ever know whether they exist.

However, accidents happen, victims escape, things are seen that beggars belief. What of those who meet a vampire and live to tell the tale. But would anyone believe them? Would they believe themselves? An entire field of psychological study is devoted to the ability of the human mind to repress painful, shocking memories, and to cope with them. Humans can survive horrific amounts of physiological and psychological trauma more or less intact.  Over time, maybe the encounter with the dashing stranger that bit my neck in the midst of mind blowing sex might be remembered a little differently that what actually occurred. What if a group of people saw the same thing? Witness reliability and credibility is a sketchy thing at best http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witness#Reliability and with the subject material so unbelievable, would they look at each other and wonder if they’ve gone down the deep end of Lalaland?

Vampires don’t have it all their way. Some strong willed people will remember, will hold on to the idea of what they saw was real, and it would make them not scared, but angry. They will not tell anyone, but they will look at the world differently. Soon, they will start employing that unique human attribute of creativity and will to try and solve the problem that only they have, to solve the problem that they know that there are wolves among the sheep. Daddy’s got something to aim his gun at now. For this reason alone, vampires should be picky eaters and clean up after themselves. You can never tell when your dinner will want to make a meal of you. These individuals will start frequenting hotspots, following up leads, listening to those who no one else will listen to, and start learning. They believe, and they’re pissed. For the vampire’s sake, they hope that the fledgling vampire hunter is impatient and strikes out unprepared when faced with his tormentor, so that that little error does not go nuclear. If the hunter is cautious, and patient, well, the strength of ten men is of little help if you’re caught in a septic tank filled with napalm at midday. Vampires would tell of other members of their immortal fraternity that got ganked by hunters because they left their toys out, and use it as a lesson to younger ones to always make sure that they take out the trash.

We might never know

Sadly, the odds are against us ever finding out whether our favorite predators exist. Their culture of secrecy, the implausibility of scientific proof of the supernatural, and even our own minds conspire against our ever living in a world where Lestat’s existence would be widely accepted. Poo. I’m a little sad now.

Print Friendly
Featured

Vampire Bibliographica

July 30, 2012

‘sanguinis conjunctio benevolentia de-vincit homines et caritate’

Carmen-650x440

Vampire Bibliographica is the pet project and author page of author and general wordsmith, Carmen Dominique Taxer. All articles posted here are written by Carmen, unless specified otherwise.

When I was a little girl, I dreamt of vampires.

Never before has that line felt more appropriate. But what does it mean? When I was younger it meant that something was inherently wrong, a knotted psyche, a confused mind driven to sadism for amusement – a broken child that must be saved before it is too late.

“Too late for what?” You may ask. And to that I have no answers. It is a question which plagued me for over a decade. Why could I not love vampires in the liberation of my own preferences? Why must people glance sideways at me with concern, fear, and disgust? Had I opted for this? Was it a conscious decision on my part? I hardly think so. I don’t recall ever sitting by my book shelf, pondering what to read and actively deciding that I would prefer novels about blood drinkers over all others.

No. In fact, I recall quite clearly how I tried to stifle it. How it would sneak up on me and enthral me when I least expected it to, and my sub-conscious mind would recreate the vampire genre in my mind as I sat trying to ignore it. I would dream about vampires and wake up miserable that I could not shake the notion from me.

In short, I tried to squash the urge, I tried to shy from my nature, but it hounded me.

Now I choose to revel in it. And why not? In this society we embrace the vampire. We love him, adore him, make movies about him, write about him, and veritably wish him into our lives. Perhaps we even take it too far. But really, why fear something that has no basis in reality? Why be afraid of the urging within us that entices us to want that darkness?

It is a secure lust, a longing that will only lead to a surge of creativity, nothing more diabolical than that. Not the cataclysmic turn of events our parents expected when we were young.

When I was a little girl, I dreamt of vampires.

And I have done so every night since.

As vampire novelists, authors Richard T. Wheeler and Carmen Dominique Taxer have devoted a vast portion of their existences to the exploration of the vampire genre. This includes the implications that such a genre may have on real world ideals as well as human understanding and psychological stability. Their first book in a three-part trilogy, Bought in Blood, is currently published with Amazon.com and is intended to explore the literary vampire through the microscopic lens of what they refer to as ‘The Sangunem Emere Universe.’

Having revamped the series, “Nightfall on New Babylon,” the first in the new Sanguinem Emere series, is available through amazon.com

The intention behind Vampire Bibliographica is to give vampire enthusiasts a demesne in which to explore vampires, their origins, their future, and the genre they inhabit.

Print Friendly