Monday, October 04, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 55

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Bram Stoker

The New Annotated DraculaUnlike many readers I've talked with over the years, I never had to read the classic piece of literature that is Dracula for a class in school. I read it on my own for the first time when I was about 14 or 15 years old. I've always had interests in speculative fiction, and at that age I hit a point where I realized I need to read not only the modern stuff, but I also needed to read the classics in the speculative genre.

Since I knew at a young age I wanted to be a writer, it seemed doubly important to me that I should read the classics in literature in general. And that's still important to me today.

In my 40s now, I've read Dracula several times over the last 25 or so years. Each time has been a different experience, teaching me different things as a reader and a writer.

One thing I've always loved about this novel is that it's influence upon modern vampire literature isn't as strong as its Hollywood versions. Yes, it sounds odd, but I actually enjoy the fact that Hollywood got it wrong so many times and has yet to actually come out with a movie that's much like the original novel. The one movie that has come closest, in my opinion, is the 1992 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and is called Bram Stoker's Dracula. Though my favorite Dracula-related movie has always been the original film version, the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu. Why do I love it so much that Hollywood, and the modern vampire genre, has gotten so much wrong when compared to the original novel? I guess because it makes me feel like I'm a member of some sort of secret club, those of us who are "in the know," so to speak.

And what kind of things have changed about vampires in our culture since Dracula was originally published? Well, for one, Dracula could go out in daylight, he just didn't have all his powers. And for another thing (SPOILER ALERT), Dracula wasn't killed by a stake through the heart or holy water or anything fancy like that. A good old knife did Dracula in in the original novel.

I like that.

Will I ever read Dracula again?

Probably, eventually, but I'm in no hurry. There's too much other great fiction to read!

Still, it will be nice once more to step back in time and traverse the Carpathian Mountains and the dark streets of London, England.

Up next: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court


Paul R. McNamee said...

Even better, it was TWO knives - Bowie knives, no less. Decapitation and through the heart.

Probably more thorough than any movie vampire killers managed, when you consider all the sequels ;)

A lot of people like Coppola's 'Dracula' and site it as close to the book. I didn't and don't. Large liberties were taken by adding a reincarnation love story.

The closest adaptation I have ever seen was the 1977 BBC television version, 'Count Dracula' with Louis Jordan. For years I raved about it - because it was so close to the novel. Now that I look back, I realize books and screen are two different mediums. Clinging to the novel so closely might not have been the best move.

Still, it's out there on DVD if you've never seen it and it's worth viewing. Though, it has the usual 1970s BBC drawbacks of a jolting switch between videotape interiors and film exteriors - and a horrible 'American/Texan' accent on Quincy Morris. (In the early days, the BBC actors seemed to believe all Americans spoke like John Wayne.)

I still think the novel was a watershed of horror, in many ways. Like Tolkien, too many people confuse the later imitators' material with the original stuff.

It's good to go back and see (read) for oneself.

Ty Johnston said...

Paul, thanks for letting me know about the '77 BBC version. I'll have to look for it.

"Watershed" is the right word. Too many seem to think vampires started with Anne Rice (not that she's the worst author in the world). Truthfully, even Stoker didn't kick of vamp literature, but he definitely got the ball rolling big time.

And for the record, I hate, hate, hate vampires that sparkle. They should all be staked. Or, um, Bowie knifed.

Paul R. McNamee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul R. McNamee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul R. McNamee said...

(sorry - wanted to get the link right. hate that comments can't be edited!)

OK - memory is faulty. One Bowie knife and one gypsy knife. (according to the differences listed on this page.)

Here is a Wiki page about the adaptation. I will also note that this 'Count Dracula' should not be confused with the 1973 'Count Dracula' - which was a NON-Hammer Christopher Lee appearance - though that also tried to stay closer to the novel.

Count Dracula ('77)