Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Widget the Comment Watcher

Look to your right, and you'll see that I've added the "Recent Comments" widget to my page. If you're a fellow Blogger blogger and you wanna add it too, then click here.

If you want to know what this blog entry's title obscurely puns, then click here.

Nothing to do with vampires, I'm afraid. But something just as freaky.

Manchester Vs. Miller

I was originally going to post this on my other blog, but decided it'd be more fitting here.

An anonymous poster I affectionately refer to as "TFO" (also given coverage here), left a comment on "The Mystery of Luisa, Pt. 3". It criticised Elizabeth Miller's coverage of Sean Manchester's theory on the historical identity of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, in her book, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense (Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex: Desert Island Books Limited, 2000):
The Vampire Research Society has had several confrontational run-ins with Elizabeth Miller who has her own personal agenda and allegiances in the subculture. She has been found wanting on a number of occasions.

For example, Elizabeth Miller’s treatise on the novel Dracula in the year 2000 refers to what readers are told is an argument put forward by Seán Manchester, but, in fact, is a quote from established error in Carol Page’s "Blood Lust" published nine years earlier.
Let's take a look at what Miller actually wrote (p. 111):
In fact, this line of debate has resulted in outrageous conclusions, most notably by Sean Manchester who argues that the fifteenth-century Hungarian leader Janos Hunyadi "fits the bill [as the model for Dracula] much better [than Vlad], since he was a count, and Vlad wasn't.
Miller is referring to the occasional habit of some writers to "correct" Count Dracula's title, as the real Dracula was a voivode.

She points out that to do so is nonsensical, as Stoker's Dracula was a fictional creation, not an accurate rendering of a fifteenth century Wallachian warlord.

Now, let's take a look at what Sean Manchester's theory actually consisted of.

If we turn to pages 82-83 n1 of his book, The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London's Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (London: British Occult Society, 1985), we find this:
Philologists at the Sixth Congress of Onomastic Sciences in Munich in 1958 designated Vlad Tepes, who ruled Wallachia from 1456-62 and again briefly in 1476, as Bram Stoker's Dracula. Since then virtually every writer on the subject unquestioningly endorsed this theory. This author, however, does not and identifies Janos Hunyadi (1407-56) as the historical Dracula.
Under what justification?
Stoker describes Dracula as having the title Count of Beszterce which was historically one of the titles of Hunyadi, as was Voivode (govenor) of Transylvania and Count of Temes (now Timis, Romania).
"Beszterce", it should be noted, is the Hungarian name for Bistriţa, referred to by its German name, in Stoker's novel, as "Bistritz". To my knowledge, the Count doesn't explicitly refer to himself as the Count of either of these places. Although, I'm happy to be corrected.

Also, as you can see, even though Miller quotes secondhand and paraphrases, Manchester's references to Hunyadi's titles of "Count" as opposed to Vlad's, are clear indications that Manchester considers these "discreprencies" to be valid enough for inclusions in his argument.

On with the theory:
Hunyadi was the most successful military leader against the Turks in the fifteenth century, which again fits Stoker's description.
Then why is Vlad considered to be a national hero by many Romanians? Oh, that's right - for leading attacks against the Turks.

Here's more on the theory:
Vlad the Impaler, on the other hand, was in the wrong geographical location and spent a great deal of time in prison.
As it happens, Vlad was actually born in Transylvania. Maybe he came home?

Second, considering that Castle Dracula (as Stoker describes it, at least) does not actually exist, then how can the geographic description be wrong?

Again, we're talking about a vampire Count, here. Not a real guy.

And here's the conclusion of the theory:
When Hunyadi died on 11th August, 1456, it was from an epidemic of plague at a time when plague was strongly associated with vampirism.
That would hinge largely on one's interpretation of "vampirism". I challenge anyone to find examples of supposed bloodsucking corpses, in association with the plague, roaming about at this time. I can almost guarantee you'll come up lacking.

While Hunyadi did die of the plague, you certainly won't find any references to him returning from the grave as a vampire, either.

He's regarded by Romanians and Hungarians, as a national hero, himself.

So, in conclusion, did Miller jump the gun on Manchester?

Yes and no.

Her secondhand overview of his theory is a tad too simplistic and dismissive, but, on the other hand, Manchester's theory doesn't hold up well under even the most basic scrutiny, either.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Will the Real Bram Stoker's Dracula Please Stand Up?

I've been re-reading Lyndon W. Joslin's Count Dracula Goes to the Movies: Stoker's Novel Adapted, 1922-1995 (Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1999) and it's got me thinking.

Why hasn't anyone done a proper adaptation of Stoker's novel?

I mean, if you read Joslin's synopsis of the book (pp. 7-10), it's all fairly straightforward. What's the challenge? What's the hold-up?

The closest it's come to a faithful rendition, in my opinion, is Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). It retains all the major characters, most plot points...but then incorporates a whole reincarnation-love story subplot.

Christopher Lee played Dracula several times, in several movies, yet in only one does his look conform with Stoker's description.

He's definitely one of the best actors to play the part. He's got the look. He's classically trained. I think.

He's even passionate enough to expresses exasperation over Dracula movies straying from the source:
The subsequent Dracula stories, after the first one, got so far away from the original conception, not only in the character but in the stories themselves, which had absolutely nothing to do with Stoker. The same thing happened with the Fu Manchu films. The producer bought the rights to all Sax Rohmer's stories about Fu Manchu, ignored them and then wrote his own. Something quite beyond me, I can't understand it. But I had read the books as a boy. I knew what the character was, because I knew how the author described him, so I played him the way that the author described him. It wasn't necessarily what was in the script. And the same thing applied to the character that I played in the Dracula movies. I tried to play the character the way that the author described him, but it wasn't in the script.
This is a golden opportunity, Hollywood! Or BBC, if you're reading.

Let's finally get a faithfully rendered Dracula movie up and running!

I mean, what do I have to do? Write the damn screenplay myself...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Theresa Bane Responds

In "Let's Hope These Wishes Come True", I referred to Theresa Bane's Actual Factual: Dracula, A Compendium of Vampires (Randleman, NC: NeDeo Press, 2007) as, "another mere catalogue of vampire "species"".

Well, it appears that she took offense to my statement.

Here's a snippet from her comment to the aforementioned blog entry:
I don’t know if you have seen or even read my book, “Actual Factual Dracula: a Compendium of Vampires,” but it is not “just another” encyclopedia of vampires listed by species.
You can read my response here.

Something They May Live to Regret

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series seems to have surpassed J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter franchise in terms of hardcore literary-based fandom.

What makes me think that? Check out CelebrityFIX's "Die-Hard Twi-Hards Show Off Their Twilight Tattoos" for a hint.

The article ponders on the possible hastiness in getting such artwork etched into their skin:
Sure, some of them will probably still be die-hard Twi-hards even when they have to zimmer frame it to the video store, but for others we're guessing the teen angst will wear off long before the tattoo ink fades.
It is also accompanied by a gallery of 17 body art tributes to their favourite young adult fiction vampire series.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vampirologist Uncovered!

Although there's a vast array of books written on vampires, very few authors readily identify themselves as vampirologists.

Off the top of my head, only Jeanne Keyes Youngson (Private Files of a Vampirologist, 1997), Stephen Kaplan (Vampires Are, 1984), Sean Manchester (The Vampire Hunter's Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide, 1997) and Theresa Bane (Actual Factual: Dracula, A Compendium of Vampires, 2007), come to mind.

So, it's great to see a new addition to this lot: Joe Nickell.

His "Vampirologist" page admittedly doesn't indicate many contributions to the field, but it's good to see that he has no qualms in adopting the title.

Even if he lists it as one of his many "Personas".

Let's Hope These Wishes Come True

I recently posted a sample of some of the books on my Amazon Wishlist over at Magia Posthuma.

Niels followed it up with "Back and Online...", adding:
As yet I have only seen the list, and I confess that I am pretty sceptical about most of the titles, but I am grateful that this 'Amateur Vampirologist' has shared the list.
This is a reference to their dubious quality for the sake of serious vampire research.

I admit that I was somewhat enthused about the dearth of new titles on offer in the coming year, as well as the year to follow. And believe you me, it's no easy feat searching through ream upon ream of vampire book listings on Amazon, especially with the vague search term of "vampires". I wish they had a better "catalogue", that is, something to sort the non-fiction stuff from the fiction. Like subject headings.

Anyway, I'll share some of the titles I'm particularly keen on purchasing...when the money's there, of course. I'll also concentrate on the ones that haven't been released yet. Here goes:
Title: Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend
Author: Mark Collins Jenkins
Release Date: February 16, 2010.
Why Do I Want It?: There's no product description of this book, but the title alone grabs me. If it's anything like Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (1988), then it's got the potential to be a classic. Apart from that, examining the vampire through archaeology (as I presume this one will do), is certainly a worthy - and highly valuable - perspective for the genre.

Title: Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture
Author: Mary Y. Hallab
Release Date: October 8, 2009.
Why Do I Want It?: Modern pop-culture has elevated the vampire into an archetype. It's an icon worthy of dissection, but I hope it's not another literary retread through the same old Varney, Carmilla, Dracula stuff.

Title: The Weiser Field Guide to Vampires: Legends, Practices, and Encounters Old and New
Author: J. M. Dixon
Release Date: October 1, 2009.
Why Do I Want It?: If I can be superficial for a moment: the cover looks pretty. Also, the concept of a field guide - while nothing really new - is somewhat balanced out by the subjects the subheading indicates will be explored.

Title: The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires
Author: Theresa Cheung
Release Date: October 1, 2009.
Why Do I Want It?: I hope it's not another mere catalogue of vampire "species" like Thersa Bane's Actual Factual: Dracula, A Compendium of Vampires (2007). That said, you can never have enough vampire encyclopedias! They make excellent reference sources in a nice, digestible format. J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994; 1999) leads the pack, so far.

Title: Real Vampires, Night Stalkers and Creatures from the Dark Side
Author: Brad Steiger
Release Date: September 1, 2009.
Why Do I Want It?: I'm interested in the angle of presenting vampires as actual, real-life, supernatural beings. Not that I necessarily believe in their existence, of course, but it'll be interesting to see how Steiger - better known for his works on aliens - presents his case. One of my favourite examples of this rare subgenre (especially in modern works) is Martin V. Riccardo's "Vampire Haunts" chapter in Rosemary Ellen Guiley's The Complete Vampire Companion (1994).
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