Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daniel Farson's Great-Uncle

Finished reading Daniel Farson's The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker (London: Michael Joseph, 1975), today.

Soon after the hundred and thirteenth anniversary of its publication, as it turns out.

A few items of note: firstly, Farson (1927-1997) was Stoker's great-nephew. Here's the lineage, as explained by Farson:
Bram was named after his father, Abraham, a civil servant in Dublin Castle. His mother, Charlotte, may have been twenty years younger than her husband but was the more formidable personality with a vaulting ambition for her five sons, though little time for her two daughters. Her father was Lieut. Thomas Thornley (1796-1850) of the 43rd Reg and married her mother, Matilda Blake, in 1817. Bram's elder brother, William, became known as W. Thornley Stoker. Tom, my grandfather, was two years younger (13).
This lineage has also been exploited by Dacre Stoker, Bram's great-grandnephew, who recently co-wrote an "official" sequel to Dracula, called Dracula: The Un-Dead.

But I digress.

The second item of note is Farson's discussion of "The Dracula Game" (152-161), which concerns the then-burgeoning forays into Dracula scholarship, specifically the psychological interpretations of Bierman ("Dracula: Prolonged Childhood Illness and the Oral Triad"), Royce MacGillivray and Shuster's "Dracula and Surgically Induced Trauma in Children".

Farson is astute in noting that
Playing the Dracula Game is fun, but too easy. The simple explanation, that Bram Stoker sat down to create a first-rate story, is not acceptable to the interpreters who frequently credit the artist with meanings that never occurred to him: Bram would have been astonished, and probably outraged, at their ideas. For in dragging their fantasies from the subconscious, they deny the power of Bram Stoker's imagination which, ultimately, was alone responsible for his masterpiece (160-161).
Interestingly, Farson also prefigured Elizabeth Miller's assertion that very little of the "real" Dracula (i.e. Vlad Ţepeș) was incorporated into the novel: "Even a cursory assessment will show that Stoker seized on the name of Dracula, together with a vague impression of the background, and that was all (130)."

Of course, this doesn't stop the biography being rife with speculation and assumptions, itself. For instance, "While he was absorbed in the vampirism of Carmilla. . ." (23), "Stoker might have seen the Lubek print of 1485" (129), right down the claim that Bram died of syphilis contracted from French prostitutes (233-235). It's from Farson and his doctor's diagnosis that this allegation originates. Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne did a commendable job disputing it in The Un-Dead: The Legend of Bram Stoker and Dracula (London: Constable, 1997), pp. 174-184.

Now, as to Bram himself, he generally seemed to exist on the periphery of larger figures, especially his friend Henry Irving. Seemingly little more than a lapdog, Renfield to Irving's Dracula. After a while, he tends to blur into the background of his own story.

But he was clearly a man with a profound sense of loyalty and a very kind heart. He was quite social and had a large circle of friends. Thus, it was a shame to read of him being exploited so readily. And when he was down and out, it seemed only his "Dear Friend Hommy-Beg" (Sir Hall Caine), willingly offered assistance (229-230).

Stoker's work ethic was admirable, even if it probably came at the expense of fostering a healthy family life. His only son, Noel (born Irving Noel Thornley Stoker), apparently resented Bram's association with Henry (215-216).

The biography itself is a brisk, compelling read. It's scholarly value is hampered by a lack of footnotes and bibliography, in favour of narrative fluency. Nonetheless, it's a recommended tome for your Dracula scholarship shelf.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What Is the LRA?

I mentioned the Lord Ruthven Award in the previous entry.

For those not-in-the-know, they're dished out by The Lord Ruthven Assembly, which is composed of "scholars and writers who maintain active interest in the presence of vampires in literature, myth, and folklore".

Their Awards go to a "a deserving work in vampire fiction or scholarship," which are "usually announced at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts each March in Ft. Lauderdale, FL."

For a list of previous winners, by category, click here.

Bell, Book and E-Mail

Shortly after I wrote this, I contacted Mr. Bell ("Food for the Dead", Wednesday, 5 May 2010 4:45:07 PM) as to whether his blog was the upcoming book, or if the book's gonna be available hardcopy.

I also asked about the "privately published" 2009 edition of Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires, that he sells through his site. How does it differentiate from the 2001 Carroll & Graf original?

In terms of the sequel, The Vampire's Grasp: America's Restless Vampires, and its intended format, he mentioned ("Re: Food for the Dead‏", Sunday, 9 May 2010 1:16:14 AM) that, "The blog is basically a preview of some of the material I will be including in a hardcopy version of the new book."

And here's what he wrote concerning Food's 2009 edition:
Food for the Dead went our of print when the publisher, Carroll & Graf, was bought by the publisher of Basic Books, who eliminated the C&G imprint, so that everything that C&G had published was out-of-print. People still contacted me requesting copies, so I decided to have it reprinted. The text, photos, pages of the reprint are identical to the C&G trade paper edition. The cover is glossy instead of mat.
If you haven't got a copy of Food yet, then you're missing out! As I said before, it's "a classic of the vampirological genre." It even won the 2002 Lord Ruthven Award for Non-Fiction.

So, as you can imagine, I'm pretty enthused about the sequel. Still not crazy about its title, though.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Be Vewy Qwiet, I'm Hunting Vampiwers

Came across D. Dunham's "Vampire Hunting" list on Amazon.

Of the forty items, twenty-two are books. The includes items like a Thunderbird Forest 324194 Wood Stake 1"x2"x48", 80 lbs Cobra Self-Cocking Crossbow Pistol Cross Bow and a Black Cord Wrapped Boken Daito Wood Practice Sword.

So let's hope this guy's taking the piss.

Melton's Cover Revealed!

It's the best I can muster up for the time being, folks, but we finally get to see what the cover for J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd ed., is gonna look like:

Kinda looks like a demonic Na'vi, doesn't it?

I should also point out that if you do "Click to LOOK INSIDE!", you're only gonna see content from the second edition. As of this writing, anyway.

If you wanna see what the covers for the previous editions looked like, click here.

Pozzuoli's Bible

Speaking of Pozzuoli, I'm surprised I didn't come across this one earlier.

The author of Dracula (1897-1997) : Guide du centenaire (1996), Dracula : Le lexique du vampire (2004) and editor of Baisers de sang : 20 histoires érotiques de vampires (2005), has a new book out:

That's right, La Bible Dracula : Dictionnaire du vampire (2010). It weighs in at a hefty 653 pages, so I'm sure it'd have something of value in it. If only I had French lessons at school. Comment enfonçant.

Books of a Feather

Came across the Amazon entry for Robert Curran's upcoming The Werewolf Handbook: An Essential Guide to Werewolves and, More Importantly, How to Avoid Them (August 1, 2010).

It's the cover that got me: where have I seen that motif before...

Oh, yes, of course! Alain Pozzuoli's Dracula : Le lexique du vampire (2004)!

Naughty, naughty!

Arthen's Vampires

In spite of my rant concerning the "actual" thing, one of my favourite articles on defining vampires is Vyrdolak's (Inanna Arthen) "Who Are the 'True Vampires'? Or, the Evolution of the Word 'Vampire', Parts 1, 2 & 3".

She gives excellent coverage of the usage of the term over the centuries. A pretty good effort for something that originated on a message board.

Highly recommended.

Vampire Reality

Lisa Marie Basile asks a compelling question: "Do Real Vampires Exist?"

Just don't expect to see evidence of bloodsucking corpses. It's coverage of psychic vampirism and facets of the vampire subculture. An interesting read, nonetheless.

Crafty Vamps

You know vampires have hit Big Time, when you're able to...knit them.

Genevieve Miller's Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn is due for release on October 12, 2010. Mark that in yer calendar, folks!

If you'd rather slay 'em (with wool), then you can knit your own Mr. Pointy.

Review Reviewed

Andrew's awesome review of Mark Collins Jenkins' Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend (2010) makes some very valid points about my own take on the book:
Friend of the blog, Anthony Hogg, has mentioned this book at his blog and, whilst his opinion of it improved, at first he lamented the fact that the book seems to stroll through the same old areas of investigation. However, the difference between myself and Anthony is that my study of the genre has been more media orientated, whilst he has a strong background in examining the folklore/traditional aspects of the genre. As such I found the opening of the book to be a well written refresher on things I had read before and certainly a useful source for those starting their exploration of the myths behind the media.
I freely admit to being more into the folklore/historical angle of vampires. That's one of the reasons I get a big kick out of Niels' blog. Andrew's comment highlights the different approaches/levels of interest found in the field. In terms I vampirology, I've covered different approaches elsewhere.

The beauty of vampire study, is that they're so damn varied. As I've previously pointed out (byway of David Lavery) Buffy Studies, alone, has about fifty "disciplines, methods, and/or approaches". That's right: fifty. I can never get over that figure.

So, even though I'll occasionally lament that there just aren't enough books written on the historical/folkloric angle, I'll never say that they're the only angle that should be taken. We all have our own biases, after all. And the vampire, as a figure of study, exists beyond such a narrow template.

That said, I still stand by my comments on Jenkins' book. The majority of books on vampires take the expansive backdrop of the Vampire and paint on the same canvas. Yes, we Count Dracula was (partly) based on Vlad. Yeah, Polidori satirised Byron for The Vampyre. The Paole case kick-started interest in vampires in Western Europe? Ok, we got it. And gee whiz, aren't certain spirits, gods and monsters of other cultures awfully similar to vampires? Heard it before.

Give me something new. Something different. Discuss areas not usually covered by the multitude of other writers out there! That's why I find myself increasingly drawn to the obscure stuff.

When I pick up a book like Vampire Forensics, I expect it to do what it says on the tin: give me a detailed analysis of the vampire myth. Concentrate on the specific writings, places, belief systems where this manifested. I don't need a transcendent stroll through the mythologies and burial practices of other cultures. If I wanted that, I could read Summers. And have.

Give me vampires!

Keep in mind, I'm not saying Jenkins wrote a bad book. It's actually quite good in its own right. My frustration stems from being waylaid by its title. Maybe my bias is too strong. Regardless, I don't think there's much justification in giving such minor coverage to the actual vampire itself. And by "actual", yes, I mean the one of folklore and history. I know this flies in the face of the what-is-a-vampire question I left open-ended, but come on, give me a break.

Without the vampire of these dark regions, there would be none of the fictional literature and flicks lapped up by so many. There would be no vampire subculture. No fandom. Nothing. All I ask is that it be given a little more prominence; especially in a book examining "forensics". End rant.

What Is a Vampire?

Sometimes the simplest questions can have the most complex answers.

Don't believe me?

Then have a crack at answering the question posed by Theresa Bane. Let's see what you come up with and we notes!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Upcoming Books on Vampires

Time for a new segment I like to call "Upcoming Books on Vampires". Snazzy, ain't it?

It'll cover as-yet-unpublished non-fiction vampire books I come across. Kinda like I did here. The format'll be similar to that post, but entries devoted to a single upcoming book (like Bell's) will also get the segment title, from now on.

But it doesn't mean I'm gonna cover any old new book, either. Like, let's face it, the children/young adult stuff is a dime a dozen. Not to mention generally thin on content. So, the rule is, it's gotta be over a hundred pages. I'll try and incorporate non-English works here, too.

Also, I'll be guesstimating how good the books are. Nothing set in stone, here, of course. Essentially, why they have interested me enough to put 'em on here.

So, with all that in mind, let's get this show on the road.
Title: The Encyclopedia of Vampires and Werewolves
Author: Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Release Date: June 30, 2011
Worth the Wait? Not quite a new book, per se, but it'll certainly feature new content. It's the second edition to Guiley's 2004 book, The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. Unless there's been a misprint, looks like the "other monsters" have been kicked to the curb. Not that I'm shedding tears over it, mind you.

Although the original ain't as scholarly as Melton's Vampire Book, it still makes for an entertaining read.

Title: The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero
Susannah Clements
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Worth the Wait? I like the concept of charting the vampire's evolution from villain to hero. Sure, it's been done before, but not as explicitly as this title indicates. It'll also be interesting to see what context the book is written in, in light of its publisher's output:
Our main areas of focus include biblical studies, theology, ethics, cultural studies, and church history. We also publish textbooks on Christian education, mission, and ministry as well as integrative works in a variety of liberal arts disciplines, such as literature, communication, philosophy, and psychology.
Title: The Vampire Film: From Nosferatu to Twilight
Author: Alain Silver & James Ursini
Release Date: September 15, 2010
Worth the Wait? Just like Guiley's book, this is actually a further edition. In this case, the fourth. The original was simply called The Vampire Film (1975) and subsequent editions were accompanied by a subtitle to reflect contemporary movies. Hence the "Twilight" amendment.

Should be a pretty good book, going by the content of the original and other editions. Practically guaranteed, in fact (depending on how well they handle the new stuff). A fairly safe bet.

Title: Vampyre Sanguinomicon: The Lexicon of the Living Vampire
Author: Father Sebastiaan
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Worth the Wait? Not sure on its precise relation to his 2008 book, Sanguinomicon: The Vampyre Lexicon, but it's clearly an attempt to create a lingua franca within the "real" vampire subculture. As I've said before, it ain't really my scene, but I'm sure there'll be some value in this book. From a sociological perspective, at least.

Title: Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil
Author: Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Worth the Wait? Hmm. "Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil." A lil bit too try-hard for me. This sounds like the epitome of Maberry's vampire "field guides", along with The Vampire Slayers' Field Guide to the Undead (2001), Vampire Universe (2006), and They Bite! (2009). So I'll give the guy kudos for sheer output.

However, his books, jam-packed with info, lavishly illustrated, are very, very much on the mainstream, pop culture, consumerist side of things. You won't find much of a scholarly nature in these things. So let's say I'm somewhat apprehensive.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sneaky Props

Andrew's screencap (Fig. 1) of a prop in his review of Mystery and Imagination: Dracula (1968) drew my attention:

Fig. 1 Andrew's screencap.

It's a woodcut rendering of Denholm Elliott's Dracula character, which caught my eye for two reasons. Firstly, I've seen that image before. Well, not the version used in the film (more on that, shortly). Second, it tied in with Andrew's comments about the movie's emphasis on sexuality: "If Stoker hinted at a sexual aspect to vampirism then this production screamed it".

So, what's the link between the two?

The image this phony woodcut is based on, originally depicted an incubus. Don't know what an incubus is? Here's a definition: ". . . a demon in male form supposed to lie upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have sexual intercourse with them, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions."

Thanks to the magic of Google, I've been able to trace the original pic for your viewing pleasure. Here tis (Fig. 2):

Fig. 2 "Male devil embracing woman".

The page's source lists Ulrich Molitor's De Lamiis et Pythonicis Mulieribus ("Of Witches and Diviner Women"). According to Erika Mailmain, this book was first published in 1493 (despite her source listing 1489). She adds that the ". . . book went into several editions, illustrated by woodcuts that were updated so it is possible to find different versions of the same image." That certainly explains why I've seen variations of the same woodcut. Here's a minor variation (Fig. 3):

Fig. 3 "incisione da De lamiis et pythonicis mulieribus di Ulrich Molitor, Colonia, 1489".

And then there's others barely recognisable from the source, except for the same motifs. Like this one, from the c. 1498 Köln [Cologne] edition (Fig. 4):

Fig. 4 Illustration 4.

I highly doubt the production designers consulted the original editions (due to their scarcity) for inspiration, so my guess is they came across the image in a book on witchcraft. Say, for instance Rossell Hope Robbins' The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1959). On page 465, a reproduction of an image closely resembling Fig. 3 appears. The entry it's incorporated to? "Sexual Relations with Devils".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wow, 25 Years Already...

Hats off to Vampire News for acknowledging the 25th anniversary of one of my favourite vamp flicks.

It links to Allan Dart's tribute to the film, which provides a teeny bit of info on its upcoming remake (groan).

Although, the celebration of its birthday might be a lil premature. According to IMDb, it was first released on August 2nd, 1985.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Food for the Dead

Whoa, stop press!

Last night, I found out that Michael E. Bell's got a new book in the pipeline. Name doesn't ring a (heh heh) bell?

He wrote Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires (2001), certainly a classic of the vampirological genre.

The upcoming tome is no mere updated edition. It's a sequel tentatively called The Vampire’s Grasp: America’s Restless Vampires. Can't say I'm too crazy about the title.

But still, a sequel. That's a hell of a rarity in vampire non-fiction. In fact, off the top of my head, I can't even think of another example. I'm presuming, of course, that Bell's using the "sequel" tag literally.

He's got a blog for the book, too.

On review though, I guess his blog is the book. That'd explain the chapter headings...hahaha. Hmm, well, at the very least, I hope it becomes available in hardcopy (with extra material)!

Laycock's Modern Vampires

First off, I'll say I'm not big into vampire "subculture". You know, the whole so-called "real vampires" biz. More on that, later.

But, I gotta say, I'm impressed with Joseph Laycock's interview for John Morehead's TheoFantastique. Specifically, this bit:
The connection between modern vampires and “re-enchantment” was first made by Christopher Partridge. In his theory of re-enchantment, Partridge points out that as traditional religion is declining, new belief systems are proliferating. Furthermore, the distinction between deviant and legitimate religion has begun to narrow. Re-enchantment then argues that religion is not fading away so much as changing. The metaphysics of vampirism, as well as emerging new religious movements and popular occultism are all evidence of this change.
Joseph Laycock is the author of Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism (2009). The reference to Partridge most likely concerns his work, The Re-enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture and Occulture, 2 vol. (2004, 2006).

It's good to see such sociological scholarship incorporated into a realm, primarily lorded over by sensationalists, propagandists, apologists, sympathisers, etc. Here's another interview he's done. You'll see what I mean.

I know I might be jumping the gun a bit, as I haven't read his book yet, but it's certainly on my to-get list.
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