Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Musical Interlude

Presenting the famous club scene from Fright Night (1985), in which Jerry Dandridge seduces Amy right from under Charley's nose.

Never underestimate the power of cheesy 1980s choreography! And yes, that's Marcy D'Arcy pre-Married... with Children. Still, I get a kick out of those tunes in the background. They're Ian Hunter's "Good Man in a Bad Time" and Evelyn ''Champagne'' King's "Give It Up", respectively. I wonder if they'll be incorporated into the pointless remake. Meh.

Anyway, both those songs are available on the film's soundtrack. To see which others made the cut, click here. Some pretty good tunes there.


Oh, and William Patrick Day's Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture: What Becomes a Legend Most (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2002) finally arrived on Monday. Unfortunately, many of its pages were accompanied by underlines in red pen. Grrrr. I've contacted Amazon about that. Outcome pending.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Additions and Editions

A few recent purchases arrived in the mail. I'll be giving my immediate impressions of these books and why you should double-check item descriptions before you hit "buy".

On the 9th, I ordered three books via Amazon: William Patrick Day's Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture: What Becomes a Legend Most (2002), J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd ed. (2010) and Margaret L. Carter's Different Blood: The Vampire As Alien (2004). Day's book hasn't arrived yet, but the other two came yesterday.

Let's start with Melton's book. Just as I anticipated, the book injects a focus on Twilight. The success of that franchise has provided the book with it's very raison d'être. Here's what Melton has to say in his "Introduction":
The last edition came out in 1998, just as we realized that Buffy was going to be a hit. Now, sitting at the close of the first decade of the new century, this new edition can explore the Buffy phenomenon and its immense fallout fully. New entries discuss the vampire on television, the Twilight saga, romance novels, and vampire-related paraphernalia (xvii).
As I said here, there's nothing wrong with coasting the wave of contemporary vampire popularity. What matters, is how you utilise it. Fortunately, Melton's work transcends these trends and is invaluable to the vampire scholar, regardless.

This particular edition has been streamlined. For instance, the appendices in the second edition have been jettisoned. Instead, we jump from the last entry to a massive index (833-909). The "Sources" attached to the entries have been cleaned up. There are no colour pics.

Oh, and for those intending on citing the book in future: it has a 2011 copyright date. Yet, it was obviously published this year. So what gives? I've covered that here. Same applies to the second edition, which has a 1999 copyright date, but was actually published the year before.

Next up, Carter's Different Blood. I've only had the briefest flick through it, but going on her previous works, I suspect it'll be a goodie. I love books that survey specific angles of the vampire mythos. In this case, Carter focuses on depictions of the vampire-as-extraterrestrial. Yep, alien vampires. Here's the scoop from her blurb:
Different Blood surveys the literary vampire as alien from the mid-1800s to the 1990s, analyzing the many uses to which science fiction and fantasy authors have put this theme. Their works explore issues of species, race, ecological responsibility, gender, eroticism, xenophobia, parasitism, symbiosis, intimacy, and the bridging of differences.
Bet you didn't think you'd get all that from a bunch of books on vampires from space! I'm also chuffed that it's such a recurring genre staple, that there was enough material to devote an entire book to it. Incredible.

Next up, a book I purchased on eBay, also on the 9th. It arrived today and serves as a classic example of impulse buying. I was cruising about, looking for cheap copies of Melton's third edition (before I purchased the Amazon one), when I stumbled upon a coupla cover variations I hadn't seen before.

The book was cheap (US $16), hardcover and in brand new condition. But, there was no publication date. I just assumed it was the new edition. So, bam! I clicked "buy". What I should have done, was check the book's ISBN (9781578593156). Sure enough, when I later checked it, I realised I'd purchased a hardcover copy of the second edition. An edition I already own, in paperback. D'oh!

I didn't want to welsh out of the purchase on account of my own oversight, so I let it proceed. If you wanna know what the first and second edition paperback covers look like, click here. The third edition paperback cover's here. So, word to the wise: if in doubt, check the ISBN!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mason Crest's Monster Mash

I've been somewhat intrigued by Mason Crest's "The Making of a Monster: Vampires & Werewolves" series. No, not from reading it, but the fact that it actually exists.

The non-fiction vampire genre is awash with books that give fairly broad coverage, often rehashing the same kinda stuff, time and time again. So, when I come across a book that's devoted to a specific aspect of vampire lore, let's say my eyes light up. In this case, we're looking at a whole series worth! Let's take a look at the titles:
Ancient Werewolves and Vampires: The Roots of the Teeth
by Adelaide Bennett

Dracula and Beyond: Famous Vampires & Werewolves in Literature and Film
by Shaina C. Indovino

Fighting the Fangs: A Guide to Vampires and Werewolves
by Nicholas Martin

Global Legends and Lore: Vampires and Werewolves Around the World
by Adelaide Bennett

Howling at the Moon: Vampires & Werewolves in the New World
by Kim Etingoff

Pop Monsters: The Modern-Day Craze for Vampires and Werewolves
by Emily Sanna

The Psychology of Our Dark Side: Humans' Love Affair with Vampires & Werewolves
by Sheila Stewart

The Science of the Beast: The Facts Behind the Fangs
by Kim Etingoff

Transylvania and Beyond: Vampires & Werewolves in Old Europe
by Shaina C. Indovino
My elation was curbed by a few prominent factors. Firstly, the price. Each one of one of those titles is $22.95 (USD) a piece and they're 64 pages long. Still, you combine 'em together, and you've got a grand total of 576 pages. Not too bad, I 'spose. At least give you the option of buying them all in one hit. But what a hit: $206.55 (USD). I'm guessing the price tag doesn't include shipping.

That might be a bit too much for the average reader, so let's you're gonna be picky about which one you choose. Maybe you might want to read a synopsis, an extract or review. Here's what you get instead:

Yep, sweet bugger-all. Unless, of course, you like large cover views (couldn't fit the whole page in the screencap, but you'll see what I mean). Not very helpful, eh?

So, ok, they're pretty specific. And 64 pages isn't too bad for decent coverage of such specific subjects. Now we come to the next stumbling block: their target audience.
As one of our highly valued customers, we want you to know how dedicated we are to providing you with the most unique upper elementary and young adult quality books available within the school and library marketplace.
If experience has taught me anything, you're not gonna find much of scholarly value in a series of books written for kids. I don't envision these things laced with footnotes and thorough bibliographies. But hey, I could be wrong.

Maybe I'm being harsh on them. Like I said, I haven't read a single volume. I'm not even in their target "range". Also, seeing as they're a speciality publisher, the price is gonna be high. They'll probably drop down in price, soon enough. And perhaps having seven different contributors might provide a fresh spin on the genre.

But $22.95 per 64 page book? My expectations would be pretty damn high for that. Don't see why they couldn't've just tacked a few of 'em together and halved the series. Probably lower the cover prices, too.

Plus, it doesn't help that I had to outsource info for a more detailed description of their contents. During those forays, I came across this by Mike, who asked a pertinent (if not slightly naive) question:
I’m not a huge reader, but I must say that the mixture of pop culture, werewolves and vampires actually has me a bit intrigued in reading this series. But the real question is, will our sparkley vampires and shape-shifting Quilieutes make the cut? Or are these books simply piggybacking off of the success of recent phenomenon’s like Twilight?
I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that they are "cashing-in" on Twilight's success. Firstly, there's their publication date (2010). There's also the fact that they deal with vampires and werewolves (although, hardly unique to Twilight, doesn't seem to coincidental in context) and there's also this, from a page that he links to in his own blog entry:
“This is an exciting project to be a part of because these books tap into a craze that has taken hold of today’s youth,” said Ellyn Sanna, author of one of the books in this series.
Hmm, I wonder which craze she could be talking about. But will Mike's beloved Twilight denizens get a look-in? Being overly presumptuous, I'd say...yes. Also, I don't think there's anything wrong with cashing-in on the vampire interest spawned by her series' success. Hell, it's nothing new. Gabriel Ronay makes the following observation on the era following the Arnold Paole case, in The Dracula Myth (London: W. H. Allen, 1972):
Indeed, the number of learned treatises published in Germany between 1728 and 1732 is staggering, and indicative of the wide European interest in the Hungarian vampire epidemic. In 1732 alone, at least six major works appeared in Leipzig, Jena and Nuremberg, minutely analysing the metaphysical and theological aspects of vampirism (19-20).
And keep in mind, this was long before radio, T.V., movies, the internet and Edward Cullen. Wanna know how significant that case was to the popular audience? It gave us the word, vampire! Shortly after, the metaphorical applications of the vampire "model" were discussed. This would be integral for developing vampire fiction.

So, yeah, it was a pretty big deal. And guess what? If it hadn't been for that explosion of vampire interest back then, with all those scholars and writers jumping on board, would Meyer's vampire series even be in existence at all? Something to think about.

So, no, there's nothing wrong with "piggybacking off of the success of recent phenomenon’s". But, like anything, it's how you use it that counts. Cash-ins are a double-edged sword. Firstly, they can invigorate a genre. Stay in the same mould, but avoid aping their inspiration too closely, for fear of plagiarism, etc. On the flip-side, they can doom it to repetition when the same constructs are repeated over and over again.

Right now, there's ample opportunity to infuse something fresh into vampire studies. Strike while the iron's still hot! But that's also the kicker: how many authors will actually take advantage of this opportunity? How many scholars will stand up with something new to say? Are we doomed to even more pop culture rehashes?

In the end, it's a numbers game, really. The more non-fiction books published in the wake of Meyer's success, the more likely that at least some of them are gonna pretty damn good. Again, I'll give Meyer (unintentional) credit for that. On the flip-side, we could have too many vampire books out there. Flooding the market. So, a balance should (ideally) be struck. Of course, that's not what's gonna happen.

If history's taught us anything, the cycle repeats over and over again with different levels of intensity. As popular as the Twilight saga is, the vampire's captured popular attention many times before. Remember Buffy (the TV series)? How about Bram Stoker's Dracula (the film)? The Lost Boys? Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles? Hammer's Dracula series? Universal's? etc., etc. Twilight's gonna evaporate like Harry Potter. Count on it. And eventually, something'll take its place. That's the way it works. Read Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995). You'll see.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

T-Shirt Curiousity

I know it's a bit of a longshot, but I'm struck by the similarity the following t-shirt design and a certain book on vampires.

The inscription reads "On the Origin of Vampires by Means of Unnatural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Species in the Struggle for Immortality" by "Vlad Ţepeş III". We've got Darwin and a certain Wallachian voivode covered. Not the first time real-life works and personages have been attached to fake books.

As to the shirt's similarity to another actual book on vampires, let's start with a close-up of the shirt's design:

Is it just me, or does it look a little like someone's been inspired by Christopher Rondina's Vampires of New England, rev. ed. (2007):

Yeah, I know. A bit of a stretch. Harder to deny the similarities between these two, though. Still, I wonder...

Marty's Vampire Lecture

If you're gonna be in Illinois during October, then make sure you check out "Vampires: The Creatures of the Night", a slideshow presentation by Martin V. Riccardo.

He's the founder of Vampire Studies and authored Lure of the Vampire, Vampires Unearthed: The Complete Multi-Media Vampire and Dracula Bibliography (both 1983) and Liquid Dreams of Vampires (1996). He spoke at Flashback Weekend's Twilight Chicago 2009 Convention and you might remember that I interviewed him for this blog (part 1, part 2).

For info on precise dates and locations, click here. It won't even cost you a cent: the program's free. But make sure you register first. If you'd like to get a taste of his work, beforehand, then here's "The Vampire as a Psychic Archetype", TAT Journal 2.3 (1979).

The Importance of Paper Trails

I've received an interesting comment from reader, Jonathan, concerning assumptions raised in my previous post. I'll address it here, and also discuss the scholarly value of citing other works.

Peter Haining's A Dictionary of Vampires (London: Robert Hale, 2000) provided a misattributed source on pre-Gerard usage of the term nosferatu. I derived three possibilities from this, namely, 1) Haining misunderstood Jones' ambiguous comment about von Wlislocki's "researches into Roumanian superstitions", 2) Haining obtained the misattributed quote from another dodgy source and 3) Haining fabricated the source. Here's what Jonathan had to say about my conclusions:
Great work. However, I don't think your three possibilities are necessary.

The 1861 date must surely come from a conflation of footnotes on p117 of Jones' 'On The Nightmare'.

There IS an 1861 dated bibliographic reference on that page, but it's to a completely different preceding point.

Have another look at Footnotes 1 (irrelevant to 'Nosferat', dated 1861) and 2 (the Stern quote, undated in Jones' text).

As the two are oddly arranged relative to one another, and Footnote 2 lacks a date, it's easy to see how someone in a rush might attribute that date to the wrong footnote.

Here's what I mean;
While he raises some intriguing points, I'm gonna stick to my guns on this one. Why? Let's take a look at the footnote in question:

The footnote appears in Ernest Jones' On the Nightmare (London: Hogarth Press, 1931), p. 117. Sure, their placement is a little odd. That's a formatting issue more than anything, but let's cast our eyes further up the same page:

I find it difficult to believe that Haining could have conflated the footnotes so easily. To verify where Wlislocki was being quoted from, all he had to do was comb through the book for other references to Stern, especially as "Quoted by" and "op. cit." were mentioned. I was able to do this easily enough. That's why I can tell you that Jones was quoting Wlislocki via Bernhard Stern's Medizin, Aberglaube und Geschlechtsleben in der Türkei. Mit Berücksichtigung der moslemischen Nachbarländer und der ehemaligen Vasallenstaaten, Vol. 1 (Berlin: H. Barsdorf, 1903).

While I do see Jonathan's point about the 1861 date, there's two other aspects of Haining's misattributed citation that aren't so easily dismissed. Firstly, Haining attributes an actual book title to Wlislocki, that is Roumanian Superstitions (1861). As I'd pointed out, no such book is quoted in the text. Instead, Jones makes reference to Wlislocki's "researches into Roumanian superstitions", which is where I suspect Haining derived the imaginary title from.

Secondly, it's clear that Haining either altered Jones' translation of the Wlislocki extract or derived it from another, faulty source. Compare the two sources. In Jones' rendering, we have "The Nosferat not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus" (117), meanwhile, Haining's "quote" says "The Nosferatu not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus" (184). There's small differences between the two, but they're significant in proving that an alteration has taken place.

So, to sum up, Haining doesn't get off the hook that easily. Using Jones' footnotes as evidence, Haining had no justification in concocting an imaginary book title (like we need more of those). In this regard, he was sloppy at best and outright deceptive at worst. If Haining's book had featured a bibliography, it would be much easier to establish which of these possibilities was most likely.

This is why paper trails are essential. Quotations, citations, footnotes, they're all-important for verifying the accuracy of information conveyed and sources consulted. It's also perfectly demonstrated in Andrew's review of Charlotte Montague's Vampires: From Dracula to Twilight: The Complete Guide to Vampire Mythology (2010), a book I'd previously regarded with a glimmer of hope, in light of its author's MA degree for History.

Yet, here's what Andrew has to say about the book's coverage of the historical origins of the vampire's destruction by sunlight:
The moniker “From Dracula to Twilight” is a misnomer as it does explore (though explore is perhaps a generous term) things that came before Dracula. When it comes to sources I would have loved to have seen one for the assertion that (having first neglected to mention Nosferatu when exploring the sunlight myth) in “later stories, vampires might collapse or explode when hit by sunlight, the ‘scientific’ explanation for this being that their neural pathways would fire randomly in their brains, causing them to experience extreme epileptic reactions, blinding them, and possibly setting them on fire”! I have seen many an explanation as to why sunlight might affect a vampire, and countless more films and books when it isn’t even explained but simply taken as read. I do not recall a theorem such as that… pray tell me your source… the book remains silent.
This is an incredibly disappoining for the scholarly reader: a dead-end. How do we verify such information? Where do we even begin to start? What are we to make of its publisher, Sphere, and their claim that they pride themselves on "publishing high-quality commercial fiction and non-fiction" and their "[p]assion, imagination and attention to detail are the cornerstones of our publishing"? It's a hell of an oversight.

Sure, footnotes and citations aren't the most aesthetically pleasing things, but they're integral for scholarly readers and further research, especially when it comes to such extravagant claims. It also applies to images, too. I've previously covered an erroneous caption and its relevance to vampire research, as well as its reproduction in another source. You see, without keeping dodgy info in "check" it tends to spread. This is detrimental to proper study of the genre and should be avoided at all cost. If in doubt, consult the primary source.
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