Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year That Was, Pt. 1

The year's drawing to a close. What better opportunity for a retrospective! Time to review what went down on this in 2010. Cue excess linkage!

I began the year complaining about a slow delivery from the Canadian postal service. As it happens, I'm currently awaiting the arrival of a package from there. It was sent in mid-October, so I guess we've come full circle there.

I've given some decent coverage to the Twilight phenomena this year, but no post specifically on the subject drew as much attention as this. In fact, it was my 10th post popular post overall.

I began Q & A this year. My first interviewee was Niels K. Petersen. He was followed by Martin V. Riccardo and Bruce A. McClelland.

A Brian Solomon post served as a wake-up call and inspired my own rant on blogging ethics.

My third most popular post dealt with fake vampire books, namely Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Vampire or Vesalius' Five Books on the Structure of the Vampire Body. They're inventions of the FVZA. Yet, just like the Necronomicon, some people think they're real. I caught reference to one in Vlad III's Wikipedia entry, and allusions to 'em occur in a non-fictional work: Theresa Cheung's The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires (2009). Who knows where else they'll turn up.

The most popular post, however, concerned the mistaken authorship of a famous vampire story, "Wake Not the Dead". You probably thought it was written by Johann Ludwig Tieck. No surprises there, as that's who it's usually attributed to.

My coverage of the Ojai Vampire scored a few hits. I first read about that case in Rosemary Ellen Guiley's The Complete Vampire Companion (1994). I did a li'l more digging by contacting the Ventura County Parks Department. Here's what they said.

In the midst of that, I gave tips on how to be a vampirologist in my contribution to Michele Hauf's VampChix.

Justin Blair, one of the directors of Across the Forest (2009), kindly sent me a copy of his documentary for review. I was suitably impressed. It wasn't perfect, but a pretty damn good job overall.

I shined a light on a few relatively obscure vampire cases, namely the Gorbals Vampire, Sarah Ellen Roberts and the Birmingham Vampire. Incidentally, the latter post was this blog's 6th most popular.

After reading Andrew's review of Mystery and Imagination: Dracula (1968), I spotted a familiar rendering amidst the screencaps. Speaking of Dracula, I also reviewed a biography written by Stoker's great-nephew.

As the remake (oh, sorry, "reboot") train rolled on this year, I glanced through the casting choices for the upcoming reboot of one of my favourite vampire movies.

Then, after some prompting by one of Theresa Bane's posts, I imagined a world without Dracula.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog entry. In the meantime, I wish everyone a safe and happy new year! Thanks for joining me and I look forward to your company in 2011.

I'll leave you with a couple of treats. Firstly, I came across coverage of an interesting beauty pageant from 1970. Second, while it's a bit late to even think of attempting it, here's Jack Baker's "Steal the Show at the Vampire New Year Party". Just goes to show there's vampire-related everything.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Did Stoker Plan on Bringing Drac Back?

Speaking of sequels, have you heard rumours that Bram Stoker originally intended on writing a sequel to Dracula (1897)? Let's take a look.

Sure, there's been heaps of movie sequels to adaptations of his work, like Dracula's Daughter (1936) and The Brides of Dracula (1960). A few authors have even cranked out their own: Freda Warrington's Dracula, the Undead (1997), Seán Manchester's Carmel: A Vampire Tale (2000) and Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt's Stoker estate-approved sequel spring to mind.

But what about Bram, himself? Did he ever write one? Did he plan to? Elizabeth Miller has the scoop, yet fails to mention a crucial scene in the novel (at least, in the entry itself).¹ As she points out, Dracula isn't destroyed in the proscribed manner recommended by Van Helsing during the course of the novel, i.e. stake through the heart, decapitation. Instead, he is "killed" when (spoiler alert!) Jonathan Harker shears his kukri knife through the Count's throat, while mortally-wounded Quincey Morris plunges his Bowie knife into the vampire's heart. Here's what happens next, as described by Mina:
It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.

I shall be glad as long as I live that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there.

The Castle of Dracula now stood out against the red sky, and every stone of its broken battlements was articulated against the light of the setting sun.
Wait, maybe the Count tricked them! He turned to dust at just the right moment! It's one of his powers, after all. Except for one thing: up to that point, Mina's forehead had been marked by the imprint of a Eucharistic Wafer, after being bitten by the Count. Here's how it went down:
"Then it is well. Now, Madam Mina, you are in any case quite safe here until the sunset. And before then we shall return . . . if . . . We shall return! But before we go let me see you armed against personal attack.I have myself,since you came down,prepared your chamber by the placing of things of which we know, so that He may not enter. Now let me guard yourself.On your forehead I touch this piece of Sacred Wafer in the name of the Father, the Son, and . . .

There was a fearful scream which almost froze our hearts to hear. As he had placed the Wafer on Mina's forehead, it had seared it . . . had burned into the flesh as though it had been a piece of whitehot metal. My poor darling's brain had told her the significance of the fact as quickly as her nerves received the pain of it,and the two so overwhelmed her that her overwrought nature had its voice in that dreadful scream.
The mark signifies her vampiric infection and "connection" to Dracula, as it's established that the the vampires in Stoker's universe cannot tolerate holy objects. Dracula is warded off with crucifixes. His "brides" are kept at bay with a "Holy Circle" (made from crumbled Eucharistic Wafers). It also imprisons the infected Mina, or, as Van Helsing says: "For I knew that we were safe within the ring, which she could not leave no more than they could enter." Yet, here's what happens after Dracula's disintegration:
I flew to him [Morris -ed.], for the Holy circle did not now keep me back, so did the two doctors. Jonathan knelt behind him and the wounded man laid back his head on his shoulder. With a sigh he took, with a feeble effort, my hand in that of his own which was unstained.

He must have seen the anguish of my heart in my face, for he smiled at me and said, "I am only too happy to have been of service! Oh, God!" he cried suddenly, struggling to a sitting posture and pointing to me. "It was worth for this to die! Look! Look!"

The sun was now right down upon the mountain top, and the red gleams fell upon my face, so that it was bathed in rosy light. With one impulse the men sank on their knees and a deep and earnest "Amen" broke from all as their eyes followed the pointing of his finger.

The dying man spoke, "Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! The snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!"
If Dracula didn't "die", then how on earth did that happen? The disappearance of the mark clearly indicates she's free from the vampiric taint. Also, what many seem to forget, is that Stoker's novel concludes with an epilogue set seven years afterwards. No further signs of vampirism and Dracula's castle is nothing more than an uninhabited wreck. In other words, he's dead.

But Dracula's a vampire. Undead. Gotta be a way around that, right? Maybe bring him back to life or something. Sure, that's possible. It's fiction, after all. But where's the signs that Stoker intended on doing so? That's the whole point. He makes it pretty clear that Dracula's karked it. Holmwood and Seward are happily married (not to each other). The Harkers have a son. Van Helsing seems jovial. That doesn't scream "set up" so much as "happy ending".

If Stoker did intend on writing a sequel, we have no proof of it (textual or otherwise), apart from hearsay and speculation. A shame, really, as it would've been great to see how the story continues. I guess that's left to our own imagination.

¹ To be fair, she dealt with this scene in the comments section.

Where's the Salem's Lot Sequel?

Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1975) is one of my favourite vampire novels and one of his most successful. Many years ago, he spoke of writing a sequel, even outlining a basic plot. It's been thirty fives years, so what's the go with it?

If you haven't read the novel, then maybe you've seen its adaptations. It's been made into a miniseries, twice, in 1979 and 2004. In fact, the first miniseries even inspired a direct-to-video sequel. Of sorts. Of sorts. It's hard to accept it as "canon" when it tinkered with the continuity of King's novel and the 1979 series it alluded to. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining film in its own right.

Back to the novel. As early as 1982, King was trumpeting his desire to write a follow-up. Douglas E. Winter featured King's say on it in The Art of Darkness: The Life and Fiction of the Master of the Master of the Macabre: Stephen King (London: New English Library, 1989)¹. I've inserted spacing in the paragraphs for legibility's sake:
. . . I know what the sequel will be. It's just a question of when I find the time . . .

Should I give you a preview? Ben Mears and [Mark Petrie] are now living in England, where Ben is doing the screenplay to one of his books . . . [Mark's] in school. While Ben is in his studio, [Mark] comes home, makes dinner and begins to get calls via transatlantic cable - from his mother.

'I'm still alive . . .' she says. 'You must come back to the Lot . . . They're hurting me.' And eventually he does go back. Ben follows him.

Father Callahan will come back, too. He's working in a Detroit soup kitchen, and this dying bum comes in: 'Father, you've got to bless me.' 'I'm not a priest anymore,' he says. The bum is gugling out his last words, 'It's not over in Salem's Lot yet.' And believe me, it
isn't! (52)²
The 2004 miniseries features a soup kitchen scene with Father Callahan, but it's certainly not a sequel. The closest contemporary thing we have to an official sequel is "One for the Road", which first appeared in Maine (March/April 1977), and later included in his short story collection, Night Shift (1978). It's a sequel by virtue of the fact that part of it occurs in 'Salem's Lot after the events in the 1975 novel. Not much in the way of an actual plot, though.

However, there's certainly an arc in place. A prequel was also published in Night Shift, and the town's "subsequently mentioned in passing in The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Body, Pet Sematary, Dolores Claiborne, Dreamcatcher, and the last three books of the The Dark Tower series (Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower)."

The last grouping's the most relevant to our question: will there ever be a novel-length sequel? There's certainly still demand for it. For the answer, though, we turn to Stephen King's FAQ page:
Actually, I'm hoping to write a sequel to almost all of my novels and you will find those in Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower--really in the whole Dark Tower sequence. You'll find out a lot of what happened in 'Salem's Lot for one thing and one character in particular - I'm not going to tell you which one. This is in no way an advertisement for The Dark Tower books, but it is my way of saying that The Dark Tower books finishes up a lot of business from the other books.
Spoiler alert: "one character in particular" is Father Callahan. The Dark Tower books are far-removed from the "real world" setting of the novel, its prequel and mini-sequel, though. Still canon, sure (it's King's story, after all), but it's just not the same.

On the plus side, he's at least expressing interest in writing a sequel, even if it's the daunting task of writing one "for almost all" of his novels. He's a prolific guy. So, will a "proper" sequel ever emerge? I guess we can paraphrase the same answer quoted by Winter: when he finds the time.

¹ My paperback copy. The original was published in 1984 by New American Library.

² Winter's source: "Quoted in David McDonnell, 'The Once and Future King,' Mediascene Prevue, April/May 1982, p. 59" (269 n24).

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