Tag Archive | Bram Stoker

Age of the Vampire: The Sweet Spot

As most of my readers know, I’ve written a dark fantasy novel about a vampire entitled “Drasmyr.” Talk of vampires almost always engenders talk of immortality, because that’s usually considered one of the advantages of being a vampire: they don’t die of old age. In my novel, the vampire is one thousand years old. I’ve read/seen other works where the vampire in question is 6000 or 10,000 years old or what-have-you. Generally, the age seems to be limited to several thousand years. I’ve never seen anything about a 5 million year old vampire or anything like that. But why not? There is no physical reason why a vampire could not be that old, if vampires are gifted with immortality.

 

I suppose one reason is that human civilization—or the historical record of such—only goes back several thousand years. Vampires are usually associated with civilized man. They are a tale of terror for those who huddle together on the edges of the night, thinking they are safe in their home, surrounded by others similarly secure. As vampires can appear human, though, this security is an illusion; a vampire can infiltrate a city or village and strike with ruthless savagery.

Likewise, according to most traditions vampires come from humans; they are the result of a human being bitten by a vampire, dying, and transforming into a creature of the night. In order for this to happen, there need to be humans around who can be bit. It makes no sense to have a vampire that’s been around since the dinosaurs, because there were no humans around at that time.

 

Basically, I think 1000 to 10,000 years is the sweet spot for a vampire’s age (Dracula, of course, was only 400 years old—he’s outside the sweet spot, but he’s cool anyway).  This gives them a good sense of timelessness, basically dwarfing a human’s lifespan without being too ridiculous about it. There is still that sense of a connection between themselves and their prey, for once, a long, long time ago, they were human themselves.

 

Anything above 10,000 years, in my opinion, is just excessive and runs the risk of starting a bidding war on vampire ages. My vampire is 20,000 years old. My vampire is 50,000. Oh yeah, mine is 300,000,000. Hmmph… 5 Billion. Two Trillion… at which point we have vampires older than the universe. In the end, age is just a number for one of the undead; what really makes them cool is the powers they wield and their respective personalities.

Fantasy Literature: The Aging Vampire

In “Dracula,” Bram Stoker’s grand masterpiece, Count Dracula is roughly four hundred years old, if I recall correctly. In my own novel, “Drasmyr,” Lucian val Drasmyr is about one thousand years old, give or take. I have seen films and stories where the vampire is as old as 10,000 years old. Clearly, vampires “live” longer than humans, but what is the significance of their extended lifetimes?

At some level it may just be a yearning on our part for something timeless and immortal. Such makes what the vampire offers (virtual immortality) that much more enticing. He can take away our death and suffering, end our pain. But how does the vampire see his own immortality?

Part of that can be understood by looking at how a vampire ages. The process, of course, differs somewhat with every story. In “Dracula” our illustrious Count aged like a mortal man (or something like that) when he did not get his fill of blood. Count Dracula is a very old man when Jonathan Harker first encounters him in his castle—although he is strong and spry for such an “old man.” Later, in London after he has sated much of his appetite, his iron-gray hair has turned black, and he looks like a man in his prime. This raises a number of interesting questions, but I want to remain focused on just his aging. Clearly, Bram Stoker’s vampire does age, he just has a handy mechanism to reverse it.

Another common theme in vampire lore is that vampires grow stronger with time. So, the older the vampire, the more powerful he is, and the more difficult he is to destroy. This theme was implied in “Dracula,” but I don’t think it was ever explicitly stated. In fact, at one point Van Helsing said the Count had the brain of a child, but a very clever one, or something to that effect. Still, Dracula was the master of three other vampires in his castle. There are two possible reasons for this; either he made the other vampires, or he was simply the eldest. Both seem plausible and neither seems mutually exclusive.

Today’s vampires have taken old age to grand new heights. In “Vampire Hunter D,” an anime film from the late 80’s, early 90’s, Count Magnus Lee is 10,000 years old. As such, he is virtually indestructible. He rules his clan of vampires with an iron fist. At his age, he’s actually gained telekinetic powers, among other things. But at a certain point does not adding a few more thousand years onto the age of your vampire seem tiresome? I mean, really, we get the point. The thing won’t die.

Still, I find the aging vampire and the powers such bestows upon it an interesting facet of the vampire’s multi-faceted persona. It provides a rich and malleable measure to differentiate vampires from one another and keep them unique at the same time.

Would You Want to be a Vampire? Part Two: The Modern Vampire

In the previous post, I asked if you wanted to be a traditional vampire. And the obvious answer should be “No!” However, the nature of the vampire has changed over time. Asking the question today is not nearly as clear as it was one hundred years ago. Courtesy of first Anne Rice, and then Stephenie Meyer, vampires have morphed into modern day heroes. Actually, I must be careful here. Some modern writers, such as myself, have taken great pains to keep their vampires dark and sinister in accordance with the traditional archetype. I’m not talking about those vampires. I’m talking about Twilight-type vampires.

 

Modern day romanticized vampires have been stripped of all their negative attributes. Do they lose their soul upon conversion? Uh, no. And that’s a biggie. Do they smell like the grave? Again, no. Are they inherently evil? This kind of goes with losing one’s soul so again the answer is no. The modern day romanticized vampire is incredibly strong, virtually immortal, and deeply in touch with his feelings. They make the perfect date for the modern girlie teen-ager. The only drawback is that they drink blood, but some can “go vegetarian” and survive off animal blood. I have to point this out, though. I’m a guy, and I write, and my sister reads my work. She takes great pains to point out the errors of my ways if I have too many women who are just cosmically beautiful with looks that kill. That if you do that too much you are objectifying women as mere items to titillate men’s fancies (a few of the women in Drasmyr fall into that category, but I couldn’t figure out a way to change it without doing damage to the story as I envisioned it). If a man writes about a woman and she is the perfect woman in each and every way, this makes things difficult with real women. Real women never measure up. Real women should be offended by such a characterization. Well, perhaps you see where I’m going. Perhaps, courtesy of Stephenie Meyer, the shoe is on the other foot, now (ha ha!). I think the male vampires from Twilight are an example of the perfect man (if you ignore the drinking blood bit). Real men just can’t measure up to Edward Cullen. And hordes of teen-age girls go all googly whenever they hear his name. I would go on, but I’ve gotten off track enough as it is (and, truthfully, I don’t care enough about the point to go on … I’m just making a nuisance of myself).

 

My point: modern vampires have changed from something evil into a romantic superhero. Now, when someone asks you if you want to be a vampire, the answer isn’t so obvious. For myself, I still say no. I like me the way I am—I don’t need some quick-become-undead-fix to cover up my many flaws. I think a lot of guys would probably say no just on the principle that they want nothing to do with Twilight or its vampires. A lot of teen age girls, however, might say yes. “Make me a vampire. Make me a vampire. Please!!!”

 

And somewhere Bram Stoker is rolling over in his grave. Or clawing his way out with murder in his eyes!

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula” by Bram Stoker is a well-regarded classic of horror literature. I’ve read this book about four times, now. The first three times through (years ago) I liked it, because I liked vampires and was very interested in the part this book played in the legends that have grown up around them. I walked away from the book thinking it was okay, but kind of tame by modern standards as a piece of horror fiction. This last time through, however, my view of this book has changed. It is a masterpiece.

I think in my younger years, I was too much enamored by sword fights and spell battles, the typical fodder of fantasy fiction. This book doesn’t really have much of that. It is all about a developing plot and building suspense. It is one part mystery, one part horror, not so much a fantasy action book. The prose throughout, although somewhat dated—it was written in 1897—is still remarkable and fluid. It’s a little difficult adjusting to the diary narrative, but once you do so, it is a remarkable read. Having read the story before, I pretty much knew what was going to happen. Even so, I enjoyed pretty much the whole thing. I picked up on a number of different aspects of the story that I don’t remember noting before (of course, it has been several years).

I’ve read here and there that this book is really all about sexual repression or what-have-you. I totally didn’t get that. The only elements that might indicate that, that I picked up on, where as follows: 1) the penetration of flesh by vampire teeth, which is true of all vampire stories. 2) Lucy Westenra kind of idly comments in one of her letters that she kind of wished she could marry three different men because she didn’t want to break any of their hearts. 3) Later in the story, a tacit connection is made between love and blood transfusions and Lucy winds up getting transfusions from four different men in an attempt to save her. Taking all these things together, I think you can interpret the work as promoting polygamy if you want to go that way, but I hardly think it is definitive. There is no connection whatsoever between romance and blood transfusions; maybe at the time it was written, it was thought that there was, but really? You’re trying to save a woman’s life. What else would you do? I’ve also read that the work promotes homosexuality. Throughout the work the male characters are described as “manly men” or something along that route by the other male characters (and the female characters). It’s kind of odd from a modern perspective, but I think that was largely the manner of speaking of the time period. It’s another: if you want to go that route, I think you can, but I, personally, did not think that that was the point Bram Stoker was trying to get across. I just thought it was a mannerism of the time period.

Basically, I’m kind of the opinion that all these literary critics and analysts go looking for things in the books they read, and whether the author intended the work in that way or not, the critics interpret it as they see fit. The critics also enjoy the “shock-value” of their interpretations of classical works. Once upon a time, our society would have been “shocked” by polygamous and homosexual themes being present in Dracula. That’s no longer true today, but by now, it’s become accepted that that is what Dracula is all about. Heaven forbid someone just write a cool story.

Anyway, the book’s great, but I think it was intended for a more mature audience. I don’t think a young adult audience would fully “get” it. I know I didn’t when I first read it. I’m not going to review the plot because I think most people know it already. The Francis Ford Coppola movie from a few years back followed the book pretty closely, although it kind of went with the over-sexualized theme and changed some of the characters around to suit that end. Whatever. If you don’t know the story, and you can put up with some of the older-style language (it’s certainly not as bad as say “Canterbury Tales,” but every once in a while the language may stump you), get the book and read it. It’s well worth it.

Before I part, I’ll list the cast of characters: Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, Lord Arthur Godalming, Quincey Morris, Dr. John Seward, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Lucy Westenra, and, of course, the esteemed, renowned, and rapacious Count Dracula. There’s also three other unnamed vampire chics, and a host of minor characters spread throughout.

Anyway, I’ll give this book four and a half out of five stars.

This post originally appeared on Goodreads on 10/15/12.

Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Werewolf

This is a continuation of the train of thought started with my “Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Dragon” post. In that post, I examined what a creature that was the result of crossing a dragon and vampire would be like. So, I thought, why not continue the thought process and see what happens when you cross a vampire with a werewolf? Unfortunately, this one doesn’t work quite as well. Depending upon the tradition you start with, it might not be really that much of a change. I remember in Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” there were several instances where Dracula shape-changed into something, that to me, looked pretty much like a werewolf. A snarling, lust-ridden, beastie of fur, and claws. And if that’s the case, trying to make a vampire into a werewolf, might be something of a step down or just an insignificant change. The vampire can already control wolves, and assume the werewolf form: what would the werewolf aspect give him? Dracula is, also, already supernaturally strong. At most, the vampire might just lose-control of his shape-shifting faculties on the night of a full moon. And lack of control would certainly be a weakness gained. Alternatively, and perhaps more probably, he would just absorb the werewolf nature and continue on his way, relatively unchanged.

 

On the other hand, if you go with the “Underworld” series of movies, the notion of a vampire-werewolf is already central to the plot: they beat me to the punchline here. Underworld vampires are limited to human form, and not as physically strong (I don’t think) as the werewolves. In such a situation, both species benefit from the mix and you wind up with something that is “stronger than either.” There’s really not that much to add to the notion here, because the whole movie series revolves around that plot point. They have their vampire-werewolves and they have several two hour movies to develop the theme in, compared to my mere few hundred words of text. Still, I should probably say something. A vampire-werewolf in Underworld, if I recall, gains a limited shape-changing ability, and also loses the weaknesses of each respective species. He is no longer affected by silver or sunlight. So, the only way to kill him is to rip him to pieces. And if that is your plan, since he is unusually strong, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the vampire-werewolf. For myself, since I prefer my vampires like Dracula, I see only a limited benefit in the combination, if that. The vampire is already in possession of much of the werewolf’s strengths, so the combination is of limited utility.

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