Apr 1, 2013

Scribble, scribble, scribble, Mr& (2) --- Dracula (2)

(This is about Part II of the Green Eyes. Go here for previous post. A weeklong "King Dracula" contest will enliven the Georgia Beach Festweek, central to this second part)

Let's interupt us briefly here and go do something to justify the header and talk about vampires.

The various tribes involved in the competition will share the general inclination of play-acting vampires, but differentiate according to specific traits. Well, what could those traits be? Lets got to the source then: "Dracula," by Bram Stoker.

We naively thought the idea originated with Stoker but got it wrong, of course. Wikipedia tells you that:
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures, and may go back to "prehistoric times", the term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.
And while we are at it --- you see, it's actually useful to do this, forcing some measure of discipline upon a vacillating author --- lets quote some more from another, newly discovered Wiki page, a really unbelievable page that provides a matrix of vampire traits crossed with sources (folklore, fiction, media), and differentiates between a totality of 32 traits:

Skin color, fangs, reflection, shadow, (physical) attractiveness, stake (would it kill them), sunlight, decapitation, drowning, fire, silver (bullet, possibly), garlic, holy symbols, running water, invitation, arithmomania (we don't even know what that is), immortality, enhanced strength, enhanced speed, unnatural healing, flight, shapeshifting, psychic powers, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, fertility, means of reproduction (bite, transfusion, consumption of vampire blood), demonic possession, diet, effect on victims and OTHERS   --- WANSTW (write a novel, see the world), arithmomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder inducing subjects to count objects or actions, and pyrokinesis is a word coined by Stephen King, referring to the ability to create or control fire strictly by thought (we'll get to Stephen King soon, by the way, perhaps 3 posts down the line).

Bela Lugosi, the original movie Dracula


Recall, this is only one dimension of the matrix, the other dimension stretches across sources. We count 92 sources, among which Count Duckula (a duck), Bunnicula (a rabbit), Twilight (n° 49), Stoker's Dracula (n° 6), Ann Rice's vampire chronicles, etc. And we thought we knew something (about vampires).

Well, one thing is clear, any play with tribe-differentiating traits in Part II will have to be highly stylized. We may have a few nerds around who will know these things and occasionally bicker/fight about them, but serious vampires will float above the details and concentrate on the larger picture, ie. how to win the prize (we forgot to mention that the winner of the pageant will be promised a hefty award, anything from. Plus, we can actually assume that players have access to the internet and will be able to call up episodic knowledge at will, the days of Trivial Pursuit are gone. It will be very difficult to go into any detail here without getting pedantic and boring, the focus will be on the well-known traits with funny potential, fangs, reflection, garlic (?), means of reproduction, what else? We have no idea at the moment.
Vampires never age, or do they?
Okay, lets somehow try to get to Stoker's Dracula, which is singled out as the core publication of the entire genre by Wikipedia. We read it. At least we tried. It starts out quite nicely with Jonathan Harker, a young, budding, Victorian lawyer being sent to visit Count Dracula at his Castle near the Borgo Pass to negotiate the purchase of property near London. The beginning is clearly the best part (as so often), Harker travels deeper and deeper into Romania and into the superstitious space of folklore and saga. He's all modern-day rationalistic innocence (my late girlfriend Michèle would have called him "stupid"), but the locals know better and hand him crucifixes and garlic rosaries when they learn of his plans to see the Count. "we seemed to dawdle through the country," "the women are very clumsy about the waist," the Slovaks wear "enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails," another female tribe wears "white undergarment with a long, double apron." Harker is already having second thoughts about his mission but feels that his "duty is imperative," the more so since his protestant education told him to regard crucifixes "in some measure [as] idolatrous." "Distant horizons seem jagged" among the "lofty steeps of the Carpathians" while the "road winds it serpentine way up the mountain" past "white gleam of falling water" as "the snowy mountain top still holds  the sunset." "Clouds wind through the valleys," horses are "urged to further exertions" (easy to get fictional mileage out of horse), "the crazy coach rocks on its great leather springs," "swayed like a boat tossed on a stormy sea," while "mountains frowns down upon us" as "we fly along."
Why are we quoting this? Good question.

It's not that we writer better than Stoker---obviously not---but his writing isn't great either, and his book, as all the others we are reading at the moment (Twilight, 50 Shades, etc) provide great lessons as to the trade-off between style and substance: really, the more style you have, the less substance you need (perhaps not such a new insight). So, lets concentrate on the substance then. Harker is being picked up by the Count's "diligence," we are followed, then almost chased by wolves over which the driver (Dracula in disguise, since Stoker's Count, in contradistinction to some movie versions, has no staff to talk of) appears to exert magical powers, there are "faint flickering blue flames" gleaming in the forest, (signs of hidden treasures now active on this 5th of May (some sort of Walpurgisnacht and Karl Marx's birthday, by the way)), the horses begin to "neigh and snort and plunge wildly," while the driver "shakes his reins," wolves do their "long agonized wailing," we "are hemmed in with trees" while "great frowning rocks" "guard us boldly" on either side of the "sandy road lying white before us" (reminding us nota bene of Bill Gates's book "The Road Ahead," published in 1995, which makes no mention of the internet), the "moon sails through the black clouds" (it, sometimes "she," does a lot of sailing in this book; Q: Where is the moon when we need it? A: There!), we arrive at the "vast, ruined castle whose broken battlements" do something, forgot what, and we meet the Count, who speaks very good, passably stilted English. The blue lights are forgotten.

Where is the moon when we need it --- along those lines, a bit un-PC, so I'm not going to translate a typical exchange from my childhood:

Buddy (points past my head): "Da ist ein Neger!" I turn around. He laughs.

Works all the time. Something of this effect (or actually more of this effect) rubs off on Dracula, so we could vary on this:

Dude One (points past Dude Two's head): "There's a vampire!" Dude Two turns around. Dude One laughs. Well ... the original version might work better.

Go here for the next post.

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