Friday, July 30, 2010

Digression: I Suck Again

Meant to post something today to make up for missing Wednesday, but had a hard time getting through this next chapter.

Instead, started reading Fred Saberhagen's novelization of Bram Stoker's Dracula for Book of the Movie.

It has vampires, so it is totally relevant.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Digression: The Vampyre

Sorry for the missed post on Wednesday. Here instead of a real update is a post about The Vampyre by David Campton, as mentioned in my sleeping pill-induced post about my vampire-related reading list. This isn't a proper review, just a few scattered thoughts on the book.

Let me first say that I don't like the Polidori's "The Vampyre" very much. I feel bad criticizing it too much, especially the plagiarism aspect, because of the circumstances surrounding it: in short, Polidori never meant for the story to be published. But the main thing for me is that it's written in that 19th century short story writing style I detest, where the story doesn't really take place in real time but in narration that glosses over the specifics of the actions -- rather like I'm reading a summary of a longer, better book.

So it feels like "The Vampyre" would be a good candidate for a novelization, and that's probably still true, but David Campton's novella isn't it. The characters are boring, Ruthven isn't terribly scary, and there's a lot of padding in the beginning of the story, before Polidori's original plotline really starts.

As for the ending -- it's not really a happy ending, which puts it a step above the other adaptations I've read (I mean, I love Der Vampyr, but seriously, not everything needs a happy ending). However, it's a stupid ending. Basically, Aubrey is able to save his sister from marrying the Earl of Marsden (i.e., Ruthven), and together they defeat the vampire by... having him accidentally trip backwards onto a fishing spear. And then they leave his body lying in the moonlight, so he recovers and escapes. So the characters can't defend themselves without deus ex machina and then are too stupid to use the deus ex machina to their advantage, hurrah!

Know of any novelizations of "The Vampyre" and are they any good? All I've seen are plays and operas, which range from okay to very good on their own and bad to meh in terms of an adaptation.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chapter 44: In Which There Are No Chapters 41 through 43

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Charles and the others can't decide whether they want to kill the vampire or protect him. I can't decide why I should care.

Chapters 41 through 43 of Varney the Vampire do not exist. This is ostensibly a result of the many errors Penny Dreadful printers made; as far as mistakes go, misnumbering chapters is certainly better than misremembering your own characters' names. Based on the content of the last few chapters, however, I wouldn't be surprised if Chapters 41 through 43 existed and disappeared, but were so convolutedly repetitive that we don't even notice.

Anyway, Chapter 44 (VARNEY'S DANGER, AND HIS RESCUE. -- THE PRISONER AGAIN, AND THE SUBTERRANEAN VAULT.) brings us back to the prisoner, whom we met all the way back in Chapter 29. Again, this is a very well-written scene, capturing the spirit of the prisoner's hopelessness with only one or two laughably over-the-top lines. The brief section ends with Varney appearing, having escaped from the angry mob, and the prisoner's reaction:
"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life together.
Both of the prisoner scenes display a wonderful subtlety otherwise unseen in JMR's writing. We don't know who the prisoner is; we don't know why he's there; we don't know what Varney has to do with him -- but it keeps my interest because it feels like deliberate suspense building, not unintentional confusion.

Meanwhile, back at Bannerworth Hall, more redundancy ensues. Flora wants to leave. Chillingworth is too much of a stubborn prick to believe that he actually saw a vampire. Blah, blah, blah, it's all so boring. The Admiral generously offers to relocate the Bannerworths (well, less "offers" than "you're coming with me because I say so"), but even that just feels like a rehash of the scene where he buys Bannerworth Hall.

Finally, we return back to the mob. A strange person who "knew something of vampyres" informs them that all the recent deaths in town were the result of the vampire; therefore Varney must be stopped, and the bodies must be exhumed so they cannot become vampires themselves.

The rest of the scene is clearly meant to showcase how savage and irrational the mob is for taking the suggestion to heart, but it doesn't make sense because we are in a universe where vampires exist. The people in this story have evidence that vampires exist, and in this universe people killed by vampires do seem to come back as vampires themselves. Digging up the bodies of the recently deceased isn't pleasant or "proper," but I can't condemn the mob for acting more rationally and realistically than the main characters.

Chapter 45: In Which the Mob is My New Favorite Character

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Digression: A Funny Video & My Reading List

Yesterday, I moved around pill bottles in my bathroom so they weren't scattered around on the counter. Today, I accidentally took a sleeping pill when I woke up instead of the pill I normally take in the morning. Obviously the old system was working just fine.

Anyway, I owe you a chapter especially since I just did a digression on Sunday, but I don't think my brain has that kind of focus. So, here's a funny video from the guy who does the "I'm a Marvel, I'm a DC" parodies.

Also, let's talk about my vampire-related reading list. I also organized my books last night, so I got a good look at the stuff I have around and keep forgetting to read.

  • Skinners: Blood Blade, by Marcus Pelegrimas -- I found this at the library the other day and thought I'd give it a try. I can't comment much on the story since I've only just gotten past the obligatory-backstory-of-how-this-guy-became-a-vampire-hunter bits, but while I'm not in love with the writing style I think the author's doing interesting things with the vampire mythos so far.
  • Night Child, by Jes Battis -- I picked this up when Half Price Books was having a sale. Seems like a "CSI -- but with vampires!" thing, which I kind of like, although I'm only about a chapter in.
  • The Vampire Files: Bloodlist, by P.N. Elrod -- I bought this six months ago and promptly lost it. Found it again in the move. I have heard so many good things about this series and keep putting off reading it.
  • The Vampyre, retold by David Campton -- Found this on clearance for $1; it's a short novel based on John Polidori's "The Vampyre," put out by this company Fleshcreepers which apparently sells retold horror classics for young readers. I skimmed through it enough to see that they the author gave the story a happy ending, which is bulls***, but it piqued my interest nonetheless.
  • Laws of the Blood: The Hunt, by Susan Sizemore -- Another one I read a few chapters of and then forgot about. I enjoyed Susan Sizemore's Forever Knight tie-in novel, but haven't read any of her other stuff yet.
Comments on any of these? Like/dislike/recommendations?

Finally, I've been working on a new project, Book of the Movie, for which I just put up the introductory post I wrote a few days ago. It's been a while since I did anything with video (I used to edit music videos for my old fandom in high school), but I'm just really psyched about sharing another one of my bizarre and obscure hobbies.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Digression: Vampire Mob

For those of you who haven't seen this already, I found an interesting link at Suburban Vampire yesterday for a new web series called Vampire Mob. From their press release:
Vampire Mob follows Don Grigioni, a hitman and vampire, who just found out his mother-in-law is moving in, for eternity. Don became a vampire because "it was a good fit" for is nocturnal life of crime. He never planned on biting his wife, Annie, and making her immortal, "but then I got hungry." Annie felt bad that her mom would die one day and bit her, never discussing it with Don, and now mom needs a place to stay and blood to drink. With Don’s hit business slowing down, the last thing he needs is more "grocery shopping" to do.
They're releasing the episodes based on how many views they get, rather than on a set schedule, with the first episode up already on the Vampire Mob website.

I'll reserve my comments until I've seen the whole thing, since the first episode is basically just exposition. But I noticed in the previews for Episode 2 that it has Kirsten Vangsness in it, whom I absolutely adore, so I plan to keep watching.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chapter 40: In Which the Mob is Generally Useless

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Someone finally figures out how to kill Varney. Somehow this makes them evil.

Every time I think I've read the most boring chapter in Varney the Vampire, JMR ups the ante. It's like he's mocking me from beyond the grave. Anyway, Chapter 40 (THE POPULAR RIOT. -- SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER. -- THE SUGGESTION AND ITS RESULTS.) is one of those chapters where nothing really happens and even the interesting characters suck.

First, we get this extended rant about how evil women are for gossiping, because clearly the readers have forgotten about the rant at the end of Chapter 39 already. Chillingworth feels terrible for mentioning anything to his wife -- JMR seems to have forgotten that Chillingworth has continually dismissed the possibility that Varney is a vampire or that vampires exist in the first place.

The mob searches for Varney so they can kill him:
"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanestest. You've only to take a hedge stake, and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."
Aside from the amusing concern about how the wooden stake might give splinters to the vampire you're trying to kill with it, the detail of driving the stake through his stomach (or "poking" it -- could you sound any less badass when you're talking about killing a vampire?) is interesting. I'd always taken "through the heart" for granted, but it makes a bit more sense to me due to the vampire's connection with blood specifically and the heart being one of your most important organs in general.

Then again, all of the methods for killing vampires are fairly arbitrary, especially when you get to some of the odder ways to kill vampires in folklore, like putting a lemon in its mouth or sprinkling poppy seeds over its grave.

So Henry and Chillingworth try to dissuade the mob, but they just go off to search the woods. They plan to defend the vampire, because they're just that f***ing honorable ("We'll have a fight for it yet," says the Admiral; "they sha'n't murder even a vampyre in cold blood"). It's Henry's reasoning, as usual, that makes no sense:
"No, no," said Henry; "no more violence, there has been enough -- there has been enough."
CONSISTENCY, PLEASE! Weren't you just last chapter dueling the vampire? Didn't you shoot the vampire with the intent to kill him, then receive the bullet back from the vampire and see that it did him no harm? You've already acknowledged (unless things change in the next chapter) that Varney is a vampire. If you haven't done enough violence to kill him yet, there hasn't been enough violence.

How can I manage to give a rat's ass about what happens to the characters when I can't even understand their basic motivations? What do Henry and the others want -- to kill the vampire, avenging Charles and protecting Flora, or to defend Varney against accusations of vampirism and threats of death, because... the plot requires it?

Because JMR feels some sadistic need to pad his word count, we get this random scene where Jack knocks some guy into a ditch (because... I'm not even going to worry about why); Marchdale delivers a speech about Varney's motives that should inspire Varney/Marchdale slashers everywhere; Varney escapes to the Ancient Ruins of Ruinyness and somehow manages to disappear; and when the mob catches up to him we're treated to a complete rehash of the scene where they search for him in his house, except different because now they're in ruins.

Why can't we go back to Flora? Her characterization may not be consistent, but at least I understand what's going on with her and why.

Chapter 44: In Which There Are No Chapters 41 through 43

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chapter 39: In Which the Duel Goes Awry

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The duel is planned. Marchdale gets jealous. It doesn't seem to affect the story one way or the other.

At the end of the previous chapter, Varney was preparing to tell the Admiral what to do in the event of his death. In Chapter 39 (THE STORM AND THE FIGHT. -- THE ADMIRAL'S REPUDIATION OF HIS PRINCIPAL.), Varney says that if Henry "should chance to send a pistol-bullet through any portion of my anatomy, prejudicial to the prolongation of my existence," the Admiral should lay him in the moonlight.

We saw the moon heal Varney back in Chapter 5. The idea goes back to Polidori's "The Vampyre," wherein the vampire is resurrected by moonlight (and, of course, my third favorite opera Der Vampyr), although I'm not sure whether or not it has its roots in folklore.

It's a moot point in this chapter, though, because Varney doesn't die. Henry shoots him, while Varney refuses to fire back. The Admiral scolds him, saying that refusing to fire is "not the proper thing," but Varney responds:
"Why, look you here," said Sir Francis Varney, stepping forward and placing his hand to his neckerchief; "look you here; if Mr. Henry Bannerworth should demand another fire, he may do so with the same bullet."
I love how Varney's playing with them here. Will they learn anything from this experience? Since the Bannerworth saga goes on until Chapter 100ish, I'm not holding out hope. Varney could bare his teeth and drink a human dry while being pelted with bullets and grenades to no effect and juggling neon signs reading "HULLO I AM AN INDESTRUCTIBLE VAMPIRE" and somehow Henry Bannerworth would still think it reasonable to challenge him to a duel. For honor, or something.

Anyway, the duel ends abruptly when a crowd of women, fueled by rumors from Dr. Chillingworth's wife, show up to burn the vampire. Varney high-tails it out of there. JMR goes off on a rant about how evil women always gossip and can't be trusted, but if they're a serious threat to the vampire while five men with guns can't figure out how to kill him, more power to them.

Chapter 40: In Which the Mob is Generally Useless