Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter 53: In Which The Military Suddenly Doesn't Care About the Mob

Previously in Varney the Vampire: Varney keeps a wine cellar full of blood. Maybe.

(Finally, my Internet connection is back! It's like it knows when I'm trying to make a blog post, or something.)

So, this chapter begins with the mob setting Varney's house on fire, just in case he's still hiding in there. And then there's this whole thing about how if vampires got married they wouldn't want to live forever and ha ha women are awful isn't that hilarious.

And then the military shows up and everyone's like, "Ho hum, can't prove who did what so might as well not worry about it. Serves Varney right for not getting out of town when people started accusing him of vampirism." Seriously?

I feel terrible for this being so short as well as late but I swear to God that is all that happens.

Chapter 54: In Which Varney Obviously Isn't Dead -- He's the Title Character

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapter 52: In Which Varney Makes a Cameo

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The mob's attack is drawn out about three chapters longer than necessary.

Chapter 52 (THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE MOB AND SIR FRNCIS VARNEY. -- THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE. -- THE WINE CELLARS.) begins with what is probably the most egregious padding I've seen so far in Varney the Vampire:
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above....
"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.
"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they.
Either that or it's an attempt to attract younger readers to the story. "See Dick run. See Jane run. See Dick stake the vampire. Stake, Dick, stake!"

Then the mob comes across Varney, and what can I say about Varney except that I love him.
"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest of smiles, "pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension on your part. The visit is kind."
It's just amazing how subtle he is, how his calmness is so consistently the most threatening thing about him. On the one hand it works because it's a bit crazymaking -- "he's acting so calm and clueless, perhaps he's not a vampire after all and we're just imagining all this" -- and on the other hand it speaks to just how powerful the vampire is -- if you're about to attack someone and he's so confident that he doesn't even try to defend himself, either he's monumentally stupid or you're about to get f***ed.

Of course, Varney's bluffing a little, because rather than face the mob he mysteriously disappears. Which segues nicely into the next few hundred words of padding, which essentially amount to "where did he go?" and "he's a vampire!" repeated ad nauseum.

The really interesting bit in this chapter, however, comes after the mob raid Varney's wine cellar:
"What are you drinking?"
"What wine?"
"Danged if I know," was the reply. "It's wine, I suppose; for I know it ain't beer nor spirits; so it must be wine."
"Are you sure it ain't bottled men's blood?"
"Bottled blood, man! Who knows what a vampyre drinks? It may be his wine. He may feast upon that before he goes to bed of a night, drink anybody's health, and make himself cheerful on bottled blood!"
"Oh, danged! I'm so sick; I wish I hadn't taken the stuff. It may be as you say, neighbour, and then we be cannibals."
"Or vampyres."
"There's a pretty thing to think of."
Vampires disguising their blood as wine -- another vampire trope I had no idea showed up so early. (Any early vampire lit experts know of an earlier fictional appearance? I checked what I knew of but couldn't find one.) The suggestion, of course, causes the mob to become paranoid and dump all the wine.

But was Varney's wine cellar actually filled with blood? We've seen Varney refuse wine in the past, suggesting that he can't consume any food or drink besides blood, so why would he keep so much wine in the house? On the other hand, he has food and drink available when Henry and Marchdale visit, so he must keep it around for guests as well as to keep up appearances.

The main problem, however, is simply that (unless any blood-drinkers in the comments care to correct me on this) blood tastes nothing like wine, so if the mob just thinks the wine tastes a little funny I'm going to chalk that one up to their paranoia. I've seen the "vampire tricks human into drinking blood by pretending it's wine" trope in other vampire fiction, which seems to rely on the nonsensical premise of "if it looks vaguely similar it must taste the same."

People who believe that, remind me never to eat anything you cook.

Chapter 53: In Which The Military Suddenly Doesn't Care About the Mob

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter 51: In Which Conveniently, No One Gets Hurt

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The mob try to attack Varney by knocking on the door.

I know I've been picking on chapter titles too often lately. But really, I was surprised by the title of Chapter 51 (THE ATTACK UPON THE VAMPYRE'S HOUSE. -- THE FURY OF THE ATTACK. -- THE FORCING OF THE DOORS, AND THE STRUGGLE.). With all the trouble trying to knock on the door in the previous chapter, I'd have thought it would take them until at least Chapter 52 to figure out that they should try to force it.

The mob, despite being my favorite character for a while, has quickly fallen from my favor. Oh, how fickle the minds of readers (and the characterization of JMR!). At any rate, I rather like the person who's opening the door and mocking them after their ineffectual attempts to open it: "You had better cease that kind of annoyance."

So he tries to scare the mob off with a gun, but conveniently can't aim well enough to kill anyone. Then there's a needless repeat of the mob's conversation from earlier in the chapter ("Let's kill the vampire so he doesn't suck our blood while we sleep!" "Hurrah!").

Then the mob actually makes a successful attack, and I'm not sure where their sudden competence comes from. Although conveniently none of the servants get killed, just knocked out -- and you know what, I'm finding JMR's tone a little weird in these "conveniently no one got hurt!" lines. I mean, with all his previous tut-tutting about how awful and immoral the mob was, you'd think killing innocent humans on the way to a vampire would be a good way to show how evil they were. But for some reason JMR abruptly switched to an (occasionally funny, I admit) comedy in the previous chapter, and once again I'm stuck not quite knowing what his point is and where he's going.

But in the next chapter Varney actually converses with the mob, so that should be something, at least.

Chapter 52: In Which Varney Makes a Cameo

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chapter 50: In Which JMR is a Chapter Behind

Previously in Varney the Vampire: The mob are arrested in the most boring way imaginable.

As we start Chapter 50 (THE MOB'S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S. -- THE ATTEMPT TO GAIN ADMISSION.) -- wait, isn't that the exact same chapter title as the previous chapter? F*** you, JMR.

Thankfully in this one, the mob actually does arrive at Varney's house, and predictably starts clamoring for his death. In tones of "rage and disappointment," apparently, which just makes me picture the mob wagging their fingers at Varney and sternly warning him that if he doesn't start being a good little vampire they'll make him sit in the corner without his supper.

And then Varney would slaughter them all and drink his supper from their blood-spurting wounds. The end.

But let's return to the actual story. Somehow the members of the mob who escaped before the others were arrested got a tip that Varney would be at home, because where else would you hide when a mob was coming to kill you?

Their plan to defeat him is as follows:

  1. Approach quietly, so as not to warn him.
  2. Knock on the door.
  3. Prop the door open with a stick so they can force their way in.
  4. ???
  5. Profit!
Or something to that effect. It predictably goes awry when no one answers the door, leading to this wonderful line:
The knock for admission produced no effect; and, after waiting three or four minutes, it was very provoking to find such a wonderful amount of caution and cunning completely thrown away.
Not knowing what else to do, they knock again, and I rather like this little exchange, too:
"Well?" said the man who appeared at the little opening.
"Oh," said he who had knocked; "I -- "
"I -- that is to say -- ahem! Is Sir Francis Varney within?"
"I say, is Sir Francis Varney within?"
"Well; you have said it!"
"Ah, but you have not answered it."
"Well, is he at home?"
"I decline saying; so you had better, all of you, go back to the town again, for we are well provided with all material to resist any attack you may be fools enough to make."
And so the chapter ends on the biggest cliffhanger of all time, with the mob scratching their heads and probably wondering if they should just try knocking again.

(SPOILER: That's exactly what they do in Chapter 51.)

Sponsored Post: Coolest Vampire Art Gallery

Time for another sponsored post -- The Coolest Vampire Art Gallery! I haven't seen enough vampire art galleries to know if this is the coolest, but it seems pretty cool to me. The site has several categories of vampire art, including posters for Dracula films, female vampires (I found some particularly nice stuff here, but I was having trouble with direct links), and (of course) Twilight.

Of particular interest to vampire artists: the new site owner of The Coolest Vampire Art Gallery has set up a section for members to display and sell their own vampire artwork. You can set up a gallery for free to promote your work, or sell prints through the site for a fee.

So go check out The Coolest Vampire Art Gallery while you're waiting for me to write a real post tonight!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Digression: Vampire Story vs. Story with Vampires

This is a bit rambly. Consider yourself warned.

So this question came into my mind when I was watching Blood Ties (3 a.m. Eastern time on Lifetime! not that I stay up that late) and started comparing it to Forever Knight. There are a great many differences between the shows, but the major difference is the presence of the vampire.

In Forever Knight, Nick is the center of the story, and his struggle against his vampire nature is the driving force of the show's long-term story arc. In Blood Ties, on the other hand, the story is about a human, Vicki. Henry helps introduce her to the world of the paranormal, and the fact that he's a vampire lends a particular tone to the show, but the main story wouldn't change much if he were a different kind of supernatural creature.

But then again, you could say that about any story. When there are only so many basic plots and it's the details that make the stories different, it's not really fair to randomly swap out those details and claim you're keeping the essence of the story.

I haven't fully thought this through, but I wanted to open it up for discussion: what's the difference between a vampire story and a story with vampires in it, or is the difference even significant enough to be worth noting?