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Falling in Love with Vampires Before Twilight

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal blog

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I first discovered vampires through my mother. My mother is a voracious reader. I can remember trying to get her attention as a child as she sat in her rocking chair reading. Unless there was blood or advanced screaming, she didn’t look up. By the time I had hit my teens I had cruised through a great many of her sci-fi books. Around age fifteen I came across a fascinating book, The Dracula Tape, by Fred Saberhagen.

Dracula re-telling his version of the story? Cool.

But Mom said no. I couldn’t read it. What the…?

She said it would be better if I read Dracula first. And Mom was usually right, when it came to books. So I kept looking at Dracula. I didn’t really want to read it. It looked boring, stuffy and old. Now this is from someone who read The Scarlet Letter for fun, so I’m sure there was something else brewing when I looked at it. Teenage rebellion, book lover style.

But I did it. I gritted my teeth and checked it out from the school library. And I fell in love with Victorian Gothic. Not that I hadn’t read Jane Eyre, I had, but Dracula was different. It has all the roots of the modern paranormal romance, but it’s a horror story. A sensational tale for the English, who at that time were concerned about immigration and its effects on their culture. Sound familiar? Dracula was the ultimate evil immigrant.

I loved the book, and still do. The slow build of suspense as Jonathan Harker realizes he’s been drawn into a world of evil and is working for the devil himself. The three women who represent the horror of letting women be sexualized beings. And then there is the romance between Mina and Dracula where she’s contaminated by his evilness into becoming the same sort of degraded sexualized woman. Lock up the womenfolk boys, they might like the new guy better.

But of course no one really wants to become evil and Mina is saved by Jonathan’s steadfast love, Dr. Van Helsing, and that American chap. The three men pour their blood into her, keeping her chaste and eventually stalking Dracula back to his own country and killing the bastard.

Or so they thought.

Enter Fred Saberhagen and The Dracula Tape. It’s almost a hundred years later and Dracula sits in his car, near a cemetery, recording his memoirs. In a reasonable tone he recounts his version of the worst visit to a foreign country imaginable. Where he was accosted and accused and eventually driven back home. How he tried to save Lucy and Mina from the evil Dr. Van Helsing and his terrible blood transfusions. You see, Dr. Van Helsing transfused blood from all of the healthy young men, regardless of blood type. By sucking out the bad blood Dracula was simply trying to help.

He couldn’t save Lucy and eventually decided to turn her into a vampire, just because he could see, this had all been his fault. He wanted to give her her young life back. But Dr. Van Helsing and his crew broke into her grave and killed the newborn vamp. Dracula was determined not to let that happen to his beloved Mina. Yes, that’s right. He loves Mina, and Mina loves him. And who is he waiting by the cemetary for?

Mina.

Mina Harker, who has lived out her life waiting for him. Just to become a vampire and be with the one she truly loved all those years. She had a human life, and kids (you meet her descendants in other books) but true love conquers all and at the end of her days she’s able to become a vampire and be with Vlad.

Mom was right. Reading Dracula enhanced Saberhagen’s book immeasurably. Oh, I could have just watched the movie, but reading the details and then seeing how Saberhagen manipulates them to show how poor Dracula was persecuted, well, it’s the way it should be done. I fell in love with Vlad and I read all the sequels. It’s not romance, but it is paranormal or maybe urban fantasy. And if you are interested in vampires at all, and in the growth of the vampire novel, Saberhagen is the one to read. After Bram Stoker, of course.

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