Dracula Tape, The

The Dracula Tape
Review by Katy Dickinson, submitted on 29-Jul-1991

Reading this book reminds me of the experience of a friend of mine. She and I were classmates at Berkeley in English but I took my Milton class at a different time. I was blessed with a Milton teacher who actually was a Puritan at heart and gave us a very accurate picture of the way that a Puritan Christian of Milton's time would have thought. My friend Tia, on the other hand, got a very modern class. She realized after a while that, not only was she the only Christian in the class, she was the only one who had read any of the Bible or had any idea what Christianity was about. The rest of the class were convinced that Milton had written "Paradise Lost" as a paean to Lucifer. They were perfectly happy to forget Milton's own stated purpose for the poem:

That to the height of this great argument I may assert eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men.

Milton's making Satan an interesting character as a way of giving depth and scope to the story at hand is not the same as justifying or praising him. (The tale of an all-powerful God immediately swatting an out-of-line Archangel and his followers into Hell may be more likely than the story Milton tells, but it would not be very interesting to read.) However, to a reader entirely ignorant of Christianity (an audience for which Milton probably never intended his poem), this might not be clear.

To my mind, Bram Stoker was the Louis L'Amour of his day. He wrote meticulously researched stories with flat, predictable, characters and plot. His great work, Dracula, is memorable primarily because the title character is so unusual and intriguing. (I have also read The White Worm by Stoker and can't tell you much about the story, much less remember any of the characters.)

Stoker, like Milton, probably had to work hard to create such an attractively evil personality. However, Stoker built up his Dracula character in a moral context. Stoker's Dracula is set forth in contrast to the purity of Lucy and Mina and the devotion and heroism of their protectors.

Saberhagen approaches Dracula in a very different way. Saberhagen's character in The Dracula Tape, while going through the exact same actions as Stoker's, has no such moral context. He is aloof and cynical and has a good excuse for everything. It is not only Dracula himself who is so changed. Saberhagen brings Lucy and Mina to his level by having them initiate and seek after him as their lover of preference. He likewise degrades the men by having them solicit a whore on the train trip to Transylvania and then getting them into a silly and violent brawl with her pimp. Van Helsing is presented as a sadist who kills female vampires with strength coming from his unfulfilled sexual attraction for them and practices blood transfusions without regard to whether his patients lived or died.

The Saberhagen books are good popular fiction and fun to read; however, even after having read three books in his series, I doubt that I would be cheering on Dracula were I to re-read Stoker's work. Saberhagen presents his character as if he was the same as that of Bram Stoker but their contexts are so very different that I cannot think of them as having anything to do with each other.

When Larry Niven wrote Inferno, he extended the spirit of Dante's poem into the modern world without destroying the moral context. It is possible to learn something about Dante's great work by reading Niven's lesser one. This is not true of Saberhagen's Dracula books in relationship to Stoker's Dracula. It may be that Stoker's plot and title character are essentially too shallow to withstand extension into the modern world (as Dante's work does so gracefully) without becoming entirely different.

Both Stoker's Dracula and Saberhagen's series on Dracula are well worth reading, but don't expect Saberhagen to have written a sequel.

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?