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When Vampires Came to England

varney_0003-1-479x600By Margo Bond Collins.

Much has been written lately about the sudden explosion of vampires onto the literary and popular-culture scene, from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, to Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries and their HBO television version True Blood, to the hundreds of paranormal romances and urban fantasies with fanged heroes and villains. With this resurgence of vampires has come a renewed interest in older vampire tales, as well. And there are many of them to be found!

The most commonly known of these earlier vampire stories is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of course. Dracula has become the model for countless vampires since its publication in 1897. One of the most striking elements of Dracula, and one that a number of scholars have touched upon, is the vampire’s journey to England, often interpreted as a xenophobic British attitude toward Eastern Europeans and Jews. When Dracula comes to England, he threatens the very heart of the Empire.

But Dracula was not the first vampire in England.

In March 1732, several London newspapers—including the London Journal, which seems to have first published the news—carried the story of Arnold Paole (rendered “Paul” in most English reports), a Hungarian who had apparently become a “vampire” after his death. Other newspapers quickly picked up the report and all included the same salient points: Arnold Paul had been attacked by a vampire during his lifetime and had returned after his death to haunt and murder his loved ones. Determined to exterminate the menace, local officials dug up Paul’s body, staked it through the heart, and burned it to ashes. These reports led to what has been termed the “Eighteenth-Century Vampire Controversy,” a debate over the existence of vampires that would eventually engross a number of clergymen; cause the exhumation, staking, and burning of bodies from countless eastern European gravesites; and end with the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sending her personal physician, Gerhard van Swieten, to investigate. He concluded that vampires did not exist, and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies.

Those 1732 reports probably constituted the earliest uses of the word “vampire” in English, despite the Oxford English Dictionary’s claim that the word actually appeared two years later. By 1734, vampires had already been much discussed in England as in the rest of Europe, and by 1740, at least one French clergyman—Dom Augustin Calmet—had written a treatise speculating about the possibility of the reality of vampires; this treatise was translated into English, then reprinted and often quoted.

Thus vampires were haunting England long before the Count appeared. Those of us who write about vampires owe much to Bram Stoker, but Dracula was only the latest in a long line of vampires to appear in English print.

I’m including a snippet below from one of those early vampire news stories. Enjoy!

From “Foreign Advices” in The Gentleman’s Magazine, March, 1732.

From Medreyga in Hungary, That certain dead Bodies called Vampyres, had kill’d several Persons by sucking out all their Blood. The Commander in Chief, and Magistrates of the Place were severally examin’d and unanimously declared, that about 5 years ago, a certain Heyduke[1] named Arnold Paul, in his Life Time was heard to say, he had been tormented by a Vampyre, and that for a Remedy he had eaten some of the Earth of the Vampyre’s Grave, and rubbed himself with their Blood. That 20 or 30 Days after the Death of the said Arnold Paul, several Persons complained that they were tormented; and that he had taken away the Lives of 4 Persons. To put a Stop to such a Calamity, the Inhabitants having consulted their Hadnagi[2] took up his Body, 40 Days after he had been dead, and found it fresh and free from Corruption; that he bled at the Nose, Mouth and Ears, pure and florid Blood; that his Shroud and Winding Sheet were all over Bloody; and that his Finger and Toe Nails were fallen off, and new ones grown in their room. By these Circumstances they were perswaded that he was a Vampyre, and, according to Custom, drove a Stake thro’ his Heart; at which he gave a horrid Groan. They burnt his Body to Ashes, and threw them into his Grave. ’Twas added, that those who have been tormented or killed by the Vampyres become Vampyres when they are dead. Upon which Account they served several other dead Bodies in the same manner.

Margo Bond Collins

Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Her novel about accidental vampire slayer Elle Dupree, Legally Undead, comes out from World Weaver Press in 2014.

[1] A term meaning originally “robber, marauder, brigand” (a sense still retained in Serbia and adjacent countries), which in Hungary became the name of a special body of foot-soldiers (to whom the rank of nobility and a territory were given in 1605), and in Poland of the liveried personal followers or attendants of the nobles. (OED)

[2] Generally translated in the eighteenth century as “bailiff”; clearly a public official.

Should horror be its own genre?

Genre discussion on World Weaver PressIs horror a genre, or is it an aesthetic? This guest post by Elizabeth Twist, a writer and life-long horror fan, seeks to answer that question and suggest a new understanding of “horror” in film and fiction.

I am a horror fan and much of what I write is horror – or at least, I think of it that way. I am frequently subject to the following exchange:

Well-Meaning Interlocutor: “What do you like to read?”
Me: “I enjoy horror.”
W-MI: “Oh, I hate horror. It’s disgusting and awful. How can you like it?”

I enjoy challenging people on this point. When they say they hate horror, often they mean they hate gore porn or slasher movies. Though I personally appreciate even the gorier manifestations of horror, the reality is, you can find horror in all sorts of flavours. Do you like the original Twilight Zone? Did you thrill to Poltergeist when you were a tween? Ever dip into Stephen King’s massive oevre? Love the spooky chills of classic movies like The Innocents? How about your annual viewing of A Christmas Carol? Any fond memories of Scooby Doo? Casper the Friendly Ghost? Beetlejuice?

All of these works have horror elements. Some are firmly placed in the horror canon; others merely dip their toes in the horror pool.

The problem lies in definitions. For many people, horror is “that gross stuff I don’t like.” It is as if we each have our own sliding scale of what we can handle and what we can’t, and for those who haven’t thought it through, horror is anything that exceeds their tolerances.

It is time for a new understanding of horror. Read the rest of this entry

Vampires, ghosts, habits and edits

It’s time for some summer social visits as we drop in on the blogs of Rebecca Roland and Susan Abel Sullivan, take a gander at our growing Pinterest collection, and touch base on the last week of Specter Spectacular open submissions.

Rebecca Roland, author of the forthcoming Shards of History (details coming soon!), blogs at Spice of Life. This week, she’s doing the time warp, drafting new novels, and finishing revisions. Do you have pre-writing habits you must follow before the words can flow? Rebecca Roland did. Then she figured out how to bypass all the ritual and get down to the writing — a necessary skill for every mom writing with young children at home! Read how she did it in her post “Cluck Like a Chicken, Bark Like a Dog.”

Susan Abel Sullivan, whose collection of short work Cursed: Wickedly Fun Stories came out this March, has been working on more short fiction according to her Twitter feed. Also on her Twitter: Pi, her new ball python. There’s pictures and much love for the newest reptilian addition to her family. This week, Susan Abel Sullivan counts down her top five favorite Dracula films in “Love Song for a Vampire” and asks who was your favorite on-screen Dracula?

World Weaver Press on Pinterest: Love pretty pictures? Love geekery? Love fairy tales? Love steampunk? Love treehouses? Love spooks and specters? We do. And we’ve created these boards and more, chock full of great images and links over on Pinterest. We even have an entire board dedicated to inspiring and celebrating our forthcoming anthology Specter Spectacular.

Speaking of which … Read the rest of this entry

Books & Pieces: weekly round-up

WWPOur weekly quick round-up of news and factoids, articles and more that struck our fancy, tickled our interest, and had us scratching our heads. For readers, writers, and genre fans of any form.

World Weaver Press opened to unsolicited queries on May 1. Our open submission window started on Tuesday and we already have an inbox full of interesting queries. The window will remain open through the summer then close again until 2013. Additionally, our listing went live this week.

This is my pick for top article of the week — highly recommended: Dear Speculative Fiction, Elizabeth Bear writes an open letter to the genre of science fiction on Clarkesworld this month wherein she soothes and cajoles but ultimately suggests that the fun has gone out of the relationship when spec fic started taking itself too seriously. Bear writes:

I’m as guilty as anyone of taking myself too seriously.

But for you, it’s become an addiction. You seem to think that nothing fun can have value; that only grimdark portentousness and dystopia mean anything. You wallow in human suffering and despair, and frankly—it makes me tired.

I remember when we were younger. You were so clever, so playful. So much fun. We had some good times. You could make me laugh and think at the same time. You made my pulse race.

And later:

You can have a sense of humor too. It’s okay. We’ll still like you. We’ll still take you seriously. We just think it’d be best for all of us if you could let yourself unbend just a little.

I know. It’s easier to get people to take you seriously when you’re all grit and pus and urban decay—or all gut wounds and bureaucratic incompetence, for that matter. It seems like a quick route to street cred. But the thing is, real people generally aren’t miserable all the time. Even in horrible situations, they find ways to take a little pleasure, to crack jokes. Dying people and homicide cops and soldiers are generally really funny.

I want us to have a little pleasure again too.

Meanwhile, “These are your kids on books” poster goes viral according to GalleyCatIt’s a great poster that you may have already seen on Facebook and Twitter, possibly on the World Weaver accounts as we’ve shared it on both places!

It’s not writer’s block, it’s a series of obstacles the writer has to overcome — or at least that’s the understanding  io9′s “The 10 Types of Writers’ Block (and How to Overcome Them)” will leave you with. But even if you’re not keen on reading about writers’ issues, the article is chock full of fabulous old school covers from pulp fiction magazines. It’s worth checking out for that alone.

The Addams Family was originally a comic strip and this was their first published panel. See other debut comic strips of some of the most famous cartoons here.

The most spectacular supermoon in years will grace the skies on Saturday. According to this Smithsonian article, the moon will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than when it is on the far side of its orbit.

People have joined in our “who was your first vampire?” discussion all week! See the post that started it: “You never forget your first vampire.” Lestat, Lost Boys, Nick Night, Angel, Spike, Dark Shadows, Bunnicula, Nosferatu, Dracula(s), and a cartoon that I’d almost forgotten, the vegetarian Count Duckula!

For more links to interesting articles and genre related cartoons, check out World Weaver Press’s Facebook page, updated daily.

You never forget your first vampire

Who was your first vampire? Recent news of the Dark Shadows remake staring Johnny Depp and the passing of the original Dark Shadows star Johnathan Frid have prompted those of us here at World Weaver to contemplate the first vampires we encountered in film, fiction, and television.

From Rebecca Roland, author of the forthcoming Shards of HistoryWhen the movie The Lost Boys came out, I was 12 years old. I developed an immediate crush, not on the Coreys, but on Keifer Sutherland who played David, the ultimate bad boy and leader of a band of vampires in Santa Carla, California. With a perfect vampire sneer and contempt for the living, Keifer managed to scare me and send a pleasant little chill down my spine.

Looking back on the movie now, I think David and his vampire gang represented the pitfalls we all must navigate as we’re growing up, and so that movie spoke to me on many different levels.

And did I mention the fabulous soundtrack? “People are Strange” still takes me back to that movie and that moment in my life. Junior high is one of the strangest times in a person’s life, isn’t it? Things change so quickly at that age — not just our bodies, but our personal tastes as well — as we start to try on and discard different personas.

From Eileen Wiedbrauk, World Weaver Press Editor-in-chief: Once you discount Bunnicula — the rabbit who sucked carrots of their fleshy, orange color — and The Count from Sesame Street who never actually bit anyone in spite of his uber-pointy felt fangs, the first vampire I ever encountered was Nick Knight of the TV show Forever Knight.

Nick, played by Geraint Wyn Davies, was a detective trying to repay humanity for his sins while constantly being tempted back to the dark side by his maker, Lacroix. But I think my favorite character was the sassy-smart doctor, Natalie, doing her best to try and help Nick’s medical “affliction” through such non-effective remedies as herbal tea.

The show aired in the middle of the night — possibly because it was a Canadian show our local station had picked up as filler — but whatever the reason, my mother would program the VCR to record and then we’d watch the episodes together the following afternoon.

The series ending was tragic and haunts me to this day — Lacroix telling Nick, “You took too much.” In spite of all his efforts, Nick can’t overcome his faults — it’s him not his vampire nature that is his undoing  and that one thing leads to the destruction of everything he loves.

From Susan Abel Sullivan, author of Cursed: Wickedly Fun Stories and the forthcoming Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama: My first vampire was Barnabas Collins on the original gothic soap opera Dark Shadows.  I was only four or five years old when the show first aired, but Barnabas was the reason I kept watching.  The wonderfully talented Jonathon Frid, a Shakespearean actor with a Master’s in Drama from Yale, brought a deeply textured performance to a character that very easily could have been campy in the hands of a lesser actor.

I had a major crush on Barnabas even though I was pretty young.  Surprisingly, Frid was a middle-aged man with average looks, nothing at all like the leading men of that time such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, or Rock Hudson.  But he brought such heart and pathos to the character that I couldn’t help falling in love with him.  And neither could the ladies of Dark Shadows such as Josette DuPre, Angelique Bouchard, Roxanne Drew, and Dr. Julia Hoffman

I believe Barnabas is the first instance of the vampire as a tragic hero in film, TV, or movies.  Dracula was portrayed as a villain by Bela Lugosi in the 1930s and Christopher Lee in the 1950s, and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire‘s tragic vampire hero Louis was not published until 1975, four years after Dark Shadows’ last episode.  The character of Nick Knight from the TV show Forever Knight owes quite a bit to Barnabas Collins, not only in Nick’s quest to reclaim his humanity, but also in the character of Dr. Natalie Lambert, a coroner, who like Dr. Julia Hoffman on Dark Shadows, attempts to cure Nick of vampirism with medical science.

Our discussion has also dug up some interesting links and related articles.

We also came to realize, while searching for the photos you see above, that an important part of being an on-screen vampire is having a really great coat, preferably black with pointy lapels.

And so we turn this question over to you — who was your first vampire? Leave us a comment and let us know!


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