Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bram Stoker

Today is the 165th birthday of a man who wrote 18 books in his lifetime, a dozen of which were novels, the fifth and most famous of which struck such a nerve that it’s still widely read today, and its influence is everywhere as it continues to inspire writers and artists all over the world.  If you were to approach people at random on the street and ask them who Bram Stoker was, you might get some blank stares or rapid blinking.  But ask who Dracula is and there will be no hesitation.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897.  There have been at least three stage adaptations of the novel.  Orson Welles launched The Mercury Theater on the Air in 1938 with a radio adaptation.  More than 200 movies have been made that feature Count Dracula.  And think of all the movies you’ve seen that don’t feature the count, but are about vampires — all of them exist because of the character Stoker created.  And the books?  The books are endless, with new ones coming out every year, and in multiple genres — romance, urban fantasy, and, of course, horror.  I’ve written three of them, as well as some short stories.  And then there are the comic books, animation and anime, the games — for crying out loud, there’s even a breakfast cereal!  And thanks to Stoker, Transylvania has a thriving tourist industry.  115 years after its publication, the influence of Dracula is as pervasive and unstoppable as the insidious count himself.

I had a conversation with my agent recently about the popularity of vampires in fiction.  It’s a conversation we have a couple of times a year, and each time, we agree that it can’t possibly go on much longer, that it must be taking its final breaths.  We’ll probably have that conversation again sometime in the spring of 2013.

Whether it’s Count von Count on Sesame Street or Bunnicula the vegetable-sucking vampire bunny of children’s literature, whether it rips out its victim’s throat or sparkles in the sunlight, whether it’s sexy and sensitive or sadistic and brutal, whether it’s Max Schreck in Nosferatu or Al Lewis as Grampa in The Munsters, all are a part of Bram Stoker’s undying influence on our fears, fantasies, and culture.

It would be fascinating to hear Stoker’s reaction today to the longevity and power of that one novel in a dozen.  But the widely accepted story is that he’s dead.

If you’ve enjoyed the novel Dracula or any of the many movie and TV adaptations, if you’ve ever enjoyed a story, novel, or movie about vampires, then sometime today, raise a glass of ... well, whatever you drink ... and toast the birthday of the man who couldn’t have had any idea what a powerful force he was unleashing on the world.

Happy birthday, Bram Stoker.