So we all know Dracula. That old fella, the campy movies, the bone chilling books. It was a real table turner, and has this lingering precence in todays culture. And I mean, espeacially in todays culture. Vampires are so mainstream, the mainstream feels it’s too mainstream. So let’s give it to Stoker, he made all of us goths, emos, metal heads, and whatever subculture you subscribe to. Because Dracula is about subculture and about breaking free from your past, time, history and reinvent yourself. Well… In some readings at least. Bloodsucking toxic people is another one. But there was always something that preceded it, something that inspired the Magnum Opus. And here are some examples.
For all the snobby lesbian goths out there, yes, you are right, Carmilla was way ahead of Dracula. And by way ahead I mean by 26 years. It turned the vampire tropes to stone, set the stage and even the cultural analysis of it, yes, Irish vs British problem, I think of you. And so did probably Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu, the author of the work, as they were both Irish in a time, the Irishmen really needed some literary boost.
If you want an edition to read that are more academic oriented, i recommend “Carmilla : A Critical Edition” that put weights on its Irish roots.
Because of its length, it is mostly published alone, but if you are interested in the whole short story edition it was originally a part of, In a Glass Darkley, there is also that possibility. But for the cover though, I feel disappointed. It is a bit… boring. The coolest I think, is this hardcover edition by Pushkin press.
But even this, even this wasn’t the so called O.G vampire. Carmilla in turn was most likely inspired by this unfinished poem called Christabel.
Carmilla is the story of a young girl, Laura meeting with the mysterious Carmilla. They live deep in the woods of Styria, in today’s Austria.
Apparently Stoker was working on a new story, set in Styria, Austria with a character called Count Wampyr. So at least he moved the story further east. There is this direct link, I feel, that can’t be ignored. And it isn’t mostly. But to those snobby lesbian goths out there: You go girls, spread the word.
Buy the hardcover here
Listen to it here (Both Rose Leslie (Ygritte in GOT) and David Tennant (ALL CAPS LEGEND) is narrating, check it out)
This is an interesting one. John William Polidori’s short story: The Vampyre has sadly been so left at the side. First, he didn’t get the credit he deserved, as it was published by mistake as Lord Byron’s work. Then he tragically ended his life too soon.
It is based on Lord Byron though. He wrote it on that infamous literary retreat with the Shelley’s, and among other works was the start of Frankenstein. Lord Byron also wrote a similar pice, called “A Fragment“. But even more of a fun fact. The whole idea, Polidori played with the idea that a scourned lover of Byron, Caroline, already had published. It is heavily influenced on her book Glenarvon, that is in essence a diss track of Byron. Damn, those friends!
Among gothic and horror fans alike, his work is well known and has its cannon in the genre, but it hasn’t quite reached the mainstream audience as Dracula and in some regards, Carmilla did.
Read it here
Listen to it here
Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast for Blood
This is one that I long avoided, because I thought it was a comedy, and my small gothic heart couldn’t take the irony, and I found the name Varney a bit comical. Now I BTW love the vampire comedy and What We Do In The Shadows are my life, all versions, thank you very much!
But in fact, it any just seem like a satire because it in fact, installed many of the campy tropes that comes with gothic fiction and vampire fiction. But at the time, it was a Victorian era serialized gothic horror story variously attributed to James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest. It first appeared in 1845–1847 as a series of weekly cheap pamphlets of the kind then known as “penny dreadful”, and we simply loves penny dreadful, so much so, that we included it in our merch, check it out here (shameless self promotion, but hey, goths need to eat too).
The author was paid by the typeset line so when the story was published in book form in 1847, it was of epic length: the original edition ran to 876 double-columned pages and 232 chapters. Altogether it totals nearly 667,000 words, and for those of you that ever tried Nanowrimo, you know what I talk about, this is legit a lot.
Read it here
Listen to this and some other not so well known vampire stories that should be heard, read and repeated to infinity here
Thalaba the Destroyer
Where the main character Thalaba’s deceased beloved Oneiza turns into a vampire, although that occurrence is actually marginal to the story.
OK, but in all seriousness, I do read. Like, a lot. Might just seem like I just subscribe to a niche part of tumblr, but no, this is serious literature. Serious FORGOTTEN literature. Ah. I think I would have been more OK with it, if not the end product (read Dracula) didn’t become so influential and that they give whole subjects to at uni. Also, sorry for my informal tone in talking about these pieces of arts, as my academic is reserved for school and I love to shake that stiff old academic voice off. (my professor highly disapproves though = academic literate reject).
Thalaba the Destroyer is more of an epic-work as in ,literary epics, spanning over time, place, people. It was written by Robert Southey from the Romantic school, as in the literary Romantics. If he really was into romance, I have no way of telling. It is interesting because of the plot. The poem is a twelve-book work with irregular stanzas and lines that are not rhymed. The poem deals with Harun al-Rashid and a group of sorcerers at Domdaniel that live under the sea. It was foretold that Thalaba, a Muslim, would be God’s champion and conquer the sorcerers. Something a bit odd for a British christian guy in the early 1800s to write about, but nonetheless very interesting.
Read it here
Ninety Years Later
Why does it have to be British tough? It makes sense in the Victorian times, being so sexual represses, something we might read into modern day mormon vampire tales and deep south sexual repression?
But no, it doesn’t always have to be British. In fact, Eastern Europe is steep in vampire lore, literature and culture. Several of those books and the likes though is not translated. But they do exist. For example we have the Serbian story with the most famous Serbian vampire, Sava Savanović from a folklore-inspired novel Ninety Years Later, or as in this translation: After Ninety Years, by Milovan Glišić, first published in 1880.
Read it here
There are also German, like our emo friend Goethe that wrote the poem The bridge of Corinth. There are a lot of them. What is your favorite forgotten vampire story?
Any of this seem interesting for you? How about getting into the listening train of audio books. Now, get 50% off for the next 3 months. I’ve checked and I am now firmly sure these are the one that can offer most horror titles of the audio book platforms.
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