"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

29 July 2010

Quincey, Save Me...

Dracula-related materials have once again stirred a voracious appetite in me, and of all my obsessions it is the one I will least deny. I purchased Dracula, My Love and suspect I shall complete it within a week. Then, on Twitter, I discovered this: Dracula In Love. It sounds basically like the novel I just bought, only smuttier and with a more overt uber-feminist attitude. Either that or it'll turn into another Vampire Lesbian Spank Inferno interpretation, possibly minus the spanking. If the brief excerpt is any indication, smut or not, this will be another book that causes as much indignation in me as amusement.
Here's my issue with the ultra-feminist take on Dracula (I'll get around to the po-mo sexuality issues at a later date): it fails to regard the fact that for a man, writing about female characters of which -- even as a theatre guy -- he likely had little comprehension of, Stoker managed well. He certainly managed better than most men (and women) of his time in creating a female character whose intelligence, good nature, selflessness and humility stand markedly above other female characters in that age. Mina experiences more freedom as a Victorian woman than most did and yet sees herself as being quite traditional. The journal excerpts written from Mina's perspective in no way demean her own value, nor do they hint at some deep, burning desire for sexual release, equality (which she is given to an extent in the novel, again far above many female Victorian characters), or Dracula. She pities the dark creature more than the men, and as a female that is understandable -- this does not mean she harbours secret desires to go to the movies with him and make him her cuddle bear.
THAT aspect more than any other annoys me; the concept that in order for Mina to assert herself as more of an equal to the men in the book, to truly ascend as a feminist, she must embrace her sexual desires and fall in love with a Byronic vampire hottie whom she hopes will worship her forever. This is the best feminist writers can come up with to empower Mina? Have her fall in love with an arrogant, self-serving, demonic being who only goes after her as revenge on the team thwarting his progress to make London his undead playground?... genius. Is the best expression of female empowerment we can come up with to have Mina become Bella Swan, swooning over the gorgeous stalker who thirsts for her life? Already in Dracula, My Love she dreams of Dracula coming to break up her wedding with Jonathan claiming her as his own. In what way does that allow her freedom? That only transfers what some see as oppression in Mina's treatment from the hunters to Dracula -- it still makes her a victim of his and devalues (or ignores) the selflessness she naturally possesses in the original novel. Especially considering that no matter how the story is told, the simple fact remains that Dracula kills people. Plural. He's a serial killer. These authors are causing a supposedly intelligent, compassionate woman to fall in love with a murderer -- because that's so much less twisted and easier to comprehend than the same woman being in love with a book-smart, rational, caring, albeit a little vanilla guy who does actually develop and grow into a real man when his beloved (and humanity) is threatened.
It's not that there should be a rational explanation for all fiction, especially when you get into the murky waters of the supernatural, because life and love are not rational. However, when a human falls in love with an other-being there's a fair amount of 'splainin' that should accompany the human's journey to love, besides the other-being possessing the awesome powers of major hotness and having a master's in stalking. Otherwise at the end of the day all these re-imaginings do is create a fiction epidemic of Bella Swan clones. Sooner or later that will (I hope) make people wish for vampires that do nothing but kill whiny, self-involved little masochists who yearn for their dark lover's touch.

28 July 2010

A Sampling of Yummy Mummies

This week I've read two samples/previews of some of this wacky supernatural-historical-po-mo-fiction I've been rambling about. The first, Dracula, My Love, you can read my snarky comments on here. The second, Mansfield Park and Mummies, in the snark-free arena, appears below.
I will preface this 'preview review' by stating that from the first time I saw Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, my mind began racing with other possible titles for Supernatural Austen re-imaginings and the first title I thought of which appealed to me was: Mansfield Park and Mummies. My surprise when discovering someone else thought of this and actually went ahead with writing and publishing it caused both apprehension and excitement.
Having read the first three chapters, I can say what is most impressive this far into the novel is the loyalty to Austen's tone and style. The language is entirely reminiscent of Austen, especially in its bemused attitude toward the characters of whom we know are not ideal models for Fanny (namely Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram). Edmund is sufficiently endearing and I eagerly await how the Crawford siblings will be portrayed. I'm also intrigued with regard to the goings on in Antigua, as I assumed (wrongly) that in dealing with Egyptian mummies, artifacts and history Egypt would become the center of the non-English sphere. Apparently this is not so, and both locales appear to have bearing over the story. I'm not sure if this makes it more or less appealing, but it certainly has my curiosity piqued.
While I'm still leaning on the half-empty view of supernatural reinterpretations, this particular novel has excited my synapses and the little taste I have gotten of it makes me desirous of more.
In short, I'll read Dracula, My Love because it's Dracula-related... and I'm a masochist. I'll read Mansfield Park and Mummies because it seems fun and so far does not take itself too seriously.

27 July 2010

Summer Vacation

It seems several of my friends, IRL and online, are experiencing some form of what I will now refer to as the Summer WTFs? One cannot refer to them as the 'Summer Blahs' when your mind is anything but 'blah.' It only reaches that stage after you WTF to the point of numbness and indifference.

Adults need summer vacation.
When you're a kid, no matter how long or short your summer vacation is, it provides you with freedom and opportunities to be expressive, creative, social (or not), occasionally spontaneous and more carefree than you ever realize at the time. Once you hit high school (or if you're lucky, college -- in which case you have no idea how lucky you were/are), you get summer jobs and much of that freedom dissipates. It's still there in smaller doses, though. You're also still more free to travel -- even if it's with your family -- and goof off, because your responsibilities and ties are relatively small.
Then, you 'grow up,' get some form of job, and vacation is typically reduced to a couple weeks at most which you have to plan out in scary detail, usually not take all at once, hope that all of your plans work out, and in all that chaos actually find time to relax.
That is wholly inadequate. Pardon my language, but it's just bullshit. 'Maturing' into an adult does not mean you need less time to decompress, to be free in thought and action, to explore the world around you, to express your creativity or lack thereof, to be a social butterfly or a hermit... if anything you need more. I believe the problems with stress so many people experience in adulthood, especially in this country, stem from the de-institutionalized human need for time to deal with ourselves and our problems. Everything must be done faster, better, more efficiently, even coping with our problems and personal inadequacies. Work Harder has replaced Work Smarter and in that we have lost the time, the ability and the PERMISSION to take time when we need it. We steal cigarette breaks and long lunches where we can. We use a vacation day to deal with doctor appointments, bills, family issues and the like. We try not to use sick days (if we are lucky enough to have them) unless we're at deaths door. Why? Because jackasses creating corporate models have instilled in us that this is how we become better workers. It's not. It's also very much not how we become better people.
Even if you have a non-traditional job that is more flexible than most, you still need time off and not scattered for a week here or there. We all need actual breaks -- at least 2 weeks of solid time off, SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR -- to truly be productive, rational, sane individuals.
You may wonder why in my pop-culture loving, writerly mind I am ranting on this particular topic. Anyone who engages in a creative endeavor, whatever that endeavor may be should understand that in order to create you need to be in the right head space. While it is a modern occurrence to steal time from other 'more productive' activities (your day job, cleaning your house, running errands, etc.), even that time requires inspiration. You cannot be inspired when you have nothing to draw from and the easiest way to sap inspiration is to never be allowed a break from the (ultimately for a creative person) mundane aspects of life. In other words, to be a better, more productive artist in any endeavor, you need vacations from your normal life. Even when your normal life is creating, you need breaks from that. Spending too long stagnating in anything is not only bad for creativity, it's bad for anyone as an individual.

So if anyone out there has ideas on how to overhaul our 'vacation' system and implement a way for society to understand the physical need for breaks from life and help provide those to the public at large, that'd be really great for me.

26 July 2010

Dracula, My Love: Preview

Allusions to wanting to vomit are not exaggerated... sorry.

While I think it generous of Harper Collins to offer a free preview of this book, I can already tell it's one I will have serious issues with (not that this will stop me from reading all of it, or from throwing it across the room -- repeatedly -- once I have a hard copy). The amount of *headdesking* enacted within the first chapter, especially on page twenty-four, does not bode well for my acceptance of this book.
Granted, I have a certain appreciation for anyone who takes on the daunting task of adapting Dracula in some form. I merely have an obsessive nature surrounding this novel which renders me incapable of turning that appreciation into sympathy for the writer's struggle when they murder the themes and characters of the book.
In short: I explode with snark.

Early running commentary through the samples 80 pages available:

- Dancing with Dracula? Going on a boating date (complete with casual notice that he doesn't reflect in the water)? Dreaming of Dracula on the ship as it crashes into the harbour, hearing him lustfully call out, "My love!" and whisper, "I am coming for you!" like Edward Fairfax Heathcliff Cullen... makes me want to heave, especially since it reduces Mina to a Victorian Bella Swan.
- So Dracula is like a HOTalian... an angel marble cupcake Adonis of mysterious and dangerous European hotness. Sure, if I ever get my wish to have the perfect Dracula it will be difficult to ever take one's eyes off him. That doesn't mean the overpowering sense of foreboding and danger which curls off him like his own mist will be ignored. Beautiful and mysterious does not equal harmless. That inexplicable feeling that your lunch is being tossed around in your stomach on an vessel during a storm? Yeah, I'm feeling that without having to get out of my seat on solid ground.
- Woman, if you italicize something one more time to get a point across especially about how mesmerized Mina is by Dracula's lusciousness, I'm going to scream.
- "I must have read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre a dozen times!" And there we have the root of Mina's problem... He's read it, too?!?! Oh, heaven help us.
- Of course... it has now been hit upon: Dracula just wants to be loved. Cue the cheesy studio audience 'awww'ing as if this were a particularly heartwarming moment on Full House. Confirmation comes a little later in the book, but it is there nonetheless. Whether this is his true motivation or not remains to be discovered, yet the simple fact that he tells Mina this causes a swelling wave of nausea to overtake me.

When I buy this book, as sadly I will, I believe I shall have to take before and after photos of the book's condition. Something tells me it may resemble Joseph Andrews* by the time I finish it.

*I actually broke the spine on my paperback copy of JA which I had to read for a college lit class. Even after following my prof's advice of reading it out loud in silly, female Monty Python voices I still had issues getting through the book.

21 July 2010

Never recreate from your memory. Always imagine new places.

I've delayed several days in writing about Inception, not because I don't have thoughts but because I have too many and sorting them out has been an adventure. My own dreams caused by seeing this movie have not assisted in clarity of thought either.

I should warn before I go further that this entry and all links contain major spoilers for the movie, so don't read this post if you haven't seen it yet. Really. Really, don't.

Now that I've made the disclaimer, this post is going to follow an exploration train based on conversations I've had at work, this article, and my inner workings.
I'm 98% on board with the whole "the entire movie is a dream" concept. The resisting 2% I couldn't rationalize until after having a dream wherein someone showed up unexpectedly and made me re-examine the entire construct of the dream. Which, when I woke, made me rethink the logic behind the dream theory for Inception.
See, where I find issue with this article, and others I've read, is they make it clear that the dream we're seeing is Cobb's -- and practically it can't be anyone else's, not completely anyway. However, if it is in fact Cobb's dream and, as many have argued, everyone else is just a projection created by his subconscious to fulfill a purpose (there are varying arguments as to what purpose the other characters serve in this scenario) then why are there so many scenes with Arthur where Cobb is not present? He is the only other character to get ample screen time to justify his existence as something other than a made-up person in Cobb's dream. That screen time belies the theory that everyone on the team is 'just' a construct of Cobb's subconscious... so here's my two theories, one of which I will quickly state is the less believable.
The first thought I had was that Arthur is in fact real and he and Cobb are having a convergent dream. It happens. However, in the construct of this film and what it set up for the audience, I think this is highly unlikely. Thus, on to theory 2: Arthur IS a projection of Cobb's subconscious, but unlike everyone else who is either entirely made up or represents a real person in his life, Arthur is a division of Cobb -- he's a part of him that his subconscious has split off and created a separate entity for.
Why do I believe this? Well, first off, for the dream theory to fly there has to be some explanation for why there are entire scenes in the film that take place without Cobb, practically all of them with Arthur. You have snippets of Eames and Fischer and Saito running in the snow and getting into the bunker, which is workable enough if you hold that Cobb is aware of what they're doing and his brain is just filling in those gaps visually. The same holds true for the scene with Eames infiltrating Fischer's office -- it could simply be the filmic way of showing Eames explaining how he got in. The only other 'scene' lasting more than 30 or so seconds that does not have Cobb or Arthur present is Fischer's discovery in the vault, which knowing that Cobb is pushing Fischer to find this through half the movie is again just a visual way of expressing that Fischer did indeed find what Cobb pushed him toward. However, that leaves scenes at the beginning when Arthur 'wakes up' the first time after being shot by Mal, scenes between Arthur and Ariadne, as well as the entire zero-grav ballet-fu sequence and ensuing cable-wrapping-the-team-for-lift-travel segments that not only don't have Cobb (conscious) in them, but also have no bearing on his personal progress as the rest of the film does. If it's accepted that everyone besides Cobb is a figment of his subconscious that has no purpose other than to further his journey, which is becoming the big argument, then what is the point of those scenes? Hence, my thinking. Arthur, while still being fictional, exists in a Tyler Durden-like scenario for Cobb. He's much less selfish than Cobb. He's ignorant of some of the specifics surrounding Mal and yet has accepted the fact that she's physically gone while still plaguing Cobb. Cobb is dependent on Ariadne for solace and strength, but Arthur also forms a connection with her -- one that is much more fitting for someone who's trying to move on with life. I think Arthur is a part of Cobb that is actively trying to get him to move on, even though he's unaware of full depth of his issues with Mal. If Arthur is Cobb to an extent, not only is his presence validated overall, but so are his motivations, and the fact that he is the only character to have an existence out of Cobb's immediate surroundings. Except for the brief scenes mentioned above, none of the other characters ever exist outside of Cobb OR Arthur's presence. Plus, as much as the whole movie is about Cobb trying to detach himself permanently from Mal to be able to see his kids again, he needs the team to help him accomplish that and it's Arthur, not Cobb, who does the most work to keep everyone together. He's also the only one present with Cobb in the beginning, for quite a stretch, and the first one Cobb sees when he 'wakes up.' Now, I'm open to theories and thoughts on this movie. I know I need to see it again to check if my own conclusions make sense. So I'm interested to know -- what do you think is really going on in Inception?

18 July 2010

Important Quotage

As you may soon notice, I am a quote whore.
(My future self just came back through a crack in time and space to tell me that yes, indeed, in the future it has been established across the stars that I have a penchant for quoting -- especially when stuck on my own words and unable to create or express something meaningful... I guess it's old news, then.)

Thus I thought I'd take this opportunity to expound on my choice of header quote for this blog.

I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man.

The quote is from Anne Bronte, part of the preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. For those unaware, when the Bronte sisters wrote their novels, they were all published under male pen names. This preface was written in the voice of Acton Bell, wherein 'he' explains some of the reasoning behind characters and events in the book that were seen to be shocking - namely a woman escaping her marriage to an absolute cad to save herself and her son, then trying to make a life for herself in a new town as a single mother. Horrors! (No. Really. To the Victorians that was horrific.) Other insinuations at the time had also been made that Acton and his brothers Currer and Ellis were, in fact, women (and possibly even all the same person). A fact that was never made officially public until after Acton/Anne and Ellis/Emily's deaths. While playfully not acknowledging the accusation of her gender, she points out, more accurately, succinctly and with a smidge of attitude than anyone prior to herself I have seen, that an author's gender should have no bearing on their writing or how it is judged. If a story, characters, and/or writing is good, then it is good no matter who wrote it. Because I love it so much, here is the whole paragraph:

Respecting the author's identity, I would have it to be distinctly understood that Acton Bell is neither Currer nor Ellis Bell, and therefore let not his faults be attributed to them. As to whether the name be real or fictitious, it cannot greatly signify to those who know him only by his works. As little, I should think, can it matter whether the writer so designated is a man, or a woman, as one or two of my critics profess to have discovered. I take the imputation in good part, as a compliment to the just delineation of my female characters; and though I am bound to attribute much of the severity of my censors to this suspicion, I make no effort to refute it, because, in my own mind, I am satisfied that if a book is a good one, it is so whatever the sex of the author may be. All novels are, or should be, written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man.

Preach on, dear lady.

17 July 2010

Fighting Fire with Music

In an effort to expose a more personal side of myself (no, not like that), and since my intellectual and creative mind seem to have dissipated in the face of SoCal’s current heat wave, I thought it time to indulge readers (and myself) in something not related to writing -- well, not entirely related.
Like many writers I require a musical feed when writing... it’s another layer to inspire creativity. At least that’s how it is for some people. For me, while it is that, it’s also a lifeline to the world and to myself. In my intro coaching session while having to (*groan*) talk about myself, I revealed that I am a human playlist maker, which was sort of an off-the-cuff remark at the time. However, the more I contemplated it, the more I found it really is a major part of what makes me ‘me.’
Stronger than all other obsessions in my life, music causes more of an intuitive, visceral response, and more than any other medium I feel the need to spread those feelings to other people. Embracing music and books/reading for me are basic human needs. I pretty much put both of them before useless things like socializing, paying bills, eating and putting gas in my car.
My natural knack for figuring people out in a very short span of time (usually), also bestows me with the ability to conjure music playlists for people that not only appeal to what they know they like, but bring out aspects of themselves and their musical tastes they didn’t know existed. Granted a bit of my selections tilt toward my favorite musical artists and styles (which is true of everyone who makes playlists for others), but I always try to choose songs and artists I feel will reach into the emotional guts of the other person and stir up a new cocktail they’ve never tried and make them crave that cocktail, because that’s what discovering new music does to me. Yeah, I’m a musical crack dealer (and no, I did not come up with that term for myself; it was bestowed on me years ago).
So as the weeks and months go by, expect a sprinkling of playlists to invade the rants, reviews and randomness. They’ll very in size, scope and reasoning and I’ll try to keep explanation length for each track manageable. And if you ever need a playlist for an event, a friend, yourself, or something your writing, consider me a musical consultant. There are a few musical styles I’m not into (hardcore rap & hip-hop, metal, and grunge to name a few), and my knowledge of folk, country, and world music in all-encompassing terms is limited. However, I’m keen to learn when it comes to music and the taste I do possess (which aides in the whole human playlist thing) is EXTREMELY eclectic. I’m a child of the 80s who grew up on music of the 50s & 60s, who embraced both the R&B and pop revolutions of the 90s while becoming involved in classical, choral and musical theatre, who eventually succumbed to her parents’ love of folk and Celtic music, who finds power, beauty, and value in rock, country, big band, film scores, euro-pop, and who is, admittedly one of the biggest advocates of ‘popular music’ from the 1920s through today you are likely to find.

Oh, and like with literature, movies, tv and pop culture, my musical passions exist in a Snob-Free Zone.

Playlist for this blog (a subsection of my Summer 2010 playlist):
Scissor Sisters - Fire with Fire
Ernie Halter - Gone
Pixie Lott - Gravity
Muse - Undisclosed Desires
Glee Cast - Over the Rainbow
The Beautiful South - Les Yeux Ouverts (Dream a Little Dream of Me)
Rosemary Clooney - Sway
John Farnham - You’re the Voice
Christian Kane - Let Me Go
The Turtles - Elenore
Otis Redding - These Arms of Mine

16 July 2010

I Write Like... Me

This week there's been a bit of a to do over the "I Write Like" site, which analyzes a block of text to 'inform' us what famous author we write like (or authors if you're like me an go totally geek over these kinds of things and submit various writing samples to see your varied results).
Flattering, yet not surprising, my results came up with only two authors: Bram Stoker and Stephen King. Stoker jumped out as the first candidate, but every subsequent sample produced a King-ly result. Even smut (and yes, that side of my writing exists).
Granted, I know better than to take this as a serious analysis of my writing style -- just like I treat every online analyzer or quiz result as a way of amusing some part of me that needs a bit of reassuring, or just a good laugh. Yes, there is the Insecure Writer voice that flings out its arms and spins around like Fraulein Maria when my writing gets compared to the great Uncle Stevie, but when I'm honest with myself (brutally so, as I tend to be), I know two facts: his writing is far superior to mine AND we do share a similar style. Without ever intending it there has been a stylistic similarity in my writing and his since I was a teenager and only just starting to read him. To that point I had been raised, and raised myself, on the likes of Roald Dahl, Lois Lowry, Shakespeare, Calvin & Hobbes (one day I will talk about how I see Watterson's comic as so much more than 'just a comic strip'), and Scholastic books about creepy coincidences, famous hauntings and ancient curses. You know, books such as this one:

Still, flattering as it is that an online generator using ones and zeros to compare my writing samples to whatever stockpiled text by various authors exist in a database states that what I provided it relates to my favorite author's writing style more than anyone else it has data for, that's a 'fact' I'm already aware of. Reassurance by the interwebs is nice, though.

In order to get a more articulate perspective on one's writing style, there is also this site: http://typealyzer.com/ which rather than analyze a sample of writing your provide it, analyzes a link and the text on that webpage (i.e. it will analyze an entire page of your blog rather than a selection of text you choose to copy and paste). Unfortunately, this method only works for public sites, so my personal blog and the location where the bulk of my fiction is stored is inaccessible by this site. However, for a Myers-Briggs breakdown of this blog, it gave me an intriguing result.
I've taken the full Myers-Briggs test a couple of times (and little variations thereupon several times as well), always with the same result: I/ENFP. I waver a bit between the introvert and extrovert depending on where I am in life when I answer the question, but the others never change. Until I input this blog link into the Typealyzer and get this:

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Again, this is all just for the sake of argument as I know my personality IRL and my writing for this blog are somewhat different, as are my fiction writing style and 'personal' writing style. Still, I found it interesting that this blog (in its infancy) weighs heavily on the intellectual and not on the feeling. I suppose I could take that to mean my rants thus far come across as subdued OR that they are articulate enough to not qualify as a rant in the raving, emotional sense (I mean, if you could SEE me when I rant about these things there'd be no question of the emotional response they invoke).
Now, that first section does describe a cross-section of myself with eerie accuracy. It's only the bit that says I can come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive that makes the 'real' me, the 'F' me, want to cry out, "NOOOOOO! I sympathize with everyone! Even stupid people who don't understand me!"
You see the contradiction there.
I also feel compelled to add that the drawing which accompanies the description amuses me greatly. That does pretty much sum me up when it comes to what I look like when writing at my computer... just replace the calculations with images of British things, attractive men and/or supernatural 'stuff' and you've got my inner monologue.

As online quizzes and analyzers go, I don't typically engage in ones that engage me in deeper thought. Yes, I too have fallen prey to wasting an hour taking such quizzes as "Which Twilight guy is You're Soulmate?" (typo intentional -- and Jasper, for the record. Duh.) and "What color best represents your personality?" and even "How much do you know about Harry Potter?" (answer: a helluva lot, especially in regards to the movies, but not nearly as much as Super!Fans) Still, since these particular sites related to writing and style and a dash of psychology, they did give me time for some brief reflection on why I write like I do, and how my writing may be perceived by some people-not-me -- so these silly things are productive, right?

14 July 2010

The Universe Giveth...

The Universe Giveth...

Me something to rant about to distract me from the problems of life.

Dracula, My Love - Gag Me with a Stake

(We now have Emma and the Vampires, as well)

I don't even know where to start with the wrongness... The sad truth is I will read it. I will probably even buy it when it's released. However, that doesn't keep me from wanting to scream to the heavens: WHY DO YOU KEEP LETTING PEOPLE RUIN MY FAVORITE BOOK?!?!
I'm sure there's a not-small group of Austenites who feel the same way about so many re-imaginings of her novels (supernatural or otherwise), and I want you to know that as much as these reworks entertain me, I feel your pain. Really. Feel. It.
It's not that someone holds a different perspective on the novel and wants to express and explore that perspective. That's cool. Get down with your own biased opinion. What is not cool to me is the continual breaking down of the characters and themes in this novel and warping them into something completely different than what Stoker wrote.
To change one character changes them all -- this is something I have seen in EVERY re-working of the novel I've read. The characters changed most often from their book persona are Van Helsing and Dracula. I get that, to a point, for those who want to make both characters seem a little less archaic (though that is kind of the point in the novel anyway). However in instances such as this, what possesses me to throw a grand mal hissy is crafting a story in which Dracula is set up as a romantic hero (or even anti-hero). The amount of *headdesking* this inspires in me gives me headaches, because here's the thing: DRACULA. IS. EVIL.
He's not a tortured soul looking for redemption. He's not a crestfallen former warrior wanting to return to the good old days of having multiple wives and (literally) spiking dignitaries (OK, maybe a little bit of that one). He's not a seductive, sexy creature of the night who just wants to love and be loved. He's an evil sonofabitch who, not satisfied with continuing the barbarous ways he engendered during his 'youth,' seeks to make a new life in a new country where he can blend in and kill at will without having to worry about interference from pesky, superstitious gypsies... and if he gets to make a few companions to go tearing through the English countryside and bustling London with as well, so much the more fun.
The concept that the human heroes and sheroes of Stoker's novel could be so enchanted by Dracula that they begin to love him is utterly ridiculous. Yes, Skippy (aka Jonathan Harker) may not have the biggest brain or the most common sense, but he does improve as the novel goes on, and more than anything he improves greatly once the life of his beloved is at stake (no pun intended). Mina is a devoted wife, a new woman in more ways than she realizes, and not the sort of person to abandon her husband -- or even contemplate abandoning him -- to make time with the creepy foreigner who killed her best friend for sport.
Dracula's motives are simple: kill people, take up residence in England and blend in... so he can kill more people. The other characters have far more complex motivations which drive them to hunt down Dracula (as if stopping a mass murderer who kills and transforms a woman all the main characters love into a soulless, bloodsucking fiend isn't motive enough). Above everything else their motives are driven forward most forcefully by love. Not pity, not jealousy, not even revenge that they have every right to desire. They destroy Dracula because he is a plague that threatens not only them but everyone in England, and the world.
I can stomach a lot of tweaks and silliness people write about in regards to the themes in Dracula. Yet I always draw the line in two specific areas: evil and love/sex. Anytime someone tries to devalue the passionate, evolved take on good versus evil and/or attempts to turn every glance or suggestive word into an orgy, I instinctively leap on my soapbox and turn into a screaming nutter.
The sad truth is people today want to relate everything to a sexual act or feeling when they cannot understand a motivation (and I'm not just talking everyday folk here, I've seen people with advance degrees in literature pull this BS). This reduction in the value of platonic human bonds makes me more than sad, it makes me livid and depressed. The even sadder (and frankly, scarier) truth is that society now deems it irregular and bizarre to hold a belief in such an idea as evil. Everything needs an explanation or motive other than a sinful desire (and really I use sinful as a contextual word to encompass a concept many people no longer believe in, not necessarily reflecting a religious connotation... because I could use a word like 'taboo' and easily be misunderstood further).
Due to my riled, frenetic mind at the insanity of these 'beliefs' I am drawn, as usual, to words someone else wrote that express an idea better than I can do at present.

Methos: Do you really think there's no such thing as evil?
Fake: Only fear.
Methos: So what? Genghis Khan and Hitler were just children playing up?
Fake: They were men, driven by fear to commit evil acts.
Methos: And if their mothers had loved them truly, it would have been a different world.

Right, because genocide fueled by blind hatred is not evil. It's just fear.

If you believe that, then you probably do believe Dracula isn't such a bad guy and deserves to be loved...

07 July 2010


In the world of writing intelligently about 'fandoms' (I really hate that term sometimes), there are only a handful of people who really inspire me and make me gooey with admiration -- a good kind of respectful gooey, not a naughty gooey. These people tend to write about topics and fandoms which are... let's say 'age inappropriate.' Or perhaps a better way of saying it would be these are people who possess the intellect and reasoning capabilities to appreciate much higher forms of art and entertainment, but prefer (usually) to spend their time with what their equals and superiors in such areas of study might refer to as dreck, or utter trash.

Here is an entry on Eclipse, and Twilight in general, which exemplifies what makes me gooey for those who could obsess and write about 'high' art and choose the trash instead.

Slay Me, Please

Whilst delving into my newest read (Jane Slayre), I find it appropriate to discuss the recent influx of paranormal-centered re-imaginings, rewrites, 'sequels' and such of both 'classic' literature and historical figures.
Sure, everyone's heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and (like its Austen counterpart) the not-quite-as-popular Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. P&P&Z author Seth Grahame-Smith has metaphorical tentacles (I hope they're metaphorical, I haven't actually seen the man in person, so who knows?) stretching into the historical zone as well with Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. However, are you aware of Mansfield Park and Mummies? How about Queen Victoria Demon Hunter? Or the dueling Alcotts, Little Women and Werewolves vs. Little Vampire Women? Lest I forget, there's also the Austen-centered vampire mania of Jane Bites Back and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.
Obviously I have more than a passing interest in these books or I wouldn't be writing about them. Yes, I've read several. Several others stir in me conflicting emotions of being equal parts morbidly curious and more-than-slightly nauseated at the (to an English major) blasphemous nature of these stories. What probably would offend purists and English major snobs most is that eventually my morbid curiosity will overtake the appalled nausea and I'll end up reading the ones I haven't already.
So why this new-found obsession/fascination/fanaticism with the supernatural and classics? Sure, it's a post-modern hallmark to reinvent and retell past stories in a new way. Sure, the young adult section of your local bookstore has turned into the paranormal-pseudo-bodice-ripper section thanks to Stephenie Meyer. Sure, it's easier in some respects to bastardize adapt someone else's work than create your own. Yet the influx of this style hints more at a cultural shift than a bunch of copycats trying to make a quick buck (though there's plenty of that, too -- and I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with that, either).
For one, in my non-snob-ish opinion, while I'm all about people reading as much as possible to further the general idea that reading = essential to life, I also think some of this writing is popular because it's like the supernatural cliff-notes to books 'normal' people don't want to read in the first place (read: people who hear the term 'classic literature' and flinch while running off to find the latest trendy bestseller) . However, now that it has become acceptable in our culture to enjoy the more, shall we say 'macabre,' forms of entertainment (and boy is that a rant for another day), toss a few zombies or vampires or werewolves... or a robot into Anna Karenina, and suddenly it's more accessible to the masses. (Seriously a rant for another day: how/why/when vampires, zombies, and other assorted night-creature miscreants rose to the height of popular entertainment.)
In the case of Austen, re-writing and expanding her work is nothing new, in the relative sense that people have been doing it for decades. I suppose it's only natural that she really be the first to have her works re-vamped to fit present trends (pun intended). One could draw a comparison between Austen's work and the many interpretations, sequels and the like, and those of Shakespeare -- who himself is no longer above joining the ranks of the undead. Though in the Austen re-imaginings her characters and tone are more or less honored in a way that Shakespeare's frequently are not.
While I'm only at the beginning of Jane Slayre, I'm already intrigued by the concept of what possibilities lie ahead for young Jane as she discovers her slaying capabilities while still dealing with the tumultuous emotional fires stirred by Rochester. Granted, I'm not much of a fan of the original novel, or its author (Anne got all the sense in that family), though I have developed a respect for it over the years. From my personal perspective this particular book could use a little spicing up.
However, I think that's the inherent problem in the cavalcade of this type of writing: the assumption that a work, or figure, which has been worthy of accolade for decades, perhaps centuries, can be 'improved upon' or 'made more interesting' by adding some supernatural beings, violence and, in some cases, steamy scenes. I'm not saying we don't sometimes like a little more pepper or garlic in our classic dishes, but if a person's initial introduction to such culinary delights indulges some spices to the point where the flavor of the original dish is tempered and lost, they may never be able to truly relish the first bite of the 'real' meal...
Granted, I have just spent several paragraphs repeatedly saying I don't take much issue with the existence of these kind of books. I take issue more with the idea that people are reading these before and instead of their source material, and fear that in doing so when (or if) they eventually read the original it will seem 'too boring' or 'bland' or 'too hard to follow' or any number of a dozen excuses many of these books already get without the hack-and-slash treatment current popular fiction is giving them.

To sum up a long-winded rant, when someone who is as voracious about reading as I am sees each of these books, I get both exhilarated and queasy. Sea Monsters don't really interest me, so I won't be going down that road, but mummies invading Mansfield Park sounds fun. My biggest hope is that someone unfamiliar with the original stories and lives now presented in glorious alternate universe gore will be able to one day return to the zombie-less Pride and Prejudice and enjoy it on its own far more considerable merits.*

(*I spent the better part of this entry praising the talents and longevity of Jane Austen. A certain former English professor of mine would be so proud...)

06 July 2010


How do you feel when an adapted film's story deviates from the original material?

Awww... lookie here. I make a comment on my other blog about how the daily prompts aren't inspiring and the very next day we decide to question one of my favorite topics of ranting discussion.
Let's get something straight for this and all future records: I am not a purist. Not in the sense that I believe a film has to be exactly like the source material or it fails. This is virtually impossible and anyone who doesn't realize that is delusional. I understand there cannot be literal translation of book to film for more than just the obvious reasons. I also understand that one person's interpretation of a story differs from someone else's.
However, I do believe all source material adapted for film has an inherent tone and certain themes and characters that should be honored as close as they can be when a filmmaker undertakes the project (I'm looking at you, Francis Ford Coppola). I accept that not every detail of the source will be included -- some aspects may be condensed or done differently or omitted altogether. When it comes to adaptations of fairy tales and myths my flexibility in interpretation widens. Even the combining or omission of some characters can be warranted. And by all means, please feel free to shorten a work that needed an editor in the first place *cough*OrderOfThePhoenix*cough*
Where I get picky and ranty and annoyed at filmmakers comes in the unneeded and unwarranted changing of tone, characters, motivations, themes, etc. The major aspects that hold a story together and keep it compelling on the page. This is why I am all right with the idea of combining some of the Lord of the Rings appendices material into the trilogy but not at all OK with changing the entire ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (including the part where by Dumbledore's not petrifying Harry we turn him from hero to giant pussy in less than a minute). Conversely, it's also why I'm aghast at placing Elrond at Isildur's side in Mount Doom (throw the bastard into the river of fire or don't spend the next 3,000 years bitching about the weakness of humans because you were too much of a coward to act when you had the chance), and why I don't mind that Peeves is entirely absent from Hogwarts (annoying, obnoxious, and sure a nice way to break up the tension sometimes, but overall completely unnecessary).
All that being said, I'm in no way against interpretation of other media for film.
It's one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking, really. However because of this I have my own set of standards to which I cling, somewhat obsessively, always hoping someone will create something that lives up to those expectations. I also know that my idea of a great interpretation is not the same as someone else's... and this is why I'm a movie and book lover and not a snob.

EEK! A 'writing blog'

Greetings past, present and future readers -- and welcome! (Those of you reading from the future, please don't spoil the 2010 World Cup for me and also refrain from telling me when/who David Tennant married. Knowledge of either of these results may cause serious damage to the universe. And by 'universe' I mean 'my own obsessive emotional being.')

On the advice of my most hallowed career servicer (coach is too sporty, and counselour makes me sound more mental than I really am; I can be balanced, promise), this marks the beginning of my 'writing blog.' Having kept a personal blog for many years I should feel less terrified at the prospect of putting my writing out in a more public way, though for some reason writing about writing, my interests (read: obsessions), and my projects in a somewhat professional context makes me want to become a hermit. Yet it seems nowadays even hermits can blog about whatever strikes their fancy on the interweb and I have the advantage in not being a hermit of being able to participate in the world at large as well. Daunting having the whole of the internet and the real world literally at my fingertips, but I'm trying this new thing where I attempt to turn daunting and terrifying into exhilarating possibilities.

We'll see how that goes.

So if I haven't scared you off yet, or if you want to stick around to see whether I experience a complete mental collapse in this attempt or somehow manage to get over my fear of public writing (the way I still haven't mastered public speaking), stick around. Subscribe. Comment. Join in the rants. Rant on your own and link back here. Ask me questions and I'll give you real (though maybe not always serious/true) answers.

Thank. You. Heavens.


According to IGN, which I respect as a source for information, especially on Sci-Fi related film/tv news, the whole Johnny Depp as the Doctor rumour is made of false.
The heavens have no idea how elated this makes me. I love Johnny, and I love the Doctor (duh), but Johnny as the Doctor is much bad. Do not want. Ever.
For one, the Doctor and the entire Whoniverse is so completely British that to have someone not from the UK play the Doctor would be a juvenile, ridiculous mistake. On top of that, much as I love Johnny and talented as he is, there's a quality beyond Britishness he doesn't possess which renders him incapable of portraying the Doctor. There's a combination of emotions and layers that Johnny does very well individually but as a composite I don't think he can pull off.
Oh yeah, and the most obvious point: WE ALREADY HAVE A DOCTOR. If you're going to make a film of Doctor Who, pick one of the most recent Doctors, each of whom is different and remarkable in his own way. Honestly, I think Tennant is the most 'bankable,' but Smith's quirkiness would surpass even what Depp could do with the role. I think that's my biggest issue with the idea -- a Depp Doctor would be a very quirky Doctor and the current Doctor excels at it and needs no replacing.
Plus, how do you account for Depp's Doctor in the line of regeneration? I don't want to lose the 12th Doctor to movies because some Hollywood yahoos think there's money to be made.
Doctor Who is a fairy tale and fairy tales have a lot to say about acting solely for the purpose of making money -- there's no reason to make a movie at all right now, much less one with Depp, other than to try and capitalize on a show that needs nothing to add to it beyond what already exists (which is my sly way of saying I love the audiobooks).

More Like This: