Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dracula: An E-pilogue

Having just bid a fond (and somewhat relieved) farewell to Dracula, I see Bekka Black has taken the novel's fascination with communications technology, and run with it. iDrakula retells the tale via email, text messages, and web pages. (What, no Twitter?) As Black points out, this is entirely in the spirit of the original. Also, she's given Mina more agency.

The original really does seem to cry out to be rewritten for contemporary times. While reading it, I continually had the feeling it was on the cusp of our own age, both aesthetically and culturally. It seems clear that a sense of radical change in the air inspired Stoker's story in the first place, and Dracula embodies the inchoate fears of same.

Interesting that societal change is represented, in Dracula, by a being who cannot change, i.e. age or die--though he can take different forms, which means one must constantly be on the lookout for him. The fear is: he will change us; he will make us the same as him; but he is so radically "other" that we can do nothing to bring him into "our" fold. New technologies inspire those kinds of fears. Technology makes us less human, we think; we seem less sure that we can humanize technology. Maybe racial or sexual otherness sparks the same horror in some: if we intermingle, we'll turn into them. It's a one-way street, always leading straight to hell. "They" can never be like "us."

So the vampire is the threat of change, but also the wish that things never, ever will change. Maybe it's even an acknowledgment that the fantasy of changelessness--immortality--is dangerous and monstrous. In fact, change is human. But no one wants to admit that up front.

Today's terrified Tea Party casts Obama in the vampire role. The fact that his campaign made great use of new technologies probably made him even more frightening to those on the wrong side of history. Never mind that the Palins of the world, true parasites, have also mastered these communications tools. What's really scary is the combination of implacable fear plus access to technology. Information, reason, appeals to our common humanity--nothing seems to stop this kind of fear. Maybe a better economy would help. But the fear is still there, buried, but not dead.

Anyway, I really just meant to note the Black book in this post. But now that I think about it, I'm more convinced than ever that Dracula is a book for the ages, literally.

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