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The Extended Dracula?

Bram Stoker's Dracula is perhaps the most reinterpreted novel in history. Abridged for younger readers, adapted in countless films and comics, and rewritten to include new and imaginative themes that many felt would present the novel in a better light. As the most famous novel of the late Victorian period it invented the modern vampire, and created an icon as enduring as any in myth.

In truth, however, the book is often seen as a hard read, with a well-paced and dramatic beginning never quite matched by the drier, less detailed journal entries that form the remainder of the book. It is the story of Jonathan Harker, from his journey through the darkness to his final escape from Castle Dracula that is the most beloved and most faithfully recounted section of the book. Stoker himself contributed changes to multiple editions, and even produced an abridged dramatic reading of his own.

Perhaps the reason for the book's difficulties is that it is an epic saga disguised as a novel. A complex plot is
condensed into a narrative where the original characters and events had to be conflated to make for a simpler storyline that turns many essential events and plot twists into mere anecdotes and sidelines that never quite live up to the promise of the scenes in Castle Dracula.

I remember, when I first read the novel, I completely missed Lucy's transition from Whitby to Hillingham, and much head scratching ensued as I struggled to work out how people from London were coming to and going from Lucy's bedside with alarming ease. This, I later found, wasn't an uncommon problem for readers, and Stoker overcomplicated his story to accommodate the Whitby segment that had originally been planned for Dover.

In the cold light of day we see that Dracula--bound for London--conjures up a supernatural storm to throw the Demeter off-course, so that he arrives several hundred miles away from his intended destination but, as luck would have it, he gets to interact with characters who live less than a mile from where he bought the property. This is why so many argue that Mina is his love interest reincarnate. Only wanting to be near Mina after seeing her photograph could explain this and yet Stoker himself never fully explored the theme.

By abridging the story, many essential elements are overlooked and yet when new authors revisit the story they will often draw inspiration by fleshing out those parts of the book told only as as passing anecdotes or fake newspaper cuttings. This got me thinking... what if, instead of abridging it, the Dracula saga were to be extended?

If you accept the argument that Dracula is a saga concealed as a novel played out over the largest part of a whole year, then it is no great leap of faith to make it the kind of sweeping saga that fills three large volumes in much the same fashion that Tolkein was forced to do with The Lord of the Rings.

Of course, from Fringeworks' point of view, we aren't publishers of doorstop novels, nor are we able to pay the sort of advance a writer needs to turn arguably the greatest and most influential horror novel of all time into a magnum opus of epic proportions. What we do seem to be doing, however, is carving ourselves a niche as a publisher of serial fiction. Already we have our Grimm & Grimmer anthologies and our Sherlock Holmes series in the works, with plans for similar serial fiction based on Alice in Wonderland, Pulp detective stories and War of the Worlds.

Should we do the same with Dracula?

Obviously, to flesh out the saga we'd need lots of material, and even if we flesh out all those sidelines and anecdotes, there is much that which might not go down so well with purists...

but wait...

Didn't Stoker omit lots of material? Weren't there a whole bunch of scenes and characters he never managed to use?

Yes indeed, from painters to detective inspectors, myriad lawyers and even psychical research agents, the foundations of a broader saga were laid by Stoker himself and, as if by magic, the many scenes he omitted may not just have been vignettes, but entire story threads that were forced to go untouched. And that's without the WEHRWOLF...

So, could we restore these characters and storylines? Retold as novellas so that each is fully explored in serial form, they would be much like the Penny Dreadfuls of old--like the original English Vampire saga, Varney the Vampyre. Now, more than a century after Stoker, with such a large body of work based on his original novel, and with a wealth of research that can guide us through the gaps between its pages, such an undertaking is more than just possible--it is inevitable.

So, if it is going to be done, it should at least be done respectfully, and well. The extended Dracula should therefore chart the rise of the vampire count, his journey to England, his retreat, his return home and his ultimate demise in serial form. A continuing series of novellas that will retell the original tale, supplementing it with new stories inspired by the original and by Stoker's own notes and ideas. They will retain a similar focus opon gothic horror laced with psychosexual tensions, reflecting many of the original themes but doing so in a more traditional storytelling form. Just like the abridged versions of old, the epistolary format of letters and journal entries needs to be replaced with a continuing narrative.

In due course I'll be inviting writers to participate in the project - for now I'm fleshing out the writers' guide (no easy task, I can assure you). In the mean time, if anyone has any thoughts about what could go into this, just drop me a line at adrian@fringeworks.co.uk.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
peter nilsson
Jul. 10th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC)
This sounds real interesting. How have your project developed thus far?
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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