Good day everybody! I realize that I’ve been on hiatus for a while, but I’m back! And this time, I want to take you on a small behind the scenes look at some of the development of The Standard Tech Case.
Specifically, I want to talk about Dracula. The novel. The myth. The legend. The book with probably the worst adaptations ever made, or at least the largest number of bad adaptations ever made. And how I struggled to incorporate it into my Shadowed Universe.
Join me under the cut!
The Problem With Dracula
So, the first and most immediate problem with Dracula, the novel, was that I had already begun to shape The Shadowed Universe long before I ever read Dracula. In point of fact, my first introductions into vampirism as a whole came from Blade and Underworld. Well, a little bit from the movie version of Interview With a Vampire, too, but not that much. It was very much Blade and Underworld that got me into vampires, and it remains very much their style, rules and aesthetic that shape my vampires to this day.
But of course, Dracula is very different. Bram Stoker wrote a totally different style of vampire, with different rules and powers. Powers, in some cases, that couldn’t exist in my vampires. So that had to be accounted for.
The second problem was the terrible adaptations, and what they had done to the cast of Dracula, from the terrifying old warlock himself to Jonathan Harker and especially what they had done to Mina and Lucy. If I was going to incorporate Dracula into the Shadowed Universe, and I was intent on doing so, then I had to clear away all the misconceptions that had been foisted upon us by pop culture and adapt the novel, purely on its own merits.
The third problem was the easiest. I had to fit Dracula into my own, fictional history. Figure out who the characters were and what they did within the universe I had created. Given that this was my own, fictional history, this part was stupidly easy: I could bend and rewrite time however I wished, so I just slotted the characters in wherever they fit and organized the universe around them.
Our Vampires Are Different
Vampires in Dracula are explicitly magical. Dracula himself is even suggested to gain his powers from a deal with the devil, though nothing is ever confirmed in text. Which is a problem, because I wanted to make my vampires explicitly non-magical.
Dracula is also pretty explicitly the first vampire. Which, again, contradicted the rules of my vampires who had existed thousands of years before Dracula.
Dracula also has different powers than I had originally envisioned for my vampires, including the ability to turn into mist, wolves and bats.
Finally, becoming a vampire is permanent in my universe. If I wanted to incorporate Dracula into the Shadowed Universe, I’d basically have to re-write the ending.
And that, more or less, is what I did. I made it so that the events of the novel happened, more or less as were described, but that they were heavily fictionalized. Mina Harker, Lord Goldaming, Abraham van Helsing and Jonathan Harker all conspired to mire the event in confusion so as to escape attention. For this, they hired Bram Stoker, already an accomplished horror writer and novelist to, essentially, bullshit their story. And he did, very effectively, turning a horrific adventure into a multi-million dollar franchise. One that is still owned and controlled by Mina Harker.
That Is One Lousy Adaptation Bram
The very first adaptation of Dracula was the stage play, and it cuts out more than two-thirds of the book and a big chunk of the characters and their characterization. In fact, when I first saw the 1931 version of Dracula, which was basically a filmed version of the stage play, I was stunned by how short it was. It was like watching a version of Pride and Prejudice that only had Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy meet, and then had them married in the very next scene!
Okay, it wasn’t that bad. But it did set a precedent for some very loose adaptations, most of which have only the slightest resemblance to the original novel.
Indeed, the state of Dracula adaptations is so bad, that Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version is still the most faithful adaptation yet. And this is the adaptation that:
- Gave us the infamous butt hair.
- Introduced the infamous reincarnated love angle.
- made explicit the idea that Dracula is, indeed, Vlad III of Wallachia.
Yeah. Given that state of adaptations, I had to make some decisions about how this was going to work. And so I did:
- First, get rid of that damned love angle. Bram Stoker wrote the attacks from Dracula as rapes, and it was hard to see Mina Harker, who had been forcibly turned and lost her best friend to this monster, as seeing them as anything but. While age and time have softened her biting hatred of Dracula, there can be no mistake: she still hates his fucking guts.
- Second, get rid of Drac’s adaptational heroism. While the motives I gave him are more sympathetic than taking over England for the funsies (he’s trying to stop WWI) and vampires aren’t inherently evil in the Shadowed Universe, most of the events of the novel are still his fault. Either due to his paranoia, his ego, his (incredibly) short temper, and his very incomplete understanding of technology (basically, he understand it’s implications in war, but not how to actually use the stuff).
- Third, undo the damage done by Alan Moore in his disgustingly terrible The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Mina ended the novel with Jonathan Harker and three good friends in the form of Abraham van Helsing, Lord Godalming and Jack Seward. Moore excised these characters for reasons that remain obscure to me, and I sought to bring them back in some way, shape or form. All are dead, save Mina, at the time The Standard Tech Case Files take place, of course, but they could be remembered and honoured.
- Abraham van Helsing remained Mina’s loyal friend and confidant throughout the decades until his death, and did more to advance knowledge of vampires and their condition than anybody else. Mina is currently using his name as part of her Masquerade.
- Jonathan Harker, though he died younger than he should have, became one of vampiredom’s greatest war heroes, helping Mina consolidate control over England’s vampires and become the first vampiric Duchess of England since 1290. To this night, vampires and their servants often wield kukris in honour of Jonathan, and it is tradition to toast him whenever hosting Mina or her servants. He also had three dhampyr children with Mina: their son Quincey, and twin daughters. Quincey carries on his father’s tradition of being a fearsome soldier and general, and the twins are no slouches either.
- Jack Seward studied under Abraham van Helsing for several decades while continuing his own research into mental illness and addiction, pioneering several new treatments and ways of understanding the mentally ill. He would live until the end of World War II, aided by ingesting some vampire blood from Mina. During both of the World Wars, he served on the frontlines as a doctor, and was a personal enemy of Josef Mengele. Though he never married, Jack would adopt a large crop of children, many of them former patients, and many who would carry on his work.
- Arthur Holmwood, Lord Godalming, largely retired from the world of adventure after his confrontation with Dracula. However, he continued to aid his friends in their adventures, often serving as the bankroll. He also took up and championed a number of liberal causes, and was a fierce support of women’s right to vote. He died during the First World War, unwilling to take up any vampire blood to extend his life. He did remarry, and his descendants remain some of Mina’s most loyal supporters.
- Quincey Morris, of course, died during the fight with Dracula. However, his legacy lives on, both in Quincey Harker and in a large sprawling clan of vampire hunters, adventurers, activists and general troublemakers from Texas. They are close allies and friends of the vampiric Barony of Fort City, and lent their considerable talents to the Civil Rights Movement, striving to eliminate their old enemies the KKK.
- Fourthly, I had to restore Lucy Westenra’s character. Despite what Francis Ford Coppola would have you believe, Lucy was not a slut in life, but a sheltered girl with a big heart. Not there’s anything particularly wrong with being a slut, mind, but it’s not Lucy and is all too often used as a justification for Dracula’s attacks. That’s not what Bram had in mind, and that’s not a message I want in my works, thank you very much.
- Fifth, restore Mina’s character. She gets badly chickified in most adaptations, reduced merely to a screaming damsel in distress. While Mina is no killer in the novel, she’s a clever, brave woman who is instrumental in thwarting Dracula. In my universe, then, she had to retain her brains and courage. While the confrontation with Dracula left her shaken, she swiftly turned to uniting the various vampire holds in England, re-imposing ancient vampire law and severely cutting down on any further incidents like that which plagued her.
That’s All Folks!
I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the behind the scenes thought processes that go into The Shadowed Universe.
I’ll see you all tomorrow!