One of the best ways to appreciate the Horror genre is to experience it in the form that was created by one of those whom many credit as a master of the genre. This can be in any medium really, films, books, comics, video games, any medium at all. However, I want to focus on book form for this little blog series, probably because it’s where I dabble myself, funny that.
Masters have been around since the genre first came to be, there are those from the past who made the genre what it is today and there are those today taking us down new winding roads to dark and creepy places.
I personally have an odd relationship with some of the classics, I both love and at times loathe them. I appreciate them for what they did, as without them the genre would not be where it is today but that doesn’t always mean I enjoy them. A clear example of this is my thoughts on Lord of the Rings, I think without it we wouldn’t have the fantasy genre that we have today, and credit is due to it for that, but I have also tried several times as a child, teenager and adult to read it and I am yet to manage it. The level of description at points and the tangents it wanders off into defeat me every time. But there are some classics that I love, Picture of Dorian Grey is one I’ve mentioned previously and I bloody love Dracula. I love the story, the mystery, the characters, the pacing, I just plain love it.
With that said it should come as no surprise that the first writer in this series is going to be Bram Stoker. Bram Stoker is so well known that even people who stay away from the Horror genre tend to know who he is. He wrote more than just Dracula it is true, but his writing Dracula has caused the horror genre and our very culture to go off down a road it might not have gone down had he not put pen to paper. So few of us can ever say we’ve had that kind of impact on the world.
Stoker was born on 8th November 1847 in Dublin, he was a poorly child until he started school at age 7. This illness caused him to be bedridden for years in his early life and Stoker credits it as making him “naturally thoughtful”. He went on to Trinity College in Dublin and graduated with a BA in 1870 and then received his MA in 1875
His early career involved him becoming a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, in this job he became friends with Henry Irving. He also wrote stories during this time, “The Crystal Cup” was published in 1872, followed by “The Chain of Destiny”. He wrote non-fiction books also, in particular, “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland” in 1879.
Stoker went on to write “The Snakes Pass” in 1890, he also visited Whitby in 1890 which was part of his inspiration to write Dracula, along with his meeting Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer who is said to have told Stoker tales of the Carpathian Mountains. He went on to write Dracula in 1897. He continued to write after this, writing his Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving in 1906, The Lady of the Shroud in 1909 and The Lair of the White Worm in 1911.
Stoker passed away after suffering several strokes on 20th April 1912, he was cremated and his ashes displayed at Golders Green Crematorium.
I often find myself wondering if he had any idea at all the creature he had created with Dracula, if he had any inkling what a cultural force the book would be, how it would resonate with people even today and spawn so much creative work around it. What do you think?