How far can writers go…? (Here be Vampires)
Recently on Twitter, I had a rant (if that’s possible in 140 characters). It was regarding my three cardinal rules of Vampirism; rules that, for me, should never be broken no matter what. They are:
1. Vampires go cripsy in the sunlight.
2. There is NO cure.
3. They’re hungry and you’re what’s for dinner, not their BFF.
A follower replied with a good counter argument, the fact that the most famous vampire in the world breaks one of those rules. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the eponymous character does indeed walk around in the daylight. I argued the toss, of course, and pointed out several factors which exempted Dracula from that rule but I wont discuss them here. Maybe a later post, if anyone’s interested.
But the debate brought up a good question. How far can a writer remove their characters from the existing tropes before it becomes TOO removed?
Let’s stick with the Vampires for this one.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a Vampire. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are creepy, scary and will nosh on your neck as soon as look at you. Vampires are supposed to be scary. And I’ll admit that these films are responsible for much of feelings toward the Vampire trope. When Lee clutches his hands to his face against the sunlight and turns into something resembling the contents of a men’s Working Club ashtray, it hit me as petrifyingly cool. But their source material, the original Dracula novel, breaks the Rules. Bram Stoker took the myths/legends/folk tales and warped them to the benefit of his book. Dracula is seen on several occasions throughout the day. Also, he isn’t killed by a wooden stake (which Stoker states as the weapon of choice) but by knives.
Now let’s think about Stephanie Meyer. I personally don’t rate the Twilight saga very highly. Sorry. But I’m firmly in Team Stoker. It isn’t the romantic element. Dracula is a gothic romance itself (especially if you watch the Gary Oldman movie version). Anne Rice’s awesome Interview series is more sex than scare and I still love those first few books (lost interest after that, mind). But Meyer breaks my cardinal sins twice. Edward Cullen not only shines like a fairy in sunlight, but manages to be an utter nonce in the blood-sucking department too. Bella should be lunch. A thousand times over.
But now I’m going to argue against myself. Is Meyer’s vampiric interpretation any worse that Stoker’s? He makes vamps able to walk in the daylight, she makes them sparkly. Is there such a difference other than aesthetically?
Not really. But those two novels split readers into opposing camps.
Since I’m obviously incapable of answering this one myself, the question goes to you. How far can a writer take something away from the original material before it becomes a bastardisation, or a renewal of tired tropes? Are we bending the rules to keep it fresh or ignoring them completely? I can think of examples which do both. Let’s see what you lot think…
Thanks for reading