vampire

Seminal Vampires

In A Glass Darkly

 

Of course, Bram Stoker is often cited (by everyone who isn’t a serious student of the genre) as the father of Vampire fiction.  With Stephanie Meyer’s popularity, I suspect that the group of people who aren’t experts but are giving their opinion anyway is pretty big.  Hell, for all I know, Meyer’s fans might think the genre started with Anne Rice…  or with Meyer herself, and that this Dracula guy is a character from one of her unpublished novels.

At the risk of adding another non-expert voice to the discussion, I will not attempt to trace the genesis of the vampire myth in eastern European folklore (there are people who have dedicated their lives to that.  Go read their work) but will simply limit myself to expressing my thoughts about an early exponent that I happened to stumble across in my readings.

I was never specifically planning to read Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darklybut it happened to be included in Easton Press’ Horror Library, which I had signed up for (as mentioned here before, I’m a sucker for pretty editions).  It’s from 1872, which means that it predates Dracula by over 20 years, and it contains at least one story,  “Carmilla” which foreshadows the sexual overtones of Stoker’s book but focused on a lesbian as opposed to heterosexual relationship.

Vampire tits - Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla

Of course, in 1872, you couldn’t really make things too explicit, but savvy readers will have known what LeFanu was talking about.  In fact, the story (more of a novella than a short story) has been adapted several times for film, always with a view for its shock value.  There’s an excellent article dealing with the film versions here (slightly, not excessively, NSFW).

Despite its notoriety, Carmilla wasn’t, in my opinion, the most memorable story in the book.  That honor has to go to “The Room in the Dragon Volant“, another novella length tale where sexual innuendo and dark motivations combine in what is essentially a modern horror/thriller framed in a Victorian writing style.  It develops slowly, but is extremely satisfying once it does.  No vampires in it, though.

The rest of the book is composed of shorter tales, of which “Mr. Justice Harbottle”, a tale of divine retribution, is also better than “Carmilla” IMO.  Satisfying and brutal– everything one needs in a horror story!

So, without opining on things I have no first-hand knowledge of, I can safely state that, while Stoker might have popularized the form, the vampire story in English literature preceded him.  And LeFanu was much braver in the use of cutting-edge, controversial elements than Stoker would ever be.

All in all, a good book, especially for those who enjoy a good haunt.

 

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The 2015 Post

Hand Emerging From Crypt

Our strangest (albeit most critically acclaimed) guest blogger, Baron H, is back from wherever he’s been hiding these last few months (we sincerely hope his explanation for his absence below isn’t indicative of reality).  Why he would bizarrely send us his New Year’s resolutions in March is likewise a mystery, but as we had no other piece planned for today we decided to run it anyway, and see whether our readers would suck it up or simply abandon the blog in droves.  For those new to Classically Educated, Baron Hieronymous is the net’s only undead blogger – he claims to be a vampire – and he gives etiquette advice with a particularly strange twist.  Of course, we think he’s just a deranged old coot out in the wilderness somewhere, but that doesn’t change the undeniable fact that he penned our most popular post ever.

Greetings and salutations,

There are various reasons for the fact that my first post of 2015 is in March as opposed to January.  The first two (minor reasons) have to do with the fact that a) we undead are in no hurry, so a couple of months is nothing to us and b) that I was in a relationship with a mortal that didn’t quite work out, so I lost a bit of time while I worked out the details of the feast I was going to throw in her honor; she was a hit with my friends, as was the garlic sauce she attended the dinner in.

The main reason, however, has nothing to do with that at all.  You see, I’ve been feeling a little guilty over the fact that many of my previous posts (here and here, for example) have specifically been aimed at explaining and clarifying everyday situations or historical trends.  I seem to have forgotten that my function, in death as it was in life, is not to be a force for good, but a force for evil.  I live in New York, after all, and have a reputation to maintain.

So, with that firmly in mind, I have decided to write my 2015 resolutions on the first days of March.  The reason for this is that all the people who made resolutions on New Year’s day have probably already broken them, so this will remind them that they are just worms with no discipline (I apologize to my zombie readers who might be offended at the mention of worms).

So, with no further ado, here are my resolutions for how to make the world a worse place in 2015.

1) Send in a script for a new reality show to the good folks at the networks.  This one will follow a group of schoolkids in the bible belt as they become progressively dumber and more confused as the battle for what is right and proper education rages on.  One day, they will be taught one thing, and the next, they will see the polar opposite.  This will definitely go on the air as the it will appeal to both conservatives and liberals.  Eventually the ratings will go through the roof, as the poor kids will wind up so confused and misguided that they will end up almost as stupid as the average TV audience.  And remember folks, an audience that can relate to the characters on the screen is an audience that won’t change channels!

2) Donate money to a cause run by fanatics, but stipulate that the gold (I don’t trust this newfangled paper currency) can only be used for PR and advertising.  What more could we want than another group of true believers with no sense of humor or capacity to understand the concept of “middle ground” with more money to get their vew across.  Perhaps some group that thinks indoor plumbing is an offense against the gods of native people might work.

3) No more giving werewolves bottes of Head & Shoulders for their birthday.  This is just mean, and the fun of it wore of a long time ago.

Pyramid Zombie

4) Hire a zombie to haunt the pyramids.  I’ve wanted to do this for ages, but with airport security the way it is, it was always tough to get zombies on airplanes.  But now, I hear they have Twitter in Egypt, so I’ll tweet for local candidates interested in the position.  And then I’ll wrap the winner in bandages, place him in a crypt and sit around watching CNN until the story comes on.

Borley Rectory - Most Haunted House in England

5)  Take a trip to Borley.  Haven’t been there in years, and the ghosts are starting to get unhappy with me.  Stakes and garlic have been mentioned in a couple of their more recent communiqués.

6)  No more eating garbagemen.  This is actually the one I’m mot likely to stick to.  These guys are tasty, easy to pick off the street and always do for a quick meal, but they give me gas.  Oh well, guess I’ll pop in to McDonald’s if I need a quick bite.

Like all resolutions, we’ll see how these go.  In the meantime, be good.

And if you aren’t good, please be certain to invite me along!

Regards,

H

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An Antidote to Saccharine Holiday Greetings

So, we were going to do the obligatory pre-holiday post, but Baron Hieronymous insisted that, by virtue of being our oldest staff member by quite a few centuries, he should be allowed to do the holiday post.  We were dead set against it until he ate one of our interns.  After that, it was amazing how quickly discretion became the better part of valor.  Also, from a business perspective, it would have been unwise to provoke our staff vampire into eliminating one of our permanent staffers (interns, of course, don’t count).

Baron H as Santa

Holiday Greetings,

New York, as always, has become a magical city in the holiday season.  Well, Manhattan below 112th street or so, anyway, and that’s all that I consider New York (this is a good way to find out if someone is worth speaking to: ask them what burroughs they consider to be part of the city – and eat the wrong answers).  The tree is up, the wind is blowing and the carolers…  Well, the carolers are fine, I guess, but they don’t come to my door any more, and haven’t since the fifties.  Whether this is because they have fixed spots around the city or whether word has gone around about my place, I’ve never bothered to find out.

Anyhow, the lack of carolers has turned into a bit of an issue because I had a couple of vampires over for dinner just after Christmas (they can’t come out of their boxes on Christmas because you never know when a maniac will chant a prayer at you or spray you with holy water), and had no fresh meat to give them.  I had to hire a group of mercenaries to kidnap a busload of Korean tourists.  Oriental food for the holiday season?  Well, one takes what one can get, and the vampires went away happy.  Also, I got to use the set of butcher’s knives that the Old Monster got me for Christmas – the OM may have her little quirks, but she certainly knows sharp objects!

So, before I go off to hunt for my New Years dinner – I’m thinking European cuisine this time (I can probably get it in the Park) – I’d like to remind you to point fireworks away from children (there’s more meat on grown humans), and remember to stay away from large buildings with spires, no matter how drunk you are.  Those places are unhealthy for the undead.

So have a happy or painful New Year (to each his or her own), and I’ll see you in 2015.

Hieronymous

On Taste vs. Money – a Baron H Reflection

Our resident vampire guest poster is back – giving us more of his view of the world following his thoughts on humor from a couple of months ago.

Hawaiian zombie

Greetings faithful readers,

As cold weather and low skies make the northern hemisphere a gloomier place, I’d like to take this opportunity to inform you that I am in Hawaii at the moment.  This isn’t, by any means a choice I would have made on my own.  I like cold, dark, gloom.  Ideal lighting for a midafternoon abduction and dismembering of a used car salesman.

Hawaii, on the other hand has little to recommend it.  After a few hundred years, even the wittiest of undead humor grows thin (“My last meal disagreed with me.  So I ate him.  Har Har.” Aaargh!).

And yet, here I am, trying to avoid direct sunlight in a place where the sun seems to be permanently smiling on beautiful tanned bodies.  Not a place where the undead walk joyfully.  And the humidity is just hell on zombies – they get moldier and riper.  As you can imagine, I am here by invitation of the Big Island’s royal ghosts.  I’m currently sitting deep inside a natural cave formed by a lava floe, and my wireless access is patchy (what does it say about the world when you can actually get internet acces in a CAVE?).

Being here has, once more, gotten me thinking about the relationship between money and taste – mainly because I’m surrounded by tourists who were able to afford the price of admission, so presumably have at least some disposable income.

Most people hear the word taste and equate it with money.  Good taste seems to be something that everyman is not allowed to have.  Now, while I will be the first to admit that it is in short supply, and would like nothing better than to say that yes, it is the exclusive domain of those who are well-to-do, I simply can’t do so with a good conscience (and before the moralists out there point it out, yes, I am a multiple mass murderer.  But it doesn’t affect my conscience, since they are only humans.  Lying about this or anything else, however, would be beneath me).

Now, while I’ve often been accused of being a snob about money, the truth is that I’m a snob about taste.  I would much rather spend my time with the ghost of a penniless maid who’s spent the intervening years haunting a library than even the most aristocratic vampire whose idea of elegance is a pimped Cadillac Escalade.  Hell, I’d rather spend time with the creature from the black lagoon than this particular aristocrat.  Earthy as the monster is, it is at least honest and unpretentious.

To those with even a modicum of taste, the above will seem obvious, a waste of a few hundred words.  But those of us who are here at the Aikanaka Reunion and Bloodbath, there is a single self-evident truth, a new first law of everything, if you will.  One that, when broken, will cause gods of the underworld to cry:  Zombies.  Flowered shirts.  NO.

I have seen things here that no undead was ever meant to see.

Regards,

H

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Party Like it’s 1925

1920s  House Party

Here at Classically Educated, we think that everyone takes themselves much too seriously.  Hell, we’ll probably be accused of taking ourselves too seriously.  In fact, the very name “Classically Educated” reeks of pretentious big-headedness.  So we are officially declaring this week the “Week of Not Taking Ourselves or the Week of Easter Seriously”, also known by its simple acronym, WONT OOT WOES.  Our article on Thursday will probably poke some sort of  fun at something around Easter, but we had no article for today.

So, in the time-honored tradition of blogs everywhere, we asked a vampire to send us an article about how to party to run on Easter week.  I imagine all the other blogs are doing the same thing.  Well, at least those that recognize the universal truth that vampires haven’t been overdone.  Anyway, H’s post is below.  You may have read it before, but we don’t care.

Greetings,

As someone who’s seen it all over the past few thousand years, the most surprising thing isn’t that I’ve seen everything once, but how often I seem to see the same thing, over and over again.  History, in my opinion, doesn’t move in great cycles, it repeats itself once every generation as new teenagers ask the same questions.

I am always amused by how every generation believes, firmly, that it invented the out-of-control, call-the-cops and get-excommunicated-immediately party.  Ninety percent of people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five would probably tell you that their parents were the sort of people whose idea of a good time was dinner, a movie and home by ten.  Teens today would be hard-pressed to picture younger versions of their folks in a typical 1980′s cocaine blowout.  They’d probably have an even harder time with the image of their grandparents at Woodstock.

The reason each generation believes that theirs are the best parties, is because they are clueless (and mortal, which means that most of them can’t even begin to imagine what real parties are like!).  They feel that, having finally gotten beyond the bounds of childhood, they are doing things never before permitted to anyone else.

Hah.

Over the past few millenia, I’ve observed several truly golden eras of debauchery, and I feel that a list of the great eras of the party is justified.  Of course, I will limit myself to those parties at which an undead person would 1) not be ashamed to be seen at and 2) not cause a panic.  I’m certain there have been some enjoyable orgies among illiterate goatherders in unregarded rural villages in the Appenines, but we need not concern ourselves with them for the nonce.

I present, in order, the great party epochs you shouldn’t have missed if you were alive, or undead, at the time:

Hanging Gardens Engraving

5) Babylon under the rule of Ishtar.  The energy of budding civilization – there were no rules for anything back then – great-looking city walls and the best setting for a garden party ever made the nightlife noteworthy.  The fact that the largest prostitution ring was run by the official religion (giving you an idea of what ‘morals’ meant back then) made it legendary.

Pericles and Architect

4) Pericle’s Greece.  Have you seen the movie Caligula?  Yes?  Good.  Well, remember that they were Romans, and the Romans learned everything they knew from the Classical Greeks.  They stole their gods, their alphabet, and their ethics from the declining Hellenes, but something was lost in the transition.  The Greeks remain the true masters of the decadent orgy.

Check out Dude with Head

3) The court of Louis XVI.  Talk about throwing everything at a party.  These people had the entire wealth of a nation to spend on their blowouts – and they did.  Each noble saw it as his duty to bankrupt his duchy to purchase wine when his turn to host the proceedings rolled around, and the dress code was strict: brand new clothes produced to that week’s fashion would get you in – anything else would get you sent around back to the servant’s quarters, although this banishment would likely only last until the inebriated nobles – male, female, undecided, undead, whatever – came around looking for something to add variety to the revelry.  It was a time of parties well worth losing one’s head over.

Victorians!

2)  Victorian England.  Let’s just say that neither Charlotte Bronte nor Jane Austen got invited to the good parties.  The late 19th century was a riot behind closed doors, and the upper classes went further and farther than anyone had dared before or since.  If I weren’t sworn to secrecy, you’d be shocked at the truth behind Jack the Ripper.  The only thing keeping this epoch from taking the top spot was their insistence on using opium-based drugs.  Not much of a party when one is too relaxed to stay upright.

Driving home after the party

1) The roaring twenties.  American Robber Baronesses meet the landed European gentry – and seduce it.  Women’s liberation finally brought what had been happening forever out into the open.  We were introduced to the vamp, the femme fatale and the powerful female figure, much to the distress of the middle class, who have always been the only ones to believe in morality in the first place (which is unsurprising, since it has always been a tool to control them).   Hard drugs and slinky dresses, impeccably dressed men and fast cars all performing to the beat of the foxtrot at eleven, and the tango at three – a prelude to other things.  If you moved in the right circles, prohibition was a joke – something that happened to strict churchgoers.  Black Tuesday robbed future generaions of the pinnacle of party – perhaps it’s just as well, because there was no way that generation would have survived much longer if they’d gone on like that.

Best of all, these epochs were undead-friendly, provided that particular undead didn’t smell and had gone to the right school.  Imagine popping into even the best party today, and asking if the house had an excess stable boy whose blood you might suck – your host would grow pale and mutter some lame excuse.  And you call that a party.

The bar has been set.  I expect all of you to strive to clear it from now on.

H