Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 29: A Discussion of Vampires and Adaptation with Amy Jane Vosper

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I am joined in the studio by horror scholar Amy Jane Vosper as we discuss the figure of the vampire! Amy Jane and I examine the history of the vampire and how the vampire has changed, adapted, and modified itself in our mythology and fiction to express the issues, fears, and anxieties of various ages and cultures. We particularly look at that enigmatic figure Dracula and how Dracula has changed since Bram Stoker’s novel over time.

Because Amy Jane and I are both feminists, we examine the figure of Dracula’s Brides, characters who are relegated to the background, sexualised, and disempowered and we look at how these figures have changed to become empowered figures in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s brilliant short story “A Handful of Earth”.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

To read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth”, go to http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Image of Amy Jane Vosper at Trent Radio

Image of Amy Jane Vosper at Trent Radio

Abandoned

A Review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” in Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us (Nov, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” available for free online by Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us ( http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 ) narrates the Dracula story from the perspective of Dracula’s “brides”, the three “sisters” who accompany him, giving life to characters often overlooked in the Dracula mythos.  Moreno-Garcia explores the experience of people left behind when a man emigrates in search of new opportunities elsewhere. They are left in a bitter-sweet state, joyous about being without Dracula’s oppressive regime and his compulsion to leave them locked up “for their own safety”, barricading them from the world outside to keep them in a state of perpetual unchanging existence. But, they are also in a state of mourning, without the purpose and drive that he had imposed on their lives and with a lingering sense that he could return.

Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures who are trapped between memory and existence. They are frozen in a state of undeath, as vampires generally are, but they also experience a loss of memory, a loss of their previous identity: “We can never look back or we will be turned into pillars of salt”. They grow empty as they age, giving up on aspects of their humanity possibly at the conflict embodied in the daily experience of humanity and inhumanity staring at one another in the mirror of their own bodies.

The narrator holds onto her sense of humanity though her love and maternal care for her sister vampires, using this to maintain some semblance of life and to fend off the experience of emptiness that hollows out the immortal soul. When, as in the Dracula Story, both Dracula and the other sisters are killed, the narrator is left with a loneliness inside of her, a loss of the homeliness of her humanity that was shaped through her maternal affection. Even the castle around her decays and collapses, leaving her with nothing to hold her memories in place. Left without identity, without memory and left to wander in diaspora, she loses an essential part of herself.  With the loss of her home and family, she forgets even the semblance of life.

Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures of internal conflict – both in the now because of their continual existence and immortality, but also trapped in the past at the moment of their death. They experience an internal war between the desire to escape from the past, and also the desire to remember. The past is an anchor for memory and identity, and it helps them to hold onto something of themselves. Without connections to the past, like many people in diaspora, they feel hollowed out, emptied, and lost.

You can read this story online at Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us at http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 . To find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia, visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/

The Vampire’s Gaze

A Review of Nancy Kilpatrick’s Berserker in Vampyric Variations(Edge, forthcoming 2012)

Photo of cover provided by Nancy Kilpatrick

Nancy Kilpatrick never makes things easy for her reader or provide them with simple answers. Her creative gift is to teach through her writing and open up questions, complicating the potential answers to remind you that answers themselves are too simple and impossible – answers are the main fantasy in her works.

In the short story Berserker, Kilpatrick uses the second person to put you in the position of Dracula himself. It transposes the familiarity of your own body as the reader with the foreignness and otherness that she inscribes on you through the narrative voice – by calling Dracula “you”. Her voice in the narrative insists that you are both human and not human, just as the vampire itself is a figure that straddles the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between familiar and strange. She evokes in her reader an intense interest and insight into Dracula’s mental and psychological state. Her narrative voice inserts his voice into your mind like a voice on the shadows of your consciousness whispering thoughts into your head.

From this othered normalcy that she creates, Nancy Kilpatrick is able to help the reader to both see and also question their own modernity, their assumptions, their beliefs. She critiques modernity for the need to “know” something by putting it into a category, controlling it. She reminds the reader that this need to control or believe in the illusion of control is born out of fear of things that don’t make sense, things that defy easy categories.

But even when critiquing control and ideas about control of the self and other, Kilpatrick doesn’t make “control” an easily definable thing. There is no real escape from control and no simple solution that suggest ‘this is it, now get yourself out of it.’ She portrays Dracula’s encounter with Victorian notions of femininity and the stern and strict controls that are placed on Victorian women. Dracula asserts his vampiric powers over the Victorian woman, seeing his own wild ‘control’ as an escape from social suppression. However, the vampiric does not release women from control, only from social convention. It is not freedom, but another set of chains. Nancy Kilpatrick complicates the very notion of control itself and asks her readers if we are ever really free.

Home is a key feature in this narrative. Playing on the idea that the vampire must sleep in his or her own home soil, Kilpatrick creates a vampire who is stranded between his heart’s home that was formative in his creation, his Transylvania, and his new home of England, a controlled place that lacks the wild beauty of his native soil. The land itself is infused with blood and bloodlines, it shapes her characters, pumping itself through their veins. We are all formed by notions of home – it creates us, shapes us, and we will always lay in our own earth, even if we bring it with us riding on our emotions and soul.

But even home is unstable and when you go to a new place and taste of their blood, it flows through you.

Kilpatrick’s Dracula is disgusted at the ecological damage being done around him by science’s assertion of its own control, and she proposes that perhaps the only thing that can speak for nature is the most unnatural of creatures. By using the vampire’s gaze, the immortal gaze, she reminds the reader that nature cannot be understood or fully grasped by short-term goals – nature is ancient and requires a longer observation. Our technological progress only sees short term, immediate goals and ignores the long-term effects, but the vampire has seen ages of change and knows about the impermanency of human life and the persistence of nature. She reminds us that “The mortals have much to learn from what they deem inferior life forms.”

You can explore more about Ms. Kilpatrick and her current work on her website http://www.sff.net/people/nancyk/ . Check out Vampyric Variations on the Edge website http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/vampyricvariations/vv-catalog.html