More bloody vampires

Marianne de Pierres is scoping for readers’ (and viewers’) favourite vampires at her blog, while Nicole Adams has assembled a dubious top 14 vampire stories at hers. Good to see Dracula and Nosferatu made the Phlebotomy cut, despite their lack of supplementary cross-media tie-ins that seem to inform the rest of the selection. Nothing like a list to get tongues wagging, eh?

To whit, I’ve already listed my favourite vampire movies, so, riffing off MdP, here’s my pick of the screen vampires:

Bela Lugosi’s Dracula

Max Shreck’s Orlok

Klaus Kinski’s Orlok

Gary Oldman’s Dracula

Christopher Lee’s Dracula

Ingrid Pitt’s Carmilla

Near Dark’s vampire gang

Buffy’s Drusilla (and Spike, and Darla)

Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam

Willem Dafoe’s Shreck

Tom Cruise’s Lestat

Kirsten Dunst’s Claudia

Udo Keir’s Dracula

That’s 15 and quite a mouthful. I wonder if Kiefer Sutherland and David Boreanaz are unjustly omitted? And you know better than to mention Edward here, right?

So what is it about these screen portrayals that makes them stand out for me? Let’s see. Udo’s a maniac, Cruise excelled where no one expected him to. Shreck is impossible to forget and both Kinski and Dafoe paid amazing homage (Kinski in Vampire in Venice was also divine). Lugosi and Lee are likewise iconic. Near Dark is gritty and nihilistic. Dunst, Oldman, Deneuve and Pitt all offer nuances of characterisation you just don’t often get in a screen vampire. Buffy’s bunch are simply damn good fun, each in their own way. If there’s a theme running through these portrayals, it might be one of dealing with immortality – there’s a loneliness to these vampires, an otherness, that strikes deeper than the usual predator of the night depiction. They might be sexy, zany, insane, downright nasty, but all seem to suffer from the common malaise of being more-or-less alone in their timelessness. Maybe that’s part of why their performance lingers long after the credits have ended.

  • I’ll be rabbitting on about the evolution of vampires in literature and screen at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club’s mini-con on May 22. More details when they’re available.
  • Taking time

    The RSS feed has delivered two interesting, and timely, posts from fellow scribes. The first, from Kim Wilkins, talks about the negative effect on productivity of the marvellous interwebs — the distraction of being too busy being a writer to actually write; while the second, from Margo Lanagan guesting at Justine Larbalestier’s web home, concerns the necessity of being fallow for a bit, of stepping back, of letting the mind get over itself. And she asks an interesting question: if you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

    Think of all the time you spend writing — not just at the keyboard, but in headspace plotting and dreaming, in reading and watching stuff you think will help, in the PR and communication Kim talks about. Wow. Now, what would you do with that time that would give you the same reward? Another artistic endeavour? Sport? Charity work?

    A writer probably can’t not write, but I guess the crux is, what they want to do with that writing. And can those expectations realistically be met.

    An e-book precis at the New Yorker

    This article at The New Yorker online deals with the Kindle, the iPad and Google Books, as well as looking at the economic impact of the rise of e-books — yes, yet another one. There is much to appreciate, and muse about, in this piece. And while it can be dangerous to muse in public, here’s my two bob’s worth:

  • I found, for instance, that a single company has 90,000 author-clients — self-publishing — a little scary, because there was no mention of them having an editor (and there wouldn’t be in this article, but still, it makes me wonder). One presumes market forces will sort the chaff, eh? (Please, people, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should — get an editor!)
  • There’s mention of the different viewpoints of established publishers, discovering and nurturing new and not necessarily instant hit writers, while Apple and Amazon might be more interested in the maths. I’m wondering how much that’s actually still true, especially in a GFC-shadowed climate. I should think if anyone’s doing the nurturing these days, it’s the agents. Not much mention of agents in this article, by the way, but then the focus is on product delivery, not sourcing. Agents must surely be a tad nervous about delivery companies such as Amazon dealing direct with the author? Question: who organises the dramatic rights? And what does this mean for territorial rights? Things, they are a changing, but I still think having someone there to check the fine print is a damn fine idea.
  • I’m also a little nervous about the value-adding offered by the e-environment, because I thought I was writing stories, not computer games or other multi-media platforms, which surely are a different kind of story all in their own right. Maybe I can do both. Do I have a say over what apps are ‘enhancing’ my story? Can I pick the soundtrack? Can I still curl up on the couch in the quiet and not be cajoled into clicking the hyperlinks for explanatory notes, film clips and similar products that I might enjoy — at least until after I’ve finished this one? You know, actually use my imagination and be immersed in the story I’m reading. I wonder if books will be like DVDs — should I wait for the two-disc enhanced version? Will this be the new paperback/hardback divide? Yeah, I know, I gotta learn to embrace the new tech. But geeze, man, I’m still trying to get my head around story arc!
  • Spooky: 40 per cent of Americans read one book or less last year. Is that an illiteracy problem or just an ignorance problem? Or is it a sign that books just don’t rate as a consumer item in the land of instant gratification? Someone tell me Australia is ahead on this game. Or are we all at the footy?
  • Something for writers: the author is the brand. Good luck getting branded amongst the 90,000 self-publishers and their ilk all hitting the upload button…
  • The capacity of digital to deliver back-catalogue titles has got to be a boon, hasn’t it? Stories that just don’t go out of print any more.
  • And my appreciation of Google has gone up a notch thanks to their view that there is still a role to be played by bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Because I think the article is right about readers still wanting their online access and bookstore, too. Maybe that’s a generational thing. Wouldn’t it be great if e-books can help lift that hideous statistic about the 40 per cent who don’t read? And wouldn’t it be even better if that one book they did read wasn’t Twilight/Da Vinci Code/, or at least, used that as a springboard to, you know, read a second book?
  • The one thing I have taken from the article is that, while the delivery method is bound to change, at least there will still be a demand for one, which means the wordsmiths and the hacks — and yes, the really oughtn’ts — will have new avenues to reach, and engage with, their readers, at several levels. What do we do in the time of flux? Write on, my friend, and get to the end!

    Awards and more book covers

    Ticonderoga has released the book cover of its limited edition reprint of The Infernal by Kim Wilkins, her first novel and still one of my favourites.

    Ticon has also recently made available two anthologies: Scary Kisses, involving paranormal romance, and Belong, speculative tales with a migration hook.

    And in awards news, Jonathan Strahan, Justine Larbalestier (Liar) and Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan) are Aussies all in the running for Locus Awards. This follows the excellent news that Margo Lanagan is up for a Shirley Jackson award for her novella Sea-Hearts, published in X6.

    Here’s a cool trailer for Scott’s Leviathan, a very fun take on the outbreak of World War I:

    And one for Liar, a compelling if infuriating read!

    And not to be overlooked is this new offering from Rowena Cory Daniells, a fancy trailer for her new (and much awaited) trilogy. Rowena has been a stalwart of the spec fic community in Queensland for many a year, helping to found both the Vision writing group (going strong) and the EnVision writers workshop (now defunct, but in a way living on in the Queensland Writers Centre’s year of the novel program): two things that have been of massive benefit to me as a budding author.

    KRKhd from Daryl Lindquist on Vimeo.

    Ron Mueck and being human

    wild man sculpture by ron mueck

    What is it about the human body that we find so fascinating? I mean, we’ve all got one, haven’t we? But yet we are drawn to write about it and paint it and sculpt it, exploring it in all the ways we can find. Is there anything new, other than the continued unlocking of why it works, and why some times it doesn’t?

    I was pondering this fascination when I caught the Ron Mueck exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria — managed to get in there on the final weekend — and there were all these people, across all ages, milling around both massive and miniature likenesses of other people. These are the ones I remember:

    On the small side, there was a dead man laid out in repose; a lad (the only black character in the exhibition) examining a cut to his torso; two old ladies side-eyeing something unseen — maybe us!; a naked man peering curiously ahead from his seat at the front of a full-size rowboat; a man on an inflatable bed in a body of water (he was hanging on a blue wall); and a naked woman carrying a huge bundle of sticks; an old woman curled foetally in bed.

    On the large size, there was a naked, hirsute man sitting on a wooden table; a woman lying in bed with the covers drawn up; and a truly spooky baby, blood-smeared and umbilical still attached, one eye a half-slit. Brrrr.

    And then there was the ginormous plucked chicken, hanging by its feet, neck opened but as yet ungutted.

    The details in all these figures was amazing, from eyes and toes and nails, right down to the texture of skin and veins, pimples and blemishes and wrinkles. And hair. I can’t imagine the time required to implant all that hair, one strand at a time.

    Each of these, some more than others, had tales to tell. What were the old women looking at? Does the old woman want to crawl out from under the covers or is she happy to meet the Reaper? Why is the woman still in bed? Why is the wild man naked on the table and why does he look a bit nervous (as if being naked on a table in a room full of strangers isn’t enough)?

    Is it these unspoken and unknowable stories that attracts us to these figures? Or is it the simple cleverness of this Australian artist in reproducing our form so accurately? Or is there a lingering suspicion that, that guy there, he could be me…?

    The Hurt Locker

    Kathryn Bigelow, the director who gave us splendid vampire movie Near Dark (one of my favourites) and equally enjoyable SF flick Strange Days, really hits the mark with The Hurt Locker.

    I finally caught the Oscar-winning movie last night, and wow.

    The title is certainly apt, with the film following the events that befall a team of bomb-disposal experts in Baghdad with the arrival of a new leader, Will James (Jeremy Renner).

    James is an adrendalin junkie, much to the concern of his new team-mates: after all, when you’re defusing bombs, you’d like a steady hand on the wire-cutters.

    This is no Good Morning Vietnam or Blackhawk Down or, thank God, The Green Berets. There is no singular enemy for the team to overcome, no overarching narrative of right vs wrong, no great moralising: it’s a very personal story about men reacting under the most dire of pressure, and the relationship that forms between them.

    Bigelow has shot this brilliantly in a semi-documentary style that gives it emphasis without playing too many emotional violin strings (and in fact, music is used scarcely and brilliantly).

    The acting is superb (with notable roles for Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, the tension palpable at times, the story unpredictable in its events if not its conclusion. And, like most good war movies, it leaves you asking, why.

    I expect The Hurt Locker (official site and YouTube preview) will rank in the best movies of my year.

    Here’s a sample of the superb music in the film, Khyber Pass by Ministry, played over the closing credits.

    Simply charming, Andrew O’Neill

    I was comfortably numb from a very fine meal, accompanied by very fine wine, with friends at Stuzzichino in Lygon St when I rocked up to the Melbourne City Hall to see Andrew O’Neill strut his stuff as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

    Which probably isn’t a bad way to see a comedy gig, even one by a man whose descriptor is ‘occult comedian’: it sounds devilish, but he’s simply charming.

    O’Neill is 30, he tells us, but still resisting the notion of maturing; it’s the least of his confidences shared during his set. There’s the obvious goth cheerleader look, for instance, his long black hair tied pack in bushy pigtails, the metal t-shirt and skirt completing the picture. Yes, he says, he likes wearing women’s clothing. And then there’s the metalhead aspect, inspiring a pleasant breakdown of some of the genres for the unitiated, which is tied into his active interest in the occult, in particular infamous Crowley and famous Newton.

    He also relates how didn’t really care about pop music at all, until his outrage was ignited by the Jonas Brothers. This interview gives an idea.

    (I think inciting the viewers to kill and rape the band is perhaps over the top, but you can understand the sentiments.)

    Anyway, there is something very cool about sitting in council chambers surrounded by a mixed audience heavy on the metalheads listening to an erudite, passionate young man (in a skirt) expounding his belief that magic is fucked, but it works.

    There are engaging — he’s an engaging guy, helped along by that English accent and occasional outbursts of ditty — anecdotes about being hassled by numbskulls for his fashion choice and a month spent in Adelaide to leaven his journey of interest away from Christianity into atheism and then into the occult; the latter journey being aided by black and death metal, that interest having arisen due to the influence of Metallica.

    Satan, he says, gets the best music, and the best gags.

    After more than an hour of his entertaining dissembling, I’m tempted to agree.

    13 songs, covered darkly

    A recent blog post from Mil about Brisbane band The Horse Darkly led to this sweet cover of Suzanne Vega’s Luka, which got me thinking about other neat cover songs. I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with these critters: sometimes they can make you look at a song in a totally different light, sometimes they seem to pay true homage, and other times they just suck.

    Here are 13 darkly tinged standouts:

    Nine Inch Nails, Dead Souls (Joy Division): if you’re gonna cover JD, you’ve gotta do it with soul, and Trent Reznor amps it up in this whiz cover from The Crow soundtrack.

    And the original! (amazing, isn’t it, how majesty can surpass such poor vision and sound…)

    Concrete Blonde, Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen): a gorgeous song gains from Johnette Napolitano’s smoky voice and Jim Mankey’s guitar. See also the band’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Twist of Faith. Johnette offers two superb covers (of The Scientist and All Tomorrow’s Parties) on her solo album, Scarred.

    Inkubus Sukkubus, Paint It Black (Rolling Stones): witchy Gothic synth-rock puts a new shade on the Stones’ ode to depression.

    The Shroud, Alice (Sisters of Mercy): Goth band covers Goth band, with strings!

    Marilyn Manson, Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics): take a great pop song and cast it darkly — it’s a tactic that works well for Manson, who has also done the business on Tainted Love.

    Type O Negative, Summer Breeze (Seals and Crofts): another Gothic take on an otherwise breezy little ditty.

    Johnny Cash, Hurt (Nine Inch Nails): Cash puts his own crown of shit on the NIN tune. He repeats the dose on Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus.

    Rammstein, Stripped (Depeche Mode): Want to put a Germanic twist on the DM classic? Just add drums and guitars. Loud ones.