Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Vampire in Science Fiction Film and Literature – review

Author: Paul Meehan

First published: 2014

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: This examination of the history of vampires within the science fiction realm also analyses the role of science and pseudo-science from the 18th century to modern times. The vampire's connection with science fiction is traced to its literary origins during the Victorian Era in seminal works by Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers of the period and later refined by modern SF writers such as Richard Matheson, Whitley Strieber and Brian Aldiss.

The history of the science fiction vampire in the cinema, from the silent era to the 21st century is given in detail. More than 60 films are discussed, including works by such acclaimed directors as Roger Corman, Mario Bava, David Cronenberg, Guillermo Del Toro and Steven Spielberg. The book treats of time-travelling vampires, spacefaring vampires, future-noir hemophages, giant mutant bats, vampiric plants, blood-drinking mad scientists, cyber-vamps, half-human hybrid dhampirs and bloodsucking extraterrestrials - the ever-popular children of the night.

The review: I do like a vampire reference work and it is always nice to find one that looks at a less trodden path of the genre. This, therefore plugged a definite gap in the market but, like all reference books, it did contain one or two controversial claims – however the genre is so wide that is to be expected.

Of course, regular readers will know that it was this book that led me to examine the film the Quatermass Xperiment and was, from my point of view, worthwhile just for that. As well as that his inclusion of L'Atlantide, provided a novel and films that I will be examining at some point. There was a nice examination of the roots of the vampire in science fiction through the late 19th century inclusions (Dracula, for instance, could be said to be science fiction and War of the Worlds had a vampiric element).

Meehan was wrong when he supposed – having looked at the Blood Beast Terror - that “any connection between moths and vampires is obscure other than the fact that they are both creatures of the night”. He does mention Dracula’s control of them but the moth and butterfly is a part of Slavic folklore – as noted by Milovan Glišić in After Ninety Years. A minor thing really, as it is not the most mainstream of lore and certainly won’t have influenced the makers of the mentioned film, but nonetheless it is extant lore.

Not all of the entries I agreed with. I haven’t read George du Maurier’s Trilby but I have watched Svengali (1931) and do not believe there is an aspect of psychic vampirism around it. I also have to mention that whilst listing the wonderful film Goke, Bodysnatcher from Hell was welcome, the claim “Japanese culture is not one to embrace vampirism” is not one supported by the facts – indeed the Japanese have produced many fine vampire films and kyūketsuki (the Japanese word for vampire) was introduced into the Japanese language in the early twentieth century. Perhaps Meehan meant that there is not, perhaps, the level of vampiric entities in Japanese folklore, but even then there are some.

There is nothing, however, that majorly detracts from the usefulness of the book as a whole. A good, solid 7.5 out of 10.


Alex. G said...

Isn't that the Dracula 3000 cover with different text?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is, good spot