Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Caretakers – review

Director: Steve Hudgins

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Not to be confused with the earlier (and singular) the Caretaker, writer and director Steve Hudgins has followed a line of concentrating on the vampire’s human servant that has also been seen in such films as the Familiar and Sodium Babies.

The film has been made on a budget and it does suffer for that but, on a positive, there are some really interesting lore aspects and quite a complex story drawn – much more complex than one would expect on the budget.

Jessica Dockrey as the Albino
It starts with a voiceover and then meet Jack (Nick Faust) who is on a porch when Catherine (April Jennings) and Paul (Travis Shanks) walk up. Catherine orders Jack to train him, after asking the man’s name Jack shoots him in the face. Catherine simply walks into the house. We see (by virtue of a binocular shape on screen) that they are being watched. This turns out to be by a private investigator and his albino sidekick known, imaginatively, as the Albino (Jessica Dockrey). I’ll come back to the Albino later.

Michael Coon as Jimmy
Elsewhere there is a knock at a door and a woman answers to see a young man, Jimmy (Michael Coon), who is sweating. He suddenly grabs her and drags her inside, eventually stabbing her viciously – we’ll talk blood soon as well. As it is he gets a testing kit out and checks the dead woman’s blood type but it is wrong. By now his companion, Rachel (Brittney Saylor), has entered the house and he tells her this. She insists on being locked up but starts getting violent with him as he does as she asks. Rachel is a vampire and the hunger is out of control.

Sally and Parker
I don’t want to spoil too much storyline, as this is the strongest aspect of the movie, but there are some bits I need to explain. Rachel’s father (Bill Johnson) has gone to a couple, Parker (Joe Estevez, Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolves) and Sally (Felicia Stewart), to help him find his daughter. They in turn have hired the PI and the Albino and are aware of vampires.



Catherine and Jack
Catherine is a pureline vampire – another species. This is where we get the interesting lore. The pureline vampires have one main vulnerability – that is the deepest part of their sleep is so deep that anything could be done to them. Because of this they are secretive and have human caretakers. Jack is Catherine’s caretaker but she realises that he wants more out of life, which is why she wants him to train his replacements – this ends up being a father and his daughter who Catherine had saved from a serial killer.

overhelmed by hunger
We discover that the purelines have telekinetic and limited telepathic powers (she knows when her caretaker is hurt) and a support network through human society. They feed on blood but it is slightly different to most vampire films. They have to bite their victim and release a chemical into the wound that alters the blood over a period of time – making it drinkable (though this does not sound like a good evolutionary survival tactic). If a victim should escape with their blood altered – like Rachel did – then they become a hybrid, developing fangs and an overwhelming and inescapable hunger. They must drink their own blood type and become increasingly unstable and violent. Rachel quickly develops the ability to smell her own blood type. Catherine wants Rachel found and destroyed.

pureline vampire
This had problems but generally story wasn’t one of them – it gave us story in spades and a complex one at that. One aspect that I did like was that there was no moral judgement on the part of the filmmakers – the characters simply were. However some bits didn’t ring true, for instance the complete lack of comeback when Jack killed the first new caretaker. The acting was ok, amateurish in places but good enough in the main to go along with the story. The photography was amateurish, to be honest, though kudos to those behind the lighting as the use of coloured light was reminiscent of classic Euro-horror. However it was in some of the sfx that we see our biggest issues.

badly realised blood
I’ll start with blood. The vivid pinkish-purple blood was entirely the wrong colour to be blood and it looked daft. However many a film gets blood wrong. I was also thrown, in the very first instance, by the Albino. We didn’t get her name at first and I assumed with the pale makeup, the white contacts and the wig that we were faced with some form of undead. The fact was that making the character an Albino added nothing to the film – she could have given the same stoic performance as just a specialist PI/vampire hunter – but the look was a jolt as the makeup/contacts/wig were unnatural and a detriment to the film.

fangs
All in all the photography and some bad sfx choices underlined that we were not dealing with a more professional piece and kept the film off kilter despite having plenty of story. On balance this deserves 4 out of 10, as a flawed film with some good aspects and worth a watch for the story at least. The film was produced by Big Biting Pig productions.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Classic Literature: Smarra or the Demons of the Night

The story Smarra, originally Smarra ou les Démons de la nuit, was an 1821 story by Charles Nodier and, whilst not a vampire story per se, it certainly has a vampiric element. Nodier, of course, is firmly at the Gaelic wellspring of the media vampire. He adapted Polidori’s the Vampyre into an 1820 play and, in Roxana Stuart’s Stage Blood we read that “Nodier assured [Alexandre Dumas, père] that in “Illyra” (Spalatro) he had seen a vampire with his own eyes, an old man whose corpse came back to the house of his sons, asking for food and drink.” (pg 134)

Smarra is a dense piece of prose; rich, poetic, evocative and, due to that, somewhat confusing, though understanding that it is based around (loosely) the Golden Ass helps. It follows the young man Lorenzo as he sleeps by his beloved Lisidis. He dreams of Lucius riding through a forest towards Larissa. Desperate for sleep Lucius seems to slip into a dream world himself, where his thoughts are haunted by his friend Polemon, who saved Lucius but died in battle. As the narrative pushes deeper we hear of the torments suffered by Polemon himself.

The Demons of the Night are those very tormented dreams and, whilst Nodier was versed in vampires we must remember that the genre was in its infancy. So when describing Polemon and saying that “his neck bore the mark of blood, the triangular scar of an iron lance” we must remember that this was reminiscent of the attack on Socrates in the Golden Ass, which is to do with bloodletting, assassination and witchcraft (as we shall soon see). However, I do not believe this was meant to be indicative of the vampire – that would be a modern conceit.

However, as I said, there is a vampiric element and that is regarding the entity Smarra. The woman Méroé unleashes Smarra: “She presses the hidden spring, to reveal a golden casket containing a colourless and formless monster, which thrashes and howls and leaps and falls back crouching on the enchantress’ breast.” It should be noted that Meroe is a character from the Golden Ass. In that she is a witch and she, with Panthia, attack Socrates and “thrust her sword up to the hilt into the left part of his neck, and received the blood that gushed out with a small bladder, that no drop thereof fell beside” As well as this they remove his heart and then stop the wound with a sponge. Socrates lives until the sponge becomes wet and falls out of the wound. Nodier’s Méroé is a beauty who uses Smarra to mete out an ongoing punishment.

The vampiric element is seen when we read of Smarra, “like some deformed and gleeful dwarf, his fingers armed with nails of a metal finer than steel, which penetrate the flesh without rending it, and suck the blood from it like the insidiously pumping leech”. With this (and the connection to nightmares, as Smarra visits troubled nights upon the victim) we get a vampiric demon of sorts and an interesting, classically inspired piece of prose.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Honourable Mentions: Necropolis

This was a 1970 released art film directed by Franco Brocani, which was said to be a dissertation on evil through the ages.


In reality it is very, very strange and the actors take on several roles. We get a Frankenstein’s Monster (Bruno Corazzari) drawn in greasepaint amongst several characters that are rarely named. Due to this I do wonder why the Elizabeth Bathory (Viva) character is mentioned in some summaries as being called Marthory.

Viva as Bathory

In actual fact she isn’t mentioned by name in film (and Viva does take on several roles) and we recognise her mainly because the dialogue she recites mentions aspects of the Bathory story that are recognisable.


Tina Aumont
Bathory’s story is mostly told in dialogue with some actors appearing to represent her court, including the hauntingly beautiful Tina Aumont (Two Orphan Vampires).



There isn’t really much else to say about this one, except to point out again that it is very strange.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Face of Marble – review


Director: William Beaudine

Release date: 1946

Contains spoilers


I need to start this with a thanks to Doug Lamoreux and the vampire trivia game he was playing on Facebook. Had it not been for that I would have been in the dark about this strange movie. Why strange? Well despite the pseudo-science on view and the disturbing stereotyping (from a 21st Century perspective), it actually has quite a compelling aspect, an unusual premise and what I found to be a cracking ending (which I am going to have to spoil).

Apologies in advance for the screenshots accompanying this review. I found the film on Daily Motion and it is both low res and an horrendous print – this is one that could be nicely cleaned up and put out on a special ed DVD, methinks. It could also stand a remake…

uncomfortable stereotyping
The film starts off with Elaine Randolph (Claudia Drake) sleeping on a couch, a blanket is draped over her by the maid Maria (Rosa Rey), waking her and rousing her large dog, Brutus. Elaine asks about the Doctor and is told that he left the house to go to the shore some time ago. Worried that he is sailing in a storm Maria declares that the Great Spirit Tonga will protect him. Elaine is dismissive and Maria starts to speak about the jungle but her beliefs are disparaged. Suddenly the other servant, Shadrach (Willie Best) comes in babbling about the devil bringing a dead body into the lab. The scene was uncomfortable, mainly because of the way Shadrach is portrayed – a servant with no sense and almost irrelevant (the film actually turns this on its head at the end, though whether intentionally I don’t know).

reviving
In the lab is Dr. Charles Randolph (John Carradine) and his assistant Dr. David Cochran (Robert Shayne). They found a drowned sailor on the beach and have brought him back to the house. Elaine comes in but is stopped by David and sent away like a good girl (ahem). The doctors have been working on a way to bring the dead back to life and a chance to experiment on a human is too good to miss. The technique uses a formula invented by David and electrical equipment ala Frankenstein. They try to revive the guy, who develops a face like marble, awakens, stands but then falls dead.

Elaine and David
He is quite dead, suggests Charles, beyond our help. Later they talk about the man being quite deranged (we didn’t see that) and his altered face being an indicator of being trapped between life and death – it is to draw aspects like this out that makes me think of a remake (where the man can act deranged for instance). David is worried about the fact that they took the body but, not to worry, they take it back and call the coastguard. After they go to their respective bedrooms, Elaine goes to David to ask him what was going on and confesses that she believes something sinister is afoot. Charles finds his wife speaking to David but shows no level of jealousy.

fetish
I liked this about the film. There is a love triangle but only one person in said triangle knows and she is in denial. It seems that Elaine had an accident that left her with a brain injury, only sorted when Charles operated on her. They then married. She has fallen for David – though he doesn’t realise, obsessed with work and his fiancé back home, Linda (Maris Wrixon). Maria knows, however. Hence leaving a fetish under his pillow that Charles identifies as a Quandrava , a jungle fetish designed to make you fall in love.

Thomas E Jackson as Norton
All is not good, however. David destroys a fetish (in acid apparently) and Maria swears that the act will bring a curse and death. Charles’ old cop friend Inspector Norton (Thomas E. Jackson, Valley of the Zombies) comes visiting. The dead man on the beach showed signs of massive electrocution and Charles has bought a replacement electrical component because one burnt out. Putting two and two together… no one mentions the fact that there was a storm that night, thus his drowned body might have been electrocuted through lightning nor the obvious signs of drowning. This was ill thought through and was expedient to bringing the cop in only.

shooting at Brutus
Charles wants to complete his work and… kills Elaine’s dog. They put Brutus on the slab and go to resurrect the pooch but the attempt fails… they think. As they leave the lab they hear barking, rush back and Rufus is up and about and… not the mild mannered pooch from before. Charles shoots the dog at point blank but the bullets just go through it. The dog eventually leaves, becoming insubstantial and walking through the wall and closed window! So as to finish the set up, I also need to mention that Charles arranges for Linda to visit for David’s birthday. Finally, I need to mention that Maria is a wonderfully casually evil character – happy to kill if that means Elaine is happy.


insubstantial dog
So, vampire… The Inspector shows up asking about the dog. Charles is caught within a lie he told Elaine of the dog going to the vets and so tells the cop the same. However the dog has been seen (and recognised) attacking livestock, ripping out the throats and draining the blood. Charles never admits it’s his dog but calls its actions a hemomania, suggesting that there is something missing from the blood that it needs to replenish. However Elaine is accidentally murdered by Maria (she thinks she is getting Linda) and she is revived. Whilst we see her become insubstantial we do not see (or hear) of her drinking blood. I like to think that it is only a matter of time.

will they be back?
To the ending... as I mentioned I liked it. Charles realises that Maria killed Elaine and is incensed. Maria uses her voodoo to summon Brutus and take control of Elaine, making the oblivious woman kill her husband. The inspector, of course, believes it is David who did it but David gets away from him – worried for Linda who is being attacked by the pair. In the turnaround I mentioned, even Maria discounted Shadrach and he tells the inspector what really happened (and so saves the day). The inspector bursts in as Elaine strangles Linda and David wrestles with Brutus. When he switches the light on the pair vanish – not because of the light but because Maria has committed suicide it seems. We later see the footprints of the woman and her dog heading in to the sea and I liked that, it gave hope of them returning.

before the terrible deed
The film had problems, don’t get me wrong, it threw too much in, it had racial and gender stereotypes that are frankly cringe worthy, its logic was flawed in places, a lot. But it had nice bits. It had a vampire dog, it had the use of voodoo and it had atmosphere. It had Carradine being… well Carradine, erudite and gentlemanly so that even when he killed the dog you kind of didn’t lose your empathy for him. It could be taken, expanded in certain areas (gore and madness), have the extraneous parts removed and make a fine little film. For this flawed version though, 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Vamp or Not? Frankenstein Island

I received a comment recently from JaredMithrandir asking if I had seen Frankenstein Island, a Jerry Warren directed film from 1981, as it had a vampiric element. I had not but I discovered that it had been uploaded to YouTube and this, of course, gave me opportunity to watch the film.

Now, my expectations were low. It is an obscure 80s horror featuring Frankenstein (and his monster) but as I quickly discovered it gives us opportunity to see John Carradine – who is Dr Frankenstein – as a giant floating projection of a head! Surely worth the entrance fee alone, especially when that fee is free.

in the caves
It starts with hot air balloons and we get the impression from the radio chatter that one balloon is missing, having been caught in a freak weather moment. We then see four men arrive upon an island in a dingy. Now the print wasn’t good at all but the dingy seemed in one piece – making me wonder about their overriding desire, later, to build a raft. Anyway the four guys are Paul (Robert Clarke), known as Doc, Mark (Robert Christopher), Curtis (Tain Bodkin) and Dino (Patrick O'Neil). The island seems to be beach and unassailable cliffs until they find a cave.

an island girl
The cave leads to the island interior. There seems to be a lot of lumber available for their raft and, eventually, they find a tied up girl. More girls (in leopard print bikinis) come along and lead them to their village – nothing is said about the tied girl until the morning, when it is revealed that she is undergoing initiation. The girls feed the castaways but, in the morning, one of the girls is grabbed by an odd looking man. They give chase and rescue her. During this sequence they also make a discovery that saying a place name out loud makes the speaker’s limbs go into spasm (apparently a control mechanism, which seemed rather convoluted and unnecessary).

Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing
They discover that the girls are born of the island (later it is suggested that they are hybridised aliens!) but there are men on the island who are sailors, shipwrecked like them (though they were technically balloon wrecked) and all quite mad. Despite the warning about the men’s madness they go off with some of them, maybe because they asked nicely, and are eventually taken to a ranch style house owned by the Frankenstein’s. The main Frankenstein is Sheila Frankenstein von Helsing (Katherine Victor). The erstwhile Dr Frankenstein was her husband and she is helping to keep his assistant von Helsing (George Mitchell) alive.

Von Helsing at 200
Here we have the potential vampirism (and not just because of the name). Von Helsing is two hundred years old. They have a ship’s captain – who believes himself to know Edgar Allen Poe and laments the loss of his wife Lenore – held in “protective custody” to drain off amounts of blood. This is transfused into Von Helsing to attain his longevity. Further they occasionally take an alien girl and transfuse so much blood into him it kills the girl. His longevity is almost a half-life, with him confined to bed and needing to be in a coma for periods of time to maintain his life. As for the balloonists, Sheila wants Doc to assist her looking for a more active longevity for Von Helsing (and he goes along with this after being drugged). This seems to be under Frankenstein’s instruction as Sheila channels her late husband’s spirit. The others may stick around to impregnate the alien women, though one couldn’t help think that ultimately they would be turned into mindless guards (as some of the men have been).

John Carradine's giant head
The Monster is chained underwater in a grotto within the caves (you can bet he’ll escape) and the men (bar the drugged Doc) are intent on escaping. So we have a smorgasbord of ideas presented with some risible acting – the best actor is the dog, Melvin, who plays himself. But is it vamp? Well I can see the point, whilst born of science they are using blood to keep someone alive way past their lifespan and it seems to be working (albeit not perfectly). The transfusions may be killing the sea captain in the long run but are most definitely killing the alien girls when they are caught. The use of the name Von Helsing, whilst vowel-challenged, is clearly a connection to vampirism, though that may just be a smorgasbord addition. It is at least genre interesting but I would say it probably does, just, qualify as Vamp. My thanks to JaredMithrandir for bringing it to my attention.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Creature of the Walking Dead – review

Director: Jerry Warren*

Release date: 1965*

Contains spoilers

There are some films that just hide away undetected. With a title that is overly clunky and a tagline that was marvellous – The Fountain Of Youth Is Filled With Blood! – this is a film that I have only just come across… and you know what, sometimes you wish they’d just stay hidden!

Okay, I’m spoiling the review’s punchline by saying that but, blooming heck it was bad. * Now it may not have been the film's fault. It was originally a Spanish film called La Marca del Muerto (Mark of the Dead) from 1960, IMDB suggests the English language version is from 1965 but I have seen 1964 listed. I don’t know if the original Spanish version still exists but the director is listed on screen as Frederic Corte, whilst IMDb suggest it was directed by Jerry Warren and by directed they mean bastardised.

in the shadows
We start with a Criswell-esque voiceover, though it is supplied by character Dr Martin Malthus (Fernando Casanova). He tells us the story of his grandfather Dr John Malthus (also Fernando Casanova) as we see things play out on screen. John was a bit of a whack-a-doodle it appears, with a desire to achieve everlasting life. At a church he follows a young woman, kidnapping her and dragging her chloroformed self into his home.

mad scientist
When she comes round, on a laboratory slab, he chloroforms her again and then stabs a needle and tube into her heart. He is draining her blood through a machine (which I guess treats it). He gets on a nearby slab and is about to hook himself to the machine by stabbing a needle into himself when he hears a banging at the house door. He goes up (despite the lab being hidden) and discovers it’s the cops. He is arrested and hung. We then get a long, long sequence of a couple of cops getting massaged and discussing the case. Apparently John felt he was justified in what he did and whilst he looked 30-33 years old he actually graduated as a doctor 27 years earlier.

the crypt
Jumping forwards, Martin inherits the house. He finds the lab when he’s poking around and opens the secret door. The abducted woman is still on the slab – long decayed – and the lab has cells all containing corpses. He also finds John’s journal. In a leap of daft logic he goes to the cemetery and steals John’s corpse. He takes it to the lab – where he already has a victim ready – and in another ridiculously languorous scene transfuses blood from her to the corpse. He doesn’t kill her but falls asleep.

without blood
John is resurrected and his desiccated, corpse like features made young. He puts the victim in a cell and tells the now awakened Martin that he thinks him a weakling as he didn’t kill her! Eventually John starts to age and needs more blood, but when he appears young they are identical bar the fact that John has the ligature scar left by the hangman’s noose. Due to the general disdain for his grandson, John locks Martin up, taking over his life and hoping that Martin’s fiancé, Beth (Sonia Furió, Dr Satán y la Magia Negra), doesn’t question his new habit of wearing scarfs. John needs more blood, of course; actually blood from four victims and, given he has three people in the cells, Beth could actually make up the last part of the quartet…

the first victim
So it is a vampire, definitely, a corpse revitalised and walking due to blood – though through scientific means rather than supernatural agency. But, hell, it is boring. Long drawn out scenes and a story that just seems to drag along (even though the film is relatively short at under 70 minutes). The voiceover fills the viewer with dread and there is little to recommend this cut. How the proper Mexican version would fair is another question. But this version gets 2 out of 10 and no further commentary.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Taliesin Meets… …Brian Stableford

Having sold his first short story to Science Fantasy in 1965, Brian Stableford has been publishing fiction and non-fiction for fifty years. His fiction includes eleven novels and seven short story collections of “tales of the biotech revolution,” exploring the possible social and personal consequences of potential innovations in biotechnology. He has published three novels featuring different kinds of vampires: The Empire of Fear, Young Blood and The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires, and numerous short stories widening the range further, most notably “Rent,” “Emptiness” and “Sheena”. He has also translated numerous early vampire novels from the French, including Vampire City, Knightshade and The Vampire Countess by Paul Féval, The Virgin Vampire by Étienne Lamothe-Langon and The Vampire and The Devil’s Son and The Immortal Woman by Ponson du Terrail. He is presently researching a history of French roman scientifique from 1700-1939, translating much of the relevant material not previously translated into English.


TMtV: Brian, you have been a professional author for a long time, how has the ‘business’ changed, and on balance have the changes been positive or negative and how so?

BS: It’s been fifty years now, and absolutely everything has changed in terms of the technology of production and consumption, with concomitant changes in the way the market works, in terms of submission, patterns of demand, money, etc. There are pros and cons; the writing process is much easier, the chances of selling anything one writes much worse. I can produce much more than ever before, but I’m very glad that I’m an old age pensioner and get paid simply for being alive, so that I can write exactly what I like, with the certainty of publication, and don’t have to worry about getting paid. The biggest shock to me, personally, was the total collapse, virtually overnight, of the reference-book market, where I’d always made a substantial slice of my income; sketchy, corrupt and unreliable as it is, Wikipedia is free and easy, and it has driven all competitors out of the marketplace

TMtV: You’ve written some vampire genre books and I’d like to ask you about The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires as I looked at it in in my book the Media Vampire because of the “overmen” and the connection to Nietzsche’s Übermensch– was the connection deliberate and why did you use the overmen idea?

BS: The use of the term “overmen” reflects, or is reflected in, the fact that M. P. Shiel—who used the term a lot, having adopted it from Nietzsche—is a minor character. H. G. Wells is also there, reflecting the kinship between the story and The Time Machine--the original seed of the story was the thought that it was a pity that the characters listening to Wells’ time traveller are a bunch of nonentities; I thought it might be interesting to gather a more interesting set, including someone who had a real stake in the news brought back from the future.

TMtV: I really enjoyed the way you brought literary figures such as Stoker, De Maupassant and Stenbock into the story – what was the thought process behind that?

The character who was first on my list of interesting listeners was Oscar Wilde—Stoker and Stenbock are both referenced because of their connection with him, and he was a convenient way of introducing the mysterious Count. Wells and Shiel both had an interest in future evolution, and I could hardly leave Sherlock Holmes out. Jean Lorrain is in there because I’d just done some translations of his work. When the sequel, “The Black Blood of the Dead,” switched the action to Paris, I was able to widen the net of French Decadents.

TMtV: The story was eventually included as part of Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity, did you alter Hunger and Ecstasy for that volume and would you say it was now a definitive version?

BS: That title was the publisher’s—I disapproved, but he said he’d sell more copies if Sherlock Holmes was in the title (and he did). I didn’t think about doing the portmanteau version until after I’d done the second part and began to consider possibilities for its expansion. I tried hawking the novel around with a straightforward linear scheme, simply printing the three short novels one after another, but when it became obvious that the book was going to have to appear as a non-commercial project, I figured that I might as well go for the portmanteau idea. I don’t know whether it works, with all the embedded first-person narratives, or whether it’s too confusing, but it’s certainly unique. The longer versions of the second and third parts never appeared independently, so there’s no opportunity, in any case, for anyone to compare the alternatives. I probably changed “Hunger and Ecstasy” slightly while producing the various versions, but I doubt that there’s much difference between them.

TMtV: You have written using Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, including stories featuring Erich Zann and Pickman amongst others. What do you like about Lovecraft’s mythos and do you enjoy working within that universe?

BS: I was always fascinated by Lovecraft’s work, and the way in which he helped to develop and seed a whole school of distinctive weird fiction, with many elements of which I approved wholeheartedly. I’ve been particularly intrigued by Lovecraft’s notion of “cosmic horror” and his attempts in his later work to fit his horrors into a more rational and coherent quasi-scientific context. One of my own enduring quests has always been finding ways to redesign science and metaphysics in such a way as to make any or all of the characteristic figures of supernatural fiction rationally plausible. Extrapolating Lovecraftian materials provided a useful way to approach that, and led via “The Legacy of Erirc Zann” to a whole series of novellas and novels in which Poe’s August Dupin gradually learns the ins and outs of a multiverse that contains Cthulhu, the Crawling Chaos and much, much more.

TMtV: In 1999 the Paul Féval novel Vampire City was published and you were the translator, what led you to translating novels as opposed to writing them?

BS: I first started doing translations for the small press Dedalus, who were specializing a the time in Decadent material, and I taught myself to translate using a dictionary in order to translate stories by Remy de Gourmont, Jean Lorrain and others for use in showcase anthologies. I was alerted to Vampire City when Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi said that they came up with idea of their Dictionary of Imaginary Places because they desperately wanted to include Féval’s city of Selene. My interest in Féval developed from there and brought me into contact with Black Coat Press, for whom I did several other Féval translations and then started on antique roman scientifique. I translated several other early French vampire novels for them, and eventually did so much roman scientifique that I thought I ought to finish the job and write a definitive history. Crazy, of course, but it helps fill in the time between here and the grave. It’s suitably absorbing, although sometimes a trifle frustrating, when I think “Well, I wouldn’t have done it that way….”

TMtV: That’s not to say that you don’t continue to publish your original work, of course, how much of your time do you split between writing and translating?

BS: For the last few years I’ve been translating roman scientifique almost full time, in order to write my history, but I hope to finish that this year, and then divide my time much more evenly between translation and original work. I need to publish another 22 novels to clock up the hundred, so I’ve been busily scribbling down ideas while doing the translations, and I hope to get seriously busy on some of the missing 22 next year, hoping I can get through the lot before the grim reaper comes knocking.

TMtV: How much of the author’s craft remains in the translating process?

BS: Translating is a little like driving a car with a satnav—you have to go where the machine tells you to go, but you still have to steer, change gear, keep your eyes on the road and so on. You have to choose the most appropriate alternatives from sets of available equivalents to various French words and phrases, and you have to reconstruct the sentences so that they work in terms of English grammar and syntax, so there is a considerable artistry to it. It also helps to have a strong sympathy for what the original writer is trying to do, which not all translators have.

TMtV: Having read several of your translations, I have to say that I have found you have kept (what I assume to be) the original author’s voice – or should I say I don’t detect Brian Stableford’s voice. Is it difficult to maintain the original voice?

BS: Literary voices do tend to be language-specific, but I try as hard as I can to maintain the flavour and tone of the original text as well as the meaning. Wordplay tends to be difficult—footnoting untranslatable puns is obviously not a satisfactory substitute—but I do what I can, and keep my own whimsicality strictly to the supplementary material.

TMtV: Yes, I noticed that in some of the translations you’ve added footnotes explaining aspects, where a word doesn’t directly translate for instance. How strictly does the translation follow the text as a general rule?

BS: I try to keep it as close as possible, while maintaining an appropriate fluency. It’s arguable that I overdo the footnotes, but my feeling is that the additional explanations do help readers to get a sense of material that it’s impossible to bring across directly

TMtV: For a vampire genre enthusiast like myself I have to say that the translations you have released through Blackcoat Press have been a godsend, allowing access to works previously unavailable. Is it yourself or Blackcoat who decide which books should be translated?

BS: In the beginning it was mostly Jean-Marc Lofficier who indicated works that he’d like to publish in translation, and he still puts in occasional requests, but since I started developing my own agenda he’s been kind enough, most of the time, to let me follow my own inclinations. Borgo Press was taking the material that overflowed Black Coat’s schedule for a while, but since Rob Reginald died Black Coat have been building up quite a backlog, so I’ll probably have to start self-publishing some material next year, which will allow me to cast my net even wider and do some seriously idiosyncratic projects.

TMtV: Which of the Translations have been your favourites?

BS: I’ve been very pleased to be able to do some books whose existence I’d known about for a long time and always wanted to do—the sets of titles by Maurice Renard and André Couvreur, for instance—but since I started researching the entire history of French imaginative fiction obsessively I’ve been particularly delighted to stumble across various things that were totally unknown—the works of Henri Austruy, for instance. I keep coming across wonderful surprises, like the twentieth century’s first great epic fantasy, Les Atlantes (1904; translated as The Last Days of Atlantis), by Charles Lomon and P. B. Gheusi (due out soon).

TMtV: You seem to have a particular fondness for Féval’s material, what is it you see in his work particularly?

BS: I’m fascinated by the curious craftsmanship of producing daily serials for newspapers, making it up as you go along, adapting to editorial and reader demand, and so on; Féval was one of the great pioneers as well as one of the great experts, and he’s also a very self-aware writer, often commenting sarcastically on the things he’s being forced to do. He was a writer of great imagination who was always being ordered by his employers to rein it in and stick to the clichés, and I have a good deal of sympathy with his struggles. I love it when he just lets himself go and has fun, as he does in Vampire City and Knightshade.

TMtV: I find the variety and array of pre-Stoker vampire lore fascinating, are there any vampire rules you particularly like?

BS: In terms of the early history of vampire fiction I’m not so much interested in the “rules”—most adapted from Calmet or adopted for narrative convenience—as the improvisations, and the strategies by which something imagined in folklore as straightforwardly horrible was very rapidly adapted and elaborated by writers as something intensely erotic.

TMtV: Are there any books you particularly want to translate and why those volumes? In particular are there any vampire novels you wish to bring to the English reading world?

BS: I’ve done most of the early French vampire stories that hadn’t been translated previously, although there’s one more Ponson du Terrail title, L’Auberge de la rue des enfants rouges, which I’ll try to do next year, and there might well be some as yet “undiscovered”. I keep an eye on the calendar to see what material is falling into the public domain year by year, but I’m not aware of any significant vampire material due to make the fall imminently. I have a long list of supernatural works I want to do when I’ve finished the roman scientifique—enough to keep me going for at least five years, should I live that long; I am desperate to survive until 2023, when Rachilde falls into the public domain, so I can do La Princesse des Ténébres, and I shall never forgive myself if I die before then.

TMtV: What is coming up from Brian Stableford?

BS: My definitive four-volume history of British scientific romance, New Atlantis: A Narrative History of Scientific Romance, should be out from Wildside Press fairly soon. The Black Coat Press history of the equivalent French material will be a companion of sorts, out some time in 2016. Black Coat are currently publishing two translations a month—in the next few months, look out especially for The Last Days of Atlantis, Jules Hoche’s The Maker of Men and His Formula, Albert Robida’s The Engineer von Satanas and two volumes containing the four fantastic novels of André Arnyvelde. My next original novel will probably be the next in the Dupin series, of which the present working title is Cthulhu’s Child, but that plan might change.

My sincere thanks to Brian for both his time, answering my questions, and for the works (both vampire and not) that he has made available to the English reading world.