Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Stoker, Bram

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Working name of Irish theatrical manager and writer Abraham Stoker (1847-1912), in England from 1878, whose first and primary career was as manager (1878-1905) for the famed Victorian actor and impresario Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905). Some of this famed actor's roles – he appeared in The Bells by Leopold David Lewis (1828-1890), an 1871 adaptation of Erckmann-Chatrian's Le Juif Polonais (1871; trans as The Polish Jew 1871 UK), about a sinister hypnotist and murderer, and he played the Flying Dutchman in at least one production – may have had a formative influence on BS, who was profoundly influenced by Irving's mannered but domineering stage presence.

BS is known now almost exclusively for Dracula (1897), though he began his writing career much earlier, with "The Crystal Cup" (1872), which is Horror, as was his first novel-length story, "The Primrose Path" (1875 The Shamrock). The Fairytales assembled in Under the Sunset (coll 1882) are sinister, though with touches of Allegory that may have made them seem, to the Victorian mind, suitable for children. None of the works of these early years do more than hint mildly at what was to come.

Dracula – like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), all Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) – is a text whose central figure has become an Icon of popular culture, and which is far better known through numerous movie adaptations (see Dracula Movies) than it is in its own right (see Dracula). Despite BS's stylistic infelicities, devotees of Dracula and Vampire stories in general should perhaps return to the original text, for its merits are also evident. There have been many omnibus publications of the text, and several separate modern editions of value, including The Annotated Dracula (1975 US) ed Leonard Wolf (1923-    ), Dracula (1993) ed Maurice Hindle (1944-    ), which is textually the most satisfactory modern edition, and Dracula: Bram Stoker's Text of 1901 (1994).

As one of the most famous horror novels in existence, Dracula tells a tale which is now part of modern folklore. Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania, where Count Dracula imprisons him briefly, arousing the deadly enmity of the Englishman. Most of the remaining story is set in London, which the Count has invaded, primarily – in a manner definitive of the seductive impulsion that guides great Supernatural Fiction – through his taking the Virginity and vampirizing of women, who then become erotic figures who menace the stability of things. Dracula is a paradigmatic version of the Shadow who threatens the daylight world, and who must be expunged.

BS's further, consistently inferior, novels include: The Mystery of the Sea (1902), a supernatural fiction in which a man's Talent (precognition or second sight) fails to enable him to regain a lost treasure; The Jewel of Seven Stars (1907; rev by another hand 1919), in which the Astral Body of a queen of ancient Egypt attempts to reanimate her mummified body (see Mummies) by taking Possession of a young girl; The Lady of the Shroud (1909), which features a rationalized female vampire, a touch of talents (precognition again), and a hero named Rupert who becomes king of his own Ruritania; and The Lair of the White Worm (1911; full text ed Richard Dalby 1986), which confusedly evokes the downside of Goddess imagery through the eponymous Shapeshifter which possesses a glamorous lady (or vice versa), and attempts to infect a large cast with its venomous, accursed, erotic allure (see Worm/Wyrm).

Some of BS's short fiction, however, attains something of the strength of Dracula. Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (coll 1914) includes the title story – an unpublished fragment from the novel – plus "The Judge's House" (1891 Holly Leaves), featuring an inimical Haunting, "The Secret of the Growing Gold" (1892 Holly Leaves), in which a dead woman's hair grows through living rock to proclaim her murder, and "The Squaw" (1893 Holly Leaves; vt "The Black Cat"), in which a Cat revenges itself on the human who has killed its kitten. The Dualitists (in The Theatre Annual for 1887 anth 1886; 1986 chap) is a supernatural fiction in which two children compose together a malevolent fantasy Game. Some of BS's stories assembled in Shades of Dracula (coll 1982) and Midnight Tales (coll 1990), both ed Peter Haining, had not previously appeared in book form. [JC]

Abraham Stoker


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.