The Big Idea: Patrick Sheane Duncan
Posted on October 28, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 13 Comments
A title like Dracula vs. Hitler kind of explains itself, but even so, author and screenwriter Patrick Sheane Duncan had his reasons for bringing these two villains of the past together for a nefarious confrontation in WWII-era Transylvania. What was it? Read on!
PATRICK SHEANE DUNCAN:
I’ve always been fascinated by the way that popular culture reflects and influences society. It’s been a concern of mine since some pandering politician banned my favorite comic book, stating that they “corrupted” the tender minds of kids like me and turned us into juvenile delinquents. I knew it was bullshit. I became a juvenile delinquent because I was poor. At various times these self appointed censors have condemned rock ‘n’ roll, television violence, “dirty” magazines and lately, video games, always using the same trumped up charge.
(To tell the truth, I admit to being corrupted by all of these – but not in the way those narrow-minded yahoos worried about. They all freed me and my imagination.)
But I do see how popular culture reflects our worries and problems. An obvious example is the science fiction films of the fifties and sixties. I’m talking about how some errant radioactive incident created a monster set out to destroy…well, everything. A fifty foot man or woman, giant insects and our good old buddy Godzilla. Our nation’s fears of an atomic holocaust were made simple in one conquerable but metaphorical creature.
And it isn’t a mental hurdle to jump forward and see the effects of 9/11 on our films. I mean, how many times can we blow up the White House and every other iconic landmark on the planet – just to be saved by someone in Spandex or the President’s handsome bodyguard?
So, when vampires became popular again in a multitude of movies and television series, I was curious. A good many of these, if not all, were aimed at teenagers. I’ve always been a fan of the theory (I wish I could remember who first proposed it) that vampires, and their mythological kin, werewolves, are powerful metaphors for the fraught transition from childhood to adult. The symbolism is pretty blatant and definitely relatable to confused adolescents. With profound, even violent changes in the body, the werewolf has hair sprouting in unexpected places (on the palms of his hands, what was he doing?! Oh my!), profound outsider status, and is wrought with sexual under- and overtones, including sexual aggressiveness after the change, (there are a whole lot of women being assaulted/seduced in their bedrooms by werewolves and vampires alike). And to cap it off, so often these modern fairy tales end in a marriage.
When the latest vampire films rose from the Hollywood graveyard, I went back to some of the originals and found myself watching a lot of great Universal movies from the late 1930s and ‘40s. And I noticed something – there was no mention of the war in these films. Except for one, where a German bombing of a British graveyard disinterred Dracula, the war didn’t exist. Mostly this was done by making them period pieces, but even the present day set films avoided the topic. A pure definition of escapist entertainment.
My imagination made the short leap – what if those two worlds did intersect? Bring the gritty reality of war into that old time escapism? Aha!
I’m a history buff so I knew that at the beginning of WWII Transylvania was given to Romania by the invading Germans. I also knew that Vlad the Impaler, the model for Stoker’s Dracula, was a prince and a patriot. Thusly he would be a natural foe to fight the Nazis. Bam. I had a hero. Actually a super hero. Cool.
Then there was the fact that the Nazis, particularly Hitler, were fascinated by the occult, believers who sent people searching the world for magic relics to use in their cause. So why wouldn’t Hitler, discovering the existence of an immortal and powerful creature, want to be immortal himself and attempt to capture Dracula? Bam, I had a villain.
Dracula versus Hitler.
To bring in the rest of the cast, I had Van Helsing settle in Transylvania after defeating Dracula and I gave him an adult, ferocious daughter (The requisite sexual motif of the genre). These two would lead the partisans fighting the Nazis and be driven by German atrocities to revive the Professor’s great enemy to fight an even worse monster. Harker and Renfield were brought in to make the book as much fun as the title. I then had all the elements needed for a rousing action adventure story with an essence of the supernatural. Using the style of Bram Stoker’s original (diary and journal entries, letters, etc.) was a novelistic exercise for my own enjoyment and a tribute to the book I love so much.
And I did it because it looked like fun and I believe that if you entertain yourself in the writing you have a pretty good chance to entertain the reader.
As for Dracula vs. Hitler’s place and meaning in the gestalt, I’ll leave that to some other fan/over educated analyst in desperate need of a PhD thesis.
Dracula vs. Hitler: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
This sounds like fun, now on my list!
There is no empirical evidence that Hitler was interested in the oucclt. Many of the top Nazis were interested in the occult like Hess, Grobbles, and especially Himmler.
“…I gave him an adult, ferocious daughter (The requisite sexual motif of the genre). ”
Hoping this is a case of the writer just expressing himself poorly, but it really killed my interest in reading.
Otherwise I would say “sounds awesome, can’t wait for the movie.”
I actually prefer stories with no female characters over those where the lady is the “requisite sexual motif”.
What bethany653 says.
Himmler was more the occultist than Hitler, Hitler just funneled everything through a twisted thought process that turned every thought he had into “Jews = evul”.
That said, you had me sold on the title alone.
An interesting premise. I took “requisite sexual motif of the genre” to be a reference to Twilight-style vampire novels, where the protagonist is always a young woman just coming of age who meets a mysterious ancient vampire, and romance ensues. (If romance doesn’t in fact ensue, then I suppose this interpretation is nonsense.)
“To tell the truth, I admit to being corrupted by all of these – but not in the way those narrow-minded yahoos worried about. They all freed me and my imagination.”
That is exactly what they worried about.
That is a truly excellent cover design.
Yeah, with that title, I have to read it.
and now I know what I’m giving out for grab-bag presents this holiday season.
‘Dracula vs. Trump’ would make a great sequel…
I have to say, I’m not compelled by either the title or the author’s explanation of the book’s premise and background. Dracula vs. Hitler sounds forced (let’s put 2 totally unrelated but sensational names together and come up with some reason for it!) and campy (and not in a good way, in an unintentionally silly way). Dracula, whether his mortal origins were patriotic or not, was *evil*. He did the things he did for his own selfish purposes, he used and destroyed with no consideration for anything but himself. And now he’s a hero? Nah, sorry, not buying it.
Also, as others have already noted, referring to the “adult, ferocious daughter” character as “the requisite sexual motif of the genre” is an incredibly sexist thing to say — why wouldn’t a male character be considered as such? It’s great to have a strong female lead character, why can’t she just be that — strong and female, without the sexual overtones? Not to mention, putting in a character for just that reason is simply a lazy, derivative literary choice.
That’s why I won’t be reading it. That said, I wish the author well, and I wish success for his book and his future writing career.