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Literature: The Dracula Tape
A 1975 novel by Fred Saberhagen, which offers an alternative perspective on the horror novel Dracula. Specifically, it hinges on a fact about the earlier work that is both glaringly obvious and yet easily missed; that while the earlier novel uses the diary entries, writings and witness testimony of almost all of the participants and witnesses to the battle between Van Helsing and his allies and the evil Count Dracula in order to provide a full account of what happened, one particular perspective has been notably omitted — that of Count Dracula himself. The Dracula Tape, then, revolves around Dracula, several decades after this conflict, decide to finally address this imbalance — specifically, by hijacking the car of the descendants of the Harkers, his old enemies, and by recording his memoirs of the event in question into their tape recorder.

Dracula's account begins with him having tired of life in a crumbling castle hidden in the wilds of Transylvania surrounded both by irritatingly backwards and superstitious peasants and a trio of insufferable vampire brides. He decides to break his centuries of self-imposed exile and reintroduce himself into human society, hoping to find more enlightened, pleasant and welcoming company in London, then the capital of the greatest and most prosperous empire ever known. To this end, he employs Jonathan Harker, a young British solicitor, to purchase him a British residence, and tries to both make Harker welcome in his castle and gently guide him into knowledge of the existence of vampires.

Unfortunately, a series of misunderstandings work to negatively colour Harker's impressions of Dracula, leading to a chain of circumstances that results in Dracula's subsequent arrival in Britain going... a bit pear-shaped. As Dracula tries to cope with the increasing number of enemies he somehow seems to be making, among them obsessive vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing and Harker's quick-witted and attractive wife Mina, it soon becomes apparent that there was more — a lot more — going on that Stoker's novel recorded, that there were several misunderstandings colouring events, and that Dracula might not be the monster he's been depicted as all this time after all...

The novel was the first in a lengthy series of novels featuring Saberhagen's interpretation of Dracula and other likewise more-or-less-positively depicted vampires. The second in the series was The Holmes-Dracula File, in which Dracula finds himself encountering... well, you can probably guess.


The Dracula Tape provides examples of:

  • AB Negative: Turns out, it wasn't the vampire killing Lucy Westenra.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Justified by the only psychiatrist being a young Freud.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked on Dracula and the other characters in the novel.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Played with; the introduction of the novel reveals that the events of the novel are transcribed from a tape found within an abandoned car, the occupants nowhere to be found... but then reveals that the occupants are recovering from their experiences in a hospital. It's an early clue that Dracula, while not exactly a nice guy, isn't the monster he's been presented as.
  • Badass Decay: Invoked, for comedic purposes: Dracula insists that he's not a bad guy and that everyone else was merely deluded or misled as to his intentions. Specifically, why does everyone act like he's a huge threat given the main thing everyone knows about him is that he was defeated by a bunch of idiots with no plan?
  • Contrived Coincidence: The original novel's tendency towards these is parodied, with Dracula noting with increasing exasperation how a chain of coincidences seems to be building up around him — not least the fact that everyone he meets in Britain is somehow connected to Jonathan Harker.
  • Emergency Transformation: Dracula is forced to do this with Lucy Westenra after Van Helsing's 'treatment'.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Dracula admits he fell into this; his time as a breathing man was spent in a setting with an attitude to casual sex similar to the late twentieth century, so Victorian London's attitude caught him unprepared. He rather snarkily theorizes that if he had settled down with one girl and only bit her in private he wouldn't have had so much trouble.
  • External Retcon: The novel suggests that numerous elements of the original novel were misunderstandings or even outright fabrications.
  • Faking the Dead: The confrontation at the end of the original book was staged to convince Van Helsing that Dracula was gone for good in a way that would keep him from turning his attentions toward Mina.
  • Fantastic Racism: In the parts of the Sherlock Holmes crossovers from Watson's perspective he makes no pretense as to being disgusted by vampires. Dracula notices, but is too polite to say anything. Teased with the Holmes brothers, but this turns out to be due to an experience with another vampire and is dropped when they learn there is no connection to Dracula himself.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The fact that Dracula is clearly established to be narrating his tale several decades after the events of the original novel immediately suggests that, unlike the original, survives the final battle at the end.
  • Go Out with a Smile: The original novel's use of this is cynically lampshaded by Dracula, who points out that few things must look as peaceful and relaxing to a bunch of scared vampire hunters than a dead vampire.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Even taking into account his Alternate Character Interpretation, Dracula isn't exactly warm and cuddly, and the whole 'Vlad the Impaler' backstory isn't exactly waved away. But he is presented as being honest and more-or-less benevolent.
  • Identical Sort-Of Cousin: When Dracula and Holmes meet in the first sequel they are mistaken for each other a few times, although by the second meeting Holmes has aged and it is no longer the case. In fact the descriptions of each in the original sources are almost identical, which Dracula-as-narrator points out. It turns out they are related, but not closely.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Dracula isn't exactly nice, but he does raise some more-or-less good points about why he's not the monster everyone thinks he is — and how, if he was, he could have had a much easier time against the 'good' guys than he ended up having.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Stated that vampires aren't inherently evil as the original novel proclaims. Yes they need blood but never to the point of needing to kill anyone. They still have the choice of being good or evil regardless of transformation.
  • Perspective Flip: On the original Dracula.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played for laughs; in the first chapter, Dracula rues the fact that Jonathan Harker, being a proper upstanding Englishman who rigidly minds his own business to a fault, upon being confronted with the weirdness of Castle Dracula doesn't just ask what the hell is going on. Turns out Dracula would have been more than happy to explain things and their resulting failure to communicate ended up with them becoming bitter enemies through increasing misunderstandings.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Dracula and Mina Harker.
  • Religious Horror: Turned on it's head. Dracula is a somewhat lapsed Orthodox Catholic, and considers transformation into a vampire to have no spiritual implications whatsoever. With this in mind, van Helsing's constant invocation of this trope comes of like the gibbering of a fanatic. Dracula is unsurprised that he thinks crosses will work, but is shocked at the sacrilege of crumbling Communion Hosts into his boxes of earth, a solution that not only does nothing but that van Helsing apparently made up himself.
  • Reverse Mole: Mina Harker was plotting with Dracula and feeding Van Helsing's group misinformation through the latter parts of the book.
  • Reverse Psychology:
    Mina: There is one almost infallible way in which a poor simple girl like me may turn away strong men from almost any course of action. ... Suggest it to them as my own idea, and keep on reminding them that it is mine.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Amusingly done as part of the Perspective Flip and Poor Communication Kills. While Jonathan Harker believes he is being imprisoned by Dracula for some terrible, nightmarish purpose, Dracula comes to view Harker almost as an annoying and ungrateful houseguest who never seems to appreciate anything that Dracula does to try and make him comfortable yet doesn't ever leave.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The premise of the novel is essentially arguing that large chunks of Dracula suffer from this. On the other hand, the Count's not exactly a saint, and it's suggested that he can be as prone to presenting himself in the best possible light as he accuses his enemies of being.
  • Unwanted Harem: Dracula has clearly long gotten sick of his trio of vampire brides long before the events of the novel, and is struggling to remember exactly what about them he liked in the first place. The book seems to imply that, unlike him, the women let the power go to their heads and actively like hunting for blood. Which didn't help at all with Harker's visit.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Usually averted, the exchange of blood is sexual in nature for both parties and he doesn't take much. Played straight in The Holmes-Dracula File, where he catches an enemy that had been torturing him while starving to death and just rips her throat out.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Dracula lays this charge squarely on the Trope Namer; while the Harkers are just misguided and misled, Van Helsing is actively malicious.
  • Virus Victim Symptoms: The original novel's use of this trope is subverted, with many of the original examples of this explained away as being a result of misinformation, hysteria or complete fabrications. Most of Lucy's are due to the attempts at treatment.
  • Worthy Opponent: Not Van Helsing, in fact, whom Dracula considers to be nothing more than a charlatan and a quack. Instead, Dracula admits that despite his contempt for many of his foes, he nevertheless does have some small measure of respect for Jonathan Harker, who — while not the smartest or most able of men — is nevertheless a brave and respectable opponent.
Down a Dark HallLiterature of the 1970sThe Dragon Hoard
Bloodline 2006Vampire FictionFevre Dream

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