lost_spook: (b7 - deva)
[personal profile] lost_spook
I wrote several things this year but my actual assignment was for [personal profile] calliopes_pen in Dracula (TV 1968):

The Poison Tree (27258 words) by lost_spook
Chapters: 7/7
Fandom: Dracula (TV 1968)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: Jonathan Harker/Mina Harker, Count Dracula/Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker & John Seward, Jonathan Harker & John Seward, Jonathan Harker/Original Male Character(s)
Characters: Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, John Seward, Mrs Weston, Mrs Perkins (Dracula TV 1968), Mrs Hoskins (Dracula TV 1968), Original Characters
Additional Tags: References to Mina Harker/Lucy Weston, Vampires, Hypnotism, Post-Canon, World War I, Victorian, Edwardian Period, Blood, Yuletide, Dark, Religious Imagery & Symbolism
Summary: Dracula may have been defeated, but the future has never been less certain for Jonathan and Mina. Everything has changed, most especially the Harkers themselves…

I both enjoyed writing this a lot (despite surface dissimilarities, we clearly overlap on a lot of tropes and things, which made it particularly fun to do) and worried about it far too much! Par for the course for Yuletide, really, I suppose. The adaptation has a rather open, ambiguous ending (Mina is still showing vampiric influence, while we don't even know what sort of state Jonathan is left in), so it was really interesting to try and write one possibility of what might happen next. I planned it to be somewhere around 8,000-12,000 words - and then it more than doubled in size, taking me way outside my current comfort zone in what I can do without making myself ill. I regret nothing, though. Except that it doesn't have even more stuff calliopes_pen likes in it.

My main worry was, as ever, whether or not my recipient would like it, the perennial Yule-fear: I had set out by not looking at my letter again (so as not to incorporate my request by accident), read Dracula to help me, and then came back to my recipient's letter, and then rewatched canon (it's quite good when you actually have your brain on, I found. Amazing). Four times.* And then still wrote something that kept running away from the original request.

I think in retrospect, I kind of had a fic in me to get out of the way before I could write anything else in this fandom and so what came was a mutation of that and the request. And at the same time, I was pleased with it! So, Yuletide feelings! Confusion, worry! I need to pause here and thank both kind Betas (Persiflage and ClocketPatch), with an apology to Clocket, whom I asked to maybe beta a 10,000 word fic and then kept sending messages back to say that it was going to be 12,000 15,000, no 20,000 words, SORRY. (It was eventually 26,000 words in draft.) And then she read it at night surrounded by skeletons. It's lucky I can't write truly creepy horror, after all... And then the moment when my gift fic was posted and I realised that [personal profile] calliopes_pen and I had probably been assigned to each other and I was most likely getting an amazing and long fic in the same fandom as I'd written her and had a moment of ridiculous panic (the Yuletide equivalent of "OMG, someone got me something and it's twice as expensive as mine and it's too late to get them anything else!!") and emailed Clocket again. I calmed down after that and just greedily awaited my gift. So, yeah: thanks, Clocket - and sorry!

Anyway, I was going to say that it changed a lot over the course of writing it, but I found my original notes and they were pretty much what happened - I think what changed was that all my ideas wound up amalgamated in together. All the essential components are in my original notes. (Well, except the random one in the middle of the page that says "Fake bat." I don't have a clue what that was supposed to be about. I was never planning to have a fake bat in it.)

So, it always started with the mysterious tenant, the ghost in the haunted house (being Jonathan, probably). Then I had to work out post-canon, which was harder to get started on. I had a bit of a problem with Jonathan, because Corin Redgrave is great (he's delightfully enthusiastic about fly-eating and being as mad as possible as Jonathan-Renfield) but the adaptation doesn't give much idea of what pre-canon Jonathan was like and even though I read the book to help, I decided it was better to just let Corin Redgrave's Jonathan become a vampire, as he clearly wanted! Which meant salvaging Mina. (Which seems logical to me, despite her vampire influence at the end. It's a little unfair in comparison because we don't see what Jonathan goes through or how long it takes, but while Lucy and Jonathan both seem to get pleasure out of vampirism, Mina gets pleasure out of Lucy, the rest is down to her despair at being left out of everything and losing both Lucy and Jonathan and she seems genuinely horrified and distressed by evidence of her transformation.) The other idea I started with, as the backbone of the thing, was that Jonathan becomes (or attempts to become) his Master while Mina becomes (or attempts to become) Van Helsing. (As it turned out, they both fail at the end, sort of happily for them, and not...)

So I ran with that, and then felt kind of bad, because it was hard not to run away with writing Mina and the background growing friendship between her and Dr Seward. I could happily write a filed-off version of Mina and Dr Seward fighting the supernatural in the intervening years! It was fun all round, really. I think this is maybe part of my guilt - if it was too much fun for me, was it any fun for anybody else??

I finished it up on the Somme because on reading the book I was struck by Dracula's talk of fields of blood round his castle and the realisation that vampire Jonathan was very near in time and place to his own plentiful fields of blood, if he wanted. (I went for the Somme, because by the end of Nov 1916, that was the point where the RAMC were beginning to realise that that shell shock was a real thing, although they were still uncertain about how to treat it and whether or not it was instead some kind of physical illness. They were desperately short of psychiatric doctors, but not yet at the point where they were ready to admit it. But it seemed reasonable that Dr Seward would try to get involved, and that Mina would be on the home front, organising fund-raising and helping to run a volunteer hospital. Like the Countdown section, it could easily have been extended, but both those sections would have been going off-course from the prompts.)

So, I watched, read and wrote Dracula through Hallowe'en, and got to the end section as we hit Remembrance Day, 100 years on from the last days of the Somme, so it was all weirdly appropriate and I had hard work not to talk about it.


My thoughts on reading the book are mainly that it wasn't quite as helpful on the Jonathan front as I'd hoped, because it was hard to imagine book!Jonathan ever winding up quite as far gone as Corin Redgrave's Jonathan. Other than that, mostly Van Helsing should never be allowed to make decisions. Ever. Mina should be in charge of the deicision making, with Jonathan as deputy. I thought TV 1968 Van Helsing was bad enough on the questionable decision making, but he has nothing on the original, either in terms of dodgy accents or thought processes: I'll just nip back to Amsterdam for three days and tell Dr Seward to stay awake unaided (without explanation) for three days straight. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG. Srsly, Van Helsing. And then he did it again! And then, towards the end, I happened to stumble over this vid about manpain and its meta just as I got to a bit where Mina was talking about how to deal with her being bitten (which was all the fault of Van Helsing, Questionable Decision Maker Extraordinaire AGAIN), and Dr Seward writes, "All us men were in tears". And that after Mina had gone round comforting all Lucy's lovers and I got the giggles from then on every time anyone cried, which was v unfair of me. I need to re-read it properly when not under a deadline! I enjoyed it, though. Like Wilkie Collins**, only with actual supernatural, more annoying praise of "noble men" (!!? Is Bram Stoker trying to be ironic; he's made it v clear that Mina is by far the effective person in the book) and not quite as good of course. ;-p

It was also a revelation to read next to watching Ripper Street (who had got to 1897 and had an excellent Dracula episode in addition to delighting me by resurrecting Suzanne Neve's 1968 outfit), because of course, both come out of the Ripper murders & that was great. (When in the book Dr Seward wonders if Van Helsing had actually murdered Lucy, and why; that's a Ripper reference.) I had a lovely (and quite helpful, for atmosphere) Ripper Street rewatch while writing.

I did quite well on not carrying over my Dr Seward/Mina shipping to the book, now that I had a Jonathan who wasn't completely mad, and Dr Seward wasn't James Maxwell (though Mina was clearly still Suzanne Neve) and THEN they met and it was a thing and they had a literal meeting of minds when she listens to his (dictated journal) and says, "You must never let anyone else see your heart like that." Dear God, people can't write things like that and expect me not to ship people! (I nearly stopped when he supported Van Helsing in obviously WRONG and STUPID ideas about keeping Mina out of things, though. But not entirely. *head!desks* (I looked for fic, but there wasn't one, except poly, which were nice, but not dealing with that meeting of minds.)

Anyway, that led to what eventually worked out as the central struggle of the story - which is, one big difference between the novel and a 60s production, is that the question of immortality as a vampire looks very different when far less people believe in a soul. Also, it was the 60s and it went all out on equating sex and vampirism, and the decade of free love couldn't write off sex as evil. So... it's then just the question of is it worth while fighting to stay human or regain your humanity or grasp at any chance of immortality that's offered? And in the light of something like WWI, that gets more complicated, I think. But I have to come down on the side of 'yes', which is why Mina had to win, once I'd realised what I was writing, (and again, especially since I got to that bit after the US election and I couldn't let evil win here, too), but it is a question without an automatic answer in this, I hope - and maybe it is dark, after all; maybe it would have been better to let Jonathan continue and vampirise people rather than let them fight on. But that was why I couldn't change it - and my plan to leave it ambiguous failed. Maybe with better writing skills, I could have done it, but not this time.

Also I wanted to bring back Dracula in the coda, and couldn't think of a way to do it that wouldn't be ridiculous (because I think the 1968 version is def. already in the tradition of cinema versions where Dracula always comes back) but right in my final editing before leaving for home, I came up with the idea for a longer coda and a mysterious figure in the fog. But it could be Jonathan! Or Gabriel Simmons. Or anyone. Ambiguity achieved at the 11th hour! \o/

Which reminds me: I am sorry about the OCs, but the idea of the strange house (Jonathan's lair) with a vaguely-Jonathan-like person wondering naively into it was just too much to resist (as much for me as for him) and I hope wasn't off-putting!



And I'll have to go and rest now, so I'll post the treats in another post later.



* The upshot of this is that now I want fic about the housekeepers. The housekeepers are great, even if it took me ages to get their actual names straight! Mrs Hopkins is not fazed by anything! (She works in an asylum; fair enough) and Mrs Perkins bosses Mrs Weston about all the time. And they're both tiny and fierce! (O, Network, when will you run to subtitles on your releases?)

** I have to say, The Woman in White must surely have been an influence - asylums, wicked counts, Laura and Marian and Lucy and Mina, mesmerism etc. even in addition to the Collins-esque epistolary/evidence-gathering format.

Date: 1 Jan 2017 04:36 pm (UTC)
calliopes_pen: (chomiji Chinese Yuletide gift candle)
From: [personal profile] calliopes_pen
I'll just nip back to Amsterdam for three days and tell Dr Seward to stay awake unaided (without explanation) for three days straight. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG. Srsly, Van Helsing.

As I plan to say in my write-up, Van Helsing is what I have always considered to be the veritable embodiment of the trope Poor Communication Kills.

And trust me, I absolutely loved every detail of both stories.

more annoying praise of "noble men" (!!? Is Bram Stoker trying to be ironic; he's made it v clear that Mina is by far the effective person in the book) and not quite as good of course.

Books have probably been written on that. I read two annotated books for the novel while I was writing, and I think it was discussed in detail in one of them.

(And I blame the local educational system for not teaching us anything about World War I aside from the year it began, the year it ended, and it was a World War. I'm told the teaching has improved with local schools being consolidated. I only knew of Remembrance Day thanks to it being referenced at the end of an episode of Doctor Who--probably Family of Blood, and from spotting people wearing poppies on Top Gear.)

The only way I know that Dracula could have possibly come back from that involves the ring and a generous application of blood. Or the ashes and the same generous application. Or a dark ritual and the same. (Hammer Films did that more than a bit.)

Which reminds me: I am sorry about the OCs, but the idea of the strange house (Jonathan's lair) with a vaguely-Jonathan-like person wondering naively into it was just too much to resist (as much for me as for him) and I hope wasn't off-putting!

That wasn't off-putting at all!

** I have to say, The Woman in White must surely have been an influence - asylums, wicked counts, Laura and Marian and Lucy and Mina, mesmerism etc. even in addition to the Collins-esque epistolary/evidence-gathering format.

I must track down The Woman In White at some point. I've never read it, and it was recommended to fans of Crimson Peak.

Date: 1 Jan 2017 05:41 pm (UTC)
calliopes_pen: (kathyh alien foam invasion thwarted Doct)
From: [personal profile] calliopes_pen
As to bringing Dracula back - I don't know where this came from, and it probably is odd when you're more versed in vampire lore, but Jonathan takes the dust and waters it with his blood and the tree grows. The tree is therefore Dracula.

That was a fantastic aspect of it, I thought. It does feel right. There may very well be a legend in that regard, but I either haven't run across it, or have just forgotten that I had.

There's the one I referenced in the fanfic where if you burn the body, creatures/insects crawl out of the bonfire and try to reform into the vampire unless you keep on throwing them back in until there's nothing but ashes. You then scatter the ashes to the wind, a fast-moving river, or bury them or they'll come back.

Perhaps a variation of the burial of the ashes at the crossroads superstition.

(There's also the amusing one where stealing the left sock would stop a vampire, which has no bearing on anything. Romanian folklore also had one that had to stop and count rice until daybreak if someone dumped it in front of them. One of my sources for many things related to vampires was here.)
Edited Date: 1 Jan 2017 05:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2 Jan 2017 12:39 pm (UTC)
calliopes_pen: (wolfbane_icons Dracula blood manuscript)
From: [personal profile] calliopes_pen
(and saved me from my continued failure to pick up on the fact that Dr Seward was actually living in the asylum and not next to it in the TV version too; it was originally going to be his house at the start until I finally realised he didn't have one)

You're not the only one. I did that, too.

I looked that one up, too. I never could find anything on a Professor Riezler or Reizler in regards to vampires or Dracula or Bram Stoker. All I ever found was a passing mention of a 19th century historian with that last name who gave an unverified estimate for witches that were burned at the stake in Bavaria. Here, at the c1637 bit. Not Austrian, though.

Now if Van Helsing had mentioned Montague Summers (who genuinely believed vampires and werewolves were real and spent his life hunting them, along with witches) or even a Professor Montague, it would be easier to figure out.

Yeah, I needed subtitles a couple times, too. Turn on subtitles/closed captioning on Youtube, and the results occasionally veer into gibberish. Particularly during Lucy's speech. (A couple times, no dialogue and just the opening music, and it says Yeah Yeah Yeah)
Edited Date: 2 Jan 2017 12:40 pm (UTC)

Date: 1 Jan 2017 10:23 pm (UTC)
john_amend_all: (marple)
From: [personal profile] john_amend_all
So are you all Dracula'd out now?

Date: 2 Jan 2017 11:14 am (UTC)
john_amend_all: (ulkesh)
From: [personal profile] john_amend_all
Splendid! I'll have the Wives crack on with icing a bulk order of cakes, then :-)

Date: 1 Jan 2017 04:06 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (Writing - Let Me Tell You a Story)
From: [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
It's always a pleasure, rather than a chore, to beta-read for you - even in fandoms I don't know...

Date: 1 Jan 2017 06:18 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (Judi - Writing (Snagged by permission))
From: [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
TBH, that's half the fun for me of beta-reading for you (and others) at Yuletide.

Date: 1 Jan 2017 06:30 pm (UTC)
ext_3965: (10 + SJS Hug School Reunion)
From: [identity profile] persiflage-1.livejournal.com
Think my fave random fandom fic was the one I beta-read for [livejournal.com profile] dbskyler last year!

Date: 1 Jan 2017 08:41 pm (UTC)

Date: 1 Jan 2017 04:27 pm (UTC)
liadtbunny: (Peter Cushing)
From: [personal profile] liadtbunny
Gosh, what a lot of work before treats. I am glad you survived! You def need a January snoozing in front of slow TV, no questions.

Date: 2 Jan 2017 02:51 pm (UTC)
liadtbunny: (Cat paw cuddle)
From: [personal profile] liadtbunny
You're allowed to collapse in a heap this year and tell people to imagine kittens;p

Date: 1 Jan 2017 09:20 pm (UTC)
paranoidangel: PA (Default)
From: [personal profile] paranoidangel
Wow, I'm impressed you wrote so many words!

Date: 1 Jan 2017 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ragnarok-08.livejournal.com
That's a lot of words - I'm impressed!!

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