Blogging Dracula since 2005

By Unknown - Universal Studios, Public Domain,Pick up this 1897 novel.  Turn to the first chapter, first page, first paragraph.  Hey, it starts today:

3 May. Bistritz.– Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible.

Fear is something you’ll get used to, Jonathan Harker.

Today I’m astonished to realize that the Draculablog project has been running for fourteen years.  We started in 2005, an aeon ago in internet time.

Looking over the blog now… it feels like an artifact, a fairly standard, minimal blog unchanged since the Web 2.0 glory days.  There aren’t any social media hooks.  No slabs of images or video right off the bat.  It’s a basic blog.  On Typepad!  It’s a living remnant of the indieweb.

Here’s what I wrote about the project in 2017.  I can’t add anything to it now:

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Way back in 2005 I was preparing a scholarly edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for publication.  The publisher went out of business, so it didn’t happen (yet), but I started thinking about a digital edition.

One night my wife and I were talking about some new digital projects we had encountered.  I described the Pepys blog, which posted 17th-century diary entries on the same calendar day.  (Here’s the May 3 2017 post) . Then it hit us.  Why now do the same with Dracula?

If you haven’t read this very strange and enormously entertaining novel as an adult, know that it is essentially a scrapbook.  After a brief explanatory note, the whole text that follows is a stack of documents (diary entires, letters, audio recordings, newspaper clippings, even a receipt), each of which is time-stamped by day and month.  Why not follow Pepys and blog the novel “live,” as it were?

And so I did.  In May 2005 I fired up a new blog (on Typepad! those were the days), and manually copied and pasted each entry from my prepared copy of the novel.  It took some work, but not too much, as I knew the text intimately by this time.

The results were fascinating.  Readers started commenting.  Some were first-timers to the novel, and asked the questions one does – will Mina welcome back Jonathan? how to defeat Dracula?  Some were Dracula experts, like Elizabeth Miller and Leslie Klinger, who weighed in that year and in later years based on their long work with the text.  Other sources picked up the blog, like BoingBoing (“This genius blogger is posting the Jonathan Harker journal entries from Stoker’s Dracula as a series of dated blog posts”) and the Guardian.

Bloodthirsty material of a different kind comes in the shape of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which has recently been released in the form of a blog. Over the next six months, bite-sized sections of the novel will be serialised in accordance with the dates of the original diary entries from the novel’s protagonist, Jonathan Harker. It is nice way to get your teeth into a classic novel, especially if you haven’t read it. Dracula is not the first classic text to be serialised in this way. The diary of Samuel Pepys continues to publish a new entry of the renowned diarist every day of the year.

I was and remain fascinated by how people read the novel through this blog lens.  The format draws attention to time, so temporal gaps become much more powerful, as when Jonathan Harker remains silent.  In contrast, multiple entries on the same date ramp up a sense of activity and urgency.

Since then I’ve run the blog about every two years out of three.   I added non-novel content, including posts about the book’s contextother books and writings about Dracula, and related stories of Dracula in moviesmusic, and other media.

Then the Draculablog has been joined by Andrew Connell of Dickinson College.  Andrew’s a genius educational technologist with a keen Gothic eye.  He generously volunteered his time to make maps for key travel scenes (Dracula’s trip to Britain; the heroes pursuing him back to the Balkans).   Here, for example, is Jonathan Harker’s route from the novel’s beginning:

Harker heads east; map by Andrew Connell

Then Andrew built an automated service to pump out entries on schedule without my having to do them by hand, a Draculabloggingengine.  This saves me serious amounts of time.  And so the blog keeps running along every year.

So much has changed in the digital world since 2005.  Twitter has taken off, for example, and there are all kinds of Dracula accounts and discussions there.  The Pepys blog has a presence on Twitter, too:

There’s something retro in maintaining an old school blog in 2017, but the format simply works.  Should we shift into Twitter?  Is it time for a Dracula podcast?  Does VR call for a Stoker experience?

But today is May 4th, 2017.  In the novel, May 4th is when Harker gets to read a letter from the mysterious count.  When he asks the locals about this, they get nervous:

When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and, saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further.

Jonathan doesn’t get the clue, unfortunately.  What else is happening?  Read for yourself and find out.

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2 Responses to Blogging Dracula since 2005

  1. Vivian Forssman says:

    Hi Bryan. Enjoying your Pepys retrospective! After I heard you speak about this project many years ago (maybe at Educause or ELI- so long ago I cant recall) I used your blog-as-collective-historical-narrative example frequently, to try to rev up interest in implementing student blogs at the polytechnic where I worked, way back then. There were more than a few uphill battles and the boss at the time challenged me with negative comments about “what’s this blawg thing for anyway??”My career ended up being a serial effort, at 4 different post-secs, all with a common thread of getting student blog platforms implemented and available, with the faculty supports required to advance “pedagogical innovation”. I can honestly say that your presentation about that Pepys blog project informed my career for 15 years.

  2. fwiw I found, bookmarked and followed Draculablog before this one. Multiplying small world coincidences, I came across it collecting Dracula resources for the Coursera Fantasy and Science Fiction MOOC with your dissertation director. I was in the inaugural course — which was also where I met Laura Gibbs.

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