Sex, Blood and Vampires: A Review of ‘Stoker’s Wilde’ 

Alan D.D. is an author, journalist and blogger from Venezuela. He has worked with books, comics, music, movies and anything else that catches his attention. 99% of the time, it’s something about witches. He’s currently studying for a Masters in Communication and Development and searching for a 24/7 chocolate supplier.

Could you imagine two Gothic writers fighting against a vampire cult? Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi can, and have written Stoker’s Wilde as a result. The appeal resides not only in the basic idea, but in that said writers are Abraham “Bram” Stoker and Oscar Wilde.

Stoker's Wilde Cover

The story presents us with the two characters before either of them became famous. They meet each other in order to hunt a werewolf, a shapeshifter, and through this Wilde discovers Bram’s curse: a sixth sense that allows him to detect and track any supernatural being, although it doesn’t protect him from dangerous secondary effects.

As the plot progresses, Hopstaken and Prusi show us that their Victorian London is filled with predatory vampires that seek to bring the world as we know it to an end. Although they are on bad terms, Stoker and Wilde will be forced to put their differences aside and work together if they want to prevent this from happening, but evil forces will stop at nothing to counter attack.

It is interesting to note that the books honours the fact that “Victorian female vampires were reflections of how men saw women and what they feared” (Provost, 2018, pp. 121). The female characters offer an interesting picture of how women were viewed in their time: as the “‘Angel in the House’, a term inaugurated by Coventry Patmore in his 1854 poem of that name, which laid out a model of the domestic goddess, who apparently retained her chastity even as wife and mother” (Furneaux, 2014). By this, I don’t mean in any sense that they are not sexual characters, but rather that they play a more domestic role.

Hopstaken and Prusi also use Oscar Wilde to briefly show that, “Although heterosexuality was held to be both normal and natural throughout the period, the later years also witnessed a visible increase in homosexuality, mainly in men and especially but not exclusively in the intelligentsia. (…) Gay sex behind closed doors was made a criminal offence. This led, most notoriously, to the imprisonment in 1896 of Oscar Wilde, playwright and poseur” (Marsh, 2016). This is not the first time sexuality and vampires have gone hand in hand: “Once depicted as grotesque and repellent, now vampires in popular culture are anything but. They’re alluring, irresistible, almost inhumanly beautiful and virtually always sexual in nature. This trend — which has its roots in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula” — has become ubiquitous in the last few years” (Gray, 2011). However, far from creating a negative portrayal of sexuality in the Victorian era, Hopstaken and Prusi make it a great harmonising element in Stoker’s Wilde. They use it to successfully create a secondary plot and complementary scenes that add points in favor of the novel’s magic.

Stoker’s Wilde not only honors the Gothic style that made these authors famous and highlights moments in their lives, but also includes many references to their respective masterpieces. Its characters are more human than one might expect, and it is easy to feel sympathy for each of them despite their differences.

Hopstaken and Prusi keep an entertaining tone throughout the book, immersing the reader in its world. The atmosphere is so well crafted it saddens me to leave this version of history, but all good things come to an end, and Stoker’s Wilde has a very good one.

References

Provost, T. (2018). ‘Chapter Six: From Whore to Madonna: The Evolution of the Female Vampire’. In Lisa Wenger Bro, L.W.  O’ Leary-Davidson, C. and Gareis, M. A. (Eds.), Monsters of Film, Fiction, and Fable: The Cultural Links between the Human and Inhuman (pp. 114–127). Cambridge Scholars Publishing: Cambridge.

Furneaux, H. (15 May 2014). Victorian sexualities. Retrieved from https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/victorian-sexualities

Marsh, J. (2016). Sex and Sexuality in the 19th Century. Retrieved from http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sex-and-sexuality-19th-century/

Gray, Emma. (2011). Vampires And Sexuality: What Are ‘Twilight’ And ‘True Blood’ Saying About Sex? Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vampires-sexuality_b_1063907

This post has been re-published by permission from the BAVS Postgraduates Blog. Please see the original post at https://victorianist.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/sex-blood-and-vampires-a-review-of-stokers-wilde/