Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Bram Stoker’s 165th Anniversary

Posted: November 8, 2012 in books, news
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Abraham Stoker, 8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912

Today, the vampires shine and don’t eat anyone… but there was a time it was very different. Bram Stoker wrote his most famous novel in 1897. The father of Dracula and all the vampires after him, was born on 8th November 1847.

Doodle for the 165th Anniversary of Bram Stoker:

To read more about Bram Stoker, his novel Dracula and vampires on this blog, please click here: Bram Stoker.

Bram Stoker

Posted: April 21, 2012 in books, cinema, movies
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Abraham Stoker, 8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel “Dracula”. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

LIFE AND CAREER

Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, on the northside of Dublin, Ireland. His parents were Abraham Stoker (1799–1876), from Dublin, and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley (1818–1901), who came from Ballyshannon, County Donegal. Stoker was the third of seven children. He graduated with honours in mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where his first paper was on “Sensationalism in Fiction and Society”. He became the theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and also wrote stories, and in 1872 “The Crystal Cup” was published by the London Society, followed by “The Chain of Destiny” in four parts in The Shamrock. In 1876, while a civil servant in Dublin, Stoker wrote a non-fiction book (The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, published 1879), which remained a standard work .

In 1878 Stoker married Florence Balcombe, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe of 1 Marino Crescent. She was a celebrated beauty whose former suitor was Oscar Wilde. Stoker had known Wilde from his student days, having proposed him for membership of the university’s Philosophical Society while he was president. The Stokers moved to London, where Stoker became acting manager and then business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, London, a post he held for 27 years. On 31 December 1879, Bram and Florence’s only child was born, a son whom they christened Irving Noel Thornley Stoker.

The collaboration with Henry Irving was important for Stoker and through him he became involved in London’s high society, where he met James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to whom he was distantly related). Working for Irving, the most famous actor of his time, and managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if busy man. He was dedicated to Irving and his memoirs show he idolised him. In London Stoker also met Hall Caine who became one of his closest friends – he dedicated “Dracula” to him.

After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker died at No. 26 St George’s Square on 20 April 1912. Some biographers attribute the cause of death to tertiary syphilis. He was cremated, and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium.

“THE UN-DEAD”

Before writing “Dracula”, Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. “Dracula” is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship’s logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, it was considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life.

The original 541-page manuscript of Dracula, believed to have been lost, was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1980s. It included the typed manuscript with many corrections, and handwritten on the title page was “THE UN-DEAD.” The author’s name was shown at the bottom as Bram Stoker. Author Robert Latham notes, “the most famous horror novel ever published, its title changed at the last minute.”

“The Un-Dead” was one of Stoker’s original titles for “Dracula”, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. Stoker’s Notes for “Dracula” show that the name of the count was originally “Count Wampyr”, but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the name “Dracula”, after reading William Wilkinson’s book “Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia with Political Observations Relative to Them” (London 1820), which he found in the Whitby Library, and consulted a number of times during visits to Whitby in the 1890s. The name Dracula was the patronym (Drăculea) of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, who took the name “Dracul” after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the Romanian language, the word dracul (Romanian drac “dragon” + -ul “the”) can mean either “the dragon” or, especially in the present day, “the devil”.

Following the publication of “In Search of Dracula” by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Bram Stoker’s fictional “Dracula” attracted popular attention. During his main reign (1456–1462), “Vlad the Impaler” is said to have killed from 40,000 to 100,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals and anyone else he considered “useless to humanity”), mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. The main sources dealing with these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighbouring Transylvania, who had frequent clashes with Vlad III. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Turks. His impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000 Ottoman Turks. These numbers are most likely exaggerated.

Vlad the Impaler; also known as Vlad Dracula.

Historically, the name “Dracula” is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The name Dracula means “Son of Dracul”.

The first film adaptation of “Dracula” was released in 1922 and was named “Nosferatu”. It was directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and starred Max Schreck as Count Orlock. Nosferatu was produced while Florence Stoker, Bram Stoker’s widow and literary executrix, was still alive. Represented by the attorneys of the British Incorporated Society of Authors, she eventually sued the filmmakers. Her chief legal complaint was that she had been neither asked for permission for the adaptation nor paid any royalty. The case dragged on for some years, with Mrs. Stoker demanding the destruction of the negative and all prints of the film. The suit was finally resolved in the widow’s favour in July 1925. Some copies of the film survived, however and the film has become well known. The first authorized film version of Dracula did not come about until almost a decade later when Universal Studios released Tod Browning’s “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi.

Read more about Bram Stoker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Stoker
Read more about Dracula: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula
Visit this site: http://www.bramstoker.org/

VAMPIRES IN THE MOVIES

Forget Edward and the Twilight Saga… Here are the most famous and dangerous vampires of all time. Grab your crucifix and holy water. You gonna need of them.

1. COUNT ORLOCK – Max Schreck, from Nosferatu, 1922. Directed by F.W. Murnau.

2. DRACULA – Bela Lugosi, from Dracula, 1931. Directed by Tod Browning.

3. DRACULA – Christopher Lee, from Horror of Dracula, 1958. Directed by Terence Fisher.

4. DRACULA – Klaus Kinski, from Nosferatu the Vampyr, 1979. Directed by Werner Herzog.

5. JERRY DANDRIDGE – Chris Sarandon, from Fright Night, 1985. Directed by Tom Holland.

6. DAVID – Kiefer Sutherland, from The Lost Boys, 1987. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

7. DRACULA – Gary Oldman, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

8. LESTAT – Tom Cruise, from Interview with the Vampire, 1994. Directed by Neil Jordan.

9. MAX SCHRECK – Willem Dafoe, from Shadow of the Vampire, 2000. Directed by E. Elias Merhige.

10. ELI – Lina Leandersson, from Let the Right One In, 2008. Directed by Tomas Alfredson.

11. BARNABAS COLLINS – Johnny Depp, from Dark Shadows, 2012. Directed by Tim Burton.

Isaac Asimov

Posted: April 6, 2012 in books, news
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Isaac Asimov, 2 January 1920 – 6 April 1992

Twenty years ago, on April 6, 1992, Isaac Asimov died. The author died of AIDS, contracted during a contaminated blood transfusion while he was undergoing a heart surgery in 1983.
Born Eyzik Yudovitš Asimov (Yiddish) or Isaak Yudovich Ozimov (Russian), on January 2, 1920, Isaak was a Russian American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.

Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime.
Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified “future history” for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson.
Isaac Asimov was an atheist, a humanist, and a rationalist.He did not oppose religious conviction in others, but he frequently railed against superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs that tried to pass themselves off as genuine science. He wrote many short stories, among them “Nightfall”, which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

FOUNDATION AND THE THREE LAWS

In 1942 he published the first of his Foundation stories — later collected in the Foundation Trilogy: “Foundation” (1951), “Foundation and Empire” (1952), and “Second Foundation” (1953) — which recount the collapse and rebirth of a vast interstellar empire in a universe of the future. Taken together, they are his most famous work of science fiction, along with the Robot Series. Many years later, due to pressure by fans on Asimov to write another, he continued the series with “Foundation’s Edge” (1982) and “Foundation and Earth” (1986), and then went back to before the original trilogy with “Prelude to Foundation” (1988) and “Forward the Foundation” (1992). The series features his fictional science of Psychohistory in which the future course of the history of large populations can be predicted.

His positronic robot stories — many of which were collected in I, Robot (1950) — were begun at about the same time. They promulgated a set of rules of ethics for robots (The Three Laws of Robotics) and intelligent machines that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject. The rules were introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround”, although they had been foreshadowed in a few earlier stories. The Three Laws are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The original laws have been altered and elaborated on by Asimov and other authors. Asimov himself made slight modifications to the first three in various books and short stories to further develop how robots would interact with humans and each other; he also added a fourth, or zeroth law, to precede the others:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

The Three Laws, and the zeroth, have pervaded science fiction and are referred to in many books, films, and other media.

Source: Wikipedia.

ASIMOV BY HIMSELF


“Outside intelligences, exploring the Solar System with true impartiality, would be quite likely to enter the Sun in their records thus: Star X, spectral class G0, 4 planets plus debris.”


“There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death.”


“People are entirely too disbelieving of coincidence. They are far too ready to dismiss it and to build arcane structures of extremely rickety substance in order to avoid it. I, on the other hand, see coincidence everywhere as an inevitable consequence of the laws of probability, according to which having no unusual coincidence is far more unusual than any coincidence could possibly be.”


“Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.”


“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today — but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”


“I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.”


“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don’t believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of Hitler. Besides, if most human governments are civilized enough to try to eliminate torture and outlaw cruel and unusual punishments, can we expect anything less of an all-merciful God? I feel that if there were an afterlife, punishment for evil would be reasonable and of a fixed term. And I feel that the longest and worst punishment should be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.”


“There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.”


“I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing — to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics — Well, they can do whatever they wish.”


“I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”


“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”


“If you suspect that my interest in the Bible is going to inspire me with sudden enthusiasm for Judaism and make me a convert of mountain‐moving fervor and that I shall suddenly grow long earlocks and learn Hebrew and go about denouncing the heathen — you little know the effect of the Bible on me. Properly read, it is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”