There are many reasons I love John C. Wright

There are many reasons I love John C. Wright January 11, 2013

Among them are fear, surprise, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope. But that’s not important right now. Today, the reasons include his ability to compose sentences like this:
I frankly admit that I am sick to death of vampires as portrayed as protagonists in stories. They are properly villains and vermin, antagonists to be exterminated, not friends afflicted with angst and waiting to be understood.

…and then tie it into the Feast of the Magi.

Also splendid are blog entries that begin, “My Jesuit Confessor, Father Elliptical de Casuistry of Our Lady of Endless Hairsplitting, tells me …” even when they, alas, announce a cutback in blogging.

FWIW, in honor of John’s post, here’s a little snippet from the currently-out-of-print-but-soon-to-be-reissued-in-a-single-volume-from-Marytown-Press Mary, Mother of the Son regarding the Magi and the biblical homage paid to… those darn Catholic Babylonian Mystery Religionists we hear so much about from Fundamentalists.

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  • Cinlef

    A marvelous essay, though Raymond Chandler said it best (or at least most concisely) in his essay on detective stories The Simple Art of Murder “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.”

  • “Among them are fear, surprise, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope.” hee hee hee

  • Evan

    No ruthless efficiency and nice red uniforms (or beards)? I’m very disappointed.

  • The Next to Last Samurai

    The original good-vampire story, The Dracula Tape, by Fred Saberhagen, is excellent; I bet even Mr Wright would like it. Unfortunately, as so often happens, less talented writers trampled all over the theme in hobnailed boots.

    The Dracula Tape suggests that faith, not a piece of wood in a certain shape, is what beats evil; after Van Helsing has scarred Mina’s forehead with the Host, her lover Dracula tries to show her that it’s the belief that’s the thing. He picks up a couple of twigs and forms them into a cross, pointing out, reasonably enough, “if I can hold it, what have you to fear?”. Stephen King picks up on this idea in Salem’s Lot, where the priest has the vampire on the run, until the priest, a victim of 20th century materialism, begins to doubt, upon which all the power goes out of the cross and the vampire regains the upper hand. It’s an interesting notion that could probably be used to great effect in good-monster stories.

    • “Stephen King picks up on this idea in Salem’s Lot, where the priest has the vampire on the run, until the priest, a victim of 20th century materialism, begins to doubt, upon which all the power goes out of the cross and the vampire regains the upper hand”

      The original Fright Night played on that same theme, were vampire hunter Roddy MacDowell held up a crucifix to the vampire and he laughes at it, because, as the vampire says, “You have to have faith!”

      • I remember watching that when I graduated high school. Agnostic that I was, I was impressed by that.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Long before I was Catholic, that scene bugged me, because it implies that the power of the Cross is in the faith of the believer, rather than in the object of faith itself. I didn’t buy it.

        And I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Wright’s view on vampires. They’re blood-sucking monsters, not misunderstood emo anti-heroes. Although, to be fair, I can think of one notable exception: George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, which is an excellent vampire novel with a sympathetic vampire. But the vampires in that book are not the supernatural beasties of folklore, so I think it gets a pass.

        • The Next to Last Samurai

          It’s probably bad theology but it makes for interesting drama. It may not even be bad theology. If faith can move mountains, it should also move vampires.

          I recommend The Dracula Tape. It’s been in and out of print for 40 years or so; if it’s currently out if print you should be able to find it at the library or a used book store. Saberhagen wrote a number of sequels but I didn’t find them that good.

          • Mark Shea

            Vampires have no souls. THere’s nothing left to save.

            • Jon W

              Yeah, but if that’s the case then they don’t deserve any prominence as antagonists. If Tolkien really had written a story about orcs, he would have had to take seriously their moral status and free will. But because the book is about something else entirely, the orcs can be conveniently treated as mere antagonists.

              The thing that makes a character in a story a good character (in the literary, artistic sense) is his moral choices, but someone who has no soul to save has no real moral choices to make, and is therefore just a piece of the scenery.

              Essentially, the 19th and 20th centuries found that what was formerly a monster had interesting enough characteristics to stand for a certain kind of man in a certain kind of moral dilemma, and that meant treating the vampire as if he did have a soul, since the man of which he is a symbol has a soul.

              • Mark S. (not for Shea)

                Actually, Tolkien began a sequel to The Lord of the Rings, which dealt with those very issues. It’s called The New Shadow and was published in THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH. But he never got very far, and what he got wasn’t very good. That being said, the early drafts of TLotR weren’t very good either, so who knows what might have been?

                As for “vampires have no souls” … I think that depends very much on who is telling the tale. If you read DRACULA, it’s very strongly implied that the Count suffered from some sort of demonic possession. Read the scene where the Count is killed. Stoker suggests that in his final moment, the Count’s soul is set free.

                The whole trope of vampires being sympathetic really started with Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Although not terribly well written, it was at least at times interesting in that you had a protagonist who was a monster and did NOT want to be one. Rice seems to have lost all that in the sequels by having her protagonists fall in love with evil rather than reject it, and this seems to be where the latest pop culture vampire craze has latched on.

      • Matthew

        Fright Nigh: “You have to BELIEVE for that (the Cross) to work!”

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    When it comes to vampires, there are many stories worth reading, but I can only think of three that recommend re-reading:

    DRACULA by Bram Stoker. I think the first half of the novel is the best horror story ever written. The story loses a lot in the latter half, as the Count becomes less of a Dark Lord and more of a comic book villain.

    ‘SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King. It’s basically a modern re-imagining of DRACULA, but unlike Stoker, King’s vampire doesn’t lose his dark lustre. This is probably the best vampire novel ever written.

    FEVRE DREAM by George R.R. Martin. My feelings on vampires is that unless you’re going to do something new, don’t do it. Well, Martin did something new. This book is Mark Twain meets Bram Stoker. A great period piece, and a neat take on the vampire legend.