If you’ve spent any amount of time online this past week, you may have noticed that “Dracula” — Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel built on Victorian repression/transgression, which essentially kicked off the entire vampire genre — has been trending.
And if you’re just a casual internet explorer, you may be wondering why. Why on earth are so many people talking about a 125-year-old horror novel in May of 2022?
One, the epistolary novel (a story told via letters and diary entries) actually begins on May 3.
And two, a web designer by the name of Matt Kirkland has set up an email blast known as “Dracula Daily,” which delivers each dated section of the story straight to your inbox on the appropriate day.
Kirkland created the newsletter last year, and it was moderately successful then. But this year, the entire userbase of the website Tumblr has signed up (at least, that’s how it seems) and the internet is now flooded with hilarious memes, meta and joke posts about the vicious Victorian vamp.
“Dracula Daily” has gone from less than 2,000 subscribers to tens of thousands, and a new generation of readers is blogging about Our Good Friend Jonathan Harker, an oblivious lawyer writing an unusual travelogue as he visits a peculiar new client in Transylvania.
Every day there’s a new email — and there won’t be emails every day; only on days directly mentioned within the novel — the internet sees a fresh flood of excited reactions and ridiculous memes.
Whether this will continue all the way to Nov. 10 (the final section of “Dracula”), given how quickly popularity wanes for online trends, remains to be seen. But I anticipate plenty of comedy gold in the coming weeks, as we get into the really meaty bits of the story. (Quincey Morris hasn’t even shown up yet! I can’t wait to see how Tumblr reacts to my boy Quincey.)
So why has “Dracula Daily” hit such a nerve this year? Why sign up to have a classic horror novel delivered to you in installments? Allow me to elaborate …
1. As with most classics, not that many people have actually read “Dracula” before.
Oh, we all know the basic story, most of the characters, plenty of the twists. “Dracula” has permeated so many levels of pop culture, has shaped so much of the horror and vampire fiction that followed it, that it’s near impossible not to know the broad strokes. And I’m sure almost everyone has seen as least one movie adaptation.
But if you polled your coworkers or friends, chances are good a majority would confess they’ve never picked up Stoker’s book before. And, to date, there hasn’t been a truly accurate movie adaptation (Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” is perhaps the closest, but even that had significant deviations from the source material).
And there are plenty of details in “Dracula” that will surprise first-time readers — like the fact the Count got his mystical powers not just because he’s a vampire, but because he attended a school run by Satan. Then there’s Lucy’s polycule-turned-vampire hunters, one of whom is a bona fide, Bowie knife-wielding cowboy!
If you’ve always meant to read “Dracula,” but never got around to it, this is a perfect opportunity to finally make good, because:
2. It’s so much easier to read small installments rather than an entire book all at once.
While I love several classics, I’ll readily admit reading an older novel can be something of a trial. Language and story-telling conventions have changed so much over time. What was riveting reading a century ago can feel dry and boring today. Sitting down with a classic and trying to plow through the entire thing can turn into a chore.
But a chapter or so a day? Just a handful of pages? Much, much more doable. And, also:
3. Doing something is much more fun when there’s a sense of community.
“Dracula Daily” is essentially one big world-wide book club! Instead of meeting at someone’s house, we’re logging onto Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook after finishing each email, seeing everyone else’s hot takes and goofy fanart, sharing a knowing chuckle and nod of agreement.
It’s great fun being a part of something this far-flung and silly. And I say silly because
4. “Dracula Daily” highlights just how unintentionally funny so much of “Dracula” is.
As everyone likes to say: The people in “Dracula” don’t know they’re in “Dracula,” they’ve never even heard of a vampire before, and that makes so many of Jonathan and Co.’s reactions laugh out loud funny.
The locals are sobbing over Jonathan, pressing crucifixes on him for protection, and he’s more concerned about getting the recipe for that delicious paprika hendl he enjoyed last night. He can’t wait to tell his beloved Mina about how pretty the scenery is, all while the black carriage he’s riding in, lit by blue hellish flames, is flanked by snarling wolves. (Jonathan is truly God’s Perfect Idiot, and we love him for it.)
Don’t get me wrong: this is still a Very Serious, Very Spooky story with plenty of genuine chills to it. But from our modern, genre-savvy viewpoint, there’s a lot to giggle over.
The nature of the email blasts also means we’re actually reading the story in a way Stoker never intended — there are some sections he presented out of chronological order, to build up tension or set up foreshadowing. Reading the story strictly by its timeline makes for a very different experience, and because this is a 125-year-old story everyone sort of knows:
5. This isn’t a situation where spoilers will ruin anyone’s fun.
Entertainment is delivered at such a rapid-fire pace these days, it’s all but impossible to keep up with it all. And with the internet connecting everyone, blasting every opinion and excited rant to the four corners, that means anyone who wants to avoid spoilers has to avoid all of social media until they catch up.
But “Dracula” is so old it’s in the public domain. There have been hundreds of movies and TV shows and other books built off its framework. Even if you’re unfamiliar with every tiny detail of the story, you still already know the big things, so there isn’t a need to avoid spoilers.
This isn’t a Marvel situation, where someone posts The Big Twist the day the movie hits theaters and ruins the fun for everyone else. And if you haven’t signed up yet, or have missed a day, never fear, because:
6. The “Dracula Daily” site has an archive with the previous sections.
The emails have been going out for a week now. You may be feeling a little left out, because everyone else already knows about Count Dracula’s weird reading habits (train timetables can be riveting, I’m sure) and frantic cleaning sprees whenever Jonathan’s back is turned.
But not to worry! You can still sign up for the future emails — just go to https://draculadaily.substack.com/about — and then click over to the Archive to read up on what you’ve missed.
Sure, we’re heading into beautifully sunny weather and balmy temps, which isn’t exactly the ideal setting for a Gothic vampire tale.
But there are a lot of awful things happening in the world right now. Maybe reading about someone else’s Truly Awful Business Trip, and all of the bizarre supernatural fallout from that, will make everything else feel a little more bearable this summer.
• Angie Barry is a contributing columnist for Shaw Media. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers topics in pop culture, history and literature, contact her at email@example.com.