Sunday, February 20, 2011

A love story: Melina and the Vampires

It began in the dawn of time. I must have been seven years old and we had just recently moved to Germany. It was night-time and I was cuddled up on the sofa sitting next to my mother. This is when I met him for the first time: Dracula!
He presented himself in the form of Christopher Lee playing in an old Hammer movie. One of the countless films about the infamous count from Transsilvania: Dracula, Dracula - Prince of darkness, Dracula has risen from the grave, Taste the blood of Dracula... I‘ve seen and loved them all. The movies did not tell us much about the count himself, where he came from, his motives, how he felt. And he did not talk a lot: he would just look at his victim, commanding it to come nearer, open his arms beneath the black cape and encompass them in his deadly embrace. He was a monster in the body of a man. And yes, I was scared. A little. But I knew, that nothing bad would happen, if I pulled my blanked up over my neck. And if he came... well... maybe this would not be so bad after all. He was kinda good-looking, wasn‘t he?
This is when it began, my life-long love-story with Vampires. 
I emerged myself in it, watching the Hammer-movies on TV, discovering the south american interpretations of Dracula, the silent-movies with Bela Lugosi and of course the source of it all, the novel by Bram Stoker. 
Written in 1897, it was the first of it‘s kind. Earlier Vampire stories (Le Fanu‘s „Camilla“, Polidori‘s „The Vampyre“) had been mostly targeted to the intellectual and romantic elite. They had created an interest in the drinkers of blood, but their Vampires remained somehow ghostlike, diffuse creatures. Stoker made a man out of the spectre and his book was a worldwide success. It contained everything that you expect of a good novel: sex, action and mystery. Dracula himself is the predator, the monster with hairy hands and a hawk-like nose, who is feared and killed in the end. Very much, what the Hammer-movies had try to convey with their rather simple means. It was an adventure book and I adored it. I must have ready it dozens of times.
This I why I was perfectly equipped to write my own book about Vampires. Not a novel of course. My analytic mind asked for a scientific challenge. So, in 1978 (being ten-and-two years old) I spend numerous hours researching the evil creatures with the aid of Bram Stoker‘s work, other stories, films, magazine articles, history books and much more. The result was kind of manual, listing all the important facts: how Vampires are created, how to repel them, how to kill them, the story of Dracula, the historic figure and a section that I called „The abuse of Vampire“, dealing with Vampires as subjects of jokes in magazines. Yep. I was really serious about it.
And serious it remained, because in the following years, my attention shifted to the more ambitious manifestations of Vampire movies: Murnau‘s „Nosferatu“, Herzog‘s „Nosferatu“ with the glorious Klaus Kinski, Andy Warhol‘s Dracula... Obviously, the monster had become a symbol for all kinds of repressed feelings, fear of the unknown, the monster inside, passion. Art had discovered the Vampire and I was feeling very intellectual. 
This came to a sudden end, when Francis Ford Coppola presented his new movie in 1992: Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. Yes! Here he was again, but totally changed. Coppola‘s interpretation transformed the speechless monster and intellectual symbol into a romantic hero. A loving creature that turns to the dark side as a result of  a great loss, of being forsaken by god. Yes, he kills, yes, he‘s a ghastly monster, but we could all understand why. And we suffered with him every minute up until his salvation and Christ-like ascension.
Anne Rice‘s Vampire novels had been written earlier, but I discovered them around the same time as the Coppola movie, in the early 90‘s. They were expressing a similar picture of Vampires: tortured creatures with feelings and emotions, killing, hunting, but suffering because of it. Asking the eternal questions: Why am I that way? What is my destiny?
Well... the destiny of this new Vampire was definitely to be transferred into my most important pastime. A few years earlier I had started to do role-playing games, by then concentrating on fantasy and medieval settings. In 1991 the storyteller-based game "Vampire - The Masquerade" was published by White Wolf. And guess who play-tested the game at the authors place even before it was published officially? I will not name him, but he‘s a Tango teacher as well... ;-)
My friends and me started playing the game in the original modern setting: Vampires living in our modern world, somehow connected to it, but forming a secret society. These Vampires where very much influenced by the Rice novels when it came to their suffering souls. Their torment was resulting from an ancient curse that god had called upon the first Vampire, Cain. It was supposed to be a mythological game. But, let‘s face it, it was also about playing a super-hero. Vampires had all these exciting skills: they could change into wolves and bats, had night-vision, where very strong, could read minds and mind-control ordinary people. So it was no surprise, that it many cases it transformed into an action-based game, the Vampires being just another way to live out juvenile fantasies of power. 
I found this rather boring, not being juvenile any more, so in January 1994 I started my own Vampire game: set in the early 19th century, the story is based in Venice. La Serenissima suffering from the napoleonic conquest and being finally reduced to a austrian province. A sinking and degrading city, living in the memories of a great past. This is where my Vampires are living in an equally decomposing society, clinging to former fame and archaic ideals. It is about mythology and history. It‘s about Europe on the brink of modern times, about mankind adapting to a new era. The main-characters of this play being immortal allows us to encompass a longer period in history. An we‘re still playing. After 17 years, our group has now arrived in the game-year of 1908. It‘s getting hard to meet, with my crazy schedule and because of the fact, that one of our players moved to England and has to travel all the way to Germany... But we‘re holding up and looking forward to our 20th anniversary in 2014.
(This role-playing game was b.t.w. the reason that I re-discovered my love for history and now I‘m preparing to do my Master in „Modern European History and Literature“, dealing mostly with the 19th century.)
In 2006, Vampires invaded another part of my life: TV series. It‘s Lynn‘s fault. Or Andreas‘? I forgot. When I first discovered „Buffy, the Vampire slayer“ (first aired in 1997) and it‘s spin-off „Angel“, I was very sceptical: what good could come from a series named after a 15-year-old girl called Buffy? But I was surprised by the wit, style and depth of the series, becoming a real fan, watching it over and over again... It somehow depicted every aspect of Vampires: the monster, the symbol, the suffering lover, the super-hero. I have to admit, it‘s about growing up and I‘m kinda old, but what the hell: It‘s great entertainment! And it prepared me for my latest passion: The series „True Blood“ after the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Much darker, much more sex, much more grown-up than Buffy. Great music too....
And this is how finally Vampires crept into Tango as well: for our last Tangokombinat Christmas-CD, we chose the True-Bood-theme as a Cortina: „I wanna do bad things to you.“
Yes... that‘s it for the moment. Next week, we are gonna meet again for our Vampire-roleplaying-game. I still have to prepare for it and I am sure, that it will take over a lot of time, when I should be preparing for my exam. But what can I do? I‘m in love.
* Go on now, my fellow psychologists: Interpret and analyse my passion for this genre. Just don‘t do it on my blog. 

19 comments:

Uwe WilliƩ said...

"looking forward to our 20th anniversary"
Hooray, that's the spirit!

ghost said...

Skype is a remarkably good way of overcoming the distance problem, especially with a webcam :o)

Melina Sedo said...

@ Ghost: well... I've tried it a couple of times and am not convinced. The pictures are sometimes blurry and interrupted. Not ideal, to express subtle emotions and hold important conversations... :-(

ghost said...

Have you tried it just using audio? That's pretty much crystal clear nowadays. There's the trade-off that you can't physically see them so visual subtleties are out, but conversely I find it much easier to imagine someone's character if I can just hear their voice (unless of course you're all basically playing yourselves as vampires?)

Melina Sedo said...

Na! We need to see each other. It's like acting on stage (without the audience). There's facial expresson, gestures...
And I can assure you, although my players are NOT playing themselves, I've got no problem, imagining e.g. one 46 old male player as a 17 year old girl. They are great! :-)
So, unless Skype develops within the next years, we will have to be physically present to play together.

ghost said...

Cool, no wonder you're group's lasted so long :o) Yeah there's nothing quite like face-to-face. Just a bit pesky as you get older and people tend to get more spread out geographically.

BTW how do you tell the difference between a Brujah and a Gangrel? The depth of the drag marks their knuckles leave in the floor!

Melina Sedo said...

Yep. But I will stay here. So there's a good chance, that we can go on playing. ;-)
Nasty joke! But I have to tell you: there are almost no Brujah and Gangrel in our world. Too booring ...
Good night,
M.

ghost said...

I have a soft spot for them when they're played with actual depth rather than 1 dimensional superhuman killing machines. It's an interesting conundrum being able to kill easily and yet have dire consequences of doing so.

Toreadors by any chance?

Have you read the series of novels?

'night

The Accidental Tangoiste said...

I sympathize; I saw the movie Interview with the Vampire as a young and impressionable girl in middle school (probably about 13; the library didn't ask for proof of parental approval when I checked the video out!), and it has forever shaped my taste for soulful vampires and pretty, long-haired men. ;)

Congratulations to you for your long-running role-playing group! And that cortina sounds fantastic!

tango said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melina Sedo said...

@ Ghost:
Yep. Lots of Toreadors and Ventrues, although theiy mostly bear their older names in our group. And the Camarill has just recently been destroyed... As will be the Sabath. So, actually we are far from White Wolfs original idea. In the beginning we were stuck to it, but over the years, our whole mythology changed, leaving the WW mythology only as a story for children, the outer peel of an onion. And no, haven't read the novels.

@ TAT: Wow you watched the movie with 13! Then you must be very young! ;-)

ghost said...

:o)

Cool when things evolve over time.

Any chance of a video clip a la fairydragon ?

The novels are an interesting idea. There's 13 of them, each told from a different clan's perspective, but all one story. Lots of plotting as you might expect. They used several different authors to help give the different books slightly different feels. Might be worth buying one and seeing what you think. Prices vary wildly though.

Melina Sedo said...

I might actually have a look at the novels, when I'm through with my exam.

As for a video of our sessions: I dunno. Why would anyone be interested in that. We do not fight much or even throw dices. Be basically talk about love, religion and politics.

And now back to work...

ghost said...

Well if you enjoy them but have trouble finding a few of them, I can probably lend them to you via MsHedgehog.

Because "We do not fight much or even throw dices. Be basically talk about love, religion and politics." How often do you get the chance to witness vampires doing that in your life? ;o)

Good luck with the exam

Melina Sedo said...

Thanks a lot. Will come back to you! :-)
Suppertime, now!

Patrick said...

Such a long post about vampires and role-playing games without mentioning Castlevania? Nintendo is a big help to waste time at airports and similar places...:)

Melina Sedo said...

Never played Nintento or any computer-games! Apart from Solitaire on my iPhone. Computers and the like are for work! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm--caught up in the embrace since the age of 7 ;) . Tango was in your future.
Elisabeth

Melina Sedo said...

@ Elisabeth: You mean my passion for Vampires already predicted an entanglement in the the Tango embrace. Yep. Very likely! ;-)