I first met Fred Saberhagen in 1986. He was sitting outside of the Waldenbooks in Albuquerque’s Coronado Center Mall signing copies of his new book, The Frankenstein Papers. In effect, the book told the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the monster’s point of view. I was well aware of Saberhagen’s reputation as a science fiction author and a good friend from high school was a particular fan of his Berserker series, so I decided to give the book a try. Saberhagen kindly signed the book to me. I came to know him a little better once my wife and I began selling books at Albuquerque’s science fiction convention, Bubonicon, where I listened to him on several panels. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007.
Recently, a friend asked if I’d ever read Saberhagen’s 1975 novel, The Dracula Tape. It occurred to me that was a serious omission. After I’d read and enjoyed The Frankenstein Papers, I’d always meant to seek out a copy of The Dracula Tape. However, in 1986, I hadn’t yet read the original Dracula and I thought it would be more enjoyable if I had some background. Unfortunately, by the time I actually read Dracula in the mid-1990s, Saberhagen’s novel had fallen off my radar. Fortunately, Fred’s wife, Joan Saberhagen, has made certain that The Dracula Tape is still available in ebook and audio formats, so I was finally able to pick up a copy and dive into a book I’d long meant to read.
The Dracula Tape opens in 1975 England. Arthur Harker and his wife Janet arrive in a hospital after their car dies on a remote road. In the back seat is a tape recorder. On the tape within, is the voice of a man purporting to be Count Dracula. He relates the events of Bram Stoker’s novel from his point of view. It turns out that Arthur and Janet Harker are descendants of Jonathan and Mina Harker of Stoker’s novel and Dracula is on a mission which will be revealed at the end of the novel. Saberhagen’s approach works well, since Dracula is an epistolary novel told from several points of view. The one point of view we never heard in the novel was Dracula’s own. Of course, Count Dracula sees himself as the hero of the story and endeavors to paint himself as such by presenting alternate versions of the accounts as presented by Stoker’s characters without outright contradicting them. The effect is that he paints Stoker’s characters as unreliable narrators and yet, readers familiar with Dracula may wonder if the count is a reliable narrator himself.
Over the years, numerous authors have speculated about Mina Harker’s fate in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For example, in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary gentlemen series, she’s granted at least some vampire-like powers, including apparent immortality. I especially like the way Saberhagen addresses both Dracula and Mina’s fate after the events of the novel. I also really enjoyed Saberhagen’s version of Lucy Westenra’s story. I recommend The Dracula Tape to fans of Stoker’s novel who want to see a respectful and believable version of the events from the Count’s perspective.
You can learn about my epistolary vampire novel and also learn why Rae Lori recommends it at by clicking the image below: