Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula is a story constructed through modern communication technologies—modern for 1897, that is. Jonathan Harker’s journal is kept in shorthand; Mina prides herself on her ability to use a typewriter; and telegraphs, Kodak cameras, and phonographs all factor into the eerie plot as well. Arguably, then, successfully adapting the book in the here and now must mean drawing significantly upon the twenty-first century’s developments in communication technologies. Any version of Dracula created in 2022 that aims to be a strict nineteenth-century period piece can claim to be true to the letter of the book, sure. Not, however, the spirit. For that, we need, at the very least, the inclusion of the internet as a constant background hum, the way it is for most of us in real life.
What about an adaptation that stays true to the spirit and the letter? Such a project does exist, and if you’re reading this post before May 3, 2022, you have time to get in on the ground floor. Dracula Daily is more than simply a period piece; in fact, it does not stray one inch from Stoker’s original text. What makes it a modern adaptation is the delivery system: email. Specifically, the project is hosted through Substack, a popular platform for emailed newsletters. Dracula is an epistolary novel; each letter, news article, or diary entry is clearly dated, a design that, with the aid of 2022 technology, lends itself well to a “real-time” storytelling approach. Beginning next Tuesday and ending in November, project mastermind Matt Kirkland will send out each segment of Dracula‘s text to all subscribers on its corresponding date. Whether you’ve read Dracula before or you only know the Count through cultural osmosis, you too can have fun digesting the novel in timely, bite-sized chunks.
The appeal of joining others in experiencing a classic horror tale one day at a time is evocative of another labor of love that we’ve discussed on this blog before: Wordle. You may not usually think of Victorian literature when you think of binging media, but just like Wordle’s one-puzzle-per-day design, Dracula Daily’s slowed down approach to the reading experience resists the modern cultural impetus to consume our pleasures as quickly and greedily as possible. Simultaneously, as with solving the same Wordle as everyone else each day, reading these emails when they arrive presents the opportunity to know that you are sharing a little experience with others—whether simply strangers, or any friends you may convince to subscribe as well (maybe you’ll decide to form a book club). Thus, you can enjoy all of the zeitgeisty sense-of-belonging that binging new Netflix releases provides, with none of the sickening burnout.
This is not Kirkland’s first blood-sucking rodeo; the newsletter actually premiered May 3, 2021, and was not initially intended to run two years in a row. However, what began, in Kirkland’s words, as a “silly side project” blew up, with approximately 2,000 subscribers joining the digital “book club.” On April 18 of this year, Kirkland sent out a new email, asking if people wanted him to reprise the endeavor. As motivation, he cited that “Many people fell behind on the reading or joined partway though, which [is] fine! But not perhaps the ideal way to read a novel.” Hundreds of replies poured in, overwhelmingly of the “yes” variety, making up Kirkland’s mind. This Monday, he tweeted that the subscriber count had shot up to 13,000—the book club gained over 10,000 new members in only two days.
This train to Transylvania is gaining steam fast; still there’s always room for one more on board. You should never invite a vampire into your home, but inviting them into your email inbox should be perfectly safe.
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