Monday, 28 September 2015

The Top 5 Novels Inpired by the Author's Dreams

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Hi, this is Alexei Maxim Russell, also known as the Guerrilla Ronin wRiter. This is the second video of my top 5 series, which explores the strange directions a writer's life can take, or any creative person for that matter, when they let the mysterious forces of their creative energies lead their lives into the new and the unknown. These creative juices, these imaginative dreams and fantasies, are often the very reason why creative people are able to create. One way that writers and other creatives get their idea is through the mysterious filter of their subconscious and through the bizarre landscapes of our dreams. This video includes the most interesting cases of writer's deriving their inspiration through their subconscious and is entitled "5 NOVELS INSPIRED BY DREAMS."

1, Dracula
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The original Dracula novel, written by Irish novelist Brahm Stoker, in 1897, was ultimately conceived of, in a dream.  Stoker is known mostly for Dracula, today, but he was actually a highly successful theatre manager and theatre critic, who served as the personal assistant of the then well-known and famous actor Henry Irving. With his close association with the theatre, and his background in the journalistic trade, Stoker had ample opportunity to study dramatic literature and the folklore and customs of far away, exotic places, such as Transylvania, where Dracula is, famously set. The genesis of the novel Dracula was actually a cumulative thing. It was study of old Romanian and Hungarian folklore, the inspiration of highly atmospheric local towns, such as Whitby, in England and the study of already existing literary vampire, which helped bring about the invention of Count Dracula. A lot of people don't realize it, but vampire literature was not invented by Stoker. Vampire writer predecessors such as "Carmilla", by Joseph La Fanu, "The Family of the Vourdalak", by Tolstoy, and "The Vampyre" by John William Polidori, were writing about vampires since the late 1700s and before then, it had enjoyed a long life, in folklore, going back into the mists of history. But it was Stoker who brought the vampire to the masses and gave him his most compelling form.

It is that form, of the count in the castle, who is noble, beguilling and irrepressibly seductive, that we all associate with the vampire and the unforgettable name of Dracula. This image of "the count" came to Stoker in a dream and is what finally compelled him, as if by the supernatural beckoning hand of Dracula, himself, to write the novel. According to the account of Stoker's son, these dreams were so vivid and terrifying, that Stoker felt intensely compelled to write the book, and write it in such a way, that the people will believe. This is why Stoker wrote his book in Epistolary form -- meaning it was composed of a series of supposedly authentic documents, which, when taken together, form a coherent story. This format helped to lend reality to the story, although it also has led some to believe that the Dracula tale was true. To further lend reality to the text, Stoker used a variation of the name Dracul, which was a surname used by an actual, historical prince of Trannsyvania, called Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler) -- a prince known for his incredible cruelty and who was believed to have become a vampire, after his death. Although Vlad's life bears no resemblance to that of Count Dracula, the real-world reference was no doubt included to help make people believe that the story could be true. Another reason why Dracula, as a novel, compelled the masses, when others did not was because of the integral sexuality of the count and his enslaved servant girls. This sexual element of vampirism, which was lacking in the earlier vampire books, also came to Stoker in dreams, and gave to his novel some of the most compelling elements of his tale, which helped make Dracula what he is, today.

Although it's clear that the idea of Dracula was a long process, inspired by a variety of things, the fact that the compelling persona, the atmosphere and the sexual nature of the Dracula tale came from dreams, I think it's safe to say this novel would never have come into existence, in the form that it did, if it wasn't for the vivid impressions left on Stoker's mind, as a result of his dream-time encounters with the vampire, himself.

2, Frankenstein
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Another staple of the 1950s movie monster scene, the novel "Frankenstein" was written by English Novelist, Short Story writter and Essayist Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, in 1817. The entire idea for this revolutionary work of literature was hatched in the brain of Mary Shelley during a fitful, sleepless night, during a viciously cold winter's night. As Shelley, herself, tells it, she was struck by this vivid nightmare,  at 2 or 3 in the morning:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

 This one concise scene completely defines the iconic image of the Frankenstein monster -- showing, perhaps better than that of any other dream-induced work of great fiction, that a single, powerful image, in the brain of the writer, can be enough to give birth and life to an entire work of legendary writing, based on that one image alone.

Shelley had this vision because she and her friends, who had been visiting the celebrated author "Lord Byron", at his villa in Switzerland, had been whiling away the long, cold winter's night around a log fire, reading translated tales of old German ghost stories. As a diversion, someone had suggested that they each make up their own tale of terror. After a few disappointing days, when no inspiration came to her. Finally, she was given this vision of Frankenstein, and in doing so, she created the germ of an idea, which would lead to three editions of the novel, within her own lifetime,  endless movie adaptations and a whole new concept in literature, which dealt with the horrors of what humanity could create, when they choose to grab the reins of nature. Shelley was the first to predict this dillemma, which is now so much a part of our lives, through such movements as GMO crops, transhumanism and stem cell research. And we never would have gotten this sneak peak into this future moral dillemma, of humanity, if it had not been for the late night imaginings of Mary Shelley, on that cold winter night.

3, Misery
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One of my favorites, Stephen King, needs no introduction.  King has often credited his dreams for the inspiration of his nightmarish tales. He's said that he's often used the concepts and atmospheres, conjured during dream-time, to form the basis for his novels and generally calls his creative process, even when awake, a form of "creative dreaming." So, clearly, for King, dreaming and the ruminations of the subconscious are a big part of what makes a writer creative and able to invent visceral worlds of horror.

One of his most famous works, Misery, which was made into the iconic movie, starring Kathy Bates, was entirely concieved of, during a nap, while on a transantlantic flight from New York to London. King had read a short story, earlier, by Evelynn Waugh, called "The Man who Loved Dickens." It was a tale of an unfortunate man, in South America, who was sent to prison and forced to read the tales of Dickens, to a mentally unhinged prison chief, who was obsessed with the writer. During his fitful dreams, King wondered how horrific it would be, if Dickens himself had been in the prison with the chief, and he had been forced to read his own work to the crazed, unstable fan.

This forms the basis for the tale of Misery, which is a story about a well-known author, who becomes injured near the home of a crazed fan, in the middle of winter. Having the newly paralyzed author trapped in her snow-locked home, the unstable former nurse uses drugs and psychological warfare to keep the author weak and helpless. She forces him to recite her favorite lines, from his books, and forces him to listen to her insane babble, doing anything she can to assure she will never escape her grasp.

This tale, which has terrified many with it's incisive psychological horror, would never had come to be, had King not nodded off and dreamed, during that transantlantic flight.

4, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
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This book was written by the Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson, in 1885. Stevenson had been going through a period of illness, during his writing of a different work, called "Markheim." During one of his fever induced dreams, he had a series of nightmares, which seemed to get worse and worse, with time. One night, in the small hours of the morning, his wife heard his screaming, in horror. Terrified, she ran up to his room and woke him. Stevenson, apparently angry, shouted at her: "Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale!" Stevenson's wife had woken him up just as he was dreaming the first transformative scene of what would become Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, the now iconic tale of a man whose evil dark side comes out, as a result of his scientific experiments and his dabbling in things which humanity should leave alone.

Stevenson stumbled downstairs, in a fever, and recited the first half of the book, out loud, to his astonished family, and then climbed back upstairs to start writing it. He finished the first draft within three days, so obsessed did he become with his vision. During those days, Stevenson was influenced by the story he had heard, of a patient with split personality disorder (what is now called dissociative identity disorder) and his tale has become the defining work, now, for any tale that features a character with two distinctly different sides to it.

Although seriously ill, during the entire creative process, his family reported that he actually seemed energized and revitalized, by the creation of this new work. In true writer's fashion, he took life from the power of his creative energies, and lived to recover his health. Living a productive life until 1894. In this case, not only did Stevenson get his inpiration for a novel, through his dreams, but also recovered his health, all as a result of the inspiration, brought to him by his feverish nightmares.

5, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe
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Here I am, only in my second video, and I've already features Poe twice. This is partly the coincidence of the fact that both video topics are related to Poe, and also partly brought about by the fact that there are few writers I admire more, than Edgar Allan Poe. Much like King, who also derived most of the psychology of true Horror writing from the insightful landscape of his dreams, so also, Poe is known to have derived a lot of his most horrifying insights of what terrifies us humans, from the rich resources of his nightmares. Poe is known to have been plagued by nightmares, partly brought about by the many tragedies of his life. He would confide these nightmares to friends and relatives, and blamed this plague of bad dreams, at least in part, for being one of the reasons he drank. Given that most of his work has a nightmarish, subconscious and deeply psychological element to it -- it's not big jump in logic to suppose that the fertile fields of his tortured dream-life are probably one of the biggest inspirations for his writing. And Poe, himself, credited his nightmares for some of his best tales.

"The Tell-Tale Heart," which tells the tale of a man who has commited murder, but is thwarted in his attempt to hide the body, because he can hear the sound of the dead man's heart, in spite of the fact he knows he is dead; "The Cask of Amontillado," the tale of a man who is encased in a wall, by a vengeful nemesis; and "The Premature Burial," which is the story of a man, buried alive, are a few cases of truly nightmarish stories, thought to be inspired by Poe's tortured dreams.

Much like King's Misery, Frankenstein, and all the other stories featured here, most of the appeal of Poe's work, comes from the psychological insights handed to him, through his subconscious and, although tormenting him in life, helped to cement his legend and his legacy, by providing the resources to Poe's mind, which helped him to become one of the greatest and most celebrated writers of horror, suspence and atmospheric melancholy, known to the world of literature.

And that concludes this second video in the series. If you like this series, and would like to be updated, when a new one is posted, please take a second to subscribe to my channel. Next week I'll be posting my third video, which is entitled: "Five Artists Thought to be in League with the Devil." Thanks for listening, and we'll see you again next week.

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