Fake Cheese and Dracula

The last time I was at the grocery store, I grabbed a bag of shredded cheddar for various uses like sprinkling on chili or scrambling with eggs, but when I pulled the bag out to use I noticed it wasn’t actually cheddar at all. It was something called “Cheddar Melt Topping,” with the description “Shredded Imitation Cheddar Cheese” in smaller print. It tastes like some sort of packing material that’s been left in a moldy basement a while.

Imitation cheddar cheese my ass.

Which makes me think of Dracula.

Why does this make me think of the vampire king? It makes me think of him because I happen to be reading a novel called Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen, which is one of the books in his Dracula series. Years ago, I read Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tapes(which retold Bram Stoker’s story from the count’s point of view, and predated Anne Rice’s tape-recording-a-vampire book by a year), The Holmes-Dracula Files (which, as you’d expect, tells a tale involving the count and Sherlock Holmes, and is told in alternating chapters by Dr. Watson and Dracula), and An Old Friend of the Family (which brought Dracula to modern day Chicago). I loved these books, and always intended to read the remaining books in the series.

Saberhagen was (and I just found out the “was”, alas, is appropriate, as he died in 2007) a damn fine writer. Seance is excellent so far, and is another Dracula/Holmes adventure. So, how does fake cheese come into the picture?

The cover of Seance identifies Saberhagen as the “coauthor of the Bram Stoker’s Dracula movie novelization.” That there’s some serious fake cheese. For one thing, the movie called Bram Stoker’s Dracula was anything but. It was pretty darn cool, if I recall correctly (though I mostly remember a backlit Winona Ryder stumbling around in a nightdress), but it changed Stoker’s story a good deal for a movie claiming his authorship. And a novelization of a movie based (liberally) on the Stoker novel…Fake cheese.

 In a just universe, there would be no such thing as a novelization of a movie made from a novel. Movie novelizations are more often than not a waste of trees, anyway, and to publish one that actually, by design, is intended to replace an original book is an atrocious idea. It disrespects the original author, and it disrespects every reader who picks up the novelization instead of the original.

I’m sure the fact that Stoker’s book is in the public domain, and available widely in editions that wouldn’t make the licensee any money, had something to do with the decision to produce such an abomination. And maybe financial need led a fine writer like Saberhagen to accept such hack work.

For my part, the book could objectively be the best damned novel ever written in the English language and I still wouldn’t let it in the house. It can stay out there with all the fake cheese I’ll be meticulously not buying from now on.

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