Book Review: Sundays with Vlad

Paul Bibeau, Sundays with Vlad (978-0-307352778-1)
Three Rivers Press, 2007
Paperback, 292 pages, $13.95
Available on and in bookstores

One thing I can confidently say about Sundays with Vlad is that it is completely unpretentious. Author Paul Bibeau’s previous published writing consists of magazine and newspaper articles. Sundays with Vlad, his first book, reads like a loosely assembled collection of those articles, giving the reader a leisurely, meandering ramble through a series of topics more-or-less associated with vampires. Ultimately, we learn more about Bibeau himself than anything new about Dracula, Vlad or vampire fandom. Even the rambles have rambles as Bibeau frequently wanders off on various tangents. By the time I reached the book’s conclusion, my copy was bristling with half a pad of sticky notes, and I still wasn’t sure just what the entire opus was trying to say.

There are two critical problems that handicap Sundays with Vlad right out of the gate. Bibeau opens his book with a description of his honeymoon trip to Romania in 1999, visiting some of the sites promoted (or not) for their association with the 15th century warlord, Prince Vlad Tepes Dracula. “The tale of how this medieval ruler became the most recognizable figure in the world without changing his image back home was baffling. And more than a story about vampires, it was about globalism, history and national pride,” Bibeau writes. But herein lies a dilemma. The fictional Dracula has nothing whatsoever to do with the Romanian warlord. All they share is a name. Dracula, the vampire, was an icon the world over long before In Search of Dracula launched the myth that “Stoker was inspired to write his novel by stories about a real person.” There are two completely distinct questions here: first, why vampires, per se, are so popular in American culture, and second, why the myth that Dracula, the vampire, was based on a real person has such a deep emotional appeal that it resists all efforts to debunk it. Bibeau doesn’t seem to recognize that these are two different questions, and he never addresses the second one. Sundays with Vlad alternates between poking around in various popular vampire-related enthusiasms (most of which have nothing in particular to do with Dracula–Stoker’s or Romania’s) and exploring the attitudes held toward their famous Prince and his namesake in Romania and Hungary.

The second critical problem is an omission so glaring, I’m amazed that Bibeau could have overlooked it. Sundays with Vlad dabbles at vampire movies, vampire role-playing games, vampire carnival attractions, vampire (or at least Goth) clubbing, vampire merchandizing, vampire-identification, vampire theatre, and vampire fan groups–but not once does he examine vampire fiction. If your sole guide to the topic was Sundays with Vlad, you would conclude that Dracula was the only vampire novel ever published. Bibeau does not interview or discuss a single vampire fiction author, book or reader. Yet the vampire is a literary phenomenon in English-speaking cultures–since 1819, the vampire has been a metaphor, an icon, and an endlessly malleable image on the printed page. It is in fiction that the vampire attains all its depth, variety and emotional impact, which the games, films and other cultural froth merely borrow. It’s no wonder that Bibeau had trouble pulling his themes together–by ignoring vampire fiction, he essentially stood on the side of the well skimming leaves off the surface.

Often, as I read through a chapter, I felt frustrated by the lack of context for what was going on. Bibeau tends to drop us into the middle of his topic and then do backing-and-filling. That may work well for magazine articles but is less effective with book chapters, and sometimes there isn’t enough fill. Did Bibeau have any criteria for choosing the films he decided to watch during his “lost weekend” vampire movie marathon? It would have made the most sense to choose movies that were undeniably successful or influential, and watch them in chronological order, but Bibeau does neither. I had absolutely no idea how Bibeau ended up marching in a parade costumed as a puppet bulb of garlic. I wondered how Bibeau found, or selected, the representatives of the real vampiric community whom he chose to highlight (and how he missed me, which in the interests of full disclosure I will confess feeling jealous about). Why MemoryandDream’s site, out of the dozen or so major such websites? Why BellaDonnaDrakul, who is not representative of the OVC as a whole–frankly, I have to agree with Jonathon Sharkey’s opinion of her. Why give Sebastiaan Todd even more undeserved publicity–why not Michelle Belanger or Merticus of the Atlanta Vampire Association?

Sundays with Vlad would have benefited immensely from a strong editing job. There are many minor errors: it’s Imogene Coca, not Cocoa (pg. 43), for example, Acetone, not Acatone (pg. 79), Cthulhu, not Cuthulu (pg. 126) and barbaric horde, not hoarde (pg. 139). There are other careless statements that go beyond spelling gaffes, but I can’t address that sheaf of sticky notes in this limited space.

With no index or references, Sundays with Vlad doesn’t presume to be a comprehensive treatment of its topic, and Bibeau never condescends to his material or his interview subjects. Even as a personal journey, it would have been a more coherent book had it avoided the magazine article structure and been more tightly edited. The chapters set in Eastern Europe make lively reading, however, and I appreciated the chapters about the figures in the real life vampiric community. Since I am presently attempting to assail the whole notion of “energy-feeding,” I especially enjoyed Bibeau’s notes on “Breatharianism.” Reading Sundays with Vlad is like shopping at Building #19: there’s a lot here to like, but you have to sort through the bins on your own.

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Baby vampires and disturbed grown-ups

I read a number of vampiric community messageboards. Several of them include a forum for “troll baiting.” Posts made by abusive, or clueless, individuals are moved to this forum and other members of the board are given free rein to ridicule, abuse and denigrate the poster to their heart’s content, in this forum only. I suppose the intention is to divert the flamewars that often follow certain kinds of posts from the main body of the board. Whatever their intention, these “troll-baiting” forums are nothing but an excuse for self-indulgent and immature behavior of the worst sort by purported adults. The provoking posts are rarely worth bothering with at all, but the “troll-baiters” quickly surpass even the most abusive of their targets in sheer mean-spiritedness and infantilism. It’s amazing how much time some people have on their hands to waste on such trash.

Eight years ago, when I was running my own messageboard, and contributing to others, I tried to convince other moderators that there was only one way to deal with trolls, abusers and nuisance posters–only one, no exceptions. The problem posts are instantly deleted on sight and never discussed, replied to or mentioned ever again. Period. Trolls are usually trying to stir up conflict, and they thrive on flamewars–they get a tremendous sense of self-importance from upsetting other people on the messageboard. But no matter how often this scenario was repeated, and how much I tried to demonstrate to other moderators that they were contributing to the problem, not helping it, people in the OVC never learned. They continued to play suckers and fall into the trolls’ trap, every single time. Troll-baiting forums only corral the nonsense into a limited area.

For the most part, this would only be annoying. But recently I watched a “troll-baiting” unfold that had some very unsavory elements indeed. I won’t say which messageboard this was on, nor identify the principals involved. I stumbled across the thread because I was looking for updates in a different topic that had been moved into the troll-baiting forum.

A new member of the board, who stated that she was 14 years old, had responded to an “Intro” post by criticizing the poster’s grammar. Yes, it was a bit snotty–but no more than 14-year-old girls often are. If it had been my board, I’d have just deleted the post, no comment.

But of course, the purportedly adult suckers on the messageboard started sniping at the young person, and the whole thread was moved into the troll forum, where it proceeded to simply blow up–page after page of long posts attacking the young person for her subsidy-published book, her MySpace page, and other completely irrelevant things. They just wouldn’t let it alone.

Now, there’s nothing unusual about that–except that these were all self-proclaimed adults, ganging up on a 14-year-old. Not one of them seemed to feel they were doing anything inappropriate. The ringleader in the attacks was a 45-year-old (so claimed, anyway) who made lengthy posts diagnosing the young person as a “Narcissist” and expounding on why “Narcissists” could never change and are intolerable to be around. As far as I know, this 45-year-old is not a mental health professional and is not qualified to diagnose–although this 45-year-old evidently has extensive personal experience with mental health issues. As the 45-year-old continued to pummel the 14-year-old in this thread, I found myself getting more and more queasy. I hate the “troll baiting,” anyway. It’s stupid and juvenile, which is also how I’d characterize the alleged adults who indulge in it. But this went beyond that. For a 45-year-old to spend that much time and energy heaping public abuse on a 14-year-old for so little provocation was just…wrong. More than wrong, it was sick.

My main concern with the young person was the fact that she’d “borrowed” the name of my website, By Light Unseen, for her MySpace screenname. I reported this to MySpace and shortly afterwards the young person changed her screenname. As far as I was concerned, that settled things. I was curious enough to download the young person’s book, which was free of charge, from the subsidy publisher’s website. It’s…well, it’s stories written by a 13-year-old. But it could be far worse, and at least it’s not fanfic, that cancer of creativity that is draining the last vestiges of original thought from most aspiring writers these days. Predictably, the troll-baiters crowed that they deserved credit for the young person changing the screenname, although we have no idea why that happened. The troll-baiters also jeered at the young person’s listing her age, in her MySpace profile, as “100,” as though the young person was pretending to be an “immortal vampire.” The young person was claiming nothing of the sort. Many minors use ridiculous numbers for their age in their MySpace profile, because MySpace includes age in the page title. 14-year-old girls who don’t want to be harassed by creeps and perverts usually fudge their age. But this young person was honest about her age everywhere else.

The troll-baiters got bored and moved on, finally, and I’m sure that hapless young person will never trouble that messageboard again. Meanwhile, this news item appeared in my online news filters.

It’s difficult to imagine an adult, and the parent of a teenager, who could justify being that cruel and deceptive. She definitely has no business being a parent, I’m certain of that. I shudder to think of the model she has been for her own teenager. Whether the young victim would ultimately have committed suicide anyway–since there are numerous clues in the article that her life was filled with problems and she had a history of mental health issues and medications–is something no one can say. But when the victim’s mother says, “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile,” she is absolutely correct. Vile, and sick. How could anyone be an adult in America these days and still not realize that?

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Fun With Search Engines…

For a multiplicity of reasons, I’ve been running a lot of tests on search engine results. Last night, just out of curiosity to see what actually got the best Google rankings (at least at that moment in time), I did a Google search on “vampire.” Not surprisingly, that term returned 39,400,000 hits. I wanted to see, first, what a person who typed “vampire” into Google would immediately be presented with; and second, how close to the top any “real vampire” sites were, and which sites were top rated. What I saw was…interesting.

The top-rated Google site for “vampire” is the Wikipedia page with that name, dealing with vampire folklore. Next came Vampire Wine, which I believe is the old domain that used to be Pathway to Darkness, and hence may be riding on that now long-vanished site’s extensive linkage and popularity. Then, which is a commercial Goth/punk site aimed at Lifestylers and vampire fans more than vampiric people. Then came the two main pages for Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: Requiem at White Wolf Games. Then the Skeptic’s Dictionary page on “vampire,” which links and Dr. Elizabeth Miller’s Dracula page. A technical page was number 7, then, which is a very disturbing site. 9th and 10th on the first page of hits were and Temple of the Vampire. So, two “real vampire” sites appeared among the first 10 hits.

The second page started with two gaming sites, “the vampire random name generator” and the “vampire” section in the site “How Stuff Works,” titled “How Vampires Work.” This is kind of sketchy, and has a handful of links that need updating. (Among other things, it links a page on this site that is no longer there.) But the fifth entry, the vampire section on, is a candidate for my Hall of Shame–it’s entirely plagiarized! I started to read it and immediately recognized big chunks of text from my old “Human Living Vampires” articles and from Sanguinarius’ site, all just jumbled together without attribution or credit. The whole section consists of unashamedly ripped off material. The rest of the page was technical sites, gaming sites, and

The technical sites are intriguing. There seems to be a trend to name technical products, businesses or projects “vampire” something. There was “Vampire, an extension module for mod_python,” “Net Vampire, a file download manager,” “VAMPIRE–Visual Active Memory Processes and Interactive REtrieval,” and “Vampire Wire,” an online store for cables and wiring.

The third page of Google hits included Damien Deville’s organization The Vampire Church, and one of my friend Bev’s articles on vampire myths. It also contained Vampire Wear, the IMDb page for “John Carpenter’s Vampires,” a gaming site, a photographer’s gallery site, the spoof website “Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency,” and the website for the band Vampire Weekend.

And so it went, for pages and pages. Very few serious information sites or real vampire sites appeared among the top, say, 200. Obviously, anyone running a Google search on just the word “vampire” is going to have a hard time finding much information of substance–and not because the information isn’t on the ‘Net. But Google’s method of ranking sites is not angled toward returning the highest quality material. Apparently, it’s related primarily to the number of links a site has from other “important” websites.

The results from the same search on Yahoo! are entirely different. Yahoo! returns far more hits, 54,100,000, to start with. The first site on the list is Vampires Among Us, followed by Vampires Only, Dr. Miller’s Dracula Page,, Beverly Richardson’s Vampire’s Vault, and Vampyres Online. By Light Unseen is number 11, top of the second page, and with the correct name. Google still lists us as “Living Vampires,” which hasn’t been the site’s name since 2002. (It still comes up if you Google By Light Unseen, however). Unfortunately, Yahoo! also returns on the first page of hits, so I really will be contacting Monstrous about their little copyright problem. But the bottom line is: Yahoo! returns a much more substantial assortment of websites at the top of a simple keyword search than Google does.

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"Angel"–the story continues:

On the heels of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comics (or graphic novel) series, Joss Whedon is producing a comics series picking up the plotline of “Angel” after the television series finale’s cliffhanger ending.

I’m tempted to say something about a line drawing of David Boreanaz having more range than the actor does…but I’ll be nice. There are some sample pages of the comic available on Ain’t It Cool News, it looks quite handsomely done.

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"Paper Sang" posting on YouTube

I discovered via the VCMB messageboard that a person going by the name of LilyCerise is posting a series of short, very simple videos (they’re sort of like animated Power Point presentations really–the author does not appear in them) about “True Vampirism” on YouTube, at also has a “True Vampirism” Wiki page at Being a “Wetpaint Wiki,” anyone who registers with Wetpaint can contribute to the page.

I am kind of curious as to who LilyCerise actually is–links on the Wiki page so far include, the House Kheperu site and Darkness Embraced. The information that LilyCerise gives in her videos is consistent with that on dozens of realvamp websites, and except for her promotion of the “psi-feeding” or “energy feeding” illusion, I see no problems with it. Some people on the VCMB seem to be concerned about LilyCerise “acting as a spokesperson” which I don’t think she’s doing any more than anyone else on the ‘Net. After all, if it wasn’t for the people like Sangi, Sphynxcat, M&D, Saras, LadyCG and me who have been maintaining websites and forums, even publishing books, for all these years, none of those folks on the VCMB would even be there.

I’m darned if I know what the nickname “Paper Sang” refers to, though!

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Blood drinker achieves international fame!

International newswires have been carrying this item:

“Vampire” arrested for stealing and drinking blood at hospital

I wonder if this fellow even knew what he was drinking, or if he was so drunk, he thought they were shooters of something? I certainly hope the female patient wasn’t being tested for something really nasty…

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Mortal Touch, the first novel from By Light Unseen Media, has just “hit the street” as they say in the biz–well, it’s hit my kitchen floor, anyway, five boxes full, many of which are now going out for reviews, complimentary copies, copyright registration, the Library of Congress, award competitions and what have you. But we have two positive mentions online to announce right now.

The Self Pub News blog and online newsletter has just posted an announcement for Mortal Touch. You can view it at

Author and vampire scholar Margaret L. Carter, who kindly gave me a cover blurb for Mortal Touch, posted a very favorable review in the May issue of her online newsletter, “News from the Crypt.” Click the link and scroll down a little to read the review. You can subscribe to this e-newsletter via Ms. Carter’s website or read it online. Thank you, Margaret!

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From Shadowed Shelves bookstore has been updated for the summer–we are now up to an incredible 552 titles, even without subsidy press books, “Buffy” tie-in books, gaming books and YA or juvenile fiction. I remain mystified at the drop-off in bookstore traffic and sales, however–feedback welcomed, if anyone has ideas about this.

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Bookstore updated for the holiday season

I’ve completed an update of the From Shadowed Shelves online bookstore, just in time for the holiday season. I caught a few errors and typos left over from the major re-design I did at the beginning of September, and I hope there are none left now. If anyone notices a problem with the bookstore, do send me a note about it at realvamp[at] There are 34 new titles added, including both of Charlie Huston’s novels, Already Dead and No Dominion, and Practical Vampyrism for Modern Vampyres by Lady CG. Enjoy browsing!

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I should have continued making posts here, but I’ve been more in an information-collecting stage–and the holidays have intervened.

I’m doing a lot of research and information-gathering for the articles which will be the next major additions to the website content. These have been planned for a very long time and I’m finally getting to them.

I’ve been reading other websites and message boards, as well, catching up on discussion topics and opinions and reviews after my long period of time being less connected to the OVC and its doings. There hasn’t been a dramatic change in the basic outlook of self-identified vampires since the 2000 psi-vamp/sanguin schism. But there are two very noticeable changes since then: the explosion of the “Otherkin” communities, which in 2000 was barely getting started, and the much greater overlap with the VC and Pagan/Wiccan/Witchcraft/Magickal topics, which in 2000 was far less evident. Both of these may be related directly to the ascendency of the psi-vamp identification in the VC as a whole. Whatever is behind it, it’s now more common for messageboards to include forums for these categories than not.

I posed a question on the Smoke & Mirrors messageboard, asking anyone who had let a vampire-themed website lapse in the past, why they didn’t keep up their website. No one replied, suggesting that people who let websites lapse also stop participating in the community (not that the whole world is on Smoke & Mirrors, but Sanguinarius is moving her forums to a new server and they’re currently on hold). I remain curious about all the vanished websites, though. Where did they go, and why? Even among the sites still running, a significant minority of them have obviously not been updated or changed for years.

Anyone who hasn’t filled out the Atlanta Vampire Association’s VEWRS and AVEWRS surveys, should do that: they need to be done by December 31st.

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