Friday, September 01, 2006

"Vampires are the imaginary numbers of modern literature"

The screenwriter-director John August runs a pretty interesting blog which offers, as he puts it, "a ton of useful information about screenwriting."

Using a casual review of Barry Mazur’s book, Imagining Numbers--it's "only okay"--as his take-off point, August riffs on how vampires are the imaginary numbers of modern literature:

Neither vampires nor imaginary numbers exist, yet we treat them like they do, simply because it suits our purposes. Imaginary numbers let us posit hypothetical mathematical scenarios; vampires let us imagine hypothetical human scenarios. Want an addiction analogy? Vampires. Epidemic? Vampires. Alienation? Vampires. Need to have your protagonist exist both now and two hundred years in the past? Just make him a vampire.

Modern literature has substituted vampires into every conceivable genre. And I don’t think it’s any accident that our bitey friends have become the go-to supernatural beings. Werewolves are only part-time monsters. Ghosts lack a consistent mythology. Vampires, well, they’re just like us.

But different. They’re imaginary numbers, who can’t be reduced beyond their glamorous other-ness.

There's more here.

Aside from his actual movies, perhaps John's greatest contribution to contemporary storytelling is to get a long list of scribblers (see #113) to commit to never having one of their characters crawl through an air vent.

--Marshal Zeringue