If I were to tell you that in May of 2022 the #1 trending topic on social media for two weeks straight has been a daily virtual book club centered around Bram Stoker’s Dracula, how likely would it be that you’d believe me?
The sun has long since set on cable TV, and we are neck-deep in the dawning epoch of streaming services. What with dozens of companies jumping the bandwagon, following Netflix and Prime Video’s success there is no shortage of media at your fingertips, all ready to be binged in a single sitting complete with legs that have long since fallen asleep bent up under you awkwardly, eyes that sting and water every time you blink and an ever-growing pile of empty chips packets forming a veritable mountain by your bedside. Memories of sitting on the couch in the living room every night to watch the weekly episode of your favorite risqué show and desperately hoping your parents don’t walk in have faded into a relic of the past, unique to the childhoods of millennials and the earlier generations of Gen-Z. Kids nowadays have Netflix buttons on their TV remotes and tons of other streaming sites poised at the ready to binge shows released all at once, never having even heard of the channels that had us glued to our TVs back in the day, ads and all. Which is why it’s come somewhat out of left field that something that’s been gaining a lot of traction and interest on the internet and social media lately is Dracula Daily.
Dracula Daily is a free daily newsletter started by web developer Matt Kirkland, that emails those who sign up a small portion of Bram Stoker’s classic Gothic novel Dracula roughly every day. Since the novel itself is epistolary, its events told through written letters and diary entries, newspaper clippings and telegrams all stitched together chronologically, every day’s email is a new letter or clipping. Beginning on May 3rd when Jonathan Harker’s first entries begin, the newsletter sends you the corresponding portion of the novel on the days that they take place in the book, so you read the novel in real time as it’s happening, in bite-sized (get it?) chunks that are easy to read as well as extraordinarily entertaining. This also echoes the way novels were published in the Victorian era, released in magazines and journals in little snippets that everyone would read in the paper and then gather to discuss together in clubs and other social gatherings. Its immense success is also rather confusing considering this is an old novel, one released in 1897, and also one that is so deeply entrenched in pop culture that its titular character is in the public domain. Everyone knows the plot of, or has at least heard of Dracula, but people are still enjoying the snippets of the book enormously, which begs the question of why.
Serial media today has become largely asynchronous. This means that while we all may watch the same shows and movie series on Netflix, we hardly ever watch them simultaneously, so to speak. Not the way we used to in the bygone era of cable television, all glued to the same episode on the same night, and then putting our heads together in school the next day to giggle about it in the back of the classroom with our friends. Nowadays, by the time you run to school to giggle about it with your friends, they’ve already moved on and watched something else. You’ve all seen the show, but you missed out on seeing it at the same time. Mailed to everyone concurrently, Dracula Daily satiates our need not only to talk about media together, but to experience media together. We’re all social creatures at the end of the day, and synchronous media consumption offers the irresistible possibility to vent about your favourite book and having your love for something shared, validated and even reciprocated by another person. Or even better, the entirety of the internet. Synchronous media is like an event, a club, a fun experience that we all share in together at the same time. Everyone is participating and everyone is reading the same little bit of the book you’re reading, and best of all, just like you, everyone wants to talk about it.
This kind of reading has suited Dracula remarkably well; it allows people to single out and fixate on the little details peppered into the novel that make it such a fun and entertaining read, ones that might get lost in the grand scheme of things if one reads the book all at once. Jonathan’s life-changing experience eating paprika hendl for the first time (a period-accurate recipe for which circulated and enjoyed immense success on Tumblr) and his comical outrage at having his shaving mirror defenestrated by the Count, his initial obliviousness of the latter’s eccentric tendencies and vampire-hood, and Dracula’s hilarious attempts to convince Jonathan that there really are servants in the castle by scrambling around the moment his back is turned, to do all the household chores himself. Other highlights include Mina, Jonathan’s fiancée, who has been heralded as the only character in the whole novel so far in possession of a singular brain cell, her gushing letters to Lucy Westenra (historians will read them and deduce that they were “very good friends”) and Jonathan witnessing Dracula crawl face-first down the outer wall of the castle like a lizard, finally realizing that something indeed may be up at the creepy castle in the middle of nowhere. It’s the unlikeliest yet loveliest new internet phenomenon, and it’s proof that at the end of the day people just like to do things together rather than alone, and this extends to consuming media. There’s a reason why watching a movie in a theater packed full of cheering and whooping fans just like you, I feel, will always be a more electric and enjoyable experience than sitting in front of your laptop to watch it alone.
Dracula Daily is also the quintessential modern viral internet sensation, falling prey to the humorous whims of bloggers everywhere. This can only mean one thing—memes. With thousands of blogs creating hilarious reaction images to the individual events taking place in the novel, the internet has adopted Jonathan Harker as their newest foundling, fondly making fun of his bumbling ways and ludicrous vacancy when it comes to not realising his host is a bloodsucking creature of the night as well as his obsession with trying to open every unlocked door in the castle. Touted as modern-day hieroglyphics, memes are the quickest way word gets around that a piece of media is gaining traction, be it something new or something released 125 years ago. They’ve rapidly become the internet’s primary language, irony having taken precedence over seriousness sometime in the last ten or so years. It seems that lovingly making fun of something is the best way to show your appreciation for it; the worth of content released today is measured in its meme-ability, and people have found content like this in Dracula in spades, all thanks to Dracula Daily. Who knew that the internet’s meme du jour would be the original version of a classic horror novel? We’ve seen several iterations of Dracula in the past, some even recently; Adam Sandler’s ridiculous version from the Hotel Transylvania movies, the grief-stricken, tragic and vengefully genocidal version from Castlevania, BBC’s lukewarmly-received origin story version, even a cartoonish version of him on a breakfast cereal for kids. Despite the original character debuting over a hundred years ago the famously cloaked and fanged Count has remained ever fresh in the minds of collective pop culture, though not everyone has actually read the novel. Lucky for us, Dracula Daily has risen to the occasion, having us all perk up when we get an email notification letting us know our mutual good friend Jonathan Harker has written to us about his travels and experiences in the spooky Count’s spooky castle, proving that some media really is immortal (get it?).
Pritha Deshpande is a Literature and Cultural Studies student at FLAME University and an aspiring writer and policy journalist. Her idea of a good time is getting cozy at her desk writing with socks on and a scented candle lit. Pritha is an editorial intern at ALMA Magazine.