George R.R. Martin fans have a new reason to celebrate this week: the author’s classic vampire novel Fevre Dream is being reissued in an affordable mass market paperback.
While readers may be most familiar with his fantasy fiction, Martin is a writer of powerful horror fiction as well.
In 1857, a brutal winter and rough economy has left riverboat captain Abner Marsh desperate. Like an answer to a prayer, he receives a generous offer from Joshua York, a hauntingly pale aristocrat who is never seen during the day. York agrees to fund the construction of a new ship and pay Marsh a handsome wage, and in return, the captain is to transport York and his companions up the Mississippi River. Marsh readily accepts, naming his new ship the Fevre Dream (in honor of his former business The Fevre River Packet Co.). Marsh can’t believe his luck, but when the journey takes a sinister turn, he begins to worry that this may be a one-way trip.
While Fevre Dream is a work of fiction, the events of the story share many parallels with real life. Here are 10 Fangtastic Facts about Fevre Dream:
- Fevre Dream hasn’t been out of print since its original publication in 1982. That’s thirty years of vampire horror on the Mississippi.
- Avatar Comics published a ten issue adaptation of Fevre Dream in 2010. Daniel Abraham wrote the comic. The following year saw Abraham begin work on Dynamite Entertainment’s ongoing A Game of Thrones comic book.
- “Fevre” is a French word referring to someone who works with iron, like a blacksmith. Of course, in this case Fevre Dream is a play on fever dream: the disturbing, surrealistic dreams one has when ill with a fever.
- There really is a Fevre River, although these days it’s called the Galena River. It’s in Illinois.
- There really was an economic crisis in 1857. The Panic of 1857 was the first major economic crisis in United States history. Banks closed for a few weeks to prevent worried customers from withdrawing all of their money.
- While the vampires of Fevre Dream avoid sunlight, the myth that vampires were harmed by the sun is a relatively recent one. It was introduced in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Nosferatu. The vampire, Count Orlock, disintegrates when caught out in the sun. Nosferatu was an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, in which the titular character walked about by day or night.
- The vampire leaders of Fevre Dream are known as “Pale Kings”. Martin borrowed this from John Keats’ poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”. For the record, that’s a pretty creepy piece of literature, too.
- Vampires on the Mississippi aren’t that far-fetched. At least, that’s what the residents of 19th century Natchez, Mississippi thought. An antique vampire slayer kit found in the tiny riverside town sold at auction for almost $15,000 in 2008. It’s not the only one of its kind: similar kits have been found in Vicksburg, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, too.
- While vampire panics may seem silly now, our forebears didn’t know the things we know about germs. Disease outbreaks were sometimes blamed on supernatural causes like demons, ghosts and vampires. The same Mississippi River towns who feared vampires also suffered terrible outbreaks of Yellow Fever. This “fevre” was no dream: an 1878 outbreak in the Mississippi valley killed over 20,000 people.
- The Fevre Dream isn’t the only cursed steamboat. In 1841, the Eyrie, a steamboat cruising Lake Eyrie, caught fire. All 250 people on board died. For years afterward, people reported sightings of the ghostly steamship.