Posts Tagged ‘Frankenstein’

So it’s over now, the Monday after.  Thanks have been Facebooked to the participants, of which I’m one.  But it ended last evening with a flurry, a reading performance (with sound effects) of a radio play version of FRANKENSTEIN, written and directed by Russell McGee (cf. September 30) and produced by Writers Guild Chair Tony Brewer, for which to quote the playbill, [t]his faithful adaptation presents the creature as an intelligent being that has suffered the injustice of mankind.  In celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of Shelley’s creation, we felt it was important to emphasize Shelley’s text and allow the creature to speak for itself, in Shelley’s own words.  And then one extra twist, to help de-emphasize the hulking, inarticulate monster we may have met in the movies, [t]o that end, we have cast a female actor as the creature to help lift Shelley’s own voice from the text.

It was interesting, the novel itself depicting the “monster” as one that suffers rejection when it really wants companionship with, if friendships with normal humans are too much, at least a creature like itself.  It teaches itself to speak and to read, including such books as Milton’s PARADISE LOST.  But in the end, eight-feet tall and misshapen, it is still driven away, ultimately seeking instead revenge against its creator.  And, if you missed it Sunday, all is not lost.  From the Facebook “thank yous” (including, I might [*ahem*] add, “much gratitude to our panelists and FrankenExperts Monique Morgan, Adam Henze, Joan Hawkins, Rebecca Baumann, and James Dorr”):  The performance will be broadcast on cable access and WFHB, and available online before long, so if you missed the performance you’ll get a chance to see/hear it.

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Making buttons, making monsters on Barbie Doll bodies, these were among the attractions in the “Crafts and Activities” room Saturday.  Also scheduled for all day Saturday, and maybe part of the night too, was a full read-through of the novel’s text, part of FrankenFest as well as the Indiana State Library’s One State/One Story program.  This was a team reading, with people signing for 15-minute time slots, and as it happened was of the 1831 text, one available in a large print edition which was a great help in a not always that brightly lit Monroe County Library auditorium.  I was scheduled myself for 1 p.m. to 1:15 but, noting not as many had signed up as had been hoped, also took over an extra slot just after 3.  Be that as it may, Writers Guild Chair Tony Brewer was talking about continuing for hours after the Library’s normal Saturday closing time (which means, as I write this, they might be just finishing up about now), with hopefully extra readers arriving with more late-evening fortitude than me.

Two other items, which also caused pauses in the reading as readers wanted to be at them too, began with a 2 p.m. “FrankenSlam Poetry Presentation” with poems having to do with the novel itself as well as ancillary topics recited by Adam Henze.  That took us to 3 and my volunteer “extra” in the reading room, and then at 4 p.m. IU English Department assistant professor Monique Morgan (who we met two posts below on the FrankenPanel, see October 4) spoke on “The Science and the Fiction in Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, on scientific thought in the early 19th century and the influrence on the novel of Erasmus Darwin, Luigi Galvani, and Humphry Davy, and other intellectual threads which added to the novel’s texture.

Thursday followed Wednesday’s FrankenPanel (see just below) with a day of film at the County Library auditorium, FRANKENSTEIN (the “original” one, with Boris Karloff), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and GOTHIC, of which (other obligations intervening) I was able to see most of the first.  Well, not to worry, I have the others on DVD.  But also competing with the third was an evening lecture at Indiana University’s Lilly Library by Leslie S. Klinger, who just last year published THE NEW ANNOTATED FRANKENSTEIN*, on “The Teenager Who Became Immortal:  Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.”

So, having met Mr. Kilinger in the past, I took the opportunity to say “Hi” (he was very impressed by the Lilly Library’s FRANKENSTEIN exhibit of books before and after/influencing and influenced by/read by Frankenstein in the novel or by his creation), and enjoyed an hour of discussion of Mary Shelly’s life and companions; the genesis of FRANKENSTEIN with Byron’s challenge to Percy Shelley, not-yet-married Mary Godwin, John Polidori, and others at the Villa Diodati (the subject as well of the movie GOTHIC); the reflection of Mary Shelley’s own life in the novel with its several themes (and how, in Klinger’s opinion, a major one shifted from that of Victor as an irresponsible young man to him more as, with the monster, a victim of fate in the 1831 edition); how most movie translations concentrate more on a parallel theme that one must be careful of consequences of actions; FRANKENSTEIN (and other influences) in popular culture. . . .

Let it be said it was a full evening.

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*Editor of THE NEW ANNOTATED DRACULA, THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES, and others as well, Klinger also chaired the 2012 Horror Writers Association/Bram Stoker Estate jury, of which I was a member, that selected Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND as the most important vampire novel in the 100 years since Stoker’s death (cf. June 19 2013; April 3, April 2 2012, et al.)

The announcement was flattering:

FrankenFest

October 3–7, 2018
Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein!

FrankenPanel

Noted horror and sci-fi author, James Dorr, The Lilly Library’s Franken-expert, Rebecca Baumann, and IU professor Monique Morgan talk about this classic novel. Moderated by Joan Hawkins, Indiana University professor of horror and avant-garde cinema.

Adults and age 12 & up
6–7:30 PM
Wednesday, October 3
Meeting Room 1B, first floor

“Noted author” one wishes!  But more can be said of the other two, Rebecca Baumann being head of public services at Lilly Library, the Indiana University rare books archive, who among other things explained why the original printing of FRANKENSTEIN was in three volumes (a common practice of the day when, books being a bit of a luxury, many read them through “circulating libraries”) and why a print run of 500 copies implied a much larger readership then than it would today; and Monique Morgan, associate professor of English with a specialty in Victorian literature who, referencing the part in Volume 3 where Victor Frankenstein first creates but then has second thoughts and destroys the female he was building to be the monster’s companion, discussed male/female relations in the early 19th century and Mary Shelly’s place in the mix.

Moderator Joan Hawkins had led off, introducing the three of us plus citing chapter 4 in volume 1 when the monster first comes alive and Frankenstein’s reaction to it as not a single action but a sort of process, while I followed her by quoting from the preceding chapter the method Frankenstein had used in studying the process of moving from life to death to lead to, through a kind of reverse engineering, “discovering the cause and generation of life.”  But I also mentioned the 1930s films FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and the “launching the kites” scene in the latter, quoting a passage in chapter 2 describing a tree destroyed by lightning and then 15-year-old Frankenstein’s father explaining electricity (wherein “he made also a kite, with a wire and string, which drew down that fluid from the clouds”) which Shelly later rewrote in the 1831 edition, changing the father to “a man of great research in natural philosophy” who “entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism” — “galvanism” being a key hint (assisted by a passage in her introduction about how listening to a discussion of galvanism led to her dream that inspired the novel) that the “cause and generation of life” would most likely have something to do with electricity, as indeed is the case in the movies.

This all took up a bit less than half the session, which then opened up to audience questions, expanding on the sexual mores of Shelley’s time; the transformation of the well educated, if self taught, well-spoken monster of the book to the lurching, grunting hulk of the movies (Boris Karloff actually does move with some grace, it was pointed out, and as he gains a few lines in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN it also shows him in the process of learning); Victor Frankenstein as flawed creator becoming himself a monster in his own way; and modern science fiction monsters (or possible monsters) in robots and androids, with actual fears of industrial robots displacing humans plus such cutting-edge concepts as artificial intelligence.

With a busy week coming up, today’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading and Open Mic” (cf. August 26, et al.), co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and the Monroe County Convention Center, offered featured readings by relative newcomer Breon Rochelle Tyler (see May 29 2017) who read a poem about being free, introducing her own work on freedom, mothers, art, and creation; followed by many-time participant Maria Hamilton Abegunde (August 27, April 1, et al.) with several works in progress, including two inspired by current events, and ending with three selections from her LEARNING TO EAT THE DEAD.  In the audience readings afterward, my part consisted of three more poems from VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), the second of the three recordings done for fall broadcast on WFIU’s “The Poets Weave” (see August 26, et al.), “Why She Started Writing Poetry,” “California Vamp,” and “Chagrin du Vampire.”

Of busy weeks, though, next Sunday’s normally scheduled prose readings will not be held due to FRANKENFEST (cf. August 5), the 200th Anniversary celebration of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s novel FRANKENSTEIN, co-sponsored by the Monroe County Library and the Writers Guild at Bloomington, and made possible by a grant from Indiana Humanities with additional funding from the IU Arts and Humanities Council.  Running October 3 through 7, events will include a Wednesday evening FrankenPanel, of which I will be a participant; FrankenFilms (FRANKENSTEIN, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and GOTHIC) on Thursday, October 4; a FRANKENSTEIN Read-a-Thon among other activities on Saturday the 6th; and FrankenTheatre on Sunday, a live radio theater adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN by Russell McGee, who also directs, presenting the creature as an intelligent being who suffered the injustice of mankind.  All events will be held in the Monroe County Public Library.

With the skill of a nineteenth century storyteller, James Dorr weaves tales that would impress Mary Shelley.  Say what?  Well, 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the first edition of FRANKENSTEIN (for a mention, cf. August 5 at the very bottom), although the third, published in 1831, may be more familiar to most readers.  (Though actually there isn’t all that much difference.)  But literary trivia aside, August 17 2018 (yes, I’m four days late, oops) marks the appearance of the sixth review of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH on Amazon, in which reviewer S. Ramey continues:  He pulls you into a world of gothic darkness, challenging your conceptions of life, death and love.  Some stories may shock the reader, but in the time of the Tombs, the Old City, and ghouls, life is very different.  Or why not read the review for yourself, as “A future apocalyptic world that will challenge your world views,” by pressing here?

For myself, my thanks to reviewer Ramey and I am humbled by the mention of Mary Shelley.  But to the point also, reviews like this are a life blood for authors to help spread the word to new potential readers, so a special thank you for making my day!  For others who see this, if you’d like to look into TOMBS itself, you can also get to Amazon’s main page by clicking its picture in the center column.  To quote a final time from the review:  If you like horror, zombies, Gothic romance, or apocalyptic science fiction, this is a story collection for you.

And, should you read it and enjoy it, you might consider reviewing it as well.

Was this a tagline from the original FRANKENSTEIN movie?  Or did it just come into more general use later?  Does it still conjure up the mental image of the mad scientist, hair askew, clutching a test tube with something . . . colorful . . . bubbling out of it?  Those were the days, while today indexwe may think more in terms of computer malware, sneaking invisibly to do its damage.  But are there not still things that even hands-on, laboratory scientists are NOT MEANT TO FIND OUT?

The answer is “yes” according to Paul Ratner in “5 Topics That Are ‘Forbidden’ to Science,” via BIGTHINK.COM.  Or at least kind of sort of.  And within, perhaps, some ideas for science fiction?

For more, click here.  (Or, for a completely different take see TVTROPES.COM, “These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know,” by pressing here.)

That title may be a little misleading.  Okay, a lot?  But it occurred to me that, as a horror writer, cults and people’s joining of cults is an area that might be worth exploring whether for story ideas, or defining characters within already written (or read) stories.  Does DRACULA, for instance, with vampire-in-progress Mina psychically linked to the one who is “turning” her, actually describe a cult, with the ritual of driving a stake through the count’s heart representing an ultimate means of deprogramming?  I think, myself, of my New Orleans-based “Casket Girls” (cf. August 4, March 6 this year; April 28 2015; April 17 2014; et al.) as having formed a polyamorous society of ladies with similar dining habits, but to what extent might that be cult-like too?  Or, more generally thinking, how many horror tales might simply feature bands of non-supernatural zealots who, possibly, might stick together after some menace has been conquered — think torch-bearing mobs following a charismatic burgermeister to seek more Frankensteins’ castles to burn.

Then there are the real cults, as that of Charles Manson.  Or in Waco Texas.  But are all cults bad?   Which all comes down to that, via the magic of today’s email, I ran across an interesting piece, “How Do People Become Indoctrinated Into Cults” by Derek Beres, on BIGTHINK.COM for which one may press here.  Is the horror writing community in itself a cult (well, for this one no, because we all run in different directions — at least when we’re left alone — so we’re probably more unfinishedlike a hypothetical herd of cats.  All after the mouse, yes, but. . . .)?

So, changing the subject, last night I and four others met in an old house on darkest 6th Street for a ritual of our own, a rehearsal for a reading performance of a play, to be presented on October 28 at local Bloomington pub The Back Door.   Scenes from a grisly play in progress, “The Unfinished” by Donald Mabbott, will be read by Writers Guild members Shayne Laughter, Joan Hawkins, Tony Brewer, and James Dorr.   Just in time for Halloween!, to quote the blurb for it.  A horror-themed open mic will follow.  For more on this one, one may press here.

It seemed a mystery at first when it arrived.  From Nicole Kurtz of MOCHA MEMOIRS PRESS, the email read:

Dear Contest Winners:

Thank you for your patience, and congratulations on being our top ten finalist in our flash fiction contest.

Here are our next steps.

1. The stories are being edited.

2. They will be published in a promotional horror chapbook from Mocha Memoirs in both ebook and print versions.

3. Cover art is being considered.

But . . . contest?  Chapbook?  Something dim stirred.  I did a search on Mocha Memoirs — yes, they had published a story of mine in the past as well, maybe more than one, but this was something different.  I had a vague memory. . . .

And then it clicked!  Women in Horror Month, February 2016.  And this, dated February 23, Now it has been revealed!  My story, “Flightless Rats,” has made the list of finalists for the Mocha Memoirs Press Women in Horror Month Flash Fiction contest.  Or, in the official wording:  “The following stories have been chosen as the TOP TEN Flash Stories of 2016!  These stories (pending various technical stuffs) will be compiled into a micro-anthology FlightlessRats2for use by the press.  However, now we need YOUR VOTES to determine the winner of the GRAND PRIZE — $20 Amazon GC!”

The voting is long over, of course, the winner announced.  The top ten finalists, “Diabolique” by Tracy Vincent, “Flightless Rats” by James Dorr, “Pickman’s Model” by Jason Ellis, “Hell on Earth” by Carrie Martin, “The Damned” by Melissa McArthur, “Servant Girl Anihilator” by Robert Perret, “Staying” by Myriah Strozykowsky, “Hag” by Marcia Wilson, “What the Dollhouse Saw” by Karen Bovenmeyer, and “Thin Ice” by Marcia Colette, with the grand winner being Myriah Strozykowsky’s “Staying.”  “Flightless Rats” was originally published in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG, a.k.a. FREE SCIENCE FICTION, on January 12 2015 (cf. that date, below), and starred the New Orleanian vampiress Aimée (who we may recall from “Casket Girls” in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, see April 17 2014 et al.) about a century after her original 1728 arrival in New France.

So here will be a chance to make one’s acquaintance again in the presumably fairly near future.

Then, speaking of Eighteenth Century France and King Louis XV, a very interesting article — especially for science fiction fans with steampunk proclivities (speaking of “clockworkpunk,” just below) — also turned up in my (e)mailbox this afternoon.  On automata of that time and before, it comes courtesy of ELECTRIC LITERATURE (ELECTRICLITERATURE.COM) by Michael Peck, “The Impossible Bleeding Man:  On the History and Mythology of Artificial Life,” and begins with the bringing to the French king’s attention an amazingly lifelike mechanical duck.  But if ducks, why not men — at least model men, for the betterment of the study of medicine?  Or, as some might say, might that not be taking science too far (believe it or not, a pre-Mary Shelly inventor named “Frankenstein” appeared in France in 1790 in THE LOOKING GLASS OF ACTUALITY, OR BEAUTY TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER by François-Félix Nogaret)?  To see more, press here.

(The flying thing at upper left in the picture, however, is not a duck but a bat; while the standing figure, while it conceivably could be Aimée, is actually Carol Borland in the 1935 movie MARK OF THE VAMPIRE.)

No, no, not the one with Boris Karloff.  This is the original Frankenstein movie as written and directed by J. Searle Dawley for Thomas A. Edison, Inc., which had its premiere on March 18 1910.  And with it a tip of the hat goes to Jenny Ashford, a.k.a. the GODDESS OF HELLFIRE, a blog buddy as it were who offers it on her site, complete with a (ahem) tongue-in-cheek review.  Or, in her own introductory words:

Look, my Scary Silents series is alive!  ALIVE!!!  And today we’re dissecting a classic, the Edison Studios adaptation of Frankenstein from 1910.  As most horror buffs know, this was the first filmed version of Mary Shelley’s novel, even though I gotta say the adaptation is a tad on the “creative” side.  Time to get this experiment started, so fire up the kinetogram and watch along!

The film itself, with a running time of approximately 13 and a half minutes, can be seen in its entirety on GODDESSOFHELLFIRE.COM with, as noted above, a possibly slightly less than entirely sympathetic appreciation, and which for both press here.  But be warned, it being, as it informs us itself, “a liberal adaptation of Mrs. Shelley’s story for Edison production.”




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