King of the Monsters

MiscreationsI agree with author Alma Katsu. In her chatty foreword to this book, she says that Mary Shelley created the greatest and most iconic monster of all time. Forget about giant gorillas and colossal kaiju, Frankenstein’s Prometheus remains king of the monsters.

Everybody knows the story of Shelley’s iconic creature. Made by man and rejected by mankind, he begged for his creator’s love and humanity’s pity. Born in 1818, Frankenstein’s monster was a sympathetic and lonely figure doomed to an eternity of unhappiness. “What heart, on hearing such a story, could still scorn a monster like that?” asks Katsu rhetorically.

Monstrosity is a complicated topic, that’s for sure. But we can learn a couple of things from Frankenstein. It is a cautionary tale that can teach us what not to do and how not to behave. But it can also teach us how to be heroic. After all, a monster to one person is a savior to another. Amirite?

With Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors, editors Doug Murano and Michael Bailey have tasked their contributors to submit prose and verse inspired by the Frankenstein mythos. Some of the stories are linked solidly to Shelley’s original effort (“Butcher Blend” and “Imperfect Clay”), and some have only a tangential connection to the source material (“Ode to Joad the Toad” and “Sounds Caught in Cobwebs”). Despite my predilections, all the efforts are excellent. There’s not a stinking corpse in the whole bunch.

The anthology begins with a dollop of metafiction called “A Heart Arrhythmia Creeping Into a Dark Room.” I enjoy deconstructive monster tales as much as the next guy, but Michael Wehunt’s story (as good as it is) lands the collection on less-than-solid ground.

To better establish the theme of the book, the editors might have considered slotting “Frankenstein’s Daughter” at the top of the ToC. Author Theodora Goss explores the dynamic between the monster and his descendant. And in this way she’s able to give a new perspective on the influential and ongoing legacy of Frankenstein.

One thing is consistent throughout these 23 stories and poems: Man and monster are inescapably twined together. Like it or not, monsters can’t exist without man to will them into existence. Frankenstein walks among us. Get used to it.

[Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors / Edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey / First Printing: February 2020 / ISBN: 9781732724471]