Frankenstein’s monster is over 200 years old and Dracula will be celebrating his 600th birthday soon. Imhotep has been around since the 27th century BCE and the Creature from the Black Lagoon is a throwback to the Devonian period. These monsters (and others) have been with us for a long time—and according to the contributors to Classic Monsters Unleashed they’re not going away anytime soon.
Take, for instance, Tim Waggoner’s story “Old Monsters Never Die.” The Moonborn were a race of shapeshifters as old as mankind itself. From the very beginning they were our greatest predator and I have no doubt they will continue to prey upon us long into the future.
The mummy from Rena Mason’s story “Rapt” was originally a Han Dynasty doyenne. Married to a Wu Kingdom chancellor, Lady Mei’s beauty and kindness was legendary. Historians called her the Helen of Troy of China.
But as all jilted wives know, shit happens. For some reason Mei’s husband poisoned her, killed her family and did his best to erase her very existence. Two-thousand-plus years later, Lady Mei rises from her grave to exact her long-awaited revenge. “She understood at last, the power of everlasting love.”
Some of my other favorite stories in this collection include a prequel to the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie (“She-Creature from the Golden Cove” by John Palisano), a twisted version of The Phantom of the Opera (“The Viscount and the Phantom” by Lucy A. Snyder), the return of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (“Hacking the Horseman’s Code” by Lisa Morton) and a clever mashup of Ralph Ellison and H.G. Wells (“The Invisible Man: The Fire This Time” by Maurice Broaddus). The Seanan McGuire contribution is also quite good. But then again, everything I’ve read by her has been excellent.
More than anything, I was happy to see multiple retcons of Bride of Frankenstein included in this Classic Monsters anthology. In fact, I’m beginning to think that it’s impossible to pen a bad Bride of Frankenstein story.
J.G. Faherty’s “Beautiful Monster” takes the Bride’s iconic “jigsaw puzzle body” to a completely different level and Dr. Frankenstein constructs the Bride using a Tinder-like app in “Something Borrowed” by Lindy Ryan (“I like this one’s eyes,” says the original monster as he swipes right).
Author F. Paul Wilson imagines Frankenstein’s monster with the brain of a woman. I am so powerful now, she tells herself. So very powerful. “I will not be mistreated any more. I will not be looked down on and have doors shut in my face simply because I am a farm girl. No one will say no to me ever again.”
My favorite of these stories was written by Carlie St. George (“You Can Have the Ground, My Love”). The Bride, now known as “the Widow” or “Elizabeth,” knew that she was a monster. But she also knew she wasn’t Frankenstein’s original lumbering giant. She didn’t want to be a morbid recluse like him. “I’d like to walk this world,” she says. “I will discover my own story—and challenge the whole terrified trembling world to listen.”
[Classic Monsters Unleashed / Edited by James Aquilone / First Printing: July 2022 / ISBN: 9781645481218]