October 12, 2012
First published in a very limited edition back in 1994, a rare and prohibitively expensive collector’s item ever since, this notorious collection of vignettes — short-short stories averaging one page per tale — was revised and repackaged in 2011 by Centipede Press. Alas, the new edition sold out upon release and now commands very respectable prices itself.
Here, author Thomas Ligotti, a master of the short form story, explores classic horror with flash fiction pieces that extend oft-told tales, In a riveting and revelatory preface, Ligotti tells how the project began with The Island of Dr. Moreau, raising the question, “Why not take Well’s story, another step or two down the path of pain?”
As an example, Ligotti’s take on Frankenstein, The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein, Citizen of Geneva, reflects on the experimenter’s horror attending his own revival after his first death in the arctic.
Ligotti presents his book as a “museum of ever-echoing groans and endlessly twisting grimaces”. The stories here are so short, so tight, so vital, that often the titles themselves are essential to the narrative. Consider these examples: One Thousand Variations Performed Upon Diverse Creatures Undergoing the Treatment of Dr. Moreau, Humanist... The Excruciating Final Days of Dr Henry Jekyll, Englishman... The Heart of Count Dracula, Descendant of Attila, Scourge of God... The Insufferable Salvation of Lawrence Talbot the Wolfman... The Perilous Legacy of Emily St.Aubert, Inheritress of Udolpho... The Scream: From 1800 to the Present. There are several stories addressing Poe, such as The Interminable Residence of the Friends of the House of Usher, and Lovecraft, a frequent Ligotti reference: The Fabulous Alienation of the Outsider, Being of No Fixed Abode, and The Premature Death of H.P.Lovecraft, Oldest Man in New England.
The Centipede edition features the beautiful and disturbing art of Harry O. Morris, a regular Ligotti collaborator, who has also illustrated the works of Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. Slipcased and beautifully assembled, this collection is a gorgeous if expensive book. One can hope against hope that a more affordable version might be offered someday.