October 20, 2010

The Rivals of Frankenstein, Edited by Michel Parry

There are probably enough collections of short fiction inspired by Mary Shelley’s original to qualify Frankenstein Anthologies a sub-genre of horror and science fiction. Some collections hew close to the original and its characters; others explore themes of artificial life, and the presumption and consequences of mad science. Titles include The Frankenstein Reader (1962), edited by Calvin Beck, The Frankenstein Omnibus (1994) by Peter Haining, The Mammoth Book of Frankenstein (1994) by Stephen Jones, and The Ultimate Frankenstein (1991), packaged by Byron Preiss, all reprinting fiction from various sources.

Frankenstein: The Monster Awakes (1993), edited by Martin H. Greenberg, collected new and original stories on the Frankenstein theme and Hideous Progeny (2001), edited by Brian Willis, proposed new stories exploring the premise of how Frankenstein might have impacted history had he really lived to re-animate the dead.

The book at hand, The Rivals of Frankenstein: A Gallery of Monsters (1977), edited by master anthologist Michel Parry, casts his net very wide, and far back. Most of the stories here are from the first half of the twentieth century, all dealing with man-made men or outright monster-making. All but one of the selections are unrelated to Frankenstein, with no reference to Mary’s Monster, but Frankenstein’s unmistakable DNA is present in all of them.

The mood is set with the first story, The Colossus of Ylourgne, Clark Ashton Smith’s superbly written and formidably gruesome tale that has a necromancer and his unholy minions carving a giant golem out of the boiled down remains of human corpses. Another major classic horror tale included here is H.P.Lovecraft’s unsettling Herbert West – Reanimator.

Several stories deal with robots and their implacable, deadly logic. Two seminal robot stories included are Ambrose Bierce’s Moxon Master (1909), featuring a fearsome fez-wearing mechanical chess-player, and Jerome K. Jerome’s The Dancing Partner (1893) whose waltzing automaton doesn’t know when to stop. Similarly, in D. Scott-Moncrieff’s Count Szolnok’s Robots, the automated servants do their jobs too well. In a reverse situation scenario, Eando Binder’s Iron Man is a human being who thinks he’s a robot.

The one story directly connected to the Frankenstein myth is Don Glut’s Dr. Karnstein’s Creation, a rousing romp that plays with monster movie conventions, complete with a storm-lashed castle laboratory high in the Transylvanian Alps, a brain-switching mad scientist, and a Monster who rises from his slab and delivers a trick ending.

The Rivals of Frankenstein: A Gallery of Monsters has an entertaining introduction and wraps with a checklist of Frankenstein Films. The book was part of a series that included The Rivals of Dracula: A Century of Vampire Fiction and The Rivals of King Kong: A Rampage of Beasts. Michel Parry, a most prolific anthologist, also collaborated on collections with Christopher Lee and Milton Subotsky.

Copies of Rivals of Frankenstein can be hunted down online. I suggest using Abebooks.

With warm thanks to Michel for graciously providing me with a copy for this review.

The Ultimate Frankenstein
Hideous Progeny

1 comment:

Don Glut said...

My new movie TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN will be released on streaming, DVD and Blu-Ray on October 19 -- in time for Halloween. It is not VAN HELSING, I, FRANKENSTEIN or the Tom Cruise MUMMY, but very traditional. Learn more about the film -- and its merchandise -- at www.pecosborn.com. My old email address is no longer valid, but I can be reached through that website and also on Facebook -- Don Glut