Thursday, December 26, 2013

A deeper look at Monster

With the paperback edition of Monster hitting stores now, I thought I'd write about what Monster is really about. The premise behind Monster is what if the story Victor Frankenstein told in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was an outrageous lie to protect his reputation. What if the real story involved Frankenstein in league with the Marquis de Sade to bring Sade's most horrific work to life to demonstrate what they believe is the true nature of man? And what if the monster was originally a poor unfortunate who was framed for murder by Frankenstein and retained all his memories after his transformation, and is finally now about to tell the real story?

That's the premise behind my novel, and in writing Monster I overlayed the story with Shelley's original so the same journey takes place, but the reasons for each destination are very different. So is Monster simply a retelling of Frankenstein? No. It's also very much a reworking of Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, and thematically it's an exploration of Sade's philosophy of man being a base creatures like all other animals, and hence morality is only an invented concept with no true meaning. And eventually Monster is a repudiation of this philosophy.

Monster is also very much a horror novel with vampyres (the spelling taken from John Polidori's The Vampyre, whose genesis came from the same rainy day challenge at the Lake Geneva home in which Shelley's Frankenstein also took birth), witch burnings, satanism, dark magic, evil murals, and other horrors. While Monster is a loving tribute to Shelley's Frankenstein, it also is to a lesser degree to the great German fantasy and horror writer, E. T. A. Hoffmann (hence the monster's name before his transformation, Friedrich Hoffmann). While Hoffmann's influence can be found throughout Monster, one of his tales was the inspiration for my nightmare mural.

Finally Monster is also very much a historical novel. I had spent 9 months researching Monster, and the book is filled with small tidbits taken from this research.  Here's a short excerpt from where the monster is roaming the dark streets of London that is based on a gang of thugs I came across in my research who for sport collected the noses of the poor unfortunates they met:

I kept walking north, using the few stars I could make out in the sky to guide me. Mostly I made my way through cramped alleyways and streets, although at times I would come across small parks and gardens and buildings of remarkable grandeur. I was no more than a few miles from where I had freed that man from the pillory when I spotted five men standing together in the darkness. Somehow they sensed me and they moved quickly so that they surrounded me. They were big men, although nowhere my size. But each of them were over six feet tall and were thick shouldered, and each of them held long knives. They reminded me of the wolves that attacked me when I traveled to Leipzig.

One of them addressed me. “Aye, mate. If you are going to pass, you got to pay our toll.”

“What is your toll?”

He laughed at that. “Listen to his accent. A foreigner.” This was said to his companions. Then to me, he said, “Your pig snout. That is what we collect, and that’s why we are members of The Pig Snout Club. So remember that for when you tell stories of how you lost your pig snout!”

While I had studied English, I hadn’t spoken or heard it much in my life, and I wasn’t sure if I heard right. “I do not have a pig with me,” I said. “So I am afraid you will have to collect your snout from someone else.”

“That’s not how it works, friend. We’ll collect the snout from you. From your own face, mind you. So stand still and be prepared to pay your toll. Or put up a fight if you wish.”

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