Come Get Your *Signed* Copy of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN!

The day you’ve all been waiting for is at hand, Friends of FRAULEIN! I wanted to remind you that I will be signing copies of the fabulous Shadowridge Press paperback edition of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN at the venerable Dark Delicacies horror bookstore in Burbank, California, tomorrow, Saturday, July 8th, at 4pm.

You’ll also have the opportunity to get signed copies of books by other wonderful Shadowridge Press authors, including Dennis Etchison (The Death Artist, Red Dreams, The Blood Kiss), Tracy Carbone (The Proteus Cave, The Rainbox), and my ONE NIGHT AT THE VILLA DIODATI co-authors Kelly Dunn (Beloved of the Fallen, editor of Mutation Nation) and the irrepressible Peter Atkins (screenwriter of Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Wishmaster and author of Morningstar, Big Thunder, and Rumours of the Marvellous). We’ll have copies of the DIODATI chapbook available for purchase and signing, as well. Here’s a link to the Dark Delicacies website for more info, including directions to the store:

Dark Delicacies Bookstore Website

For those who can’t make it to Burbank on July 8th, you’ll be happy to hear that Dark Delicacies will take your pre-orders over the phone, and will ship your order for an extra charge. All of us at Shadowridge Press would like to express our sincere gratitude to Del and Sue Howison of Dark Delicacies for hosting the event.

Hope to see you all there!

Before Fraulein…before Frankenstein…there was the GOLEM!

A scholar with arcane knowledge utilizes forbidden forces to bring a manufactured being to blasphemous life. When the hulking, misbegotten monster goes berserk, the horrified creator takes desperate action to destroy his wayward creation.

Does this story sound familiar, Franken-freaks? Any monster maven will recognize the concept as the basis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the many works that have since emulated it. But the tale I’ve just described predates Shelley’s great Gothic novel, its mythological roots extending back centuries. The creature is the golem of Jewish folklore, arguably the first “man-made” monster in Western culture and a possible progenitor of Victor Frankenstein’s creation.

The Hebrew word golem originally referred to a “shapeless mass,” and, indeed, the golem of legend began as a formless lump of clay, which a Jewish Kabbalist sculpted into a hulking humanoid form. The sorcerer then brought the creature to life through the use of magic Hebrew words. In some cases, the word would be scrawled on a parchment and placed in the creature’s mouth; in other instances, the word was inscribed on the figure’s forehead or chest. While animated, the golem would be its creator’s slave, bound to do his bidding. By removing or altering the magic words, the magician could again reduce the monster to an inert statue.

img001

References to golems appear in texts as old as the Talmud, but by far the most famous tale of such a creature is that of the Golem of Prague. In the late 16th century, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel ostensibly created a powerful golem to defend the Jewish community in Prague from harassment by hostile locals. However, he made sure to deactivate the sentinel statue every Friday evening so that it would not disturb the devout Jews on the Sabbath the following day. One fateful Friday, however, the rabbi became preoccupied and forgot to incapacitate the golem. The clay being went on a rampage, and Rabbi Loew was forced to risk his own life to stop the monster. Although he stilled the golem once and for all, legend has it that he kept the dormant clay figure in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague, where it remains ready to be revivified if the Jewish people ever need its protection again.

IMG_1935

My wife and colleague Kelly Dunn and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the ancient and wonderful city of Prague, once the seat of the Kingdom of Bohemia, now the capital of the Czech Republic. The city still venerates Rabbi Loew with a statue in his honor outside the new town hall. As luck would have it, we arrived just before the Sabbath and did not have a chance to go inside the Old-New Synagogue, which was preparing for worship. (Incidentally, we never received an explanation of the apparent oxymoron of the landmark’s name. I imagine that, in the distant past, someone built the city’s first synagogue. Then, when the present building was constructed sometime in the 13th century, it became the “New Synagogue.” At some later date, an even newer synagogue opened its doors, resulting in the confusing taxonomy, like so: “Oh, no, that’s the New-New Synagogue! You want the Old-New Synagogue.”) Kelly and I cannot tell you what, if anything, lies in the attic of that holy place…but that figure behind Kelly in the photo below makes me wonder.

Kelly and Golem

 

Given the similarities between the two narratives, it is tempting to think that the cautionary tale of the Golem of Prague might have inspired Mary Shelley as she conceived of Frankenstein. Certainly, the image of Rabbi Loew and his misshapen figure of animate clay springs to mind when Shelley, in her introduction to the 1831 edition of the book, describes the nightmare that inspired her novel:

I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision,—the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein even speaks of striving “to animate the lifeless clay,” as if his monster of flesh were a sculpted golem. Although film adaptations show Frankenstein assembling his creature from body parts harvested from cadavers, some scholars have pointed out that, in the novel, the scientist seems to fashion the raw material of his monster from scratch, so to speak. Mary Shelley cleverly uses this fact to explain the creature’s gargantuan size:

            As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large.

Like any pragmatic engineer, Frankenstein modifies his prototype to make it easier to work on. Miniaturization can wait until the product is ready for mass production!

As appealing as it is to theorize that Mary Shelley had the story of the Golem of Prague in mind when conceiving of Frankenstein, she makes no explicit reference to the fable in her writings. Indeed, in his article “The Golem of Prague” (Fortean Times #238, August 2008), Czech journalist Ivan Mackerle states that he was unable to find any account of the story in historical documents from the 16th and 17th centuries and says the apocryphal narrative of Rabbi Loew may be an elaboration on a legend brought to Prague by Hassidic Jews from Poland in the early 1800s—too late for Shelley to have used it as the basis for her horror story. Still, Mary Shelley seems to have tapped into the universal archetype the golem represents and reinvented it for the modern age by making its genesis scientific rather than magical, a topic I addressed in this earlier blog post.

Wpa-marionette-theater-presents-rur

Although not, strictly speaking, science fiction, the cautionary tale of the Golem of Prague could be said to have engendered an entire subgenre of sf, for it is the primordial “Bad Robot” story. It comes as no coincidence, therefore, that in 1920, almost 400 years after Rabbi Loew, Prague also gave the world its first actual Bad Robot story, a science-fictional play entitled R.U.R. by the Czech writer Karel Čapek. The abbreviation stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots, a fictional company in the play that manufactures the world’s first line of artificial humanoids. Karel, with the assistance of his brother Joseph Čapek, derived the term “robot” from the Czech word robota, which can mean either “hard work” or “slave labor.”

The robots in the drama are not mechanical, however, but rather an assemblage of fabricated biological organs and tissue—again, shades of Frankenstein. Like the Golem of Prague, Rossum’s robot servants turn on the humans they were created to serve, rising up in violent rebellion. The play ends with the new beings virtually exterminating humanity—a sobering finale to us in the 21st century, where genetic engineering and burgeoning artificial intelligence threaten to make the grim prognostications of Shelley and Čapek a reality.

Capek_RUR

Somewhere, Rabbi Loew shakes his head sadly…and a sleeping golem awaits its ultimate resurrection.

If this post whet your appetite for more monster mayhem, be sure to check out the Kindle ebook of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN at Amazon here.

And don’t forget that I will be signing copies of the fabulous Shadowridge Press paperback edition of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN at the venerable Dark Delicacies horror bookstore in Burbank, California, at 4pm on Saturday, July 8th.

You’ll also have the opportunity to get signed copies of books by other wonderful Shadowridge Press authors, including Dennis Etchison (The Death Artist, Red Dreams, The Blood Kiss), Tracy Carbone (The Proteus Cave, The Rainbox), and my ONE NIGHT AT THE VILLA DIODATI co-authors Kelly Dunn (Beloved of the Fallen, editor of Mutation Nation) and the irrepressible Peter Atkins (screenwriter of Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Wishmaster and author of Morningstar, Big Thunder, and Rumours of the Marvellous). We’ll have copies of the DIODATI chapbook available for purchase and signing, as well. Here’s a link to the Dark Delicacies website for more info, including directions to the store:

Dark Delicacies Bookstore Website

For those who can’t make it to Burbank on July 8th, you’ll be happy to hear that Dark Delicacies will take your pre-orders over the phone, and will ship your order for an extra charge. All of us at Shadowridge Press would like to express our sincere gratitude to Del and Sue Howison of Dark Delicacies for hosting the event.

Hope to see you all there!

Mark Your Monster Calendar! FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Book Signing!

Greetings, Friends of FRAULEIN! I wanted to let you all know that I will be signing copies of the fabulous Shadowridge Press paperback edition of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN at the venerable Dark Delicacies horror bookstore in Burbank, California, at 4pm on Saturday, July 8th.

You’ll also have the opportunity to get signed copies of books by other wonderful Shadowridge Press authors, including Dennis Etchison (The Death Artist, Red Dreams, The Blood Kiss), Tracy Carbone (The Proteus Cave, The Rainbox), and my ONE NIGHT AT THE VILLA DIODATI co-authors Kelly Dunn (Beloved of the Fallen, editor of Mutation Nation) and the irrepressible Peter Atkins (screenwriter of Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Wishmaster and author of Morningstar, Big Thunder, and Rumours of the Marvellous). We’ll have copies of the DIODATI chapbook available for purchase and signing, as well. Here’s a link to the Dark Delicacies website for more info, including directions to the store:

Dark Delicacies Bookstore Website

For those who can’t make it to Burbank on July 8th, you’ll be happy to hear that Dark Delicacies will take your pre-orders over the phone, and will ship your order for an extra charge. All of us at Shadowridge Press would like to express our sincere gratitude to Del and Sue Howison of Dark Delicacies for hosting the event.

Hope to see you all there!

 

Here She Comes to Save the Day…for only 99 CENTS! Your New Superhero–FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN!

Prettier than Superman! Battier than Batman! Deader than Deadpool! Yes, it’s your new superhero FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN! And she’s currently a Kindle Monthly Deal on Amazon, which means you can get the ebook of the novel for ONLY 99 CENTS! So let FRAULEIN save *your* day. Check out the deal at the link below:

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Amazon Order Page

But hurry! This deal is only good for the month of May.

And don’t forget–if you prefer a copy of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN you can hold in your hot little hands, there is now a handsome paperback edition available from Shadowridge Press. Here’s the order page:

FRAULEIN Paperback Order Page

Thanks for reading, and please LIKE and SHARE this post with your friends so everyone can enjoy the FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN special offer.

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN–The Paperback!

Rejoice, Friends of FRAULEIN!

Now you no longer have to read FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN on a screen. Many of you loyal fans have been longing to hold a real, physical copy of the novel in your hands since it was published as an ebook by Kindle Press last September. Now, publisher Robert Barr and the good folks of Shadowridge Press have made your dream a reality by putting out a beautiful new paperback edition of the book.

To celebrate the paperback’s release, I’ll be signing copies at the Vintage Paperback Show this Sunday, March 19th, at 2pm. And as a special bonus, everyone who buys the book will get a FREE copy of the gorgeous, illustrated chapbook of ONE NIGHT AT THE VILLA DIODATI, the Shadowridge compendium of the Gothic stories written exclusively for this blog. Just take a gander at this cover::

 

ONATVD cover Facebook

This amazing chapbook, a $10 value, is yours FREE with the purchase of the  FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN paperback (while supplies last). WHAT A DEAL!!!

So, if you are fortunate enough to live in Southern California, come to the Vintage Paperback Show, where you’ll find a slew of other great authors and books, including my Villa Diodati coauthors Kelly Dunn (Mutation Nation and Beloved of the Fallen) and Peter Atkins (Morningstar and Big Thunder and the screenplays for Hellraiser II, III, and IV). You may find details of the event here:

Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show

Hope to see you there! And stay tuned for news of other upcoming signings and promotions.

For those of you who can’t make it to a SoCal signing…fear not! You may still order your heirloom-worthy paperback copy of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN here:

Paperback FRAULEIN FRANKSTEIN Order Page on Amazon

You may also purchase a copy of the ONE NIGHT AT THE VILLA DIODATI chapbook here:

One Night at the Villa Diodati Order Page on Amazon

Happy reading and STAY GOTHIC!!!

Frankentawny Phil Sez: “Four More Weeks of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN at Only 99 Cents!”

Happy Groundhog Day, monster mavens! Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, so we are due for a long winter–a perfect time to curl up with a good book! And, lucky you, you have yet another chance to get your copy of the Kindle ebook of FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN for the bargain price of ONLY 99 CENTS! But this offer is only good until February 28th, so get your discounted ebook TODAY. Here’s the link to the Amazon order page:

FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN Order Page on Amazon

And please SHARE this link with anyone you think might enjoy getting the novel at a BARGAIN PRICE. Thanks for your support, and stay tuned for further exciting developments!

TO BOLDLY GO WHERE WANNABE TREKKIES HAVE GONE BEFORE!: My Adventures as a Next Generation Extra

 

Okay, this doesn’t really have much to do with my new novel FRAULEIN FRANKENSTEIN (which you may find for purchase here on Amazon), but an interested reader stumbled across the fact that, for a brief time in my checkered past, I served as an extra and stand-in on Star Trek: The Next Generation, thereby upping my “geek cred” among sci-fi nerds throughout the Federation. Said reader asked if I would share some reminiscences of my Trek sojourn, and since followers of this blog tend to be fans of all things fantastic, I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the Adventures of Ensign Woodworth.

My Hollywood experience prior to Trek had been limited to some extra work on that timeless classic Teen Wolf, Too!, which filmed on campus at my alma mater Pomona College while I was a student there. I composed part of what the filmmakers referred to as “background action” or “atmosphere.” I found the latter term rather insulting, since it made us extras sound like nebulous, gaseous beings who would simply dissipate when the director yelled “Cut!” Nevertheless, I had fun on the set, despite catching a horrible stomach flu that nearly caused me to puke on star Jason Bateman as I rode behind him in a shuttle van when the last day’s shoot wrapped.

My first gig on Next Generation was as an unnamed, uncredited (of course) “security officer,” which in Classic Trek would have made me a “redshirt.” (Hence, the photo above.)  Alas, I did not get to die horribly in the first act of either of the two episodes in which I was cast! (I would be remiss if I did not express gratitude to my childhood friend David Trotti, who was 2nd Assistant Director on the show and without whom I would never have had the opportunity to take part in it)

My stint began with the show’s costumers at Paramount Studios fitting me for my sleek, one-piece gold jumpsuit Next Generation uniform. To ensure an absolutely wrinkle-free veneer, I had to wear a special tuck-in tank top and brief undergarment combination. The jumpsuit worn over the undergarment consisted of a stretchy, Lycra-type material with bungee-type straps that ran underneath the soles of the costume’s boots to pull the entire outfit taut. This arrangement made the outfit look super-snappy, but it felt like I had giant rubber bands dragging down my shoulders all day. Furthermore, the uniform had no fly; in order to relieve yourself, you had to unzip the jumpsuit and essentially drop the entire costume down around your knees. The design made me wonder if people in the future will be genetically altered so they never need to go to the bathroom.

Sadly, I only got to be a human crew member on Next Generation. I was hoping I might get cast as an alien, not only because that would be even cooler from a geek standpoint, but because I’d get a “bump” in pay, as we extras say. I gather the amount of the “bump” depended on what percentage of your face they had to cover with makeup: a little bit more for a latex wrinkle across the bridge of your nose, more still for the ridged scalp of a Klingon, and most of all if they had to remake your whole visage.

Both of the scenes for which I served as “atmosphere” for Trek took place in Ten Forward, the lounge where Enterprise crew members go to unwind after a hard day of dodging photon torpedoes and repairing overloaded dilithium-crystal warp drives. No doubt this pub serves its squeaky-clean crew Trek patrons nothing but non-alcoholic smoothies and juice cocktails! (Actually, I vaguely recall reading a copy of the Next Generation series bible that stated that the drinks in Ten Forward are chemically designed to give crew members a pleasant buzz that, somehow, they can immediately shake off if the ship needs all hands sober on deck for an emergency. No bar fights, and the Enterprise navigators are never DUI! And, as I mentioned earlier, you never have to go to the bathroom, even after all that drinking. What a truly utopian future awaits us in the Trek universe!)

I first reported for duty in the Next Generation episode “Masks,” in which an alien archive starts to transform the Enterprise into a replica of what looks to be a Mayan temple. As I indicated, I was in a crowd scene in Ten Forward, strolling through the bar in the background with a colorful (and completely innocuous) cocktail in one hand while chatting with an attractive red-headed female navigator. Unfortunately, this scene appears to have ended up on the proverbial cutting-room floor. (Not because of me, I hope!) At least, I have been unable to spot myself in the show in the couple of times I’ve watched the episode.

My second tour of duty on the Enterprise came in the episode “Bloodlines,” which centers around a young man who may—or may not—be Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s son. Again, the scene takes place in Ten Forward, where Picard and his presumed offspring are having an intense discussion. This time, I actually made the final cut: You can see me (albeit out-of-focus) in my gold security officer’s uniform seated at a table behind Picard’s “son,” where I am playing a futuristic checkers game with an older, African-American crew member. The actor playing my opponent was a very warm, funny gentleman who cracked me up with the flamboyant, enthusiastic jumps he made with his space-age checkers. Neither of us knew any rules for the game we were supposed to be playing, but whatever they were, he was clearly winning.

The rest of my work on Next Generation was off-camera as a stand-in for Picard’s “son” and for Brent Spiner, beloved by the known universe as that affable android Commander Data. As I was of a similar height and hair color to these two actors, the camera crew would use me to set the lighting, sharpen their focus, and practice any camera movements prior to the actual shot. I have particularly fond memories of Brent Spiner, who went out of his way to introduce himself and shake hands with me the first day I served as his stand-in. (Shaking hands with Data—I was in geek heaven!)

Spiner was as much fun off-camera as on. In between takes, he and Michael Dorn, who played the formidable Klingon Worf, would amuse themselves (and everyone else) by doing improv comedy. During one rehearsal for a scene on the Bridge, Patrick Stewart as Picard barked an order at the two of them, and they both dropped to the ground and crawled away like groveling slaves. On another occasion, they adopted the accents of Borscht Belt comedians and ad-libbed an incredible routine as the screenwriting Epstein brothers, doing a hilarious Yiddish version of Casablanca. (“This could be the start of a beautiful frayndshaft!”)

Messrs. Spiner & Dorn were not the only ones with a sense of humor on the show. In this pre-HD era, the set designers took advantage of the fact that the home audience would never be able to read the blurry, out-of-focus labels on the Enterprise’s control panels. They embedded several inside jokes on the Bridge and elsewhere, including a set of buttons devoted to the “Improbability Drive” from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My contact with the other principal actors on the series was limited, although I was seated on the ground near Patrick Stewart at one point when he stumbled slightly and used my shoulder to catch himself, for which he apologized like the English gentleman he is. (Picard almost fell on me! I was in geek heaven again.)

Those are the high points of my personal Star Trek voyage. I would love to post a picture of me in my security officer’s outfit, but everything Trek-related is so thoroughly copyrighted and trademarked that you’ll just have to take my word about how dashing I looked in uniform. Or squint really hard as you watch that one Ten Forward scene in “Bloodlines.”

Until our next blog journey…LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!