The Romantic period is proving to be fertile ground for one of this year's chicest fictional genres: monster lit. The newest offering, Laurie Scheck's A Monster's Notes, attempts to take the genre to a new level, jettisoning zombies for a love story between a Frankenstein's monster and an eight-year-old Mary Shelley. According to its publisher's description and word around the Web, the novel promises to offer a metacommentary upon both the original novel it draws from and the burgeoning genre that has given rise to hideous progeny like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (see previous post). One NPR commentator described A Monster's Notes as a novel "for people who care about the Pride and Prejudice side of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
Taking Frankenstein as its Ur-text, the novel asks a serious of tantalizing "what ifs":
What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?
It appears the novel shares some affinities with Shelley Jackson's classic hypertext Patchwork Girl, both of which imagine face-to-face meetings between the creature and Mary Shelley and which project the creature into a postmodern world. Described by the publisher as a "genre bending book," a monster's tale purports to blend historical fiction, science fiction, romance, and monster lit into "a meditation on creativity and technology, on alienation and otherness, on ugliness and beauty, and on our need to be understood." Certainly, like Jackson's hypertext, hybridity promises to be a key theme.
A Monster's Notes hits bookshelves June 23.
See also our previous post on John Kessel’s “Pride and Prometheus,” a nominee for the best novelette category at this year's Hugo Awards (science fiction). It chronicles a meeting between Pride and Prejudice's bookish Mary Bennet and Frankenstein’s namesake.