Zombie Soldiers

Check out my review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Cemetary Man”, which involves a doctor creating Frankensteinian creatures from soldiers to continue a war

Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Cemetery Man” in This Strange Way of Dying (Exile Editions, Forthcoming 2013).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel

When you are in a battle against an enemy that keeps bringing forth the resurrected dead, the worst thing that can happen is when you find yourself tended to by their doctor. In “Cemetery Man”, Catalina finds herself under the ministrations of a Frankensteinian doctor, affectionately called Cemetery Man. Pain runs through her body as Cemetery Man conducts experiments on her, changes her to suit his own ends and those of the military units that support him. He is the ultimate expression of the ability of science to be forced to express political ends. Research is placed above patient needs and the push of politicians for results causes a total abandonment of the statutes of medical care.

In a…

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A review of John Kessel’s Pride and Prometheus (Saga, 2018).

By Derek Newman-Stille

John Kessel’s Pride and Prometheus is a tale of entwined loneliness – lives brought together through a sense of isolation and solitude who seek to understand what it means to be outsiders. Kessel’s work is a “mash up” story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the uniting of these narratives is effective because of the beauty of language Kessel is able to bring forth and because of the sense of longing that ties both stories together.

Pride and Prometheus focusses primarily on Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and both Victor Frankenstein and his creature from Frankenstein, and although these narratives seem at first glance to be disparate, Mary’s interest in moral education ties into the moral complexities involved in Victor’s encounters with his creature, desiring to morally educate the monster, but also to challenge Victor’s moral uncertainty and self-assuredness that allows him to feel as though he can be an arbiter of morality for himself and his creature.

The creature and Mary are both motivated by their lack and their belief that they need marriage in order to find happiness. The creature has asked Frankenstein to create a bride for him, and Mary feels a longing to be married so that she will not be trapped in the image of the “old maid”, considered too old for marriage by her contemporary society. It is her perception of herself as an old maid and the treatment of her by others as such that allows her to understand the essential isolation of Victor’s creation and the creature feels his own loneliness partially because of his alienation from a society that cannot accept him either.

There is an essential fatalism to Kessel’s narrative, partially shaped by his exploration of the existing texts of Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein, that drives the characters inexorably toward their end, allowing them to experience moral and emotional complexity and changing perspectives while ultimately driven toward a pre-defined end. Victor and his creature, in particular, are trapped in their conflict, unable to understand each other because they have already formed prejudgements of each other.

Kessel presents a complex and compelling story that brings out the uncertainty, love, and fear of isolation that motivate both Austen and Shelley’s texts

Stitching Mary Shelley’s Text Into A New Body of Literature

Stitching Mary Shelley’s Text Into A New Body of Literature

A review of Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein (HarperCollins, 2011).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Since Mary Shelley’s publication of Frankenstein, Dr. Victor Frankenstein has shaped the public imagination of the “mad scientist”. He is portrayed as an ambitious, driven man who is willing to do and to sacrifice anything to achieve his goals no matter what the consequences. He is willing to push the boundaries of scientific imagination… and also push the boundaries of morality. But how did his life shape who he became? What transformed him into that driven doctor who was willing to challenge even that great boundary – between life and death?

Kenneth Oppel’s “This Dark Endeavour” winds back the clock on Victor Frankenstein’s life, imagining an early life for the inventor. Oppel’s Frankenstein is an atheist who believes that all of the questions in the universe can be answered by science but that science has not yet achieved its potential and has set its vision too simply. His desire to discover forbidden secrets drives him toward medical science, but also toward alchemy and the dark secrets that it promises, allowing him to push the scientific imagination.

Victor Frankenstein’s ambitions are wrapped around the life of his twin brother, who he has always seen as better at everything than he is. His brother Konrad doesn’t have to work as hard at things, he’s more athletic, and he is better loved by those around them. Victor has structured his life around competition with his brother, but, when Konrad becomes ill, Victor feels a need to save him. This need is partially based out of love, but also out of a desire to finally win at something in his brother’s life – to have control over whether his brother lives or dies and to prove himself a hero.

This Dark Endeavour carries through some of Mary Shelley’s themes, examining ideas of power, competition between men (and the danger that this toxic masculinity can cause), critiques of sexist, patriarchal culture, the idea of the body as something fragmented, and a questioning of the limits of medical science, but it also bring in some new ideas, exploring ideas of biohacking when Victor begins augmenting his own body, ideas of consent, and a distrust for medical doctors.

Oppel’s obscures the boundaries between book and body, creating a narrative of books that shape bodies and books that are made from body parts.

To discover more about This Dark Endeavour, visit http://www.harpercollins.ca/9781554683406/this-dark-endeavour

To find out more about Kenneth Oppel, visit http://www.kennethoppel.ca

Frankenstein’s Daughter

A review of Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case of The Alchemist’s Daughter (Saga Press, 2017)

By Derek Newman-Stille



The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is Theodora Goss’ conversation across time with creators of enduring literature that explored things like what it means to be human through the figure of the outsider, the monster. But, more prominently, it is Goss’ conversation with Mary Shelley – a sharing of ideas and perspectives and an opening of dialogue about scientific exploitation of bodies, hegemonic control, the outsider, and the restrictive nature of the category “human”.

Goss resurrects literary monsters of the past by creating a narrative about their daughters, weaving narratives of the abjection of bodily difference with the oppression of women. Like monsters, the women in her narrative resist easy categorization, standing up against subjugation, typification, or any kind of restraint. They speak back to the social pressures and literary tropes that have historically sought to limit them.

Goss draws characters from works by Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Robert Louis Stevenson into an adventure mystery novel that is primarily about the way that people come together in unique ways and draw strength from difference. She brings together the daughters/creations of Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll, and Dr. Rappaccini to bring attention to the potential danger of depersonalization in medical sciences, the oppression of bodies that don’t conform, the profound isolation that comes with difference, and the power of found family to create a sense of belonging.

As much as this is a brilliant and exciting tale in itself, it is also a discourse on storytelling and Goss’ characters regularly interrupt their own story in order to interject critiques of the writing process, give details left out, and add insights that expand on the perspective given. The characters briefly interrupt the story to say things like “Now you really do sound like a penny dreadful!” These women want to tell their own narratives, tired of being silenced by literary tropes or having their stories told by others. They are active participants in constructing their own narratives, literary partners with their writer, Theodora Goss, who offers them a space to speak.

Goss interweaves Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein throughout her narrative, resurrecting characters from Shelley’s tale, but also having characters critique Shelley’s 1818 narrative, challenging the limitations it places on the characters and expanding upon the potential of Shelley’s tale. But she also plays with thoughts that Shelley began to explore in Frankenstein like the meaning of “monster” and the interplay with the sympathetic outsider. She complicates the notion of the monster just as Shelley does, engaging the reader in a process of remapping the potential boundaries of the human.

An Academic Discussion on Frankenstein and Colonialism by Ashley Caranto Morford

In the first of our Kickstarter stretch reward academic discussions of Frakenstein, Derek Newman-Stille interviews Ashley Caranto Morford from the University of Toronto about a decolonizing perspective on Frankenstein. Morford applies a queer decolonizing lens to the study of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and its antecedents. Morford also runs the Digital Humanities project Frankenstein’s Creature: Troubling Understandings of the Other.


Click below to explore Ashley Caranto Morford’s discussion. Make certain to allow time for the video to load.

Terms of Agreement – We Shall Be Monsters

By submitting to this anthology, you agree to the following, should your story be selected for publication :


In this document,

“Publisher” designates Renaissance;

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“Anthology” designates the work currently known as We Shall Be Monsters

“Work” designates short story being submitted by Author.


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B. Adaptations to other media (such as, but not limited to, film, television, graphic novel): should the publisher negotiate for adaptation rights to be sold to a third party on behalf of the author, the publisher shall be entitled to 5% of the proceeds of said sales. Author will have to give written permission for adaptation to be made, and Publisher shall endeavour to ensure the Author is as involved as he or she wished to be. Should the Author independently secure and negotiate the sale of the rights for an adaptation to be made, Publisher will not request compensation but will ask to retain the rights to sell the Work for a minimum of one (1) year following the release of the adaptation.


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A.1 Print and Electronic Rights will be exclusive for one (1) year commencing on the date of print publication of the Anthology. After such time, Publisher retains the non-exclusive right to sell the story in the anthology for four (4) years, during which time author is free to resell or reprint the Work.

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E. For the first year of this agreement, during which rights are exclusive, Author may use up to 20% of the work (but no complete short story) to post on their website or to give away as “teasers” to promote the work, provided it includes a link to the Publisher’s website. After that year is up, Author is free to distribute Work as they please.

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Monstrous Minds – Psychoanalysis of Frankenstein’s Monster

Monstrous Minds
A review of Michael Bishop’s “The Creature on the Couch” in The Ultimate Frankenstein (Simon & Shuster, 1991)

By Derek Newman-Stille

There has been a history, particularly in films, of silencing Frankenstein’s monster, but, of course, Mary Shelley’s creation spoke with incredible eloquence and self awareness, interrogating its own motivations, feelings, and impulses. Michael Bishop’s “The Creature on the Couch” puts Mary Shelley’s monster into the modern era, having him psychoanalyzed. The monster illustrates his ability to be self aware in his interviews with the psychologist, able to speak back to the questions and even, at times, to interrogate the psychologist about his own motivations, thoughts, and behaviours. This is not a silent or passive monster, but a creature who creates his own narratives. 

Bishop’s monster is one who knows about his impulses and the psychological factors that motivate him, but is still unable to resist his actions and choices, compelled to act out of violence, particularly when he encounters feelings of abandonment. The creature’s central, shaping moment was his abandonment by his creator, which continued to shape his fear of loss and rapid change.

The psychologist in this narrative has to face his own biases and assumptions about the monster as well, particularly his assumption that the monster is a man who is experiencing a psychotic episode and believes himself to be the monster, rather than embracing the potential that the monster could exist. The monster hand him Mary Shelley’s text as a way of introducing his complex background and history, adding in the needed details, but still acknowledging Shelley’s narrative as his shaping story, as an accurate portrayal of himself and his motivations. The monster is shaped by the stories told about him.

“The Creature on the Couch” reveals the complexity of the monster’s feelings, impulses and behaviours, allowing him to be more fleshed out than most explorations of Shelley’s creature have been.