THE FRANKENSTEIN DIARIES: I just finished reading this book for the second time. A couple of summers ago, Tracy and I watched through all of the “Frankenstein” movies we own. The object was, after we were finished, to read through a couple of “Frankenstein” paperbacks I own, culminating with The Frankenstein Diaries. I have it in hardcover, and beneath the dustjacket it is designed to look like an actual diary. It is supposedly “translated from the original German and edited by the Reverend Hubert Venables.” It is profusely illustrated with diagrams of equipment Frankenstein used, portraits, pictures of locations and hand-drawn sketches of victor’s experiments.
The text is sufficiently florid, but it doesn’t precisely follow either the original novel of the Universal Studios movie, but it is written very much in the spirit of both sources. Igor, for example, is included, but the story does not end with a trek to the arctic. It is chilling the way Frankenstein, obviously increasingly mad, justifies his action. The last entry was written as Frankenstein prepared to do final battle with the monster, but there is an epilogue written by Frankenstein’s brother.
Watching three different versions of the play in 2018 really put me in the mood to re-read this book (maybe the original as well…?). Just yesterday we started watching The Frankenstein Chronicles on TV.
James Dickey's Deliverance, from which the film was adapted: the book makes for an interesting and often poetic reflection on notions of masculinity and survival. It's very much of a time, but it holds up.
STAR TREK LOG ONE by Alan Dean Foster:
The first episode of Star Trek I ever saw was “The Tholian Web.” I cannot swear it was first run, but I think it was. If so, I would have been four years old at the time. If it was a summer repeat, I would have been five. The “ghostly” image of Captain Kirk kind of creeped me out (I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I didn’t not believe in them, either), plus I didn’t really understand it. My brother was a fan of the show, and he introduced me to one he thought I’d like better: Lost in Space.
That worked, but by the time I was nine, I was a fan of Star Trek, too. I am sure of this fact because the first episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series debuted in September of 1973 and I can remember eagerly anticipating it. (I also remember eagerly anticipating The $10,000 Pyramid which reunited William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for the first time since Star Trek, so that must have been before TAS.) I watched every episode and was disappointed when it was not renewed.
When I was still in elementary school, I worked my way through all the James Blish television adaptations. (It seems odd, even to me, that in the days before VHS etc. fans had to resort to paperback books to experience their favorite episodes “on demand.”) After that, I moved on to Alan Sean Foster’s Star Trek Log series, which adapted the animated episodes, but also fleshed them out and truly “novelized” them, stringing together usually three episodes per book.
When I was in college, ST:TAS was on TV Saturday evenings at 6:30. Unfortunately, I worked every Saturday night, but I was able to set up my VHS to record them. When I got a good number of them, they started showing repeats and I found myself continually rewinding to tape over an episode I had earlier on the tape. (I never did get them all.) Fortunately, the entire series was eventually released on DVD and I did buy that.
My ongoing project for 2019 will be to read a Star Trek Log, then watch the episodes from each book. I was pretty sure I had read the Log series only once before, way back when, but when I recently re-read the first one, I found myself anticipating what was going to be in the next paragraph. I think I had this same idea back in college, and re-read the first three stories (“Beyond the Farthest Star,” “Yesteryear,” “One of Our Planets is Missing”) in this manner, but as the episodes I had on VHS were way out of order, I found the project to be too difficult and abandoned it.
But now I’ve got them on DVD and can call up any episode I want with a minimum of fuss. I just finished re-reading the first Log book and re-watching the first three episodes. I don’t plan to read all ten in a row (I’ve already ,moved on to something else), but every once in a while throughout 2019 I do plan to read another and watch another three.
“THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR” – Edgar Allan Poe:
A few months ago, this short story was adapted in the first issue of the Ahoy Comics! series Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror, I reported here that that was a story I hadn’t read. I decided to read or re-read the stories featured in the comic book in whatever order they were presented. The first thing I realized when I began reading the original story is that I had read it before, but had forgotten. The horror is present, but too low-key to have made much of an impression on my young mind. I appreciate it more now.
The story is about a man who is Mesmerized at the exact point of death. It is, in fact, the story “Poe” spoilers for us in the introduction to the comic story. The comic story takes the same basic premise, but adds a bit more action to it. I would have preferred the comic book story when I was in junior high school, but I like the original better now.
I haven't read The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, but it was adapted along with The Black Cat (combined with The Cask of Amontillado) and Morella in the Roger Corman movie Tales of Terror (1962). Vincent Price played Valdemar and a character in each of the other stories. My Dad took me, and It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. The ending of Valdemar and the less-then-skeletal* body in Morella gave me a nightmare that night. I swiftly outgrew my fear of horror stories.
* the first time I'd ever seen a dead body that didn't either look like it was asleep or a skeleton
I'm reading Dopesick by Beth Macy. It's about the opiod epidemic. It makes (so far) a really compelling display that this thing goes across all lines of the socio-economic scale.
“LIGEIA” – by Edgar Allan Poe: The narrator goes on for pages about how beautiful his wife is and how much he loves her. She dies unexpectedly and the man remarries. Rowena, too, takes ill unexpectedly. On night she comes to the brink of death several times but recovers. Finally, she does die, but is revived. She stands, and the narrator observes that she has transformed into Ligia. The recent comic book “adaptation” (by Kelly sue DeConick and Rick Geary in Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror) follows the plot quite closely, with the addition of an interstitial framing device narrated by “Poe”.
I just finished All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire, by Jonathan Abrams. It's a collection of oral interviews with most of the key people involved in making the show -- the actors, the writers, the producers, HBO executives, and some of the production people.
Fascinating stuff about the making of a television series, although you'd have to be a diehard fan of The Wire to get the most out of it.
Recently Read: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, by Joseph Loconte
Just Finished: Death of the Territories, by Tim Hornbaker
Now Reading: The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. This is a great antidote for the "figure out the meaning of life" and Facebook positivity-only of the world in order to become truly happy. So far, I am only a couple chapters in, but I love this!
“THE SYSTEM OF DR. TARR & PROFESSOR FETHER” by Edgar Allan Poe:
I read this one once as a kid and it’s pretty much as I remember it. (I did miss one subtle bit of humor the first time through.) I don’t know if the “method” of treating psychological disorders in this story is intended as actual social commentary or not, but the story itself is rather… well, silly. Essentially, the story is based on the premise of “the inmates running the asylum.” It also leads one to believe that the only psychological ailment there is is believing oneself to be something or someone else. In comparison to “Tar Feathers,” the recent Ahoy! Comics “adaptation,” the story is pretty much the same as the original except Poe himself has been inserted into the proceedings.
CONSPIRACY ON THE PLANET OF THE APES: the summer before last I read all of the “Planet of the Apes” movie adaptations and watched the movies. The original movie had no novelization, though, because it was based on an original French satire of the same name. It had been my intention to cap off my reading/viewing project by re-reading the profusely illustrated 2011 novel Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes by Andrew Gaska. My purpose cooled before I got that far, however, but I recently read it for the second time better late than never.
It basically tells the story of the movie, but from Landon’s POV, not Taylor’s. It also addresses such questions as where General Ursus was during the original movie, and why/how the Liberty 1 returned to Earth in the first place. There’s lots of antecedent action, most of it from Landon’s POV, which helps round him out as a character. It adds characters who weren’t in the movie and fleshes out those who were. For example, the gorilla Marcus is the chief of the secret police, Cerek is the sub-chief and Dangral is a lieutenant. It explains the difference between the secret police and the army, and also why “The Hunt” was the purview of the police, not the soldiers.
Speaking of the hunt, the apes who posed for the photo (you may remember from the movie) are all characters, and the veterinarian Galen’s wife is Milo’s cousin. Milo (not part of the movie series until the third movie) is given an expanded role, and the mutants from the second movie are brought in, behind-the-scenes, much earlier. It is the mutants, in fact, who prevent Landon from speaking through much of the novel. He originally postulates that there might be a toxin in the fruit the humans eat which constricts the vocal cords and keeps them from talking.
Landon finds that he can speak to humans, but only when apes are not present. He can also speak when a music box plays or when someone hums the tune “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Much of Landon’s story is told through flashbacks and dream sequences, and his fate from the movie, although inevitable, is delayed until near the very end.
I don’t know how well this would stand up on its own without having seen the movie. Pretty well, I suspect, yet Taylor is barely seen at all. One part of the movie that does carry over is Taylor’s last log entry in which he states, in part: “Does Man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbors’ children starving?” That bit is still just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.