The majority of the pieces in The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein, and Other Gothic Tales feature characters and storylines that have previously made appearances, sometimes many times over, throughout the history of supernatural horror. This is not unusual. Like cannibals or vampires, authors have fed off the flesh and blood of one another’s creations in various ways. Even if the intent is not monstrous or malign in the manner of the aforementioned beings, this practice is as old as literature itself.
In the early 1980s, Thomas Ligotti began exercising his auctorial right to revive familiar figures from the ancient literary line. Naturally, those he selected belonged to the lineage of his chosen genre, that is, horror fiction. Among them were the physical freaks fashioned by mad scientists, including those in H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and the distinguished man of parts known only as Frankenstein’s monster. As is commonly the case with horror writers, Ligotti displays a tendency to sympathize with the miscreations that emerged from Moreau’s and Frankenstein’s laboratories rather than with their creators. Nevertheless, as an artist of horror, he was also bound to the signal emotion of his genre. The solution to these this seeming conflict was to depict the dreadfulness of the misguided efforts of the fictional scientists—who, after all, were pitifully mad—and to make the awful fates of all concerned more awful still.
One critic described the Ligotti’s revisionary designs in The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein as amounting to “an apotheosis of pain.” Seemingly this was the case, even though others regarded the book as no more than a playful diversion. If the endings of the originals were quite terrible, those of these new tellings attempt renderings that are even more terrible. As with the physical horrors of the section titled “Three Scientists,” whom Ligotti gave an extra turn on the rack, those of such metaphysical aberrations as Dracula, the Wolf Man, sundry malicious revenants, and other-dimensional critters and phantasms as devised by Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft also became the source of nightmares with as much pain and tragedy as the present writer could put into them.
In addition to the deranged or diabolical actors in stories well-known to seekers after horror, Ligotti has provided newly fabricated accounts to express a greater variety of pain. Much in the style of the older agonies, these take the reader into realms of pathos that may also be found elsewhere in his published work of the same period.
As an addendum, it should be said this edition The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein, and Other Gothic Tales contains the revised and definitive incarnations of earlier versions of these works as they appeared in Fantasy Macabre, Grimoire, and other little magazines of horror, the Silver Scarab edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1985), and the 1994 Silver Salamander collection of the same name.
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