Man-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Solders, Homunculi, and Other Created Creatures, by Dr Bob Curran, illustrated by Ian Daniels
New Page Books, 9781601631367, 184 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2011
Dr Bob Curran is a history teacher with several books to his name, all dealing with fantastic creatures: Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, and Dark Fairies, among others. His latest is Man-Made Monsters, which explores possible origins for created creatures.
Curran begins with the quintessential man-made monster of modern times, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He looks at possible sources which may have inspired Shelley’s story, such as the experiments of Giovanni Aldini, Mr Pass, George Foster, Johann Konrad Dippel, and other stories of reanimation which she may have encountered.
In section on golems Curran discusses how they may be created and to what uses they may be put, as well as some of the more famous golems, such as the Golem of Prague. Similar creatures are discussed, such as the Mommet, a creature made from wood, straw and cloth, brought to life by conjurers.
Delving into alchemy, he looks at the homonculus, simulacra, anthroparion, and tulpas. Curran hints at creatures which may have been created by various sorcerers groups and secret societies.
Science isn’t left out, even if its “horrifying” aspects are somewhat over glorified. Curran writes of early robots and mechanical animals and their supposed inventors, from ancient history onward, to the more modern “monsters” produced by cloning, and where it might take us in the future, specifically in crossing animal and human genetics.
Man-Made Monsters fuses folklore, legend, and pop cultural references from fiction and films into a collection of anecdotes about unusual beings created – for better or worse – by human ingenuity. Curran looks at where we may have been and where we might be headed in an exercise in fantastic speculation.