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Tuesday 9 June 2015

They're not zombies

Another taster bite from The Frankenstein Wars, the interactive adventure that Cubus Games are creating based on my story and world concept. This is Tom Clerval's first meeting with the creature created by Victor Frankenstein three decades earlier:

There was a creak on the companionway. Mr Legion filled the frame of the door, having to twist his hulking torso to enter the cabin so that for a moment he resembled one of those wretches who are unearthed after being buried alive, their rigorous limbs pressed taut against the confines of the wood. His flesh gleamed like oiled ivory in the lamplight. I noted fresh stitching where his arm had been wounded less than an hour before, the skin already healing over the hastily-worked sutures.
As he stepped in he was able to straighten up, but even so his big angular head still bumped against the cabin ceiling, and the very mass of him seemed to press the air and light away so that Blakeney and I sat closer against the narrow hull. I felt as an inhabitant of a doll's house might feel, when the wall is suddenly thrown open and a giant child intrudes its looming face and limbs and vital energy.
Imagine my even greater astonishment, faced by this gaunt apparition that had haunted my childhood dreams, when he drew a long thin cigar from his pocket, tilted back the hood of the lamp, and sucked it alight with all the delicacy of a toff in a Pall Mall club.
Blakeney must have sensed my confusion. "Mr Legion is hardly the simple-minded monster given life by your godfather's experiments, Dr Clerval. He was a child then; now he is a man. Of a kind."
The creature turned his eyes upon me. They held a look that burned with the fever-light of shrewd intellect and dark depths of resentment. When he opened his lips, I sat so transfixed that it took me moments to realize that the soft, rich tones were his speaking voice. His glance slid off me so that he addressed neither Blakeney nor myself, but an unseen audience: “Of a kind..? Unfinished! Sent before my time into this world scarce half made up, that dogs bark at me - why, I have no delight to pass away the time, unless to spy my shadow in the sun, and ponder on my own deformity…”
He blew out a smoke ring, watching it with a satisfied smile as it rose and grew diffuse. Was he ugly? Truly deformed? Though my godfather had not cast him to normal standards of beauty, nonetheless he had built something impressive. Viewed as an attempt at copying humanity, he was a monster indeed. But seen as a new thing, a species apart – then his long, harsh body took on the outlines of something noble, even divine.
Moving with the easy grace one sometimes sees in very big men, he turned to leave, adding over his shoulder, “And so I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these days.”
Blakeney filled the silence after his heavy tread had faded along the companionway. "That was all for your benefit. His sense of mischief, you understand. Theatricality, one might even say."
“He works for you?” I asked, still marvelling at the transformation. In my memory, I saw that same giant body pouncing like an animal from the mountainside, those lips parting only to issue a howl to chill the blood. If Blakeney had shown me an African lion smoking a cigar and quoting Shakespeare, I could not have been more amazed.
“Works for me, you say? Not that exactly. We have… an understanding.”
Something in Blakeney's calculating tone brought me out of my daze. “I’m not going to help you, Blakeney.”
“That’s just what he said. And yet we have our understanding.”

See, no zombie he. That's a mind-shattering revelation that the Twitterverse has been struggling with, for example in this brief overview on Pocket Gamer. Well, as Wilde said, it's worse not to be talked about, but I wish more people were familiar with Mary Shelley's brilliant novel about the creation of a new kind of man rather than with the "Hulk will smash" laboratory partwork that is the Universal or Hammer idea of the monster.

Actually, thanks to Project Gutenberg you can read Shelley's original Frankenstein free in almost any format you could ask for. For a shorter read, here's me explaining why this isn't yet another zombie thing. Because, yawn, there are far too many of those already. After all, the watchword is not "It's undead," but "It's alive!"


  1. The problem is that that poster, there, in the upper right corner of this blog shows the army as a zombie one.

    In that sense I think that this promotional imagen by Rafater, the guy with the air support and the grey eye is a better potrayal of those non-zombies concept than the image of the army itself.

    But, you will be ok guys!

    1. I've hardly ever worked on a project where the artist read the brief, Ruber - and to be fair to Rafater, he isn't paid to read it until the campaign ends and we're in funds.

      Jamie suggested that I should just rethink the idea as steampunk and zombies, seeing as they're so popular, but I would literally rather chew my own arm off. I'm just wondering, since steampunk and zombies are the staple diet of Kickstarter backers, whether we shouldn't rename The Serpent King's Domain... How does The Steam-Powered Undead Cthulhu-Worshipping King's Domain sound?

  2. Why not rename them all? The Zombie-torn Kingdom. Cities of Gold and Gory. Across the Blood Dark Sea (no need to change that one!). The Plains of Howling Mad Murdock (to bring in the A-Team fans). The Court of Rotting Faces. Zombie-Lords of the Putrefying Sun? Lol

    1. Don't, James, just don't. Jamie will take you seriously :-)

    2. Under the new series name: Fetid Lands.