Monday, October 25, 2010

Man-made Creatures - Are They for Real?

Artwork Courtesy of Ian Daniels

Frankenstein, the Golem, the homunculi of the ancient alchemists–-were they real or imagined, myths or science?

World-famous for his investigations of the mysterious and the arcane, from Celtic lore and Irish fairies to zombies and vampires, historian and psychologist Dr. Bob Curran has written a new book, Man-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Soldiers, Homunculi, and Other Created Creatures.

He writes, “(We) revisit some of the enduring myths concerning creatures that have been brought about by science or alchemy to haunt the world. Some have their origins in science, some in pseudo-science and some in magic and legend.”

The creation of life by humans outside natural procreation lies beyond the bounds of religion and the general order of things, and except in stories, anecdotes and myths, are considered unthinkable, even impossible. Or, is there some basis in reality? Exactly how could such creatures as Frankenstein and ancient robots have been created? Could they have been built in the same way as a ship or a house? And, can we duplicate humans today?

What about bringing people back from the dead and reanimating their bodies? If they exist or did exist, are they as terrifying as we imagine?

Following a long list of his best-selling titles, Curran explores the history and the truth behind the myths. A few of the fascinating details in Man-Made Monsters:

§ The 19th-century scientist who tried to bring the dead back to life—the model for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

§ The Man of Clay who lumbered through the streets of medieval Prague at the command of early rabbis

§ Robots that may have existed in the ancient world and threatened Greek and Roman warriors

§ Figures in the shadows – the Jewish Golem

§ The thing in the jar – homunculi and simulacra

§ Cloning and the artificial creation of life in today’s world

Bringing us into the 21st century, Curran discusses genetic experiments and urban legends about genetic manipulation and the creation of supersoldiers to fight in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Are these indeed myths or are they closer to reality than we know?

Man-Made Monsters is essential reading for anyone who is fascinated by the idea of artificial beings, and for those interested in early and modern science, and how the idea of the creation of life has evolved. Frankenstein buffs will love this book, too, as will conspiracy theorists and lovers of magic and myth.

Known throughout Europe and beyond as an author, lecturer and broadcaster, Dr. Bob Curran is a history teacher and folklore expert from Northern Ireland. He has acted as advisor to the Cultural Committee of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly.

His many books include:

Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Stalk the Nightp
Lost Lands, Forgotten Realms: Sunken Continents, Vanished Cities
Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and Man-Beasts
Zombies: A Field Guide to the Walking Dead
Dark Fairies
Encyclopedia of the Undead: A Field Guide to Creatures That Cannot Rest in Peace
Celtic Lore & Legend: Meet the Gods, Heroes, Kings, Fairies, Monsters & Ghosts of Yore
Walking With the Green Man: Father of the Forest, Spirit of Nature

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