Saturday, April 13, 2013

Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite by Matt Kaplan***

The thesis of Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite by Matt Kaplan is that all monsters in fiction relate back to real-life experiences and the science of the time. The first corollary is that when science changes, monsters change.

A nice example is dragons. The author traces fire breathing dragons that live in caves back to methane leaks and open flame lights. As our understanding changed, dragons become less dangerous and scary, and dragons assumed more friendly and/or humorous roles. The book includes similar analyses of King Kong, Griffins, Minotausr, Werewolves, Zombies, etc.

The book is packed with many examples from ancient literature and mythology to contemporary movies and fiction.This book is a broad application of the "monsters as responses to science" thesis. My only concerns is that the hard science and pop science (aka untested/illconsidered hypothesizes) are mixed indiscriminately. This made for an uneven read.

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