Central Europe, the late 1800s. That was a good time to be a monster. Bram Stoker was huge. Angry villagers with flaming pitchforks and lack of self-control--huge. This was a time of peak physical conditioning. There was no TV, so the townspeople all sat with their backs to the fire and nodded about what the shadows said to the wall.
In 1939, Universal Studios released the successful Son of Frankenstein, featuring the acclaimedly uncanny voice of Boris Karloff. The artist Leonard Baskin was 17, sweeping the floor at a Brooklyn synagogue after school, studying the Torah, and listening to BBC News on a Westinghouse radio. In his woodcut print Untitled (Monster) there is only one distinguishable object: a human skull.
UNTITLED (MONSTER) (ii)
There are two ways of looking at this.
Urban Japan, the mid 1950s. That was a good time to be a monster. The Kaiju spirit was in full effect. Post-Enola Gay/post-Castle Bravo nuclear hysteria was in full effect. It was impossible to keep up with the requests of studio executives in Hollywood and Universal City. Competition presented itself on a magnanimous scale. King Ghidorah or Mothra could fly in any time to challenge the undisputed champion while the approximately 6.9 million citizens of Tokyo watched on, distracted from their task of national reconstruction.
At some point we noticed
that everything wasn't how it used to be.
This must be the future, we heard a voice say.
But we couldn't locate it in the dark.
Bryan Beck grew up in Oregon. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts and has recent prose and poetry in Octopus and Portland Review.