The First of Many Frankencorpses

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The Frankenstein Exquisite Corpse began with this passage from Frankenstein:

“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.”

In 1934, an edition was published with this woodcut by Lynd Ward illustrating the paragraph.

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I sent the image, without any information about its original context (and strict instructions not to google it), to Yoz Grahame who answered a call for a writer on Twitter.

His reaction was this text:

I reach for support and find velvet under the rubble. I look up at more velvet, towering wings bathed in candlelight, going up and up and up to the bombed-out ceiling; then sky, stars, flashes of the battle.

“It’s too late for new, Mara!” She’s on the stage, capering around the candles. She bends to add another mark, then straightens up. Straight arms, straight teeth, eyes ready to pop. “It’s time to try some old.” The chalk tumbles from her fingers but I don’t watch it land: I’m looking at the curtains, because that can’t just be candlelight, and then the claws appear.

This text was then sent to the artist Sara Hames, who responded with this image:

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The image was then sent to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where five people were given the chance to describe the image in a creative manner. They were paid $1 each, and spent an average of two minutes, 15 seconds on their responses. Although this is higher than most Turk rates, only three people attempted it in the first two hours.

I have no idea who or where they are except for their anonymized IDs.

Worker A1GKEEI844CEKI:

The face of a Dead woman covered in her shroud that will be with her for all time. She will be buried with this and this will be the last image of her ever made.

Worker A21YQXPL0SNNR2:

Travelling too far out of the intricacies of universe, space, and even time itself can lead you to a middle age woman who controls everything that happens in the universe.

Worker AOPG07J95DDJT:

She spoke lies to me, I sensed this, but I could not hear them. Yet I could see it somehow, the bottom of her face melting away into what appeared to be a sculpture of silver, bone-like wire and fleshy triangular patterns. None of it made sense; the silver giving way to buried treasures and diamonds, colors flowing off into the distance… I wondered, as I watched her, if this spoke her true desires, wealth and freedom and pleasure beyond compare. But all I could see, all that stood before me, was a monstrously beautiful mystery.

This was the first forking event we defined, currently containing three possible new paths, though many others could also be started based on the above creations. By maintaining their connection to the original Frankenstein, perhaps in the digital margins of the e-book, and updating them continuously, we could trace the ripples created by the source material’s ideas. This kind of book consciously embraces its descendants.

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