The Resurrectionist: The Lost Works of Dr. Spencer Black collects the various journals, letters and scientific writings of Dr. Spencer Black, who went missing under mysterious circumstances in an attempt to prove his theories about “The Perfect Human.” Allegedly.
Set in Philadelphia in the late 1870’s, the novel/illustrated guide is set-up to be the lost work of a mad scientist who believes that mutations in humanity are our body’s attempt to regrow pieces it once had. Wings, horns, a more fully functioning brain, etc.
There’s just one thing that sets this book apart, it’s written as if it were piecing together the real studies of Black by author E.B. Hudspeth despite him being a fictional person. Think The Princess Bride but with more animals being sewn together and less Rodents of Unusual Size.
The first half of the fiction book masquerading as non-fiction follows the doctor’s life from his childhood through his success in the scientific community to his expulsion, work in the circus and eventual crazed and terrifying experiments to create what he believed to be extinct species.
The second half is Black’s masterwork The Codex Extinct Animalia which features a number of mythological creatures and studies into their physiology. Think of it as Gray’s Anatomy for mythical creatures.
We virtually sat down via email with E.B. Hudspeth (if that is his real name) to talk about the fantastical novel and illustrated guide he created.
Where did the idea for this story/collection of art come from?
Initially the idea was an anatomy study of mine regarding one of my bronze angel sculptures. I wasn’t happy with how the wings fit into the human body—it just looked like a costume. After working it out, I liked the drawings and I decided to play with other anatomical challenges. All I really knew was that I wanted the artwork to belong to a doctor. I wanted the art to play a role in defining the doctor. The real question was, what kind of doctor would be responsible for this kind of study? The story grew from there.
What do you feel writing the collection from a non-fiction perspective, even the introduction, adds to the narrative?
I felt like this was a way to capture a few different elements that a regular fiction format wouldn’t have done as well. For one, it feels more like the artwork was made by Dr. Black and not just illustrations about the story. A non-fiction approach also gives a slight campfire element, like folklore told in the oral tradition; I am telling you about the doctor, at-least as much as I know. The book is presented so that everything plays a role in the narrative, even the art.
In what way (if any) was Dr. Spencer Black inspired by Dr. Frankenstein?
I don’t know if there was any direct inspiration from Frankenstein but it goes without saying that Frankenstein is ever-present when writing a story about a mad scientist. I certainly knew that I was not re-inventing the wheel. I did read it again to avoid going over the same ground; however, I didn’t realize until it was too late that I used a lot of the names when naming the children in the book.
For that matter, what biographical aspects were inspired by real life scientists of the past?
There was a lot of research into learning about what scientists were doing and why, what terminology was used and when. I read about Harvey Cushing, Sir Willem Osler, and Wlliam Halsted. There were many other bits and pieces I found about different doctors and surgeons. I was looking for speech patterns, ethics, ambitions, and what the overall culture looked like. The medical arts were vastly different from what they are today, there was a lot of wiggle room.
I had two criteria, the physical form needed to be plausible, e.g., they couldn’t be half spirit. The other factor considered was that they needed to be interesting to look at and read about. After that, I just picked the ones I preferred.
Do mythical creatures have genitalia? And if so, would drawing them have detracted from the rest of the anatomy itself?
These mythical creatures are presumed to be real, so yes, although genitalia is not depicted. The anatomical breakdowns don’t get too deep into the physiological aspects of the body. The focus is mostly skeletal and muscular systems. There is one exception and that is the harpy. The harpy is more of an in-depth study because of its importance to Dr. Black.
Was it pure coincidence that it is once again cicada season with the release if this book or is the cicada as a metaphor and its inclusion just a happy coincidence?
The whole thing was definitely a coincidence. I had read all about the cicada but I never thought to look up when they’re coming out. The cicada metaphor was a subtle, but very important element in the book, so I was excited to learn it’s cicada season.
Finally, Dr. Spencer Black, deranged scientist, secret genius or you would rather leave it up to the reader to decide?
There is plenty to decide about Dr. Black. Isn’t it part of the fun to find out along the way?
The Resurrectionist: Book Trailer
The Resurrectionist: the Lost Works of Dr. Spencer Black is currently available at a local bookstore or library near you!