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Peter Grandbois

Peter Grandbois is the author of The Gravedigger, The Arsenic Lobster, Nahoonkara and the PEN nominated translator of San Juan: Memoir of a City. He is also the author of numerous short stories. He is a professor of creative writing and contemporary literature at California State University in Sacramento.

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"Extraordinary characters in ordinary situations prompt wry philosophical speculations about everyday life and longings in this pair of novellas laced with tropes from sci-fi B movies...Although Grandbois (Domestic Disturbances) endows his characters with some otherworldly attributes, he renders them believably human through their self-doubts and amusing foibles. His clever, sympathetic depiction of the men inside the monsters will appeal to a wide range of readers."

– Publishers Weekly

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The Glob Who Girdled Granville and The Secret Lives of Actors

Double Feature Fanfic Heaven

03/07/16

The Arctic deserves more consideration from us. We ask so much of it. We expect it to take on so many of our failed experiments, our alien discoveries – our monsters – without noticing the toll it takes on the polar region’s ice cover and permafrost.

Two of our most important abandoned Arctic legacies are, of course, the Blob and the Thing. The Thing was first immortalized in John W. Campbell’s (aka Don A. Stuart) 1938 novella Who Goes There?, then reincarnated on film as The Thing From Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982), whereas The Blob emerged fully formed as the B film of a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space. While physically contained within the polar ice now, the Blob and the Thing re-emerge in new iterations and formats continually.

One such example is Peter Grandbois’s Double Monster Feature, The Glob Who Girdled Granville and The Secret Lives of Actors, two novellas in the Wordcraft Series of Fabulist Novellas. The A-side, The Glob Who Girdled Granville, imagines a world in which Mr. Gregory Glob, an anthropomorphized version of the monster in The Blob, begins anew after three years penance in the Arctic Circle as an office worker, with wife Jane, née Martin (Steve McQueen’s teen girlfriend in the film), and their children in small town Ohio. The B-side, The Secret Lives of Actors, places the Thing (here, as a seven foot tall, red haired, failed Hollywood actor Jim, whose most famous role was the monster in the 1951 film) in a suburban Denver community theatre troupe, still recovering from his failed love affair with Nikki (Nicholson – a character from the 1951 film).

Both novellas unspool from slightly misshapen balls of thread. Characters and actors co-exist, are sometimes conflated, and are repurposed for their new worlds. Both novellas are quick reads, at under 60 pages each. But The Secret Lives of Actors is the more successful of the two, both in narrative and style; in true double feature fashion, after reading both novellas, the B-side has taken over feature film status. While both books draw heavily from their filmic lore (with references to their legacies throughout), The Secret Lives of Actors does more work to establish itself as a standalone, through stronger characterization and a more fully developed narrative arc.

In the first pages of The Glob Who Girdled Granville, Mr. Glob splits himself in two, and thus so does the reader’s attention. Alternatively, The Secret Lives of Actors begins with vegetable-based Jim severing his own finger to grow a better version of himself, and here, the reader finds connection with the monster in his search for emotional evolution. While the clichés are gratuitous in The Glob, they’re held in check more in Actors, which develops an alternative twinning to the two Mr. Globs through exploration of both Things: Jim, from the 1951 version, all vegetable matter and orange shuffling, and newcomer John, from the 1982 version, possessed with a new range of abilities far darker in scope yet much more overtly appealing to Nikki.

Development of the female leads, Jane and Nikki, suffers from these overburdened dual male roles. Yet while Jane remains a mere phantom, Nikki gains a certain status in The Secret Lives of Actors from her mystery; even in its final pages, the reader is left to imagine what powers Nikki might possess of her own.

While either of these novellas can be read without prior knowledge of the Blob or the Thing, bringing at least a basic understanding of the monsters and their physical dimensions to the books will definitely help you as you read. Grandbois does a bit of front-end description, but his references to the films are largely devoid of backstory dump; a reader unseasoned in cult film legend may find themselves lost to some of the more nuanced allusions. I confess, I have seen both The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter’s The Thing but went into The Glob Who Girdled Granville with no points of reference, and as much as I tried to avoid it, this disparity in my own background knowledge affected my readings. These novellas act, in some ways at least, as tributes to the films (and the novella) that came before them.

So really, why try to avoid the full pleasure of the experience? Grendel is rewarded by an understanding of Beowulf, Wide Sargasso Sea by first reading Jane Eyre, and any responsible moviegoer wouldn’t dare show up to The Avengers without having seen at least some of the Marvel cinematic universe. Treat yourself to a night of B movie delights, then pick up the most literary of fanfic in Peter Grandbois’ Double Monster Feature: The Glob Who Girdled Granville and The Secret Lives of Actors.

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