The Nuts and (Neck) Bolts of 'Father of the Bride of Frankenstein' :: Daniel M. Kimmel on His Sci-Fi Rom-Com Frolic

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 4, 2019

Daniel M. Kimmel had a small shelf load of books to his credit before he began publishing novels, having authored or co-authored several books about film and film history, from "The Waldorf Conference" — about the origins of the Hollywood Blacklist — to "I'll Have What She's Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies."

Kimmel is also an author, and a fan, of the speculative fiction genre, having written "Jar Jar Binks Must Die... and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies," which was nominated for a Hugo Award. When Kimmel began publishing novels, commencing with "Shh! It's a Secret" — the subtitle of which is "A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender's Guide," those two passions — movies and science fiction — met and meshed with all the success, and all the laughter, of a screwball comedy.

"Shh! It's a Secret" was followed by the time travel comedy "Time on My Hands." Now, rounding out a trifecta is Kimmel's take on the possibilities of the biological sciences, "Father of the Bride of Frankenstein."

If you're like me, your first thought might be "How has no one ever written a book with that title before?" Your second thought? "That must be hilarious!" Indeed, it is — in my opinion, the funniest of Kimmel's novels to date. When a secret university research project yields a whole new person — resurrected from a dead human body in a proof-of-principle experiment to reanimate morbid tissue and open new avenues for organ transplantation and innovative therapies for diseases — a storm of legal issues erupts. Is Frank — as the newly created person is named, in reference to horror movie legend Frankenstein's monster — truly alive? Is he a human being? Does he have corresponding rights? Is he an adult, or — given his recent animation — still a minor?

Like the monster from Mary Shelley's book, Frank is highly intelligent and in just a couple of years, he's become a grad student working on the very science that created him. That, dear readers, is where Kimmel's novel commences: Frank meets an equally smart fellow grad student named Samantha, and the two fall in love and become engaged. The novel's narrator, Phil Levin, a bank executive, is none too thrilled to learn that his son-in-law to be is none other than the "monster" that has excited the outrage of religious loonies and brought various other crazies out of the woodwork. Between Samantha's stubborn streak and Frank's disarming humor, Phil is soon won over, but there's more to this wedding than a mile-long checklist; public interest, legal challenges, and mounting costs all converge to create connubial conniptions that would confound even the fiercest Bridezilla.

Full disclosure time: Kimmel is a sometime contributor to EDGE, and both he and I belong to the same writers' group (where Kimmel shared early drafts of the story, as well as the bonus short story included at the back of the book, "Cinema Purgatorio"). Moreover, Kimmel dedicated the novel, in part, to me and my husband.

EDGE caught up to Kimmel for a quick chat about his new novel and the way it combines his dual passions of movies and speculative fiction, makes use of Kimmel's law background, and mixes in matters of faith and spirituality.

EDGE: Being both a film critic and an author of many science fiction short stories — as well as the novels "Time on My Hands" and "Shhh! It's A Secret," your new book, "Father of the Bride of Frankenstein," seems like a perfect meld of your interests. What came first? The title, or the general idea of writing a 21st Century version of the Frankenstein's monster story?

Daniel M. Kimmel: The title. I came up with that mashup of "Father of the Bride" and "Bride of Frankenstein" and said to myself, "I have to write that story."

EDGE: Your earlier novels are also comedic in tone, but I think "Father of the Bride of Frankenstein" is your funniest yet — there are two or three good laughs on every page. Did this book flow for you, or were you honing and rewriting it for endless drafts?

Daniel M. Kimmel: It began life as a short story. I came to realize there was much more that could be said and expanded it to novel length. As with all my writing, I had the general idea — including, in this case, the last line of the novel — but it was a journey of discovery along the way. The writing process included numerous rewrites. I would write because I wanted to know what happened next.

EDGE: It's amazing how much comedic mileage you get out of the wedding preparations you describe in the book. What kind of research did you have to put into finding out about everything that goes into a modern bells-and-whistles wedding?

Daniel M. Kimmel: There are two schools of thoughts in writing fiction: outlining and researching everything, and what's called "pantsing," or writing by the seat of your pants. I'm very much in the latter school, but in this case, I did go to a wedding planning website and downloaded a timeline which I would refer to when I wanted to know where the wedding plans would be at next.

EDGE: One component I particularly enjoyed was the presence of a so-called "pastor" who was hovering at the edges of Frank and Samantha's impending marriage, a Fred Phelps-like character determined to interject himself into their nuptials for his own self-promotion. I recall standing in line with my husband in 2004 on the evening Massachusetts was going to begin allowing same-sex couples to apply for marriage paperwork and seeing Phelps and his crowd and all their crazy signs across the street. What motivates people like that?

Daniel M. Kimmel: One of the issues I wanted to address were those people whom, for various reasons, felt they had leave to inject themselves in the lives of others. These are people who think their view should trump everything else. I answer that in the father's toast at the wedding when he says that even for the people who were supportive of the marriage, it was really none of their business. There are people who resent government interference in private lives except when it comes to the government enforcing their own views onto the private lives of others.

EDGE: One of sci-fi's enduring questions is, What constitutes life? Given that your book features as much religion as technology, did you do much research into any rabbinical debates that might have addressed this question?

Daniel M. Kimmel: Not really. What I did bring to the discussion is the Jewish attitude towards free will and the notion that we are responsible for the choices we make. That's what makes Frank different from, say, an animal. He knows right from wrong and wants to do what is right.

EDGE: As we continue developing artificial intelligence and biotechnology, the time is inevitably going to arrive when we create smart, sentient beings, and then we are going to have to figure out how to treat them. Having thought this through for your novel, what are the conclusions you have come to?

Daniel M. Kimmel: Ultimately the difference between humanity and other creatures is empathy: the ability to understand things from a perspective outside one's self. Self-preservation is a goal of any sentient being. How will my protecting myself affect others is the question that ups the ante.

EDGE: Speaking of religious themes, this book places Judaism in a place of pride — much more so than your earlier novels, which I think had Jewish characters but did not talk about Jewish thought and traditions nearly as much. Is this in part a response to the rising anti-Semitism we see in the last few years here and abroad?

Daniel M. Kimmel: Not consciously. I am Jewish and, in my fiction, I have what might be described as a "New York Jewish voice" (e.g., Woody Allen, Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal) although I've lived in Massachusetts since the late '70s and my characters have not identified as Jewish. This time I decided to go with that because I thought it made it more interesting, as when Frank (the monster) decides to convert and the question arises about his circumcision. The challenge for me was to make the narrator less knowledgeable than I am since I didn't want this to be a Hebrew school lesson. I do make the point in the afterword that the novel's rabbi is in no way, shape, or form based on any actual rabbi of my acquaintance.

EDGE: You instantly address the idea of a sequel at the end of the book — in part because the movie "Father of the Bride" had at least one sequel, and "Bride of Frankenstein was, itself, a sequel, but also because the ending of the novel begs for a second part. In the months since you finished the book have you given more thought to a sequel?

Daniel M. Kimmel: I'm open to the possibility but have no immediate plans. I've recently done short stories that are set in the worlds of my first two novels, so who knows?

EDGE: What are you working on now?

Daniel M. Kimmel: In terms of my fiction, my immediate focus is my short stories, both writing new ones and selling all of them. At the moment (February 2019) I have two in the pipeline, and several others looking for the right editor, whether it's the publication that inspired it or several applications down the road. No immediate plans for the next novel, but ready to go when inspiration strikes.

"Father of the Bride of Frankenstein" is available from Fantastic Books.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.