SOMERVILLE – North Shore movie fans may know Daniel Kimmel for his incisive reviews posted on the website northshoremovies.net. But for fans of all things science fiction, Kimmel is the award-winning author of dozens of short stories and novels that draws on his wide range of interests and varied professional background that has taken him from law school to academia to film criticism – and even a stint as editor of a Jewish newspaper.
Kimmel’s earlier novels include “Jar Jar Binks Must Die … and Other Observation about Science Fiction Movies,” and “Time On My Hands: My Misadventures In Time Travel.” He’s the winner of the 2018 Skylark Award, given by the New England Science Fiction Association for lifetime contributions to the genre. It’s a distinction he shares with such notables as Isaac Asimov, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Coville.
In his latest and third novel, “Father of the Bride of Frankenstein,” Kimmel adds to his repertoire with a laugh-out-loud sci-fi romantic comedy caper for the 21st century.
In a recent conversation, Kimmel said his new novel is a mashup of two classic films, “Father of the Bride” (1950, remade in 1991), and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), an irresistible challenge for the 63-year-old who lives in Somerville.
It’s Kimmel’s first work of explicitly Jewish fiction, with memorable characters – including a rabbi – enlivened with Kimmel’s Jewish sensibilities from growing up in Queens, N.Y.
“Father of the Bride of Frankenstein” opens with a prologue from the father-narrator, a bank executive who sets the stage of the wildly imaginative tale of the unlikeliest Jewish wedding about to unfold: the marriage of his darling daughter Samantha, a college philosophy major, to Frank, the charismatic human who, only a few years earlier, was brought to life from tissues taken from a corpse in an (illegal) experiment by scientists (who are now behind bars).
With a witty pen, Kimmel manages to touch on issues of the day, from bioethics to politics and human rights, all wrapped up in hilarious family dynamics bursting with Borscht-Belt humor.
His passion for film, science fiction, and comedy go back to his childhood, said Kimmel, whose early years were spent both in Queens and the much quieter village of Suffern on the New Jersey border. Throughout high school, college, and later law school at Boston University, he wrote film reviews and humor columns for school publications.
After a few years practicing law and working on an unsuccessful political campaign, Kimmel decided to try to build a career in writing. He eventually began teaching writing at Emerson College and Suffolk University, where he also taught courses on film history. For some 25 years, he was a film reviewer for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. He was also the film reviewer for The Jewish Advocate, where he later served as editor.
Invitations in the early 1990s to speak about films at science fiction conventions opened up a new world and a new audience for his writing. A decade later, he was writing a movie column for a magazine on space exploration. “Now, I was writing for a science audience,” he recalled.
The Jewish tradition of posing questions lends itself to science fiction, Kimmel suggested. “Look at Talmudic logic. ‘What if?’ is the big science question.” Like science fiction, Judaism embodies “a sense of wonder and speculation of possibility,” he said.
One of the themes of his new book is, “What is it like to be Jewish in the 21st century?” The parents, assimilated Jews, are confronted with their future son-in-law: “a reanimated corpse who wants to make a Jewish home” with their daughter.
Kimmel had fun with this material and considers it his best work yet, combining all of his different interests. He’s also delighted that this is the first time one of his books is available in audio version.
“I wanted to show that the path of true love may run in unexpected paths,” he said. “But I still believe in it.”