Thursday, July 2, 2020


TWO CENTURIES OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER - Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the novel, was anonymously published by Mary Shelley in 1818.  Her name appeared in the second edition. Two years earlier 18 year old Mary rented a Swiss villa, along with her husband, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their guests included: Lord Byron, also a poet, and his mistress/ Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont. John William Polidori, author of The Vampyre and vampire fiction pioneer, also joined them. They summered on Lake Geneva taking the boat out on the water, discussing ideas, writing stories, and telling ghost stories late into the night. Long spells of incessant rain kept the guests captive inside the villa. Lord Byron encouraged them to write a ghost story. That evening was particularly restless, and the young wife couldn’t sleep. Mary was visited by a reanimated corpse, in a waking dream, a creature so compelling she put him in writing. The byline refers to Prometheus, a mythological creature, who formed humans from clay, which provided them with fire. In Shelley's Gothic science fiction/ horror story, scientist Victor Frankenstein creates an unnamed monster from pieced together collected cadavers. Henceforth referred to as Frankenstein’s Monster, a hideous abomination. When he can’t socialize in human society, he exacts his due from Dr. Frankenstein, leaving the reader unsure who to root for. Just because he’s different, he is chased by villagers carrying flaming pitchforks. Hammer Horror produced 7 films with the character, but the best studio to film the role was Universal Pictures.  Don’t miss the 1931 pre-code version, starring Boris Karloff. His look is what comes to any reader’s mind, recalling the name Frankenstein. I credit Shelley with the creation of Gothic horror, and for its influence on speculative fiction to this day. She preceded Edgar Allen Poe (The Black Cat, 1843) by two decades. John William Polidori (The Vampyre,  1819) is said to have inspired Sheridan Le Fanu (Carmilla, 1872), who in turn inspired Bram Stoker (Dracula, 1897).  The stories written by these men, forebearers of genre, moved into a space created by an 18-year-old girl named Mary.

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