Seven Things You Never Knew About “Frankenstein” (the novel)!

200 years ago, the first version of a novel called Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published. It was written by Mary Godwin – later to be known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – but published anonymously. Women had been authoring and publishing Gothic novels for several decades before the publication of Frankenstein, but this work was directly influenced by the personal and controversial philosophies of Mary’s parents and husband. She did not put her name on the book as author until 1823, when the second edition was published in France.

To celebrate the anniversary, Excalibur Books is mounting a special campaign during the first half of 2018, and here is part one – “Seven Things You Never Knew About Frankenstein (The Novel)”! We would like to thank Katherine D. Harris, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, San José State University, for her creative input into this article.

And when we say ‘never knew’, of course, it depends how familiar you are with the original novel already … YMMV (-;

1) The novel was conceived under very strange circumstances. In 1816, the group of bohemian artists and friends Mary Shelley (then Mary Godwin), Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori, were traveling in Europe and staying at the isolated mansion called Villa Diodati, near Lake Geneva. They decided to have a contest – to see who could come up with the scariest story. Mary had a nightmare which she used as the inspiration for Frankenstein. Dr. Polidori thought up a tale which he later turned into the novel The Vampyre, published in 1819; this was the first literary exploration of vampires, published 78 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

2) The whole reason the group were inside the gloomy villa scaring each other instead of being outside enjoying the picnics and activities they had planned, was because 1816 was the ‘Year without a Summer’. In 1815 the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies caused a mini-Ice Age, with many freak weather events being felt around the world.

3) The novel is written in a structure that now looks highly unusual – but at the same time eerily familiar – to many modern readers. It begins with the framing device of a sea captain named Robert Walton writing a letter to his sister (an epistolary frame, which is also how Bram Stoker would later write Dracula), relating the story told by Victor Frankenstein, a castaway who the ship picked up when he was lost in the Arctic. The narrative frame of many Gothic novels prior to Frankenstein was a ‘found text’ often articulated by a stranger – a kind of spiritual ancestor to modern ‘found-footage’ movies such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Apollo 18. Halfway through, the point of view switches to the monster telling the tale of his ordeals to Dr. Frankenstein, who is repeating this to the captain. The technical literary term for this is ‘hypodiegetic narrative’, which makes the creature’s monologue within Frankenstein’s monologue within Walton’s monologue a ‘hypohypodiegetic narrative’. There’s one to impress your literature teacher!

4) Electricity was not used in the novel to bring the monster to life. In the novel, Victor deliberately kept the process secret, because he did not want others following his research.

5) In his book The Billion Year Spree, author Brian W. Aldiss declared that Frankenstein could be considered as a pioneering work of science fiction and a precursor to the genre, noting “how precariously it is balanced between the old age and the new.” The distinctively original element, in his opinion, was fantastic plot elements being presented as the results of human technology, and not through supernatural causes.

6) Amongst her many other works, Mary Shelley wrote another science fiction novel – The Last Man, published in 1826, the tale of a future world ravaged by plague. This means that she could be considered as one of the earliest writers working in what we now know as ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ fiction, because ‘yellowbacks’ and ‘sensation novels’ (cheaply produced novels designed as mass entertainment, the precursors of 20th century pulp fiction) often dealt with fantastical and apocalyptic changes being brought about due to the Industrial Revolution.

7) When Mary Shelley started writing the book, which formed the basis of an entire cultural phenomenon that has been going strong for two hundred years and shows no sign of losing popularity – and created one of the most recognizable global horror icons – she was only eighteen years old.

As part of the Frankenstein 200 campaign, Excalibur is selling “Moonlight, Murder & Machinery” at the discounted price of $1:99 until the end of March 2018. In this alternative history Gothic romance, Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron go on the hunt for Frankenstein’s monster through a bizarre Steampunk Regency England – crossing swords with such grotesqueries as Boiler Calhoun, Doctor Ravenhill and the deadly Dandy Brethren!

Buy “Moonlight, Murder & Machinery” here … 

Sign up to the newsletter subscriber’s list here for more news and bargains!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




 

Illustrations by Berni Wrightson, taken from the Marvel Illustrated Novel version of “Frankenstein”, All Rights Reserved.

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
This entry was posted in Alternative History, Horror, Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Seven Things You Never Knew About “Frankenstein” (the novel)!

  1. So, since this post pops up under the #frankenstein200 twitter hashtag which *a lot* of students follow, it’s important to be accurate in this post:

    1) Mary Shelley published this work anonymously because it was controversial and embedded philosophies of her father and mother (and husband) into it. Women had been authoring and publishing Gothic novels for quite a few decades prior to the publication of Frankenstein.

    2) Robert Walter was writing to his *sister* not his niece.

    3) The structure of the novel is not highly unusual for the 18th & 19th century. *Frankenstein* not an epistolary novel. The novel begins with the frame of letter writing and turns into journal writing. The narrative frame of most Gothic novels prior to *Frankenstein* was as a “found” text often articulated by a stranger.

    4) Science Fiction as a genre developed much later. *Frankenstein* is a precursor to Sci-Fi and modern horror fiction. But, it’s not the first sci-fi novel.

    5) That’s a stretch to say she wrote the first post-apocalyptic novel. There was an over-abundance of short stories, fiction, and novels floating around in the 18th and 19th century, many of them not studied in college courses. In fact, Railway Novels or Yellowbacks often dealt with the fantastical and apocalyptical in the face of the Industrial Revolution.

  2. #2 should be Walton (not Walter) but editing featured isn’t on for this post.

  3. J P Catton says:

    Katherine, thank you for your comments! We apologize for the inaccuracies and will amend this article as soon as possible.

  4. J P Catton says:

    Katherine, the inaccuracies have been corrected. Thank you for your input!

  5. 55458 292977Its not that I want to duplicate your internet site, but I truly like the style. Could you tell me which design are you using? Or was it custom created? 448883

  6. 664950 138412Im having a little problem I cant subscribe your feed, Im employing google reader fyi. 516202

  7. 943243 929560An intriguing discussion will likely be worth comment. Im sure which you need to have to write more about this topic, it may well not be a taboo subject but normally consumers are too couple of to chat on such topics. To an additional. Cheers 75430

  8. hoverboard says:

    511412 171053This plot doesnt reveal itself; it has to be explained. 111090

  9. 402463 742557This sounds in a way inflammatory pending mecant wait for thisthank you! 216739

  10. 682878 174650Ive been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to adore this weblog. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your internet internet site? 57676

  11. smerter says:

    7282 658825Aw, this was a really good post. In thought I would like to put in writing like this in addition – taking time and actual effort to make a very excellent article but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to get something done. 147378

  12. 514424 795568You could surely see your skills inside the function you write. The world hopes for a lot more passionate writers like you who arent afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart 814446

  13. 134820 350587Hello there, just became alert to your weblog by means of Google, and discovered that it is genuinely informative. Im going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate should you continue this in future. Numerous people will probably be benefited from your writing. Cheers! 565213

  14. 59246 650456Hi there! I could have sworn Ive been to this website before but following reading by means of some with the post I realized it is new to me. Anyhow, Im definitely glad I identified it and Ill be book-marking and checking back often! 592267

  15. 756476 57322I havent checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last couple of posts are fantastic quality so I guess Ill add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 473331

  16. description says:

    990030 638659This post post created me feel. I will write something about this on my blog. 323695

  17. av無料 says:

    434666 247022This site can be a walk-through its the info you wanted concerning this and didnt know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you will undoubtedly discover it. 598129

  18. 2463 535280Id always want to be update on new content on this site , saved to fav! . 954852

  19. 290319 599977Im having a small issue. Im unable to subscribe to your rss feed for some reason. Im using google reader by the way. 131194

  20. 289159 475373HURRAY! cant balladeer. by virtue of himself by what name highly. 844386

  21. 445018 275987Hello, Neat post. There is an issue along with your web site in internet explorer, may test thisK IE nonetheless could be the marketplace chief and a big section of people will pass over your outstanding writing due to this problem. 20594

  22. 464010 886869My brother suggested I would possibly like this weblog. He was once entirely right. This submit truly produced my day. You cant believe just how so a lot time I had spent for this info! Thank you! 587591

  23. 109312 554350This website can be a walk-by way of for all with the data you required about this and didnt know who to ask. Glimpse here, and also youll certainly uncover it. 845289

  24. 560194 918177hi!,I like your writing so a lot! share we communicate far more about your write-up on AOL? I want a specialist on this area to solve my dilemma. May possibly be thats you! Searching forward to see you. 113295

  25. 624461 300577Hello! I could have sworn Ive been to this weblog before but following browsing through some with the post I realized it is new to me. Anyways, Im surely happy I located it and Ill be book-marking and checking back regularly! 943827

  26. 263952 296587Aw, this was a actually good post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a extremely great article but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to get something done. 391434

  27. 406517 30819I discovered your blog website on google and check just a few of your early posts. Proceed to sustain up the exceptional operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Seeking forward to reading much more from you in a whilst! 799394

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *