Frankendata
January 16, 2018 1:59 PM   Subscribe

 
A long, long time ago –
I can still recall the scene
Where Frankenstein created Life.
But then he left it to its fate,
A grave mistake, he learned too late;
And he refused to build his child a wife.

The narrative turned grim and gory
With each new chapter of the story –
Tragic and cathartic,
They fled into the arctic.

I can't remember if I shook
When he vanished with no backwards look,
But something touched me, and it took,
The day I read the book.

It’s sci-fi, asking how, asking why,
Innovation, exploration, FTL and AI,
We’ll live forever, or we’ll horribly die,
Saying that we'll do it reading sci-fi,
That we’ll do it reading sci-fi.
posted by kyrademon at 2:08 PM on January 16 [7 favorites]


Now I'm left wondering what sparked the sudden interest in Jekyll&Hyde!

I love Frankenstein! I found so much to be fascinating, but nothing so interesting as the way in which her story was too complicated for the narrative conventions of the time.

If you remember, Treasure Island is told from a mix of stories of the people who were allegedly present. This is explained away in places as being affidafits submitted into a legal record of some sort. It wasn't the done thing in the 18th (and early 19th) century to simply launch into a novel with an omniscient third-person narrator. People wanted to know who was telling the story!

But What Frankenstein did was to nest these tellings, so that by the time the Monster tells his own tale you are something like four levels of citation deep.

I occasionally wonder what readers of that era would think of modern novels that maintain two threads of a story in parallel, and switch back and forth chapter by chapter. I have some a century old that do this, but I suspect going back two centuries might find readers unwilling to accept anything so avant-garde.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:08 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


It's weird, because these days doing an epsistolary story or nested narrative is seen as something very sophisticated and novel, to point where people totally lost their shit over House of Leaves doing it.
posted by Artw at 3:49 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


I have the really nice Folio Society edition as an adult, but wore out my paperback copy as a teen.
posted by Kitteh at 3:59 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


It's less of a hassle to talk about the story's characters ever since this manuscript page was discovered.
__ He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.
__ As he drifted away I could just make out his final words.
__ "It's okay if you just call me 'Frankenstein' instead of 'Frankenstein's Monster.' I really don't mind.
__ The end.
posted by straight at 4:21 PM on January 16 [10 favorites]


Dr. Frankenstein was the real monster all along.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


I remember reading Frankenstein as a kid after being raised on Karloff. At first I was put off. This isn't Frankenstein. But later I felt like this was the real story. I still loved, and love, the movies. But the book? Wow.
posted by Splunge at 4:47 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Oh, time to plug Ken Russell's movie Gothic wherein "the Shelleys visit Lord Bryon and compete to write horror stories" from IMD.
posted by Mesaverdian at 5:07 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Oddly, one of the more-or-less faithful adaptations starred Mr. Magoo.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:01 PM on January 16


Speaking of the Karloff movies... The Bride of Frankenstein opening scene is all about Shelley.

posted by Splunge at 6:04 PM on January 16


A few years back, Fathom made an interesting book using the text of Frankenstein, and an escalating typographic component, titled Frankenfont:
An edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein laid out using characters and glyphs from PDF documents obtained through internet searches. The incomplete fonts found in the PDFs were reassembled into the text of Frankenstein based on their frequency of use. The most common characters are employed at the beginning of the book, and the text devolves into less common, more grotesque shapes and forms toward the end.
posted by j.edwards at 9:45 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


There has been a lot of interest in Shelley recently, deservedly so, and one of the more fascinating ideas I have come across is that Frankenstein, in Western culture, has replaced Adam and Eve as society's primary foundational creation myth.
Heady stuff indeed, and to my dying day I will always be amazed at the immensity of Shelley's achievement.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:46 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I occasionally wonder what readers of that era would think of modern novels that maintain two threads of a story in parallel, and switch back and forth chapter by chapter. I have some a century old that do this, but I suspect going back two centuries might find readers unwilling to accept anything so avant-garde.

Tom Jones did basically this in 1750 century, IIRC? Tom on the road and Squire Allworthy, Sophia, & Tom's evil brother back in the country estate. Not quite chapter by chapter since it was mostly Tom but we got updates interspersed throughout. With a third person narrator FWIW.
posted by mark k at 10:28 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Huh. I was taught back in the 80s that she in many ways singlehandedly kicked off the genre of science fiction, and that two hundred years of writers owe her for it. I'm not sure how that translates to: hasn't gotten the respect that it should have. Were I an author, I'd kill for that little respect.

It appears the Guardian writer and I had very different educations. The phrase "science fiction" appears nowhere in that article, just the more casually dismissive term 'sci-fi'. Make of that what you will.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:29 PM on January 16


pantalones - I had the same thought, and I suspect it's because the "Frankenstein as SF founding myth" idea comes from Brian Aldiss's Billion Year Spree, which was very influential inside SF criticism, but much less well known outside of it.
posted by crocomancer at 3:12 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I took Science Fiction as Literature in the '80s, taught by the great Phil Klass (AKA William Tenn) and we started off with Frankenstein as he thought it was the first SF novel. He also didn't think it was a very good novel due to its clunky plotting and whiny main character and also talked about how Asimov hated it because it introduced an anti-technology tradition in SF.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The phrase "science fiction" appears nowhere in that article, just the more casually dismissive term 'sci-fi'. Make of that what you will.

It's probably often not intended that way, but I can imagine it grates like when people call John Coltrane "smooth jazz" (which means like Weather Channel music, if you don't know).
posted by thelonius at 5:37 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I feel like the fight to change the short form of "science fiction" from "sci-fi" to "SF" is basically over and the "SF" side lost.
posted by octothorpe at 6:50 AM on January 17


"insiders" still tend to use "SF," no? I'm only casually in touch with contemporary written SF so I guess I don't really know for sure.
posted by atoxyl at 11:10 AM on January 17


It's weird, because these days doing an epsistolary story or nested narrative is seen as something very sophisticated and novel, to point where people totally lost their shit over House of Leaves doing it.

I always forget by how long Frankenstein predates Dracula, which of course also does the epistolary thing.
posted by atoxyl at 11:12 AM on January 17


Wax cylinder transcripts! Futuristic! Dracula would have basically been a techno-thriller for 19th century readers.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on January 17


I think we're starting to transition to yet another "serious term for science fiction," but I still see "speculative fiction" brought out whenever an article is attempting to make a point that it's a serious work.
posted by mikeh at 1:29 PM on January 17


More Frankendata; or, Things I learned about Frankenstein while writing a little essay (self-link) about the Creature:

• Herman Munster looks like Boris Karloff's Creature because both the 1931 film and the ’60s TV show were Universal productions and thus both used Jack Pierce’s proprietary makeup design.

• While it is better known that the film Young Frankenstein (1974) used original props from the Universal Frankenstein pictures, similarly, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) used set pieces and props from The “Hammer Horror” film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Hammer's first movie in color.

• Shelley’s novel is one of the most widely taught literary texts in the English language.

Also of note: There is a great new ballet by Liam Scarlett called Frankenstein that is based on the book (as opposed to the movies). Its North American premiere was presented by the San Francisco Ballet last year, which will be performing it again this season.
posted by obloquy at 1:38 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Did anyone see the simulcast stage production of Frankenstein by Danny Boyle a few years ago? We had tickets but couldn't go because of some family issues.
posted by octothorpe at 1:59 PM on January 17


Speaking of the Karloff movies... The Bride of Frankenstein opening scene is all about Shelley.

And Lord Byron as the original That Guy In Your MFA Class
posted by thelonius at 2:02 PM on January 17


Also of note: There is a great new ballet yt by Liam Scarlett called Frankenstein that is based on the book (as opposed to the movies). Its North American premiere was presented by the San Francisco Ballet last year, which will be performing it again this season.

For those who are fans of the novel or even just the storyline if the writing style isn't for you, the ballet was gorgeous and really beautifully captures the Creature's plight and Victor's irresponsibility. Plus, the only ballet I've ever seen that had a whole scene choreographed in the autopsy theatre. Highly, highly recommend to see if if you can.
posted by assenav at 4:46 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


There is a great new ballet yt by Liam Scarlett called Frankenstein that is based on the book (as opposed to the movies). Its North American premiere was presented by the San Francisco Ballet last year, which will be performing it again this season.

I saw it and it was very good. I later bought tickets so my son and his girlfriend could see it too.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:41 PM on January 18


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