Today begins the end of October and day one of Horror Novel Week. I’ll admit, I’m not much on horror stories (I much prefer movies), but there are at least three books I believe fit into this genre. Some of you may not agree with me, but just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so is one woman’s “fears” another’s entertainment.
First on my list is a book that sparked an array of horror movies and is considered one of the first works of science fiction. In 1818 Frankenstein was published. Written by an 18-year-old Mary Shelley, the novel managed to become a literary classic and a story that began a slew of interpretations and reproductions.
I wonder if Mary Shelley had any idea what her story would become. It started off as a way to pass the time. Mary was in Switzerland with her lover (and eventual husband) Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and friends. The weather wasn’t cooperative for outdoor activities they’d planned, so Byron decided everyone should write a short supernatural tale. So Frankenstein was born.
When I was in college, I read this book maybe five times. It was required. I wasn’t enamored of it in any sense. In fact, I hated it. As I mentioned before, I don’t read many “horror” novels, so I wasn’t exactly happy when five different professors made me read this book for a grade. Meh.
However, when I was trying to think of novels that fit the horror genre, this book was first on my list. In deciding to write about it, I tried to put myself in the mind of 19th century readers and thought: ‘Damn that Mary Shelley!’. As a writer, I can’t help but admire her. Mary Shelley…at 18 (I was more concerned with partying than writing) wrote a story that is still being read nearly two hundred years after she wrote it. To compound that admiration, she wrote it at a time when women were considered too fragile to even read about certain subjects, much less write about them.
What’s not to admire? Her book has been made into plays and movies. It’s been spoofed, Frankenstein’s creature has become a Halloween favorite costume, songs have been written about it. You name it, it’s been done. All because one 18-year-old girl had a kernel of an idea at the prompting of a friend. She made a short story a novel with the support and encouragement of Percy.
Now that I’m older, I feel compassion for the creature I hadn’t before. I wonder what would have happened if Frankenstein had shown his creation a little love and care. What if Frankenstein had created a bride for his creation? As a romance writer, I can’t help but be curious as to what their relationship would have been like. I suppose that’s the beauty of her novel, it sparked so many ideas for generations of novelists, screenwriters, musicians, and artists. My absolute favorite of every interpretation of Frankenstein is Young Frankenstein. I can’t help it, I’m a Mel Brooks fan and it’s hilarious.
If you’ve read Frankenstein, what do you think about it? Do you enjoy reading it? Do you loathe it as much as I dislike Charles Dickens? (Sorry Dickens fans, I can’t help it, I’ve disliked Dickens since I was forced to read Hard Times.) What’s your favorite interpretation of it?