Frankenstein’s Influence Over Two Centuries

The front cover of the Pennyroyal Edition of "Frankenstein," designed and illustrated by Barry Moser. The monster looks as if he's screaming in pain.While living in Switzerland, Lord Byron (Yes, that Lord Byron) held a writing competition among some close friends. The goal: Write the best horror story. Among the close friends were John Polidori, author of The Vampyre, and Mary Shelley. Unknown to Lord Byron, Shelley would eventually craft one of the most influential books of all time—Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Frankenstein’s influence reached not only into the literary world, but also far into pop culture making reader and consumer alike question the power of science.

Frankenstein has always been a ubiquitous book of discussion whenever the science fiction genre comes up in conversation, but that conversation wouldn’t even be possible without Frankenstein. Brian Stableford from the University of Pennsylvania and Brian Aldiss, author of many anthologies and science fiction stories, argue Frankenstein was the first ever science fiction novel. Since Shelley created the catalyst for the science fiction genre, without Frankenstein, we wouldn’t have many of the great stories we do today such as H.G. Well’s The Time Machine and Frank Herbert’s Dune. These stories, much like Frankenstein, rely on science as the literary tool which moves the story along.

Poster for Thomas Edison's film production of "Frankenstein" in 1910, featuring an image of the monster.If you’re familiar with the mad scientist motif, Dr. Frankenstein’s depiction in Shelley’s novel is said to be that of the first mad scientist. And this is where Frankenstein has influenced pop culture the most. Picture all the TV shows and movies that play off the mad scientist motif. There’s a lot. Without Frankenstein, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy movies like The Fly or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There have also been movies based entirely on the concept of Frankenstein such as Son of Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, and so many more. Speaking of movies, Frankenstein may have been the first ever horror movie to be filmed. Though its title of first horror film might be only slightly surprising, the creator of the first Frankenstein movie was none other than Thomas Edison.

While Thomas Edison’s film may be a thing of the past, Frankenstein is still influencing current pop culture. In more recent history, Frankenstein has influenced dozens of musical works and has been referenced an uncountable amount of times. “Weird Al” Yankovic, a parody artist, has a song titled Perform This Way which references Frankenstein in its lyrics stating, “Don’t be offended when you see my latest pop monstrosity. I’m strange, weird, shocking, odd bizarre. I’m Frankenstein. I’m Avatar.” And who can forget the ever-present-at-every-Halloween-party-song Monster Mash where a mad scientist tries to teach his new creation some groovy dance moves?

Besides music, Frankenstein has entered the airwaves in the form of radio broadcasts since 1931. The first ever broadcast of Frankenstein was a thirty-minute adaptation by Alonzo Deen Cole aired during a segment called The Witch’s Tale. This radio adaptation spawned many other adaptations, with the most recent being a broadcast in 2014. This broadcast featured different voice actors taking on the roles of Dr. Frankenstein, the monster, and Alphonse.

Cover of "The Monster of Frankenstein #1" from Marvel Comics. The monster breaks free of this holdings and a scientist shouts "It's--Alive! Heaven help me--IT'A ALIVE!"On paper, Frankenstein has been the subject for many novels like William A. Chanler’s sequel which picks up in the artic after Victor’s death and Stephen King’s IT where King’s monster takes the form of Frankenstein’s monster. In comics, DC and Marvel have printed issues featuring Frankenstein’s monster or loose adaptations taking part in their universes. DC’s first use of Frankenstein was an eight-page adaptation of the movie Son of Frankenstein, making it an adaptation of a spinoff. That’s a lot of remixing! Marvel has used the monster of Frankenstein in its X-Men series and even created a five-part comic which recreates the original story of Frankenstein.

Though Frankenstein’s use in pop culture is often times gimmicky and playful, there is much we can still learn from the original story, and the snippets we encounter through movies, radio broadcasts, and comics are reminders of Frankenstein’s message. Since Frankenstein’s monster is treated so poorly throughout the novel, we ask ourselves about our own humanity. Are we actually the monsters? Shelley was able to introspectively look at herself and her humanity which provokes us to do the same. Shelley makes the reader confront how they may have changed someone’s life by living our own. While Frankenstein may be rustic at 200 years old, it provides a message that will never fade: be accepting and kind to those around you, and you will change the course of history for the better.

Celebrate Franken Fridays with us! Frighteningly fun events are held each Friday to celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th publishing anniversary. Connect with us on social media using the #FrankenFriday tag.

Upcoming Events:

Friday, Oct. 19:

  • 11 a.m. to noon, Library 134, Gainesville Campus—Visiting artist Drema Montgomery, who creates art by assembling various found objects, will demonstrate her work and correlate it to Dr. Frankenstein’s manufacturing the monster.
  • Noon to 4 p.m., Forsyth County Library and Cumming Campus—Frankenstein-themed rock art by World Literature II students
  • 1 p.m., Library 134, Gainesville Campus—English faculty panel including Dr. Diana Edelman, Anita Turlington and Dr. Kasee Laster
  • TBA, Student Resource Center 311, Oconee Campus—The Many Faces of Frankenstein: media and roundtable discussion with Drs. Dan Cabaniss, Stephanie Rountree and Shane Toepfer

 Friday, Oct. 26

  • 11 a.m., Library 134, Gainesville Campus—”Frankenstein and Posthumanism” faculty panel featuring Dr. Lynn Berdanier, Dr. John Hamilton, Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, and Dr. Kristin Yager
  • Noon to 3 p.m., upstairs lobby, Cumming Campus—PoeDown and costume contest
  • Noon, Library 134, Gainesville Campus—“Monster Theory” faculty panel featuring Dr. Jeff Pardue, Dr. Phil Guerty, Dr. Patsy Worrall
  • 3-5 p.m., Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega Campus—“Secrets from the Grave” guided tour of Mount Hope Cemetery.

Book Review: “Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson

steelheart - vernon barford image
Image by Vernon Barford School (via flickr). Click image for source.

When he was eight years old, protagonist David Charleston watched his father die at the hands of Steelheart, a superhuman “Epic” with massively destructive powers and apparent invincibility. But David saw the Epic bleed, and he swears that he’ll see Steelheart bleed again. Now, ten years later, he’s setting out to join the ranks of the Reckoners, a group of ordinary human beings who fight Epics like Steelheart.


Ok, so I know there’s probably a fifty percent chance that you’re letting out a sigh and thinking, “ugh, not another superhero story.” And yep, you’re partially right. Steelheart is a mash up of several different genres – think Iron Man and The Hunger Games, with a little dash of Mission Impossible and Johnny English.

Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart offers an alternative look at the superhero narrative. Unlike most superhero fiction these days, this novel doesn’t focus on a superhero fighting a supervillian. Instead, the roles are reversed, and the superhumans, called “Epics,” have random powers (and even more random weaknesses) that slowly corrupt them. They end up ruling over mankind and fighting each other for dominion. And, for once in a superhero story, the ordinary human protagonist, David, actually stays human. He doesn’t gain superpowers to fight the bad guys; instead, he and his team rely on planning and teamwork.

At first glance, the villains in this novel seem amazingly cliché. The antagonistic Epics wear ridiculously flashy costumes, complete with billowing capes and facemasks, and adopt melodramatic pseudonyms like “Steelheart” and “El Brass Bullish Dude” (yep, that’s actually in the book). However, after a few chapters I realized that the clichés didn’t bother me. Sanderson has an amazing ability to bring his characters to life, and he writes the Epics evilly enough where they can actually get away with being stereotypical and absurd.

The novel is written from David’s perspective, and Sanderson writes the entire novel in words a young adult would actually use. He also creates the character of David as if he is a real person; he’s kind, compassionate, intelligent, and loyal to a fault, but he is by no means written as a “perfect” character. He’s self-conscious about his intellect, and absolutely hates being called a geek. He’s impulsive, a little immature (what 18-year-old guy isn’t?), and absolutely terrible with metaphors. Sanderson writes David’s internal dialogue so well, so believably, and so endearingly that it made me feel like I was riding along in David’s mind and seeing the world through his eyes.

David and the Reckoners have compelling and believable relationships with one another, and I genuinely wanted them to succeed in their mission to kill Steelheart. .And, though their goal is to take down as many Epics as possible in the long run, the Reckoners still feel pain and remorse for the people the Epics used to be.

The main theme of Steelheart is mainly David’s quest for revenge, but the novel also addresses the idea that power corrupts (quite literally, in this case). Although the setting is a post-apocalyptic Chicago, Sanderson emphasizes hope and perseverance. We also see a tiny theme of forgiveness through David’s journey, as he grows from hating all Epics to believing that some of them have the power for good.

Steelheart is full of epic fights, motorcycle chases, unexpected twists, and even a little bit of romance, and is, all in all, a must read for any science fiction or adventure fan.

Link-N-Blogs: Oct 4, 1013

“Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die.”–Voltaire

 

1) Science: Good or evil?

As science and technology advances, we find ourselves continuing to wonder how far are we willing to push the boundaries. When Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein, Or The Modern Day Prometheus, people considered the possibility of bringing the dead back to life. Now as the world continues to grow and develop, we turn to science to see if certain diseases will be cured, if people will be able to live longer, will cloning be allowed, or even if we can potentially play God’s roll and resurrect the dead. So I ask you, how far is too far?

2) A Survey of Literature’s Non-Traditional Marriage Proposals 

“Some proposals are perhaps better forgotten. The following unromantic, bizarre, poorly delivered or conceived proposals elicit reactions less like Molly Bloom’s orgasmically affirmative “Yes I will yes I will yes!” and more like this underwhelmed response to a lackluster offer in David Stacton’s A Fox Inside: “You might at least pretend…that I’m a person. After all, I move and talk like one the best way I can.” –Matt Seidel

3) This Week’s Cover: Inside ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

A new installment of The Hunger Games is set to hit the big screen. November 22nd marks the day that the movie hits a theatre near you. The sequel contains all your favorite characters, including Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutchinson), and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Don’t miss the premiere of Catching Fire and be sure to also get the all new soundtrack with features such as Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Ellie Golding, Of Monsters and Men, The Lumineers, and one of the best up-and-coming artists, The Weeknd.

4) Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time

An extensive list of some of the best and most memorable children’s books are listed on this website. Some of these books have greatly influenced my childhood and just about everyone can find a book that they can vividly remember. Which ones do you remember, while being in a your bed, curled up next to a pillow, as your parents read to you, right before you feel asleep? What comes in at the top spot?–Where The Wild Things Are.

5) Surface Pro 2 vs. iPad, Apple vs. Microsoft

Reading, watching movies, surfing the Internet. Tablets allow you to do many things, but there are many brands and choices out there.  Which one would you rather use?

 

“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.”–Philip Pullman

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Webcomics, Part VII: Schlock Mercenary

Written by Matthew Pardue

After the last two webcomics, I thought I’d take us back to something with a story. A twelve-year-long story with lots of smaller stories inside it (I promised myself I wouldn’t make an Inception joke). This also marks my first science fiction review (unless you count Two Guys and Guy, which occasionally at least looks in the direction of sci-fi thanks to Frank). I bring to you Schlock Mercenary, a story about Schlock, who is a mercenary. Truly, it boggles the mind. With him (insomuch as Schlock has a gender) are many other hired guns (there is, obviously, violence, but very little else that’d affect an age rating; I wouldn’t raise it past PG-13) in the company Tagon’s Toughs, a thirty-first century group that travels the universe in search of profit with an acceptable mortality rate (“acceptable” being any number that doesn’t apply to them, their clients, or random civilians). The creator, Howard Tayler, describes it as a “comic space opera.” I’m not sure if he means that in the sense that it’s humorous, or just a webcomic; either would be correct (also, that’s a lot of parenthetical asides).

Let’s start with the note of humor, since we’re already here. Schlock Mercenary is not only funny, but quotably funny. You could fill an Olympic swimming pool with all the dialogue bits that you can repeat out of context without losing their spark. In this way, it’s vaguely similar to Unsounded; the plot itself is serious, but the characters are dryly witty and practically breathe great dialogue. The difference is that Unsounded splits up its tones so that you have comedy in one box and drama in the other. Schlock Mercenary prefers to keep everything strewn across its desk. Very frequently, you’ll see tense moments during which the characters quip back and forth or just toss around Bond one-liners. Some stories couldn’t pull this off without ruining the grim mood, and to a point, neither can Schlock Mercenary; when the characters are making relatively casual conversation in the middle of a firefight, it does give the sense that they’re not particularly concerned. Then again, these are trained and battle-hardened mercenaries. More importantly, they have a medical system that the WHO leaders would eat their own hands for. This being a very technologically advanced future, any injury short of being a pile of ash is usually manageable (and in the event that it’s not, the setting occasionally brings out clones or time travel).

Original at: http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2010-10-05

That’s a severed head piloting a headless monkey, talking to a robotic tailor who’s also a surgeon. I refuse to explain how the situation came to pass, partly because I don’t want to spoil that particular story, but mostly because I think it’s funnier out of context.

You might be thinking that this kind of techno-magic removes all sense of risk, and you’d be right—mostly. The characters themselves sometimes reflect this mentality (and thank Amaterasu [Shinto sun goddess, if you’re curious], because if they didn’t, it’d dig a pretty deep rift between them and the audience, often as this sort of thing happens). If the company doctor can just scrape up your remains and build you a new body, death, like in Girl Genius, becomes more of a detour than a stop sign. Now, think back a few lines to that important “mostly.” Characters have died permanently, and let me tell you, it packs a surprising amount of weight after you get used to them spending some time in a healing tank (with…healing juices, I guess? This comic is about my only regular source of sci-fi) before going back to business as usual. Deliberately or accidently, Tayler has sidestepped a major problem in fiction: if the audience knows you won’t kill off your (main) characters, dangerous situations are only valuable for the spectacle, but if you do go for realism, you end up with a lot of red ink and Xs on your Cast page. Schlock Mercenary doesn’t have to rely on last-minute saviors to keep the important people breathing, and it also doesn’t steal your favorite characters on a regular basis. There’s a sense of risk because you don’t know how the aftermath of each scenario will go, but at the same time you probably won’t stop yourself from liking the characters because you expect them to get picked off like cheerleaders in a horror movie.

Think back a second time to the bit about healing juices (to be fair, I think that most of the time the characters end up in horizontal healing coffins, like from The Fifth Element but minus the stupid clothing, rather than vertical liquid-filled tubes). I said I don’t have a big science fiction background, and as such, I’m bad at knowing when something is or isn’t realistic. For a given value of realism, anyway; Tayler, obviously, deals in what may someday be possible given a steady progression of technology, and creating theories about that is like going back in time and asking Oscar Wilde to predict the Internet. We can only be critical of the forecasts to a reasonable degree. Tayler does, though, accompany some comic strips with a discussion of the technology involved. From what I can understand of such things, he seems to know what he’s talking about. I hope everyone can just run with it, either way; fantasy gets away with all kinds of improbable things just because it’s magic (where’s your conservation of mass, Harry Potter? Lavoisier would be livid. Also, yes, I had to look him up on Wikipedia), yet we demand that science fiction, which has the fiction part right in the name, stand up to much greater scrutiny. Who are we to say what will and will not be possible a thousand years from now? Hell, three hundred years ago we still believed in spontaneous generation. I’m pretty sure that by the time of Schlock Mercenary, contemporary scientists would look at our textbooks and laugh themselves into a coma.

That went on for longer than I’d planned, but you get the idea. Now, for a related note: I both am and am not satisfied with the aliens. Related to that related note, I just realized that I haven’t actually shown you Schlock yet.

Original at: http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2011-05-11

He isn’t the robot (who has a lot of facial expressions for something made out of metal, I now notice, as do all other robots; let’s file that under the fiction side of science fiction). Also, Schlock doesn’t naturally have eyes. It’s been a long time since the story in which he went home for new ones, but I seem to remember him picking them off a bush (fiction, check). So, on his own, he’s a blob with unfortunate resemblances that other characters have pointed out before. He can separate into a pretty indefinite number of chunks, tastes with his whole body (wait, how does he speak? Ok, ok, I’ll stop for now), and members of his species usually say hello by eating pieces of one another because they have their memories stored in their flesh, so they can trade experiences when they meet, thus ensuring that everyone’s completely honest. From the looks of it, you can’t get much more alien than that. Think, though, about how he has a sense of taste in the first place, how his eyes (I really want to say there’s an eye-bush on his home planet, but the idea is crazy enough to make me doubt myself) resemble eyes that we’re used to, however he got them, and how his species communicates verbally when they aren’t nibbling at each other. My science background is pretty much confined to high school biology and that summer geology course I took to fill the college core curriculum, but if we ever do run into aliens from many galaxies away, I’d expect them to bear even less resemblance to the live we’re used to. And Schlock is the most alien of the aliens; many others are bipedal, usually with two eyes, a mouth, occasionally arms, and so on.

I’m being unfair, though. Given that science fiction writers can only draw inspiration from what we’ve already discovered, it’s pretty hard to come up with something entirely different, at least without enough LSD to have lunch with Jimi Hendrix and time itself on the surface of Bill Murray’s eye. Plus, since these aliens are also characters, we need to be able to understand and relate to them in some fashion. Tayler does a well enough job, all things considered.

My final nitpick with this very fun webcomic is that it’s in dire need of the occasional recap. There’s a reason I didn’t edit out the bit about the eye-bush and just go hunt down the information (well, two reasons, since I’d have to comb through the archives for a good hour just to know where to really refine my search): I want to mention that so much has happened in this long series that it’s hard to remember all of it. Schlock Mercenary has some overarching plots, but it also splits itself into fairly self-contained substories, usually in the form of the jobs the mercenaries are hired to do. Over twelve years, this stuff has piled up. I can only think back to vague pieces of early stories, even important ones that impact the current plot. Still, I suppose Wikipedia is always ready to come to the rescue.

To summarize (because damn, did I ramble), great dialogue and humor, fun characters, good science, good drama, decent artwork (it’s less impressive early on, but I’m sure none of you would miss an otherwise excellent narrative just because of the pictures, right?), and clever stories that you might want to reference on occasion so you remember everything that’s going on. Check out the first page, when Schlock first signs on to traverse the stars and shoot at people; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.