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Friday, 17 June 2016

The Creation of a Modern Creation Myth

Two hundred years ago today, on 17th June 1816, whilst staying on the shores of Lake Geneva during the Year Without A Summer, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley began writing the ghost story that would become the gothic horror/early SF novel, Frankenstein.

On Monday this week, I was fortunate enough to be attend a lecture given by Professor Sir Christopher Frayling at the Science Museum in London. Entitled 'Frankenstein – From Literature to Myth to Bogeyman of Science', Sir Christopher's lecture detailed the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Shelley's infamous story, its influences, and its legacy, separating that which is Shelley's from that which is Hollywood's. (For example, did you know that Shelley makes no reference in the novel to how Frankenstein actually brings the Creature to life?)

Sir Christopher also highlighted one throwaway line from the novel which could well explain why the Creature is eight feet tall, and has given me an idea for a new short story.

The lecture, which featured extracts from Sir Christopher's TV documentary 'Nightmare: The Birth of Horror' as well as the nightmare fuel that are the automata of Neuch√Ętel in Switzerland, along with references to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, was followed by a round table discussion with the anatomist and top BBC presenter Professor Alice Roberts, the lead curator of the Science Museum's forthcoming Robots exhibition Ben Russell, and the journalist, film critic, and fiction writer, Kim Newman.

Kim Newman, Professor Alice Roberts, and Professor Sir Christopher Frayling.

The panel also threw up some fascinating ideas and story hooks, and we learned that if Frankenstein were to attempt to create a living being today, it would be 3D printed as a collagen framework which would then being colonised by stem cells, with a tiny computer taking the place of an organic brain.

However, as fascinating as the evening was, the highlight for me came at the end when both Professor Sir Christopher Frayling and Professor Alice Roberts, graciously accepted copies of my Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein - my own sort-of-sequel to Shelley's original masterpiece*, which even prompted the following mention on Twitter:


Now, just imagine what a cover quote from Sir Christopher Frayling or Professor Alice Roberts would do for sales of the novel...



* Except that I wasn't 18 when I wrote my novel!

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