byFey-BBY08-30-201810:03 AM - edited 08-30-201810:45 AM
In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia experienced one of its largest eruptions in over 1,000 years. The results of this violent eruption were felt the world around, having caused severe abnormalities in climate and weather patterns, so much so, that 1816 became known as the Year Without a Summer. Over the summer, food became a scarcity as temperatures dropped below freezing throughout June and July, destroying crops. During this time, a number of authors met at Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva, Switzerland for a vacation, including Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Mary Shelley. While it rained non-stop outside, the group gathered and shared some of their favorite ghost stories. When the weather ceased to let up, the authors challenged themselves to a ghost story writing contest. The results laid the foundations for classic pieces of literature, such as Dracula, “Darkness”, and Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Frankenstein was Shelley's first largely publicated work, and it was first released anonymously in 1818. It took some time for her to be credited for the work, and many readers thought that her husband, Percy Shelley, was the author, as he had written and was credited for the introduction.
Simple ghost stories tend to drum up ideas of the creepy-crawly, but there is so much more substance that can be gained from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She plays on the fear of what your neighbors might be doing without your knowledge, and how easy it might be to lose track of what is going on around you when urban populations rise. She also touches on ideas of emerging technology, in this case, electricity, and how it can be used to prolong life and run the human body (and what consequences that may have in the long term). If you can build a super human, what is that worth and does that life form have a different value than other forms of life? When do we assume responsibility for others and their actions, and when can we say what we created and what we did not? These may be the types of thoughts that thrills that have kept audiences and classrooms engaged with Shelley’s work for all these years. This is why some consider her to be a pioneer of not only horror and monster stories, but also of science fiction. If you haven't had a chance to read this classic piece of literature, I recommend picking up your favorite e-reader and giving it a whirl!
Outside of libraries and classrooms, Mary Shelley’s story has been retold countless times on the silver screen, with film adaptations of Frankenstein as early as 1910. When many people think of Frankenstein today, they may think of the bulking figure that Boris Karloff portrayed in the Universal Monster film adaptation of the story. Others may think of Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Mel Brooks’ farcical adaptation, Young Frankenstein. While many early Hollywood adaptations showed Frankenstein’s monster as being a large, lumbering creation, it seems like more modern adaptations have played along with some of the original concepts of Frankenstein’s creation provided in Shelley’s book in that he is beyond mere human abilities, with his incredible size, strength and capacity to learn with astonishing speed. Other movie adaptations take on the feel of a steampunk adventure, solving mysteries and discovering ideas in the time and setting of Shelley’s creation. Countless B-movies, cartoon adaptations, and pop culture love letters have made their way to both the big and small screen. Whatever your Frankenstein persuasion might be, you’re sure to find something you’ll love in Best Buy’s collection of nearly 100 Frankenstein titles.
As we sit back and enjoy a bowl of Frankenberry cereal, I propose a toast- here’s to you, Mary Shelley; for making us think, for making us scared, and for keeping us entertained 200 years later.