The Night When “Frankenstein” Was Born

Cover of "Outcasts: A Novel of Mary Shelley"

Dear Reader:

This is to introduce my latest novel, Outcasts: A Novel of Mary Shelley. June of this year marks the 200th anniversary of “Frankenstein”, which has not been out of print for two centuries, and has spawned (heh) a host of related works. The girl who conceived him may have been a contemporary of Jane Austen, but she was about as far from that world as it is possible to get. Mary Shelley was a 19th century hippie: a practitioner of free love, an atheist, a feminist, an anti-war protestor and vegetarian—she broke all the rules. Outcasts is about the emotional roots of the Creature, the woman who made him and the world that created them both.

For me, the story of how Mary Shelley  invented science fiction with one novel has always been at least as interesting as the novel itself. The more I read, the more fascinating she became: daughter of two of the most influential and controversial philosophers in England (William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft), she grew up in the shadow of revolution, the Enlightenment, and scientific discovery unparalleled in European history. Combined with a passionate, headstrong nature and a superb private education, she was more than a match for the half-mad poet Percy Shelley, or his friend Lord Byron. But there were more people at that summer villa: Mary’s step-sister Claire Claremont, pregnant by her lover Byron, and Byron’s personal physician, John Polidori. Long after the summer party broke up, Polidori picked up an abandoned novel fragment of Byron’s and expanded it into the novel The Vampyre, the first vampire novel in English. So we might say that on that night of June 16, 1816, both Frankenstein and the vampire were born. Read all about it in paperback or e-book, available from Wings Press or pre-ordered from online booksellers.