14 thoughts on “Frankenstein”

  1. I’d dispute calling it a “modern science-fiction novel,” first or otherwise. Some say Mark Twain created the modern novel in “Tom Sawyer,” though I’d argue a case for Frederick Marryat’s “Mr. Midshipman Easy.” It’s also arguable that anything before Hugo Gernsback is, at best, proto-science fiction. And if none of those hold water, then the first modern science fiction novel is “Somnium,” by Johannes Kepler.

    1. You know, you could make an odd argument that the basic elements of a science fiction novel have been with us at least since The Iliad, especially if you view the gods as some kind of alien beings with special powers. Some of the human/alien hybrids possessed upgrades, like Achilles’ speed and invulnerability, and some of those upgrades had weaknesses, like his heels.

      After arriving (in orbit) with their vast battle fleet, the Acheans landed their ships (literally pulled them onto shore) but were stymied by a nearly invulnerable fortified city. They were nearly all struck down by some kind of bio-weapon delivered by Achilles, but they managed to win more important aliens over to their side to neutralize the threat.

      Then they relied on the clever use of innovative technology (a giant wooden horse) to get a small band of special forces inside the enemy base and turn off the defense shields, allowing their ground forces to stream in, destroy the base, and then sail away.

      In the sequel, one of the ship’s got lost on the way home, and ended up on Degobah or Lesbos or someplace, and then had a series of misadventures on a sequence of strange islands filled with strange creatures that were every bit as weird as anything in Mos Eisley.

      Of course, these parallels also support the notion that Star Wars isn’t science fiction, it’s just a rehashed ancient hero epic. There’s no real science or technology in either one, just some magic and basic seafaring, navigation, and construction skills.

      1. Fantastic, George! You got it right.

        I will never again see Ulysses aiming his anthro-controlled, carbohydrate-powered, fiber-propelled, kinetic-impactor weapon through a series of precisely linearly-aligned metallic hoops to the centroid of a target to win back his wife, Penelope, the same

        1. Oops. I said “bio-weapon delivered by Achilles” but I meant “Apollo”.

          “His arrows clanged at his back as the god quaked with rage. First he left fly a shaft against the mules and circling dogs,
          but then, launching a piercing shaft at the men themselves,
          he cut them down in droves.”

          I once got so bored on a job site that I memorized about 40 minutes of the Fagles’ translation. Interestingly, I could recite from any point after being prompted by a single phrase, but had no idea what it said. The only way I could answer crossword questions about the Iliad was remember roughly where a topic was covered and then start reciting until I came across the answer. “blah blah blah Aha! MENELAUS”

          Sequential access memory is sure different from random access. 🙂

          1. Cool! You are a Frank Herbert Dune-novel Mentat.

            The Greek epic poems as well as oral accounts in other cultures by their poetic cadences are intended to be “streamed” rather than “random access.”

          2. It does indeed seem to work that way. I hadn’t thought about it until it was glaringly obvious that I had no real idea what happened in a story I’d memorized word for word. In retrospect, we know the lyrics to all sorts of songs, yet would have real trouble answering an exam question about Jumpin’ Jack Flash or a hundred other characters whose stories we memorized in a peculiar way.

            Q: Where did Johnny B Goode play his guitar?
            la da tra la …. da da da…
            A: Down by the railroad tracks

            Q: Where did he live?
            dah da la la la la…
            A: In a log cabin way back in the woods

            Q: Why did people dance in the courtyard of the Hotel California?
            tra la la da hmm hmm hmm la la….
            A: Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

            All the information is stored in your head, you just have to sing your way to the answers. ^_^

          3. Maybe that’s why the Iliad is begun by summoning a muse. I’d always assumed that was only a rhetorical flourish.

          4. You said “muse” and my brain automaticallly started at “Begin muse…” before I hit rewind.

            Rage, goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’s son, Achilles,
            murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
            hurling down the to the house of death
            so many sturdy souls, great fighters souls,
            but made their bodies carrion,
            feasts for the dogs and birds.
            And the will of Zeus was moving toward it’s end.

            Begin muse, when the two first broke and clashed. Agamemnon, lord of men, and brilliant Achilles.
            What god drove them to fight with such a fury?
            Apollo, the son of Zeus, and Leto.
            Incessed at the king he sent a fatal plague through the army.
            Men were dying and all because Agamemnon spurned Apollo’s priest.

            Yes, Chrysses approached the Achaean’s fast ships to win his daughter back, bringing a priceless ransom,
            and bearing, high in hand, a staff wrapped in the wreathes of the god, the distant, deadly archer.

            I can go on and on, like singing the Star Spangled Banner, and that’s from memorizing it well over a decade ago, maybe two.

            Yet I have no idea who Achilles’ father is, even though it is right there in line one. I have no idea what Chrysses’ daughter is named (Brysseus, Penelope, Marge?), but will inevitably recite it countless times as I get to it. I think Achilles and Agememnon had a fight over a girl and Achilles got all pissed off about it, but I can’t go into much more detail without recounting every single detail there is, and without omitting a single thing. And after I do that, I still won’t know the details. It’s really quite bizarre.

            If you string together all the song lyrics buried in your head, from “Abilene” and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” to “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, and then add memorable movie dialog, we’ve probably got several Iliad’s worth of sequential phrases in our heads.

            I’ll bet it would be far, far easier to memorize the Iliad, or the Declaration of Independence (did that at another job site, but it didn’t all stick permanently), if someone would set them to music.

            As a side note, this also indicates that all those Taliban kids sitting in a Madrassas memorizing the Koran might know less about what it says than you do. That might get into a deeper topic about how theology, thinking about what the Koran actually means on a deeper level, is forbidden by Muhammed in the Hadiths. He, or someone who came later, didn’t want anyone digging for show-stopping contradictions or continuity errors, or outsmarting any clerics by showing that A implies B implies C implies whisky democracy sexy.

            It could be that since Islam took hold in what was still mostly a culture of oral traditions, they already knew full well that recitation and understanding were two entirely different things.

  2. That describes the plot and background of at least 5,000 SF novels published over the past century. My favorite when I was a kid (so, published in the 50s most likely) was “Lords of Atlantis,” by Wallace West.

    1. Yep. We often reuse the same story over and over, perhaps because we internalize the good ones. Of course sometimes that fails spectacularly, such as “The Eye of Argon” by Jim Theis, which is an entire fantasy novel whose every paragraph could win the Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest.

          1. Meesa was muy muy disappointed when JJ wasn’t revealed to be the Sith Lord. Acting the fool in plain sight was the perfect cover.

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