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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not only one of the earliest science fiction novels ever written. It has also endured as one of the most influential works of fiction in any genre. The character of Frankenstein’s monster has appeared countless times in print and on screen, and the original novel’s theme about the dangers of creating human-like entities using scientific methods is more relevant than ever with the rise of A.I. technology. In honor of author Mary Shelley, born on this day in 1797, here are some books and films inspired by the writer and her timeless creation that you can check out with your Livingston Library card. (Descriptions taken from the publishers / studios)

Books

artificial life after frankenstein

Artificial Life After Frankenstein by Eileen Hunt Botting

What are the obligations of humanity to the artificial creatures we make? And what are the corresponding rights of those creatures, whether they are learning machines or genetically modified organisms? In seeking ways to respond to these questions, so vital for our age of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, we would do well to turn to the capacious mind and imaginative genius of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851). Shelley’s novels Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and The Last Man (1826) precipitated a modern political strain of science fiction concerned with the ethical dilemmas that arise when we make artificial life–and make life artificial–through science, technology, and other forms of cultural change. In Artificial Life After Frankenstein, Eileen Hunt Botting puts Shelley and several classics of modern political science fiction into dialogue with contemporary political science and philosophy, in order to challenge some of the apocalyptic fears at the fore of twenty-first-century political thought on AI and genetic engineering. Focusing on the prevailing myths that artificial forms of life will end the world, destroy nature, and extinguish love, Botting shows how Shelley modeled ways to break down and transform the meanings of apocalypse, nature, and love in the face of widespread and deep-seated fear about the power of technology and artifice to undermine the possibility of humanity, community, and life itself.

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Katheryn Harkup

It is unlikely that Dr. Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants–these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead. Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley’s book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor’s “creature,” scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.

Frankenstein – How a Monster Became an Icon: The Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation by Sidney Perkowitz

“Frankenstein” has become an indelible part of popular culture, and is shorthand for anything bizarre and human-made; for instance, genetically modified crops are “Frankenfood.” Conversely, Frankenstein’s monster has also become a benign Halloween favorite. Yet for all its long history, Frankenstein’s central premise―that science, not magic or God, can create a living being, and thus these creators must answer for their actions as humans, not Gods―is most relevant today as scientists approach creating synthetic life. In its popular and cultural weight and its expression of the ethical issues raised by the advance of science, physicist Sidney Perkowitz and film expert Eddy von Muller have brought together scholars and scientists, artists and directions―including Mel Brooks―to celebrate and examine Mary Shelley’s marvelous creation and its legacy as the monster moves into his next century.

monstrous progeny

Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives by Lester D. Friedman

A fascinating exploration of the Frankenstein family tree, tracing the literary and intellectual roots of Shelley’s novel from the sixteenth century and analyzing the evolution of the book’s figures and themes into modern productions that range from children’s cartoons to pornography. Along the way, media scholar Lester D. Friedman and historian Allison B. Kavey examine the adaptation and evolution of Victor Frankenstein and his monster across different genres and in different eras. In doing so, they demonstrate how Shelley’s tale and its characters continue to provide crucial reference points for current debates about bioethics, artificial intelligence, cyborg lifeforms, and the limits of scientific progress.

Mary Shelley’s Monster: The Story of Frankenstein by Martin Tropp

A critical analysis of Mary Shelley’s novel, along with its many film adaptations.

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

Lake Geneva, 1816. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is inspired to write a story about a scientist who creates a new life-form. In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI and carrying out some experiments of his own in a vast underground network of tunnels. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his mom again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life. What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? In fiercely intelligent prose, Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realize. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.

Her Lost Words: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Stephanie Thornton

The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein. A riveting and inspiring novel about a firebrand feminist, her visionary daughter, and the many ways their words transformed our world

Films

Frankenstein – 1931, directed by James Whale

Dr. Frankenstein creates a true monster from dead human parts, but it gets out of control and into trouble.

Bride of Frankenstein – 1935, directed by James Whale

Baron Frankenstein is blackmailed by Dr. Praetorious into reviving his monster and building a mate for it.

Frankenstein: The True Story – 1973, directed by Jack Smight

Considered by many to be the finest film version of this classic tale. The doctors team up to create monsters from dead body parts. A truly chilling and epic take on the story that has frightened generation after generation!

youngfrank

Young Frankenstein – 1974, directed by Mel Brooks

A finely tuned parody of the old Frankenstein movies, in which Wilder returns to the old country to clear his family name. He finds his late grandfather’s step-by-step manual explaining how to bring a corpse to life. With Igor, his hunchbacked assistant, and the curvaceous Inga, Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster who only wants to be loved.

Mary Shelley – 2018, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

The real-life story of Mary Shelley, and the creation of her immortal monster, is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father in eighteenth-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world, when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley. So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork.

For Kids & Teens

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton

On a stormy night two hundred years ago, a young woman sat in a dark house and dreamed of her life as a writer. She longed to follow the path her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had started down, but young Mary Shelley had yet to be inspired. As the night wore on, Mary grew more anxious. The next day was the deadline that her friend, the poet Lord Byron, had set for writing the best ghost story. After much talk of science and the secrets of life, Mary had gone to bed exhausted and frustrated that nothing she could think of was scary enough. But as she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of a man that was not a man. He was a monster.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey

How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.

strange true tale of mary shelley

Mary Shelley: The Strange, True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.

Frankenstein: Manga Classics Edition by M. Chandler

Obsessed with natural philosophy, the young Victor Frankenstein succeeds in creating life from its basic elements–and abandons the newborn monstrosity in terror when he cannot bear to look at it. The rejected creature vanishes, and Victor attempts to forget what he has done… But the monster survives. It learns. Deprived of everything, fated to forever be alone, it has nothing left but revenge.

My Imaginary Mary by Cynthia Hand

When two masterminds–Mary, the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, and Ada, the daughter of Lord Byron–are brought together by fate, they make a shocking–and magical–discovery that draws the attention of a mad scientist.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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