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Shelley, Mary

fiction science creation

(British, 1797–1851)

Daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and second wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley is regarded by many as the founder of science fiction. Inspired by a late-night session of ghost-story telling with her husband-to-be and Lord Byron, Frankenstein (1818) tells of a young surgeon's successful re-creation of life from the dismembered dead. The doctor's dream descends into a Gothic horror when, terrified by the results, he rejects his creation and then has to suffer its merciless, protracted revenge. While continental Utopianists were projecting the Enlightenment into later centuries, this young girl was introducing the unexpected and irrational into the future, an innovation that has haunted science fiction ever since. Shelley's later novel, The Last Man (1826), portrays the collapse of civilization until there is only one man left—yet another theme to have been widely imitated since.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker.


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