Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gearing up for Frankenstein

Tami and I will both be re-reading Frankenstein this October, and I must confess, I'm doing so because I'm speaking on a very cool panel at the Edmonton Pure Speculation Sci-fi/Fantasy Lit Fest at the end of the month. Each member of the panel has to choose one classic sci-fi text published before 1980 and defend why it should still be read today. I chose Frankenstein for many reasons:

- it's one of the (or perhaps THE) original sci-fi novels
- it's part gothic novel, the foundation of the paranormal genre today
- I first read it when I was a teen and found parts confusing. The whole "telling a story through letters" convention was a struggle (I also found this with Dracula, but Frankenstein's language is super lofty and if you don't focus, you'll get lost in the prose.). This time around, I want to really soak it in.
- I've seen many films based on the book and in my experience, the book is ALWAYS better because no film budget can match the movie in my mind.

The mention of film brings me to the point of my post. Being October, there are numerous classic horror film collections on sale in the stores and I picked one up with a version of Franky I'd never heard of Frankenstein 80 from 1972. I've seen the original 1932 film with Boris Karloff, but my favourite version would have to be Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a film that sticks closely to the book. For a romantic version, there's Sting as Frankenstein in the 1985 film, The Bride. From a comedic perspecitve, nothing beats 1974's Young Frankenstein. There are a ton of Franky films out there, some sound super cheesy, like: Frankenhooker, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, etc. And then there are films loosely based on the themes in Frankenstein, like Re-Animator (1985) and the 2009 Canadian film, Splice.

It is those enduring themes that perpetuates our fascination with Shelley's monster. Nature vs science. Man's arrogance. Abandonment. Self-awareness. Abuse. Corruption. Ambition. The eternal "why am I here?". And more...all speaking to our day, our time, as if written just for us. Genetically modified food (often called "Frankenfood"), cloning, human genetic engineering, flu shots and super bugs, stem cell research, animal testing, etc, etc...

Why not revisit such a cautionary tale? We might learn something.

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