Mary Shelley


L. J. Davis reviews a new biography of Mary Shelley and fairly quickly wanders from the life of Shelley (and whether of not it’s a decent biography) into a history of science-fiction. His suggestion that Frankenstein is fairly dull surprises me. It’s among the few nineteenth-century novels I’ve read more than once. At the same time, if you’re going to write a review that wanders, making it as funny as paragraphs like this one justifies the trip:

“The history of science fiction usually begins here, with Frankenstein. The history is wrong. If we stretch our definition a bit, the world’s first sci-fi author was a certain Lucian of Samosata, a Romanized Syrian whose two lunar-space operas, Icaromenippus and True History, by some incredible fluke escaped the torching of the Alexandrine Library by the Emperor Theodosius in 391. Writing in the second century, Lucian took his protagonists to the moon. There is, of course, a problem with this — the total lack of a delivery system — but in the hands of a true hack like Lucian all great problems are made small. In one case, his protagonist sprouts wings. In the other, he is conveyed lunar-ward by a waterspout. On the moon, we learn, the poor have wooden phalluses and the phalluses of the rich are made of ivory, which sounds perfectly plausible to me. After Lucian, the science-fiction business shuts down for 1,400 years.”


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