Sunday, 17 January 2016

Writing - Frankenstein and what happens next

Mary Shelley began writing the story of Frankenstein in a notebook (still exists in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) in June 1816 when she was just 18 years old. It was published two years later.

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By the time she returned to England from Italy at the age of 25, the first theatrical version, Presumption! - or the Fate of Frankenstein - had already made her famous. In fact by now, 200 years later, maybe she is even more famous than her husband the poet Percy Shelley.

Isn't this every author's dream? 

Shelley's story of Frankenstein and his monstrous Creature has always had a strange power to set people’s imagination on fire. It is the first true science fiction, and the first unforgettable parable about the perils of modern science.
It has been made into more that 100 films: notably with Boris Karloff, in 1931; with Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein in 1974; and Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1994. There have been over 70 stage dramatizations since the first in 1821, including musical comedies, numerous television adaptations and pop music albums (by Alice Cooper and others). There has been a Frankenstein on ice, and various Frankenstein graphic novels and Frankenstein cartoon serials (The Munsters). Danny Boyle’s stage production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller at the National Theatre was a huge popular hit as recently as 2011. A Frankenstein ballet by Liam Scarlett will open at the Royal Opera House this May 2016.

A fraction of that success would be wonderful.

There is a competition to write a sequel, but where would that take us?

Where would you take the story? Would you be kinder to the monster? Would you create a female monster? There are all manner of possibilities.

Deadline for all entries week beginning 1st February 2016. Full details can be found on the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association website.

Of course such competitions could be applied to many classic stories. In fact the BBC have gone the other way with Charles Dickens characters in a series entitled Dickensian. What they have done, and I think have done well, is taken characters from various Dickens stories and melded them into a serial of what happened before Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and the like.

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You have a very much alive Jacob Marley, Mr and Mrs Bumble, Miss Hathersage and more. They relate as their characters will allow and it makes for quite an authentic watch.

In fact there have been a few other similar films that have started as a single character franchise and emerged as a new sort of collective. I'm thinking of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, where you have Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and more joining forces and using their collective powers to overcome evil.

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The question I suppose is, with permissions, are you creating something new or stealing someone else's ideas? All sorts of ethics in that loaded question. The point is that you can look at your own work and use it to go off at a tangent or draw greater inspiration while maintaining characters that are already much loved.

In my most recent Steele novel, Flight into Secrecy, I have used the man and his team to tackle a real life issue and such was the success of that story I am trying something similar. Watch this space.

God Bless