Frankenstein, from 19th century monster to 21st century dark hero
In this part of my blog I am writing about the making of Frahnknshtyne as I develop it. I am grateful for the amount of interest and support I've been receiving since starting this blog at the urgings of some good friends. It’s all part of this grand experiment in transparent development where I am posting and sharing the work as I go. As I’ve covered earlier in the blog, I can’t share everything since some of this work needs to be read and experienced for the first time in whatever form the story takes in its first telling. What fun would it be to know everything before experiencing it for the first time? That being said, there is a lot that I think can be shared if you have the interest. Below I will be posting and adding some of the background reasons and motivations for why I am making this property. Through these posts you will get some peeks into the characters, the place, the narrative purpose and a bit more. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to email me or post comments at any time. To be clear, this isn’t open source development. I don’t believe that story creation is a large group effort. This is more in the vein of creatively sharing what I do because I believe there are others out there in our community whom might enjoy it as I enjoy seeing their work and…well this is the age we live in isn’t it. Thanks again for the level of interest and very rich encouragement I've been receiving from around the globe.
Cheers, Kevin Mowrer
Why Frankenstein and Steampunk?
Most everyone is reasonably familiar with one of the 20th century popular media expressions of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror tale Frankenstein if not the original manuscript itself. Aside from being one of the great horror novels of all time, this narrative takes its place at the loggerhead of speculative fiction and Steampunk with it’s early science fiction parentage, Tesla-coils, brass gears, goggles, and darkly alternative themes. Though the Victorian Era didn’t actually start until 1837 (The Reign of Victoria), and the first publishing of the novel was almost 20 years earlier in 1818, the popularity of the book grew significantly stronger during that era. For me, the nature of the story’s DNA and where I wished to take it suggested a very fun fit with todays living Steampunk movement.
Frankenstein has even become a modern verb “Frankensteining: To assemble something from unrelated and often disparate parts.” (If that isn’t an underlying tenet of Steam Punk I’m not sure what is).
My own interest:
Personally, I have been profoundly interested in this story since I first saw Karloff’s Frankenstein from his 1931 movie shown at late night creature features in the 60’s and 70’s. This movie popularized the monster for generations of audiences to thrill and scream at. The creature was at once horrifying and at the same time, powerful and seemingly unstoppable. Although he dies at the end of the movie, I came away with the sense that the creature was much more a victim of misplaced and misused ambitions than a true sociopathic monster. It was not until much later that I read the book so my love of the characters and the story were shaped by the popular fiction of the big screen Frankenstein. There is much that has changed since the book and even the movie’s creation even though its man-made zombie has stood the test of time.
To make but not to love:
What has kept my interest in this story alive all these years isn’t the horror elements (though those are fun and central to the nature of the story). For me, Frankenstein contains within it the story of a father who made a son whom he did not love, a son whom he made as a showpiece to prove his theories and enrich himself with fame and glory but a being who he saw as a thing and not a person. What a powerful human relationship crucible from which to build a new narrative from.
|The unloved son|
A tale of two fathers:
As this story gets completed and eventually published, my Frahnknshtyne, is a story of two fathers. One who loves his son but fails him because of his addictions and the other adoptive father who uses his son for what his mind can make but seeks to keep him in thrall and in his place because his adopted son has come from a “grounder” family (an earth bound family not of the cloud-living higher class). In this way, the “monster” in Frahnknshtyne is made by his fathers. What happens to our hero and what he becomes is an inevitability of the world and events of the story combined with the fundamental nature of who he is and how he has been shaped by his fathers.
Note: I have named my story “Frahnknshtyne” for two reasons. The first is that I wanted it to be pronounced in a particular way. Second is because Mary Shelley deserves her own clear air for her original monster and title and what I am writing is not a retelling of that story but is a tale inspired by that story.
The times she lived in:
I am not a scholar of Mary Shelley’s time nor her writing but I believe that you can often tell a great deal about both by the stories a writer chooses to write and the themes they pursue in those stories. Mary Shelley lived in a world undergoing change at a pace that previous generations had never experienced. Cities were growing and spreading at an alarming rate and the town-based way of life was under siege by strangers, strange contraptions and strange ideas. The children of the time were less likely to work at the same job that their parents and their parent’s parents had for generations. The first moments of modern medicine and science were emerging into the public awareness with revelations and possibilities that seemed frightening and perhaps even “godless.” In a world unaccustomed to change yet under siege by it, man and his arrogance seemed the cause of the anxieties. Not just any men, but men of learning and of science, the men of progress. Within this psychosocial context, a horror story about a privileged man committing the ultimate crime against god and nature by believing he could make a human being, was a story whose time had come.
The times we live in:
Caveat: The description to follow is speaking to a wider world anxiety shared on some level by larger groups and is not a personal platform for me, though I must say I could count a few of my own anxieties as related to these. You may or may not agree with the distillation of this perspective and that’s OK since its use is as a perspective off of which to synthesize fiction.
Let’s say for now that we live in an age where change is a fact of life and our children are growing up natives to the idea of waiting just a moment to see the next iteration of new technology and science affect the world. We aren’t afraid of change any longer we are entertained by it and we wait eagerly to buy it. If anything is true, we have adopted disposability as a collateral result of improving our lives through “upgrading” frequently. We no longer broadly look at science and technology with great suspicion or even offhand contempt and don’t assume it to be either good or evil (politicization of scientific findings notwithstanding). In our modern world the good or evil is quite clearly coming from the minds of certain men and how they choose to use or abuse progress and ideas. Our fears have more to do with power most people can’t access or control and its misuse. Entire world economies have been brought to the brink of collapse by a tiny group of individuals with membership in the club of the unimaginably wealthy. While the world struggles with the social, economic and human costs of attempting to recalibrate and rebuild from the collapse caused by many decades of addiction to easy credit and out of control acquisitive lifestyles, the fluid capital, the earnings of those who actually make things, remains largely captive in vast untouchable fortunes of this quietly controlling upper banking society.
In Frahnknshtyne there is an upper class whom quite literally live up in the sky and have purchased and horded exclusive access to a superior technology called “the Technica Royale.”
They have become wealthy beyond all wealth because they have discovered a way to extract life force from any living being without killing the donor in the process. They then use that life force in wondrous and horrible ways, including unnaturally extending their own lives. This life force is called Aether.
Over the course of 200 years a world economy has grown up around the sale and trading of Aether. People can bank their Aether, sell their Aether, even mortgage their Aether and their descendant’s Aether.
Sadly, like credit, the world is deeply addicted to the Aether economy to the point where it has become corrupt like a mad yet legal drug syndicate. Officials are bought and paid for with various Aether products. The courts are now in the business of prosecuting Aether Paupers and if you fall too far in debt, the state will collect by sentencing you to life as a leatherman (permanent wearing of a rig that siphons off 90% of your daily life energy until your debt is paid…if you happen to live to see the day).
Every evening the super rich descend into the city of Travaille to “play.” No one can say no to these revelers as they have become legally “untouchable” and some cater to them for money or Aether products. Some of these Royals have found terrible and exotic uses for the Aether products and the Technica Royale. They have become the monsters in the night, perverse and terrible extremes of human failings, conceit for pure pleasure no matter the pain it causes. Their power has led them to believe that they are superior and that the world is their puppet theater.
As in all worlds, there is always hope and even joy that lives amongst real people living real lives. Our hero, Doctor Frahnknshtyne lives in Travaille and he is a maker and inventor of wonderful things. He is also a man in love looking to make his mark and prove he is worthy of the woman his heart desires even though he is not of the royal world where she was born. He also believes he has found the answer to solving the world’s addiction to the Aether Economy, an alternative power source that extends life, if only he can get enough funds to figure out how to duplicate it. He is building a nearly indestructible clockwork being of great handcrafted beauty to showcase the new power source and show the world another way. If they knew about it, there are some who would go to extreme lengths to insure this effort never comes to fruition! Unknown to the Doctor, the lines have been drawn and he is the champion with toes to the line. Wagering with the currency of his own life the battle begins with truth versus demagoguery, Maker versus Taker, marvelous machine versus malevolent aether monsters.
Our hero is about to learn
that sometimes you find your true humanity at the moment you lose it.
More to come over time my friends.