“I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.”
The progenitor of science fiction and the acme of Gothicism and Romanticism, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel about gods and monsters is constantly adapted and imitated but rarely rivaled even today.
Even in the most remote, frozen regions of the world it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t at least superficially familiar with the story of Victor Frankenstein and the man/monster he creates through occult study and forbidden science.
A Romantic radical, Shelley conceived the idea for Frankenstein when she was teenager. Although intensely concerned with the language of gods and devils–the monster directly compares itself to Satan in a telling bid for sympathy after reading Paradise Lost–her story is refreshingly human and humanistic in scope: human beings, not gods, have the ultimate power to create or destroy in this fable.
The book does contain an anti-scientific leitmotif that’s unfortunate in hindsight (Victor constantly caution his audience against the forbidden fruit of exploration), but Shelley’s daring exploration of morality and taboos in a godless universe are more likely to inspire ambitions than to squelch them today.