Stephen Jewell: “Are you reinventing Mary Shelley’s original story for the present day, or indeed for your specific audience?”
I’m not sure that I know yet who the audience is. Certainly I didn’t write it only for gamers and science fiction fans. It shouldn’t be a tribal thing. This is a really timeless novel and it ought to be accessible to anybody who enjoys a great story.
Having said that, I did take the whole structure apart and completely refit it. For example, the events of the novel take place in the mid-1790s, and at that time you’ve got the French Revolution – a nice parallel of how a cocktail of repressed passions, radical concepts and social exclusion can give rise to a monster, yes? That was too good to pass up, so instead of gadding off to university in Germany, Victor is gathering the material for his work in Paris right at the height of the Terror. For a start, it gives him a lot of guillotined heads to choose from.
It’s not just the guillotine bits, though. All the way through, this new version is bloodier and more explicit than the original. Modern readers are generally more switched on to science fiction tropes, even in mainstream entertainment, so I can go a little further with the stuff that the novel glosses over. The characters are more fleshed out now, and their relationships and motivations are murkier. There’s less abstract telling than in Shelley’s version, it’s more cinematic and visual. And more intimate.
Character drives action, action develops character. Henry James advised authors of this over a century ago, but in the literature of ideas the lesson has often been forgotten since. Why not have both great ideas to astound the mind and compelling stories to move the heart? Think new versus old Doctor Who, or J J Abrams’s reboot of Star Trek – that’s how SF is stepping up to the plate now. Today’s audiences want to see how the characters are changed by what happens to them. This has led to a more visceral kind of storytelling than used to be delivered in old-style science fiction, where the underlying ideas could be fascinating but often in a cerebral way that it was hard to get excited by.
What I’m saying is, if you think you already know the Frankenstein story, you’re in for a big surprise.