Today, she is known as the world's first science fiction author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley started writing her first novel "Frankenstein" at age 18. When the book was first published - anonymously - in 1818, she was 21.
The first actual publication to bear her name came out in France five years later, in 1823! Was she aware of the fact that she had created a completely new prototype of a "tragic monster" and even layed the groundstone for a completely new approach on "horror" and a new genre - science fiction? Probably not.
Back in the times, this success story to be started out as a simple game: a writing contest between her, her husband Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. The four of them were competing to find out, who would come up with the best horror story. And well, the answer has quite obvious ever since.
Mary's nameless monster created by young ambitious Frankenstein, originated in one of her dreams. Since its creation and throughout the years it has influenced countless literary works, films and art through interpretations, copies and citations - and still continues to do so.
Very often the monster is namend "Frankenstein" although Mary Shelly used to call it only the "Deamon". Also, in reference to the biblical act of creation, the creature in the book once calls itself "the Adam of your labors", when giving an account of its story to Frankenstein.
Stylistically, Mary Shelley's writing was much influenced by the gothic novel and early English Romanticism. Yet, what she produced in 1823 is not merely the first piece of science fiction, it is also an important lesson about the consequences of our actions, and prejudice based on the sole perception of appearances. It shows us the other side of the medal: that we don't believe an ugly creature to be capable of human grace or acts of benevolence, while we willinglyforgive the most evil deeds if a pretty face is behind them as displayed in Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray. More than once a monster becomes what it is - horrific - simply through our feelings of contempt.
In 1826 Henry M. Milner came up with "The Man and The Monster" to be the first scenic adaptation of the story. The play debuted at the Royal Coburg Theatre on July 3, 1826. The list to follow is almost endless: The best Frankenstein interpretation may well be the 1931 film "Frankenstein" by James Whale: His actor, Boris Karloff, has minced our collective illusion of Frankenstein's monster like no other - and he even returned in the 1935 film "Bride of Frankenstein". From 1957-74 Hammer Films released fresh monster movies and even the great Kenneth Branagh offered his version. Not to forget countless "freestyle" adpations and hommages like the "Rocky Horror Picture Show", "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" or "Adam", the supervillain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4. (He even got the correct name to allude to Mary Shelley's tragic figure.) And if we think "famous comic adaptions", Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein is the first thing to spring to mind, of course.