Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Biographical notes by Blake Wilfong

"The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind."

There is a joke that goes, "Define universe. Give two examples." A similar joke might be, "Who was Mary Shelley? Name two of her works."

The fame of British author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) rests entirely upon her single novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818). Indeed, Frankenstein is possibly the first full-fledged science fiction novel, and Mary Shelley the real "father" of the genre. Thanks to endless Hollywood movie adaptations--which, albeit untrue to the book, are much more entertaining--Frankenstein has become a cultural icon.

Actually, Shelley did write other works, including more SF. Her 1826 novel The Last Man, set in the late 21st century, describes the downfall of mankind through war and plague. Some of her short stories are tales of the fantastic, and a couple qualify as science fiction.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London to philosopher William Godwin and author/feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. At the age of 16, she eloped with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to Europe; they married after his first wife's suicide in 1816. Through her husband, Mary met Lord Byron, whose suggestion that she write a ghost story inspired her to conceive Frankenstein. Alas, Percy's accidental drowning in 1822 left Mary Shelley bitter and lonely for the rest of her years.

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