Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared in the second edition published in Paris in 1821.
Shelley travelled through Europe in 1815 along the river Rhine in Germany stopping in Gernsheim, 17 kilometres (11 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where two centuries before, an alchemist engaged in experiments. She then journeyed to the region of Geneva, Switzerland, where much of the story takes place. The topic of galvanism and occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband Percy B. Shelley. Mary, Percy and Lord Byron had a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made, inspiring the novel.
Frankenstein is infused with elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. Brian Aldiss has argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story because, in contrast to previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character “makes a deliberate decision” and “turns to modern experiments in the laboratory” to achieve fantastic results. It has had a considerable influence in literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories, films and plays.
Since the novel’s publication, the name “Frankenstein” has often been used to refer to the monster itself. In the novel, Frankenstein’s creation is identified by words such as “creature”, “monster”, “daemon”, “wretch”, “abortion”, “fiend” and “it”. Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, the monster says “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel” (which ties to Lucifer in Paradise Lost, which the monster reads, and which relates to the disobedience of Prometheus in the book’s subtitle).