Frankenstein is considered to be one of the first pieces of science fiction. The modern view of this genre is intensely tied to the concept of technology and outer space, but it is not limited by these confines. Science fiction is about the exploration of any future scientific advances. There has been much inquiry into what inspired the story of Frankenstein and his monster, but it is deeply connected with scientific experiments that were contemporary to the creation of the story.
Besides being the predecessor to modern science fiction what place does Frankenstein have in the contemporary genre? And does it still have influence?
The story exhibits a classic example of the mad scientist subgenre of science fiction. When one comes to think about it, it is easy to understand how it can be classified as science fiction, but less apparent is why that is relevant. But a deep aspect of mad scientists is their need to play god. And this is both very relevant in the perspective of Frankenstein and the broader scope of modern science fiction.
“Since the 19th century, fictitious depictions of science have vacillated between notions of science as the salvation of society or its doom. Consequently, depictions of scientists in fiction ranged between the virtuous and the depraved, the sober and the insane. Until the 20th century, optimism about progress was the most common attitude towards science, but latent anxieties about disturbing "the secrets of nature" would surface following the increasing role of science in wartime affairs.” *
And with this commentary about the nature of science in fiction we get to the real root of Frankenstein’s influence on the genre. It is with the growth science and the fear of scientific and technological growth which has created the science fiction genre. The mysteries of science have changed over time, starting with biology and alchemy and going into space exploration and expanding through technology.
If Frankenstein didn’t exist, where would we root the genre?