Tale as Old as Time

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Share your take with us at the Manhattan Public Library on April 18, when K-State’s Graduate Literature Track concludes our celebration of Frankenstein with discussion of Victor LaValle’s socially conscious continuation of Victor Frankenstein’s creature’s story in Destroyer (2018).

As a creative writer at K-State, I was often caught between two worlds. Whenever I read a book, watched a movie, or even heard a bad joke, I asked one of two questions: Can I write a paper about this? or Can I write a story about this? So when Dr. Anne Longmuir had us read Frankenstein in her “Introduction to Graduate Studies” class, I found myself asking both questions at once. They crowded my brain, begging for space, neither letting the other breathe.

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I thought I had the perfect paper: my obsession with Jeff Goldblum’s moral compass in Jurassic Park felt like the heart of what Mary Shelley asks in Frankenstein: We worry so much about can, we forget about whether we should. I was also homesick and watching Lilo & Stitch far too often. That, too, struck me as a modernized Frankenstein: a scientific creation gone awry, escaping its creator, finding love, rejection, and disaster in unlikely places while learning how to be itself (or interrogating what a self even is). Of course, Frankenstein’s creature never plays Elvis songs, surfs, or dances the hula with a young lonely orphan, but you get my drift.

Eventually my enthusiasm for the paper petered out (sorry, Dr. Longmuir), and my writer mind took over. What if Stitch came across the same cruel people Frankenstein’s creature found? What if Frankenstein’s creature somehow met Lilo? If Frankenstein’s obsession with creativity meant circumventing women in every way, what would it mean if the scientist wasn’t Victor, but a modern woman named Vicki? These questions snowballed until Vicki became an entrepreneurial scientist who gives her sister the most passive-aggressive Christmas gift possible: a custom-built boyfriend made of high-quality corpse bits. As you can imagine, the most morbid hilarity ensues.

But I digress. My point, I think, is that Frankenstein is a novel that keeps on giving. In the two centuries since its initial release, Shelley’s work has become more relevant than ever, its narrative threads finding their way into every nook and cranny of our culture. Why though? Why does this story continue to hold us hostage (until, perhaps, we create an undead bride for it)? I think it’s because humans, collectively, have to learn and re-learn the beauty of creation—and also the risks that come with it.

— Kira Frank (MA ’17)

Yakira (Kira) Frank, an alumna of K-State’s M.A. program, is now pursuing her M.F.A. at the University of Alabama. She is helping us celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) by reflecting on her Master’s project.

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