Posted on

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley Week: The First Female Science Fiction Author?


This blog in no way wishes to imply that Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley was a demon.

Thank you,
The Management

Mary Shelley

Since I’m a writer myself–check out for info on my books–early female writers impress the crap out of me. Way up there is Mary Shelley.

Mary, a little later, around 1840

Mary, a little later, around 1840

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley wrote one of the first science fiction novels, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. In fact, some people claim that Frankenstein was THE first science fiction novel–but considering that people can’t even agree on a definition for science fiction… We can’t say for sure. Other people claim it was Gulliver’s Travels (which seems more fantasy to me).

(Sagan and Asimov say it was Kepler’s Somnium in 1630, in which a student of Tycho Brahe visits the moon.)

Yep, a woman. One of the first science fiction authors. And we’re almost sure (oxymoron!) that she was the first female science fiction author (in English at least). Okay, but before you cite that as a reference in your doctoral thesis, let me say I could be wrong about that. Even today, many female sci fi authors use male pseudonyms, so someone we thought was a man could very well have lacked an Y chromozome.

Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818, when Mary was 19. Nineteen. Her name was first attached to it in the 1831 edition. For the story of how she started writing it, check out my Saturday post.

Mary was the daughter of two famous writers–a feminist and an anarchist. Her mom was Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the 1792 tract “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects,” in which she argued *gasp* that women have the right to a rational education. She argued that because women are the first teachers of children, not educating women degrades society. Mary Wollstonecraft, quite a scandalous person in her day, as she had the uppityness to have love affairs (and even a daughter) before her marriage, died ten days after Mary was born.

At the age of seventeen, Mary ran away to Europe with the Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, (you might know him from the favorite of high school teachers everywhere “Ozymandias“) who was married at the time. Percy believed in free love, and in principle so did Mary… but there’s no evidence she ever loved anyone else. Her step sister Claire Clairemont went with them.

Mary was hit hard when she had a baby girl, premature by two months, who died. This was right after Shelley’s estranged wife gave birth to his legitimate son. Shelley was over the moon about his son. After the girl died, he left Mary alone and went off with her sister for a while. This was before Mary wrote Frankenstein.

Hmm. So, basically, Shelley helped bring something into the world, then pretty much abandoned it, taking no responsibility. Hmm. And he published some poems under the pen name “Victor.”


Coming up on DotW

Tomorrow, I’ll give you a look at the Frankenstein movie. (Nope, not that one.)

Thursday, we’ll answer the question “Was Frankenstein’s creature a revenant?”

Friday, I’ll talk about the other genre of literature that Mary Shelley invented.


About teresawilde

Author of Young Adult Paranormals, Paranormal Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, and poem unlimited.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s