The Whole is Greater: The Frankenstein Legacy

The legacy of Mary Shelley’s creation is powerful and enduring. Her monster and his scientist creator find their way into many aspects of our culture — including our language. A Frankenstein Monster has come to mean anything that is an amalgam of disparate parts.

A house with additions from varying eras can be called a Frankenstein creation. A wacky outfit with a mix of colors and styles can be a Frankenstein. A law with disparate amendments is definitely a Frankenstein monster. Even a poorly coordinated potluck dinner can be a Frankenstein buffet.

Yup, I’ve been to a few. You probably have too — one had five kinds of home baked cookies, one platter of fried chicken, a lot of wine and a few too many vegetarians in the group. Now that I think about it, we should have sent out for pizza or Chinese food, but that was a long time ago and I wasn’t the host. I do my best to prevent the Frankenstein menu. There was that time when three friends brought my least favorite vegetable — Brussels sprouts, the loathsome little balls of cabbage — they all said they were bringing side dishes — so much for Frankenstein prevention.

Frankenstein style genre fiction is very popular right now. Jane Austen & Zombies is definitely a combination of mismatched parts. This trend is part of our mash-up culture. It’s not new, but it is in the air. These Franken-genre books always remind me off Abbott & Costello meets — the wolfman, the invisible man, the mummy and FRANKENSTEIN.

Do you have any thoughts on these Franken-genre mash-up tales? Do you enjoy Sherlock Holmes hunting vampires? How about mysteries peppered with recipes or fashion tips? Any mixes that you thought were impossible that wound up as good books? Any mixes that you think are impossible?



  1. There is quite a bit of an issue with our need to label everything. Franken genre (new term) has existed for some time now. My geek side is showing now but Star Wars is a big example of Franken Genre. It is science fiction and fantasy rolled into one.

    I can hear die hards crying into their fuzzy nerfherders right now. For me science fiction has always been something futuristic, whether real or imagined. Fantasy has always been something to do with magic or fantastical elements. The world built around Star Wars has both. There are other stories that fall into this but this one is the most obvious to me right now.

    • Candy

      As far as I’m concerned all the genres bleed into one another. Sometimes that produces great stories and sometimes not so much. By your definition, Star Wars does have one foot in each camp.

      But, as someone who has been known to describe one of her books as a “Vampire Un-Romance” I’m all for anything that intrigues potential readers. LOL…

      I am going to ask one of my diehard science fiction friends what he thinks. I know he totally freaked out a few years ago when paranormal romance and urban fantasy invaded the bookstore shelves designated for fantasy and science fiction. I think that when he got his Kindle.

      • Urban fantasy with noir fiction has become a favorite mash up of mine. The Dresden series and now the Bobby Dollar series are ones I am waiting for the next books to be released.

        • Candy

          Yes, the Dresden series works! Detective fiction has a way of melding with other genres. I think it’s largely because the detective can move from one backdrop to the next, one setting to the next… Crime in a futuristic science fiction environment, crime in a Regency Romance, crime works!

  2. I’m decidedly anti-mashup. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the few books I completely gave up on after only a few chapters. The insertion of the Zombies was so random. I also couldn’t get into the movie version of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer/Hunter (whatever it was called). Maybe there are good mashups out there, but I certainly haven’t came across any… nor have I really looked 😉

    • Candy

      A few years ago I stumbled on a British book about Queen Victoria as a vampire slayer and assorted demon hunter. As I’d just read a biography of the real Queen’s life, I was fascinated by how the author transformed/appropriated real people into nefarious characters of every stripe. The book was pretty awful. I was intrigued by one of the less-than-nice gentlemen, as he was experimenting with the new thing (photography) as a way to produce porn. But I think that had more to do with my passion for early photography.

      After that, I’ve been hesitant about that level of mash-up. On the other hand, I really enjoyed a Sherlock Holmes on the trail of a vampire/Jack the Ripper — another British import. It was less of a stretch — given the sub-genre of Sherlock fighting Nazis during WWII.

      I do think there’s a place for some Franken-genre mash-ups — it’s all about mixing and matching things that meld well. I guess it’s like planning a menu. The first time I had sea salt on chocolate I wasn’t sure I’d like it… LOL… I did!

  3. I’m not a huge fan of mashups in say music videos, but I believe that in stories, anything goes. Personally I quite enjoy fusing sci-fi with fantasy and I just reviewed a wonderful novel that I ended up categorizing as contemporary psychological metaphysical fantasy literature! Actually that’s a bit misleading. Because I enjoyed it so much I really ended up calling it a work of art, but let’s not quibble.

    For me the bottom line is always originality. Sticking zombies or whatever in Jane Austen just strikes me as being a dog’s dinner, twice regurgitated. But Mary Robinette Kowal’s ‘glamour’ novels set in, and faithful to Jane Austen’s style, are wonderful. [read ‘glamour’ as the magic ability to conjure an illusion out of thin air, not something straight from Vogue].

    • Candy

      Yes, it’s always about a good story and THAT is what really creates art.

      I’ll admit to being fascinated by some of the lines we draw in genres, between science fiction and fantasy, between paranormal romance and urban fantasy, between mystery and suspense, between suspense and romantic suspense… I had to attend a session at the Romance Writers of American conference in 2011 to make sense of it all. FYI… that conference was terrific and the people were helpful and friendly.

      I think I could use a glamor or two to perk up reality, umm… something to think about.

      • There’s a site called Bookcountry that has a sort of org chart of all the genres and sub-genres, and it makes my head spin. But when you think about it, shouldn’t every story have a mix of elements? Characters require psychology, a good plot requires at least some suspense and maybe a touch of the thriller. And that’s before you even start thinking about the over-arching stuff like whether it’s sci-fi-ish, or fantasy or historical or whatever.
        Sorry, I”m waffling. 🙂 I just think a lot of these boundaries are artificial.

        • Candy

          I came away from the conference convinced that the genre classifications were largely for marketing purposes. Readers who like specific genres look for key words, book bloggers focus on certain genres, etc. As I always seem to be writing a mix, it’s important for me to have a general understanding.

          On the other hand, a chart would kill me.