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Afterword to “Pride and Prometheus” (2008)

At the 2005 Sycamore Hill, Benjamin Rosenbaum brought a draft of a story called “Senseless and Insensible,” a wild send-up of Jane Austen. In offering my critique of the story, I happened to mention that though Austen was a generation older, she and Mary Shelley were contemporaries. I had never thought about fact that Austen’s novels and Shelley’s Frankenstein were published at more or less the same time, and as I spoke I got the idea for this story. As soon as my turn to speak was done, right there at the critique table I began making notes.

It took me a while to find figure out exactly what the story would be. I read Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein again. First I noticed that Victor Frankenstein and his friend Henry Clerval go to England on an extended visit, Victor for the purpose of creating a mate at the behest of the alienated monster, who has threatened to kill all his loved ones if he doesn’t do it. Victor says he began to “collect the materials” he will need to create a female creature. Though he doesn’t say so, I thought: one of the materials he will need would be a female body. On their way to Scotland, where Victor will create this bride, Victor and Henry stop is in Derbyshire, at the resort town of Matlock. 2) In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s estate Pemberly is in Derbyshire, not far from the resort town of Matlock.


At the end of Pride and Prejudice, two Bennet sisters are left unmarried, flirty Kitty and serious, moralizing, plain Mary. What might the two of them be like after ten years, when they are in their late twenties and passing the age of likely marriage?

From a certain point of view, aren’t Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein both about the difficulty of finding a suitable mate?


Once I got going, I found more and more to think and write about. It was so much fun!

One of the risks of getting into the ring with these two giants was that I could not really write with the wit of Austen—who could? I could perhaps do a bit better with the gothic style of Shelley. I tried my best. I think of “Pride and Prometheus” as an Austen story gradually taken over by the gothic mode, and then drawn back at the very end. I think one of the reasons I had never thought of Austen and Shelly’s contemporaneity was that, at least when I was younger, they were never spoken of together: Austen was not a romantic writer and Shelley was one of the greatest. I think of Jane as the foremother of the realistic novel of manners and Mary of the foremother of science fiction. They don’t fit together. That’s one of the things that made this so interesting to write.

My career, in retrospect, has been to cross the sensibilities of literary fiction with those of pulp fiction, and this story is one way in which that impulse has expressed itself.

My working title of this story was “Austenstein,” but that didn’t feel right, and I finished it without coming up with a better one. At a reading of the story soon after I’d completed a draft, I mentioned that it was titleless, and from the audience F. Brett Cox suggested “Pride and Prometheus.”

One last note: I wrote this before the craze over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a book which I still have not read and yet dislike a great deal. I know that’s not fair.

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