Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Bloomsbury, 2006, 174 p. First published with the subtitle The Modern Prometheus, 1818. This edition also contains ii p Why You Should Read This by Benjamin Zephaniah and 35 p Extra! Extra! of snippets dealing with the history of the author’s times in the style of a modern tabloid newspaper and 3 p listing significant events in her life.

 Frankenstein cover

This is seen in some quarters as the prototypical Science Fiction text though other fantastical tales of course preceded it. It is also an example of Gothic Fiction. The outlines of the story are part of the general background, Frankenstein a cultural reference point (though the name is often attributed to the “monster” rather than to its creator,) as a symbol of meddling gone wrong. The book itself is one I had never got around to till now.

Shelley’s tale is narrated, sometimes at third hand, in the letters of one Robert Walton to his sister, telling of his meeting with Victor Frankenstein on the ice plains of the Arctic Ocean and embedding the relation of that man’s moment of hubris in his act of creation, and the monster’s response to its various rejections.

Unlike in film versions the mechanics of the animation of the creature are not gone into, nor the moment of creation (beyond the opening of an eye.) Such considerations are left mysterious, which arguably means the novel is not Science Fiction, by some later definitions of the term. The ethical consequences for Frankenstein, his responsibility for his creation’s welfare and its actions are the main themes of the book. To create a being in a distorted image so that it is reviled, to refuse it suitable companionship, is a heavy enormity. I found my sympathies lying with the creature, even despite its own iniquities, which, again, occur off-stage. As with the Greeks, hubris leads to nemesis.

The epistolary form, the different forms of phrase and rhythms of story-telling of the Gothic to the modern are a hurdle, but not a high one. In any case I’m glad I finally read it. For completeness if nothing else.

Pedant’s corner:- several archaic spellings – phænomena (oh what a delight,) minutiæ (ditto,) oxyds (oxides,) stept, paradisaical, outstript, æra (era,) doated ,wrapt, controul, pennyless, phrenzy – and usages – sprung, sunk, lighted. Otherwise; “the greatest fluency of potassium and born” (boron???) “and laughed aloud Clerval at first attributed” (is missing a full stop after aloud,) ecstacy (ecstasy,) “when the heavens poured forth its waters” (their waters, surely?) “endeavouring to identity every spot” (identify,) eventufl (eventful,) “nothing is so painful to the human mind as as a sudden change” (only one “as” necessary,) “these are are virtuous” (only one “are”.)

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3344

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 13/4/2018.

NGC 3344

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3344 shown in near infrared to ultra-violet wavelengths. Beautiful.

War Graves, Cockpen and Carrington Parish Church

After Stobhill we passed this church on the way back from Crichton Castle (and Collegiate Kirk) and I noticed the Commonwealth War Graves sign.

Cockpen is south of Bonnyrigg on the B 974 between Bonnyrigg and Gorebridge.

Inside the churchyard I found no fewer than twelve war graves.

(I have no idea why some of these don’t show as pictures on the blog but only as links to my Flickr.

Edited to add; they seem to be loading okay, now.)

Guardsman G Davis, Scots Guards, 20/4/1919:-

War Grave 1, Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Sergeant T Smith, Air Gunner, RAF, 3/10/1943, aged 25. An urn in front of the gravestone commemorates Alice Cummings:-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirk, Grave 2 + Alice Cummings

Able Seaman A Raeburn, RNVR, HMS Dinosaur, 15/6/1943:-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirk, War Grave 3

Sapper J Murphy, Royal Engineers, 1/11/1918:-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirk, War Grave 4

Private R Millar, Highland Light Infantry, 5/5/1917, aged 24:-

War Grave 5, Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Private A Ramage, Royal Scots, 27/4/1919:-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard, War Grave 6

Gunner W Cranston, Royal Artillery, 15/3/1919, aged 20:-

War Grave 7,  Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Driver W Ward, Royal Field Artillery, 23/2/1919:-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirk, War Grave 8

Flight Sergeant J E A Huschmann, RAF, 8/5/1943:-

War Grave 9,  Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Guardsman G K Pringle, Scots Guards, 19/10/1916:-

War Grave 10,  Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Private J Allan, London Regiment, 16/2/1919:-

War Grave 11,  Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard

Private P Bennet, Royal Scots, 23/10/1919@-

Cockpen and Carrington Kirkyard, War Grave 12

Inverness C T 5-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, 14/4/18.

We started the game well enough, scored the opener – Andy Stirling skinning his man and cutting the ball back beautifully for Grant Gallacher to thump it into the net – but we didn’t hold on to it long enough. The equaliser was a great strike, but the guy took the ball up in midfield with no-one near him and no-one closing him down.

If we’d held on till half-time maybe things might have been different, but just before the break Craig Barr inexplicably switched off and didn’t chase the ball allowing Nathan Austin in to round Scott Gallacher and roll it into the net.

In the second half we fell right out of it and they started to walk through us. We looked tired. I suppose, as I always suspected they would, games have caught up with us. It’s not really a surprise to me that our first bad winter in this division has coincided with our worst performance in it. And the postponements due to the Challenge Cup run haven’t helped.

The introduction of Liam Burt and Mark Stewart improved us – why wasn’t Burt on from the start? He always looked capable of fashioning something and Mark Stewart was a bigger threat than Calum Gallagher had been – but we were three and four down by the time the subs were made.

At least we looked a bit of a goal threat for the early part of the game. The play-offs might be a stretch too far though.

Roads Not Taken edited by Gardner Dozois and Stanley Schmidt

Tales of Alternate History, Del Rey, 1998, 332 p plus iv p What is Alternate History? by Shelly Shapiro.

Roads Not Taken cover

The question in that What is Alternate History? introduction is surely superfluous to anyone with an interest in buying this book.

As someone with an interest in both history and SF I’m obviously a pushover for counterfactual histories like the ones collected here. None of the stories (which are all by men I note) here deal with the big what-ifs like different outcomes to the US Civil War or Second World War but instead examine smaller turning points with subtler ramifications. The quality of the writing is variable but all hold the attention.
Must and Shall1 by Harry Turtledove sees Lincoln shot in a Confederate attack on Washington DC so that many years later the former Confederate States are still ruled by a much resented military occupation and aching to rebel.
An Outpost of the Empire2 is one of Robert Silverberg’s Roma Eterna stories. Here a new Roman pro-consul comes to Venetia – once of the recently defeated Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Greek aristocrat Eudoxia despises him yet has to be accommodating. The plot could be described as Pride and Prejudice in togas even though Silverberg undercuts it with his last sentence.
In We Could Do Worse by Gregory Benford we are under Joe McCarthy’s Presidency as Nixon had delivered the 1950 California Republican Primary delegates to Taft who in turn nominated McCarthy as Vice-President. Taft died. The story illustrates the resulting authoritarianism and bending of rules to ensure McCarthy’s re-election, all in the name of anti-Communism. Sadly this strikes all too resonant a chord now than it would when it was first published in 1989.
Mike Resnick’s Over There3 sees Teddy Roosevelt make a nuisance of himself during the Great War by reconstituting his Rough Riders and taking them over to France where Pershing is under orders to keep him well away from the front.
Ink From the New Moon by A A Attanasio is narrated by a Chinese visitor to the New World – colonised from Asia much earlier than it was by Europeans in our time – and encounters Columbus.
Southpaw by Bruce McAllister follows Fidel Castro after his acceptance of the invitation to become a professional baseball player with the New York Giants. The story concerns his glancing contact with Cuban dissidents.
Greg Costikyan’s The West is Red4 has an impoverished capitalist USA has voting in a Communist President to implement the more efficient economics of centralist planning. Background events in the story bear some resemblance to Boris Yeltsin’s frustration of the old guard’s coup d’état in our world.
The longest story in the book, The Forest of Time5 by Michael J Flynn, examines the fate of a parallel worlds Jumper who is marooned in a North America where the thirteen original colonies never united and focuses on the responses of those who encounter him.
In Aristotle and the Gun6 by L Sprague de Camp a time traveller goes back to try to persuade Aristotle of the benefits of the Scientific Method, with, to him, unexpected results.
How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion by Gene Wolfe is not as apocalyptic as it sounds. The Second World War is a board game and the German invasion is by the “People’s Car”, a device outperformed due to Churchill’s knowledge of the properties of transistors.

Pedant’s corner:- 1Michaels’ (Michaels’s,) Morrie Harris’ (Morrie Harris’s,) New Orleans’ (New Orleans’s,) “gaping at naked women” (it’s usually gawping at,) Colquit Reynolds’ (Colquit Reynolds’s) 2In the introduction “Shadrack in the Furnace” (Shadrach.) 3”Bullets and cannonballs flew to the right and left” (cannonballs? In World War 1?) 4”would have own the Cold War” (would have won.) 5mowed down (mown.) “The argument in the cell reached a crescendo.” (No. It reached a climax,) Oschenfuss’ (Oschenfuss’s.) 6Nearchos’ (Nearchos’s,) Alexandros’ (Alexandros’s,) Zandras’ (Zandras’s,) Attalos’ (Attalos’s,) Herodotos’ (Herodotos’s.)

Reelin’ In the Years 148: Lonely Days

Another outing for the word nonchalant in a lyric; except here its inclusion is a little more forced.

The harmonies on the verse of this are sublime.

The Bee Gees: Lonely Days

The True Price of Coal

For some reason we stopped in Loanhead, Midlothian, on our way back from Crichton Castle and Crichton Collegiate Kirk (see earlier posts.)

There we found this memorial “To the memory of those men who died in accidents at Bilston Glen Colliery during its working life and to all others who lost their lives in mining accidents in the community of Loanhead.”

The True Price of Coal

Morton 3-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Cappielow Park, 10/4/18.

Well if the play-offs hadn’t been nailed on before last night they are now. There’s no way we’re making up eight points in four games.

Mind you, I make it that’s five points we’ve lost to late goals against us. Those would have made it tighter. But they came during weeks where we had three games to play.

At least we seem to be able to score goals again. I hope that continues on Saturday up at Inverness.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Illustrated by Pat Marriott. Vintage, 2012, 227 p.

The book is an altered history set in an early Nineteenth Century England. There is a Channel Tunnel mentioned in a prefatory Note and wolves roam the countryside. Apart from two instances (where they variously attack a stationary train and chase the main characters) plus the odd howl from far off the wolves are mainly an off-stage menace though. It is clearly aimed at a YA – or even younger – audience.

Bonnie Green is the daughter of the grand house Willoughby Chase. Her cousin Sylvia is coming to visit as her carer, Aunt Jane, is getting on. Bonnie’s mother is ailing and requires a trip to help cure her, naturally accompanied by her husband. The first requirement of a children’s adventure, the absence of parents, is hereby secured. The governess hired to look after them, Miss Slighcarp, a supposed distant relative, is the usual wicked creature, not content with mistreating the pair but also intent on defrauding Bonnie of her inheritance with the assistance of the forger Mr Grimshaw. Much Dickensian harsh schooling ensues but the plucky pair escape with the help of Simon, a local boy who lives in the woods. They make their way to London to enlist the services of Mr Gripe, the estate’s lawyer.

It all rattles along (as YA novels have to) but this leaves little time for anything but sketching each character. Best read as a young person I would think.

Pedant’s corner:- a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, backboards (context demands “blackboards”.)

Stobhill War Memorial

Stobhill Parish War Memorial, Midlothian, Scotland, lies alongside Hunterfield Road. I came across it on my way back from Crichton Castle and Crichton Collegiate Kirk. It’s unusual in having a pyramidal obelisk with the representation of a flag draped round it from a standard.

The upper inscription here reads, “In memory of the sacred dead who fell in the Great War 1914-1918.” Under the slogan, “They also gave themselves for the Empire,” are the names of two women, Mary Aitken, WRAF and Lizzie Dodds, VAD. The lowest inscription reads, “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.”

Stobhill War Memorial 1

The column to the right of the above reads, “Cherished is the memory of their costly sacrifice with fadeless pride and with the love that never grows old,” and the lowest inscription carries on the quote from the previous side, “Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.”

Stobhill War Memorial

Reverse view. The right hand side here reads, “They gave themselves for the Empire, for the cause of freedom and for the uplift of the world.”

Below has, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”

Stobhill War Memorial Reverse Sides.

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