Friday, July 11, 2008

Franken-Facts by Matt Rotundo

Readers of this blog have already seen my "story behind the story" essay about "The Frankenstein Diaries." Edmund told me that since part two is coming out in issue nine of IGMS, I could blather on a bit longer, if I wanted.

I'm a writer, folks. I'm not one to turn down an opportunity to blather. So without further ado, allow me to present a few tidbits--some amusing, some interesting--that I like to call Fun "Frankenstein" Facts.

(Warning: Some spoilers follow.)

  • "The Frankenstein Diaries" marks my third qualifying sale for SFWA, and is also the story that would have officially disqualified me from the Writers of the Future contest. At Dragon*Con last year, Edmund told me that he delights in ruining people's WotF eligibility. Unfortunately for him, I became a WotF winner in March of this year, right before the story was published. Got it in just under the wire. (And I'm thrilled about the WotF win, by the way.)

  • "Frankenstein" is the second story of mine with a connection to Orson Scott Card. The first was "Hitting the Skids in Pixeltown," which won a Phobos Award in 2002. Scott was one of the judges in that contest, and one of the editors of the subsequent anthology in which the story appeared, also called Hitting the Skids in Pixeltown. If you see Scott, please tell him I said thanks, and I'm not stalking him. Honest.

  • Paul Griffin's birthday in the story is the same as mine--June 2nd.

  • Paul is the name of my oldest nephew. He does not have snake tattoo on his face.

  • Although I was of course familiar with the novel Frankenstein, I hadn't read it until I got into the research phase of this story. A friend gave me an annotated version of the book as a Christmas present, which I found quite fascinating. Did you know the novel was originally published anonymously? Some of the early reviews were quite amusing, speculating about what kind of disturbed mind could come up with such a concept. I suppose some people still wonder that today.

  • Digital picture frames--which we see in the scene where Paul rips the portrait of Steven off the wall--were not on the market, so far as I know, when I wrote "The Frankenstein Diaries." I just made them up as a bit of futuristic tech. By the time the story came out, they were no longer futuristic; they already existed. Nonetheless, I think somebody owes me a royalty.

  • For the scene in which Marie tells John she wants a divorce, I visualized my own kitchen as the setting.

  • My research into dyslexia almost derailed the story. I had it in the back of my mind that the disorder was genetic. But my research told me otherwise, that although dyslexia tends to run in families, there is no proof yet of a genetic component. On the other hand, a genetic component hasn't been ruled out yet, either--so I went ahead with it. Science may one day close that loophole, at which point, "The Frankenstein Diaries" will become hopelessly dated. Such is the nature of science fiction.

  • Incidentally, everything Dr. Aiken says about the ability of children to hide the symptoms of dyslexia came from my research.

  • IGMS has a "PG-13" editorial policy. I knew this when I submitted "Frankenstein." The original draft contained some rough language that I suspected wouldn't meet the PG-13 standard, and I was right. I was asked to make a few changes. Most of them were easy, but one proved troublesome. It occurred during Paul's final confrontation with John. In the scene as originally written, an angry Paul deliberately provokes his father with what I figured was a pretty typical teenage ploy--dropping the f-bomb. I needed to change it, but I had a hard time figuring out what else he could say that would push John over the edge. Finally, I hit upon it: Paul says of his dead brother, "He was stupid. He deserved to die." It occurred to me that this was an order of magnitude more awful, more unforgiveable, than the vilest profanity he could have uttered. There's a writing lesson in that, somewhere.

  • My wife didn't care for an earlier draft of this story. She found the character of John Griffin unlikeable. She was right, of course. I worked on that in the rewrite--which was difficult, because John is profoundly messed up, even if he doesn't realize it. I confess that I wonder what readers will think of him in this version. I'll be at the Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival, July 11-13th, and at WorldCon in Denver, August 6th-10th. If you find yourself at either event, maybe you could look me up and let me know your opinion. And if you absolutely loved the story, make sure you say it loudly enough for my wife to hear.


With that, I think I've blathered long enough. Hope you enjoyed these Fun "Frankenstein" Facts. Feel free to use them to impress your friends at parties.

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