Mary Shelley – The First Lady of Horror

Mary Shelley, the first lady of horror

Mary Shelley, the first lady of horror

“I shall thus give a general answer to the question, so frequently asked me—”How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” – Mary Shelley

Despite horror being seen as mostly a man’s world, it was a kickass female who created one of the most feared and beloved monsters of all time.  In May 1816 in a villa near Geneva, Mary Shelley, on a bet from the poet Lord Byron, gave birth to Frankenstein’s monster.  Her novel, about a medical student who dared to play God and the creature he made who both loved and despised him, proved that women were just as capable of thoughts as dark and horrifying as the thoughts of men.

The Bride of Frankenstein movie (1935) opens with a sequence featuring Bryon, the poet Percy Shelley and Mary.  The director, James Whale, insisted on being allowed to include the sequence because he wanted to show that even pretty people (cough, girls, cough) could have wicked thoughts.  Lord Byron playfully teases Mary “can you believe that bland and lovely brow conceived of Frankenstein, a monster created from cadavers out of rifled graves.  It’s astonishing”.  No, Bryon it’s not really.

Being a trailblazing woman who flew in the face of polite society was partially expected in Mary’s family.  Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer, philosopher and an advocate for the equality of women.   Mary Shelley, proving she was as unconventional as her mother, was publicly shunned for openly being the married Percy’s companion until his wife committed suicide and she was able to become his legal wife.  It is not a surprise that a woman so controversial in her private life would be just as controversial in her writing.

Mary had been an avid reader (Paradise Lost was apparently one of her favorites, no light romp itself) and story writer since she was a child.  By the time Mary wrote Frankenstein, she had already experienced enough tragedy in her short life to pool dark material from.  She had lost her mother (she died shortly after giving birth to Mary) and had lost a child of her own.  Having just given birth, her thoughts were understandably on the child she had lost and what if she could bring her back somehow – what means would she go to and would she dare.  Frankenstein was the natural expression of an intelligent, sensitive woman’s darkest fears and desires.

Here’s to Mary Shelley and all the kick ass female horror writers that followed in her daring, dark and innovative footsteps.  And a warning to you dear reader – beware the fairer sex, who knows what wickedness lurks beneath our bland and lovely brows.  Perhaps, if you are good, we’ll show you.


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1st grade – wearing my 100 acre woods shirt

My name is Galadriel (yes legally, hippie parents enough said).  I was never a princess sort of girl – I hated my barbies, never loved pink (boy that has changed).   But like Christopher Robin, I did have a soft spot reserved for a certain little yellow ball of fluff.  And while Winnie the Pooh was my main man as a little girl, a new “man” would soon enter my world and change it and me forever.

When I was 6, I got the world’s worst case of pink eye.  All the white parts of both eyes turned blood red.  I was stuck in the house until I got better so I wouldn’t scare and/or infect the neighborhood kids . It was then that the new man came along.  He was everything bear wasn’t – he was mysterious, strong and I dare say dangerous. He was the bad boy to my sweet bear.  It was the summer of 75 and we were all about to be afraid to go back in the water.

While I was at home getting hourly pokes in the eye with painful medicine, the trailer for Jaws began showing up on tv.  I was transfixed every time it came on.  The theme music, the people screaming and running on the beach and… the blood.  I would stare with my mouth open at the tv and as soon as it ended I would start begging my mom to take me to see it.  And as any guilty mom would do with a sick kid, she promised when I got better she would.  A cool thing about having hippie parents is that they can be a little more hell why not without considering first things like lifetime damage from the trauma of watching a gigantic shark rip people to bits.  And although I spent many months afterwards frightened to pee (are you positive a shark can’t stick his or her head up out of the toilet?), it was worth it.  To this day, I still have a deep fondness for that big fish and for the obsession with horror he created in me that continues to this day.

Mom’s pretty lucky I turned out to be a sweet well adjusted law abiding heavily tattooed goth girl, because she was my partner in crime for all my early horror experiences.  After Jaws, she took me to see Fantasm, then it was Carrie and then Audrey Rose.  I tried to watch The Exorist with her when it was broadcast on tv, but it was so scary I mostly only “heard” it from my open bedroom door while I hid under the covers.   Thanks Mom, you rock.

I spent a lot of my childhood lost in books in the corner of my local library or laying on my bed, so it didn’t take long for my love of horror to spread from the movies to books.  Reading Jaws was even more terrifying than watching  it because now I was in in the shark’s head.   Same with Cujo – I was able to develop an understanding of what made the rabid dog tick that I couldn’t get watching the movie.  As a tween, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story was a find courtesy of the Burbank Public Library (cheers to the librarian who let me check that out without question ) and John Saul’s Suffer the Children was a bookshelf discovery at an otherwise very boring adult party my mom dragged me to.  As a teenager, Clive Barker and horror writing got more elegant, complex and sexier as bondage mixed with human failings and ego and the coolest gate keepers of hell ever.

My desire is that this site will be a gathering place for other people with a love, passion, and obsession for all things horror to meet up.  Ultimately, as the forum gets set up, I really would love to see this site become a place for writers of horror (like me) to share ideas, book suggestions, writing tips/experiences and most importantly support.  And as we go along together on this journey,  I will be sharing my writing.  I hope you’ll share yours with us too.

So to borrow from my favorite vampire, I bid thee welcome.  Looking forward to scaring with you.




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