Posted by on Sep 2, 2011 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today is Independoween, the holiday that is calendrically equidistant from Halloween and the 4th of July. The holiday was the brainchild of my friend Xavier Lyles, who envisions Independoween celebrations as containing the best of these two holidays: fireworks AND costumes; backyard barbecues AND candy; jingoistic patriotism AND a spooky sense of the macabre. You could carve an American flag into a pumpkin. Or you could dress up like Independoween’s unofficial mascot, Benjamin Franklinstein:

It would have been really cool if Xavier and I were the originators of Ben Franklinstein, but unfortunately that isn’t true. I discovered that people have been mashing these two together for quite some time. There’s even a YA book about the character. Alas, there is nothing new under the sun. It is with great sadness that I’ve decided not to suggest this idea to Dylan Meconis as a potential follow-up to her werewolf/Enlightenment and vampire/French Revolution franchise.

However, my unoriginality is not simply a coincidence. A quote from Frankensteinia, an all-Frankenstein-all-the-time blog:

The connection between the Franklin and Frankenstein has been explored extensively. The real-life Franklin and the fictional Victor Frankenstein were contemporaries, and both were electrical experimenters. Frankenstein observed a tree shattered by lightning, and Franklin apocryphally flew a kite and a key in a thunderstorm, inspiring movie Frankensteins to release kites, capture lightning and zap monsters to life.

Mary Shelley was familiar with Franklin and his experiments. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was tutored in politics by Dr. Richard Price who supported the American Revolution and corresponded with Franklin. One of her publishers, Joseph Johnson, had released Franklin’s works in London, and her lover, Gilbert Imlay, was American and a Revolutionary fighter. Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband, William Godwin, was influenced by Franklin’s politics and he was a member, as was Franklin, of the scientific Royal Society of London. Mary Shelley’s companion, Percy Bysshe Shelley, studied Franklin and was conversant with electrical experimentation.

There is frequently quoted speculation that Mary’s choice of name for her scientist was inspired by, and perhaps even an homage to Franklin, though “Frankenstein” was not a rare name and Mary had almost certainly encountered it in 1814 during her trip down the Rhine and a stopover in the vicinity of Burg Frankenstein. Nevertheless, it is said that Franklin’s electrical experiments were so widely known and notorious that the novel’s original readers, back in 1818, would have easily made the Franklin/Frankenstein connection. Many scholars have since explored the influence of Benjamin Franklin on Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy and Mary Shelley, and its reflection in Mary famous novel, making Founding Father Benjamin Franklin one of numerous men of science of the era who are thought of as the “real” Frankenstein.

Ain’t that fascinatin’? Happy Independoween, everybody!