The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction of Mary Shelley
by Mary Shelley
ISBN: Book: 1892391015 Digital: 9781616960582
Published: 1996 and October 2017
Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Hardcover and Digital Books
This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley’s supernatural stories and sheds much-needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science-fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed from the ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this volume also features a brand-new story by renowned science-fiction author Michael Bishop, which serves as a narrative introduction for this collection.
Mary Shelley’s considerable reputation rests squarely on the shoulders of her one great novel—Frankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus, published anonymously in 1818 and revised under her own byline in 1831. Her powerful tale of blasphemous creation is perhaps more familiar to modern readers through its many film adaptations than it is from the book itself.
From Boris Karloff’s electrifying performance as Frankenstein’s monster to Kenneth Branagh’s directorial rendering, the story has received numerous interpretations that have renewed interest in the book time and time again. However, Mary Shelley’s other works have not fared as well as Frankenstein. She wrote just a handful of novels, of which only The Last Man (1826) has remained sporadically in print. A precursor to such disaster novels as George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides and Richard Jeffries’s After London, The Last Man follows its protagonist, Lionel Verney, through a distant future world that has been depopulated by plague.
The shorter works of Mary Shelley have remained difficult to find. During her lifetime, she published just over two dozen stories, only three of which were of interest to readers of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to these three supernaturally themed stories, two additional stories were published after Shelley’s death. “Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman,” was printed in a volume of reminisces by a magazine editor who had commissioned the story thirty years earlier. “Valerius: The Reanimated Roman,” a story in a similar vein to “Roger Dodsworth,” remained unpublished until 1976, when both stories were discovered by Charles E. Robinson, a Shelley scholar and professor of English at the University of Delaware.
Mary Shelley was commissioned to write “The Mortal Immortal” based upon a painting of a young man helping an elderly lady down a flight of stairs. Thus the story was born of a man who drank a potent brew created by his mentor, became immortal, and was tortured by watching everyone he loved grow old and die. This cautionary tale of immortality and the terror it can be was completed in 1833 and published in The Keepsake.