Contest #195 shortlist ⭐️

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Fiction Funny


To Mr. R. Walton, St. Petersburgh, June 10, 17__


My Dear Robert,

  It was with tremendous satisfaction that I received your copious packet of letters sent from St. Petersburgh. I am greatly relieved that you have returned to civilization intact. You were perhaps apprehensive that I would not credit your amazing tales, but you may rest assured that I do not imagine you could have made yourself out to be such a dolt in a story of your own invention. I have recounted the tale to several acquaintances, and they are of one mind with me: this M. Frankenstein that you speak of with such admiration for his intellect and gentleness is uncommonly brutish and--though some credit must be due to his ability to find the secret of bestowing life--unfathomably stupid. It can only be the influence of the cruel winter stalled in the ice that has brought you under the spell of this repulsive gentleman. 

To begin, in relating your tale amongst my acquaintances, it became quite laborious to continually refer to this creation as “the wretch” and take pains to point out that M. Frankenstein was the name of that unfortunate creature’s creator and not that of the beast himself. All of this would certainly be clarified by the simple assignation of a name; therefore, I shall henceforth refer to the wretch as “Jim,” a very fine name and one that has done credit to many a man of lesser parts than this fine intellectual who could pick up multiple languages by listening at cracks in hovel walls. 

Let me make the case for you that your dear friend is not only very much in the wrong in general when it comes to Jim, but also has at every turn been an out and out blockhead. Your own case speaks eloquently to the fact that if he had only described Jim to the public he could have forestalled violent rejection, as you are the only person in the entire narrative to receive any forewarning of poor Jim’s existence and appearance. Shall we find it mere wild coincidence that you are also the only person to refrain from shooting him, waving pitchforks, or hurling rocks? Ridiculous. The only coincidence here is the wild misfortune of finally deciding to relate his tale upon your boat, for where else in the world but on a boat stuck in the ice of the Arctic Sea could he find an audience wholly free of any woman to point out to him the error of his ways? My only regret at the expiry of this despicable monster (I here refer to the scientist, you’ll note) is that I have to direct my remonstrances to you in his stead. 

You shall find them as follows:

Though M. Frankenstein was doubtlessly derelict in his duty in not forming any plan for how to deal with the impending quickening of his creation, not to mention cowardly beyond measure to run away and fall asleep rather than care for it (really! Imagine having no plan at all for a birth and running in terror from the newly emerged infant, and this without even the suffering of pregnancy and confinement for an excuse!), we will put that aside knowing that anyone in the fever of obsession can exert poor judgment. I myself have been known to feel the pull of a nap competing with my inclination to ensure that my offspring are provided with the basics for survival. But let us examine one or two other points of failure for which M. Frankenstein can plead no such mitigation.

I shall set the scene: M. Frankenstein has spotted an eight-foot giant scaling the vertical cliffs of the Alps nearby the town where his brother has recently been killed. His foster sister, who would not hurt an insect and who loved the boy as her own brother stands accused. M. Frankenstein says nothing of the giant for fear of being thought mad. The unfortunate Justine is duly hanged while the countryside abounds with irritated farmers wondering what has become of their crop. Does a man of science really propose that this superhuman goliath has ranged the country for a year and more without anyone noticing either it or any missing food? Surely some light investigative journalism should reveal that indeed something with a healthy appetite lurks in the forest? 

Or if you prefer, let us choose a later scene. M. Frankenstein is at his labours in Scotland, preparing the wife and helpmeet Jim requires to satisfy his loneliness. M. Frankenstien, as we know, has created Jim from his constituent parts, each fibre and tissue painstakingly assembled at enlarged size to accommodate the man’s own clumsy fingers. He is at the point of completing his work. Lightning flashes outside, illuminating his devilish visitor, apprehensively awaiting the fulfillment of his creator’s promise of happiness. 

Overcome by horror and remorse, M. Frankenstein takes up a knife, raises it over his head. The inhuman howl of the wretch, sorry of Jim, outside his window informs him that the action of destroying his work will spark a fatal vengeance, an internecine war between them that leaves bodies and destroyed lives in its path. He weighs the destruction against that which might befall if these two become the Adam and Eve of a new race of beings: sworn enemies of man who has rejected them and is so, so very much prettier than they are. In terror he comes to the only reasonable conclusion: he does not give the new creature a functioning reproductive system.

How much of a clodpate was he to start off the project with the ovaries included in the blueprint? Just don’t attach them, you silly oaf! Even if M. Frankenstein was not abreast of the work of Fallopius, Fabricius, and Mr. Harvey, and subscribed to the exploded notion of preformation, surely he could have made his female creation wholly without a womb for Jim’s conception to grow in. I feel an involuntary pull of my eyes heavenward. 

For that is not how the scene played out. Your dunderheaded best mate instead slashed his work to ribbons, leaving poor Jim traumatized out in the storm with only his hatred to keep him company. He even told M. Frankenstein he’d see him on his wedding night, but did he talk to Elizabeth about it? Did he hire some security for her? No, he decided to shew how manly he could be in taking on the, I must reemphasize literal, giant--whom he made with his own hands and thus could not have mistaken for a weaker being, a creature who had already explained to him that he can survive pistol shots--head-to-head. 

It is rather unfortunate that M. Frankenstein could not have my persuasive discourse laid before him in a timely manner. He would certainly have found me reasonable, for I am, as they say, undeniably easy on the eyes, and your Swiss friend rated good looks the only scale of credibility. On the other hand, I could perhaps have introduced him to one or two very charming rapscallions from my past who could set the record straight on the score of physical beauty equating to moral virtue. Ahem.

My dear brother, I am very pleased that you had the good sense to reach out to me with this tale. That alone shews you’ve a good deal better judgment than your late scientific friend. Your propensity to contemplate “what would Margaret do” has saved you a good deal of folly of the type M. Frankenstein fell into. However, as you did assert admiration for M. Frankenstein throughout your missives while his status as the vilest rogue was patent to me, I have taken the liberty of submitting his question to the column “Am I the Assailant (AITA)” in the Spectator. 

It was necessary to rephrase the whole of the narrative, not only because (forgive me for saying so) you do go on, but also for the tedious phrasing. Knowing full well that our dear governess Mrs. Harlan would wrap your knuckles for such prose (no creature can imagine my suffering indeed, M. Frankenstein! One could easily empathize with your despair if you once shewed a human emotion!) I can only conclude that you were attempting to capture your interlocutor’s turn of phrase.

 Even having corrected for tedium, however, the response was unequivocal: M. Frankenstein is deemed the assailant, wholly. Moreover, I have received dozens of invitations from around the country to host our poor Jim in the spare rooms of diverse homes across the nation, to speak at public events, to accept employment in the security field, to tutor children in various languages and literary pursuits. In short, the response has overwhelmingly argued that had M. Frankenstein lifted a finger to introduce Jim to the world, he could instantly have ended the creature’s suffering and rendered him happy. He could likely have accomplished the requisite introduction by foregoing a single nap.

I do hope you plan to return to England to pass a season or two in my profitable company before setting off again into the wild. There is no telling what sort of riffraff you may take in. On the other hand, you may fare no better at home. Rumor has it there is an ancient mariner making the rounds of weddings accosting guests with tales of ghosts and albatrosses. Knowing you, you will not only locate this reprobate but be entirely taken in by him. 

If you do decide to return directly to the frozen north, please be aware that the reports of toxic polar bear meat are credible and not just some cavalier husbands’ tales. 

Your affectionate sister,

Margaret Saville

England




April 25, 2023 15:25

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25 comments

06:40 Aug 02, 2023

AITA haha I had to check this out, as I really want to write a story soon along the lines of the famous reddit column but haven't thought of a good plot yet. Am I the assailant? that's so funny. If Frankenstein was alive today he'd def be a huge celebrity on social media.

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11:44 Aug 02, 2023

Thanks for reading!

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Amanda Lieser
00:52 May 21, 2023

Hi Anne! Congratulations on the shortlist! I loved your approach the prompt with using a story that we are all relatively familiar with, even if we personally haven’t read it. I thought that you did a great job of adding wonderful humor in the story, because it created characters who had a rich and powerful history, the way that siblings often do. I also really admired the way that this story felt like I was in a discussion circle during literature class because it also felt like getting a cup of coffee with my own dear little sister. I thin...

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01:05 May 21, 2023

Thanks, Amanda. I was surprised this was shortlisted because I felt like I was just explaining the book to my students, but I guess the l nuage and the jokes came off! So glad you liked it. And you should read it—it’s brilliant!

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Philip Ebuluofor
16:30 May 08, 2023

Congrats. Interesting and hooking.

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16:35 May 08, 2023

Thanks for reading!

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Philip Ebuluofor
13:36 May 11, 2023

Welcome.

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Laurel Hanson
19:52 May 05, 2023

Loved it! I considered teaching Frankenstein to my sci fi class for about two minutes. A quick revisit put me solidly in the Miss. Saville's camp regarding the annoying protagonist and the overwrought prose. Obviously, his hubris is the point, but still. There's a limit. ANd how well capture in the hilarious: "for where else in the world but on a boat stuck in the ice of the Arctic Sea could he find an audience wholly free of any woman to point out to him the error of his ways?" And what a hoot to critique the story " (forgive me for saying ...

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20:29 May 05, 2023

I just want to make clear: I hate Frankenstein the man. The novel is brilliant. And though the prose is a bit stuffy, I think Shelley is very intentional in showing the Frank could have done better if he had just stopped doubling down on being a man. Teach it, please! It’s the best book! Also thanks for taking the time to engage so deeply in this. I’m so glad someone else found it as funny as I did

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Laurel Hanson
22:36 May 05, 2023

I still had them read the section wherein the doc crafts the body because of its merits, but my high school sophomores weren't really ready for the density of the language. Though they read it well enough to dislike him. Since it's called The Modern Prometheus, it is a good piece for a sci fi class.

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Chris Miller
15:09 May 05, 2023

Hat trick! Nice one.

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15:32 May 05, 2023

That’s the exact phrase that went through my mind when I saw it! Thanks for the support! I think yours was one of the best I read this week. But I think I just love your turn of phrase and that’ll hold true even on not your best plot.

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Chris Fullwood
22:33 May 03, 2023

I can think of a number of authors and stories that would greatly benefit from Margaret Savilles attentions. Delightfully phrased with nicely shaped antiquity, sufficiently starchy with a governesses propensity for well corrected and polished attitudes, and a healthy serving of ignorance just to level things off nicely. I am surprised dear Margaret didn’t ask if “Jim” wouldn’t have improved his lot in life with some help with his elocution ? And a good tailor is never amiss either! A very nice rounded story that hits most of the spots along ...

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22:54 May 03, 2023

Well Jim is one of the most eloquent characters in English lit and by the time Margaret learns his story also well dead, so too late for a tailor. Thanks for reading and commenting! Good to hear the antique phrasing landed!

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V. S. Rose
16:00 May 02, 2023

First of all congratulations on your well-earned shortlist last week! I had a feeling it was gonna pop up on that list. This was real witty and entertaining. Excellent job with the narrative voice. I've never read Frankenstein, but I too always thought it was funny that the monster is called the "wretch", and most people refer to the monster as Frankenstein. There are too many hilarious lines to point out. Just know you gave me a good chuckle on this one. Great story!

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18:27 May 02, 2023

Thanks! I figured the laughs in this were all dependent on knowing the novel well, so glad that had a wider audience. Thanks for reading

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V. S. Rose
10:58 May 06, 2023

Congrats! 3/3. The writing 🔥 is piping hot.

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10:59 May 06, 2023

Thank you!

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12:58 Apr 29, 2023

Well done. I especially like the ending.

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13:27 Apr 29, 2023

This is not the one that was shortlisted, but thanks for the feedback!

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Chris Miller
08:34 Apr 29, 2023

Anne. This is excellent. Funny and smart. And, yes! He is the dumbest genius ever. It's always bothered me that Victor manages an almost god-like feat of creation, and then wanders off and leaves it. What could go wrong?

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11:19 Apr 29, 2023

Thanks, Chris. It was fun to write

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Mary Bendickson
00:45 Apr 27, 2023

Mind-blowing! By my count that is three IN A ROW!!! Congrats! Silly me I thought there was some unspoken rule that couldn't be done:) Oh, let me add to that: your first three stories!! out of six! since April! with three more sparkling entries in the wings! You are a pro!!!

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01:15 Apr 27, 2023

Really? I'm on the fence about submitting it! It was super fun to write and it makes me laugh!

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16:39 May 08, 2023

Thank you, Mary for the confidence. I’ve been writing my whole life but I’ve never shared my work before. It is very gratifying to get positive results. I really appreciate you taking time to leave kind words

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