At a time when the world can seem ever more like science fiction, there is something intensely charming and even refreshing about Frankenstein Dreams (Bloomsbury). Noted biographer and anthologist Michael Sims (The Story of Charlotte’s Web, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau) has collected the very best of Victorian science fiction with entries from Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling and others.
In the 19th century, writers were pitching their minds into impossible situations. Then, as now, imagining beyond what had previously been thought of. And some of those imaginings brought us to where we are now. “The notion of ‘deep space,’” Sims writes in his introduction, “soon followed and opened the door to even more devastating concepts as “deep time,” which provided eons for the gradual change of plants and animals.”
And then, as now, each fictional discovery often led to still more outlandish imaginings.
Even the most passionate fans of natural history, which was an international popular recreation during much of the nineteenth century, found the terrain disconcertingly wobbly. What was our status in the cosmos? Were there really things called galaxies out beyond our local solar system? How can there be bot ha microscopic world beneath us and a telescopic world above us? We do we find seashells fossilized on mountaintops?
And, again, then as now, each new scientific discovery would merely add fuel to the fictionist’s arsenals and provide fodder for still more dreams.
In addition to the collected stories, Sims carefully sets up each piece, providing information about the author as well as some context for the story, as appropriate.
This is the fourth book in Sims’ Connoisseur’s Collection series of Victorian anthologies. Earlier titles have included Dracula’s Closet, The Dead Witness and The Phantom Coach. ◊