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Dudes, Locked in a Dudely Power Struggle

Gallatin poet Elizabeth McClellan retells the story of Frankenstein’s second monster—and earns a Rhysling nomination in the process

June 3, 2011 “Anything So Utterly Destroyed” by Elizabeth McClellan, a Gallatin-based poet and University of Memphis law student, has been nominated for a 2011 Rhysling Award by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. The Rhysling is a prize given to the best science-fiction, fantasy, or horror poem published during the previous year. “Anything So Utterly Destroyed” appeared in the October 2010 issue of Apex Magazine and was nominated in the category for poems over fifty lines in length.

In a long but extremely lively interview in the Nashville Scene, McClellan explains how she got the idea for a poem in the voice of Frankenstein’s second monster, a creature pieced together from scavenged parts of dead young women. (Intended to be a bride for Frankenstein’s first monster, she is destroyed before being fully finished.) “Anything So Utterly Destroyed,” McClellan tells the Scene‘s Betsy Phillips, “came very much from a defiant feminist place—I had more than a few moments where I was excessively irritated with Shelley, Feminist Writer Icon that she is, for creating a book with so little respect for its female characters that it could accurately be summed up as ‘Dudes, Locked in a Dudely Power Struggle, Kill Ladies And Treat Them Like Agency-Free Garbage.'”

As with any creation, including Frankenstein’s own, McClellan’s monster emerged with an identity that McClellan didn’t entirely plan or control: “The character surprised me, alternating as she does between vulnerability, clinical detachment, and a thing that would be outrage about the horror that is her short existence if it weren’t so matter-of-fact.” And while McClellan could figure out no way to give her creation a happy ending and remain faithful to her source text, she was determined to give Frankenstein’s second monster a real story, to make her more than a mate for one monster and the abhorrent creation of another. “That process,” she tell Phillips, “had to start with giving her a voice. It was more difficult than I expected to work within the limitations of the text in that regard; her development of identity goes in stages throughout the poem, in subtle ways, and she still gets cut off before she ever gets to be a whole person … but even with that, she is definitely her own voice, sardonic and alien and yet human in spots.”

Read the full interview here.

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