After reading A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott Southard, I started to think about the authors from bygone eras who have influenced my fiction writing. Two stand out. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe.
1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Frankenstein stirred in me an interest in science fiction. The novel was the first so-called classic that I read and enjoyed so much that I re-read it. The conflict within the doctor over what he created was moving. The story was tragic. The creature learned to be civilized and only wanted a mate because in his mind he thought that he deserved happiness, just as anyone else did. The doctor agrees to create a mate for the creature, but the story ends in revenge and bloodshed.
I invite anyone who enjoys science fiction and who has not read Frankenstein to give the story a try (it’s free on Amazon). Mary Shelly was truly a gifted writer.
As for Poe, as far as I know, he stuck to short stories and poems. The two stories of his that have stayed with me to this day are The Purloined Letter and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Both are detective stories ahead of their time, and again, not being an expert on Poe, I believe that they are the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes and Watson characters, in that you have the detective, Dupin, who is borderline genius and the unnamed sidekick.
The stories, especially The Purloined Letter, were masterfully done. I’m not a mystery story connoisseur, so I know not how the stories rank with modern mystery tales, but I found them to be clever and engaging.
C. Dupin–The Purloined Letter
Reading those stories opened me to Poe’s other stories, and from there I moved on to Lovecraft, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and now, Joe Hill.
Poe was an odd man, to say the least. He wrote a poem he titled Eureka, in which he presaged the idea of the Big Bang, but the work has been largely dismissed because it is riddled with scientific errors. Still, Poe considered it his master work and, in his words, “more important than the discovery of gravity”.
In addition, he died under odd circumstances. Being a rampant alcoholic and leading a poor writer’s life, Poe abused his body. He died early at the age of 40, but his life’s ending, like many of his stories, is not so simple on its face.
One night Poe was found roaming the streets of Baltimore in a delusional state and dressed in another man’s clothes. He repeatedly called out the name, “Reynolds, Reynolds!”
Why? No one by that name was found.
Adding onto the oddities, no one knows from what he died because his death certificate was lost.
I wonder what really happened to Poe that night? Maybe he met an end different from what we believe? I’d like to think so.
Still, even if what we know is true, then, even in death, Poe wrote the beginning to a great detective story.
I will title it “Reynolds” and go from there.
What stories have lingered with you through the years?