A writing challenge issued 200 years ago which led to the creation of Frankenstein and the world's first vampire story is being used to inspire a modern generation of writers.
The National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Storytelling Centre are inviting entries for a ghost story competition to mark the anniversary of the first appearance of these landmark works of Gothic horror.
It was in June 1816 — 'the year without a summer' — that incessant rain forced the poet, Lord Byron, and a group of friends to spend days together inside the Villa Diodati, close to Lake Geneva. To while away the time, he challenged his travelling companions to write a ghost story.
Eighteen year old Mary Godwin was there with the man she would soon marry, the poet Percy Shelley, and Dr John Polidori, Byron's personal physician and secretary. Responding to Byron's challenge, Polidori wrote a story, later published as 'The vampyre', which introduced the modern concept of the blood sucking vampire and Mary Shelley sketched out a story which would later be published as 'Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus'. Two of the greatest creations in Gothic literature were born.
'That dark and stormy night when Frankenstein and the modern vampire were brought to life has had a huge impact on storytelling across the world,' said Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. 'We are celebrating the 200th anniversary of this incredible bout of creativity by following Lord Byron and issuing a challenge to people today to come up with their own ghost story.'
The stories should be written to be heard, rather than for private reading. Six winning entries will be brought to life by professional storytellers at the National Library of Scotland on Halloween — 31 October 2016 — as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.
The closing date for entries is 5 September. Full details of how to enter.
The National Library of Scotland contains an internationally important collection of letters, contemporary reviews, diaries, manuscripts and printed works relating to the summer of 1816 and its cultural and literary impact. The works created by Mary Shelley, Byron and Polidori caused immediate controversy resulting in savage critical attacks and scandalous rumour concerning the private lives of those concerned. The writers were described variously as a 'monster-making coterie' and their works as the result of 'a corrupt, diseased mind.'
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is the world's leading celebration of oral storytelling. This year's event, Festival of Dreams, runs from Friday 21 to Monday 31 October.
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16 June 2016