kathleen ann goonan


Updating Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:
Kathleen Ann Goonan's Queen City Jazz
Kate Sisson, Science, Technology, and Culture junior

Frankenstein has haunted the minds and creations of writers since Mary Shelley's story hit the press in 1818. For nearly 200 years authors have rewritten this story to imagine both beautiful and horrific creations. One of the most beautiful and noteworthy children of Shelley's legacy is Kathleen Ann Goonan's 1994 novel Queen City Jazz.

In the first novel of her nanotech series, Goonan offers a retelling of Frankenstein set in a world of biotechnology and bumblebees. If she had used Shelley's characters, Goonan's modern science fiction reworking of Frankenstein would go like this:

The reader meets the creature during his stay with the DeLacey family, who live in the countryside away from the mad scientist's reach. The DeLaceys teach the creature how to be human and the meaning of love. When one of the DeLaceys contracts the Plague and goes insane, the creature is forced to seek out the laboratory of his creator, the nanotech-Enlivened City of Cincinnati. There, the creature learns that he, like the City of Cincinnati, is Frankenstein's creation. It becomes obvious that Frankenstein has wreaked havoc in his laboratory and inadvertently enslaved the inhabitants of the City. Fortunately, Frankenstein's angelic cousin, Elizabeth, has anticipated his mistakes and installs safeguards in the city for the creature to decode and use. The creature and (posthumously) Elizabeth work together to sort out the chaos of Frankenstein's City and bring it under Elizabeth's womanly and sane rule. After successfully saving the city, the creature, his lover, their dog, and the chosen group of people who becomes the creature's new family set off down the Mississippi River for further adventures.

In Queen City Jazz, Goonan drastically rewrites the Frankenstein story by placing it in a future world controlled by nano- and biotechnology. This enables her to both invoke and extend Shelley's ideas concerning scientific creation, human identity, and feminist critiques of science.



  ethics of creation


bodies and identity


domesticity, morality,
and motherhood




  interview with
kathleen ann goonan