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Poem: "Victor(ia) Frankenstein" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Victor(ia) Frankenstein"

This poem came out of the July 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman and the classic novel Frankenstein, which you can read online.  It also fills the "taking care of somebody" slot on my card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family, which you can find on the Serial Poetry page.




Victor(ia) Frankenstein


It was not Victor Frankenstein's fault
that his parents had mistaken him for a girl
due to the unfortunate shape of his genitals.
He knew, of course, that he was a boy,
although the presence of a vulva
where there should have been a penis
was more than a bit confusing for a while.

He maintained his insistence
through scoldings and whippings,
and his parents soon learned
that they could either dress him in trousers
or have him tear off the petticoats
and run naked through the house.

So they kept him home
and had him tutored in private.
He studied all kinds of science,
became quite good at it,
and learned that sexual variation
occurred in species throughout nature.

Like most men, Victor wished
for a wife and children.
There was a girl whom he courted
for a time, but then she found out --
well, leave it said that walking in on him
whilst he was in the shower
swiftly led to her walking out altogether.

Victor moved house, not for the first time,
seeking a place where nobody knew him
or his regrettable deformity.
He hired a servant to assist in the lab,
a gentle hunchback by the name of Igor,
and they soon became friends.

Victor was always searching for
ways to alter the human body,
in hopes of changing what looked female
into what would look male.
It never really went beyond testing on mice
but it gave him some interesting ideas.

It was Igor, though, who really started it --
when they finally got the frog legs to twitch
during a thunderstorm, and they hugged
and danced around the lab together.

"You know," Igor said slowly,
"I've seen how you watch the women
in the village with their little babies.
You've explained that you can't have
a child of your own body ...
but I believe you could make one."

Victor smiled, but it was a sad smile.
"It's sweet of you to suggest that, Igor,
but society expects a baby
to come with a mother," he said.

"So pretend one," Igor said.
"Women die in childbirth all the time.
Move to a new village, say that
you married and your wife passed away."

"That does not give me a mother for the baby,"
Victor pointed out.  "Who would care for it?"
"Must it be a mother?" Igor said quietly.
"Look at me, Victor -- you are not the only one
who ever had a woman run out of the bathroom.
I too would like a child, and the ordinary way
is completely out of my reach.
I would gladly help you raise a baby."

So Igor procured the supplies
and they set about trying to make an infant.
It was harder than they thought.
The sad little corpses of stillborn babies
made both scientist and assistant cry.
They persevered, though, because
this was the only hope they had.

One dark and stormy night,
they finally succeeded in creating life.
They laughed and wept
and hastened to put out the fire in the lab.
They bandaged each other's burned hands
and wrapped the baby in a blanket.

They named him Adam.
He fussed and cried, waving his fists.
It took an hour to get him fed
and both parents wound up
wearing more than a bit of goat milk.

Igor rocked him and cuddled him
while Victor made a bassinet out of a packing crate,
because they'd been so busy making the baby
that they'd forgotten half the things
a baby would need.
At last they put Adam to bed.

"I worry, a bit, about whether or not
he'll be able to grow properly,"
Victor said, watching their son sleep.

"Ah well ... I suppose I should tell you
what got me interested in science,"
Igor admitted.  "I spent years
studying growth hormones,
hoping to fix my damn back,
before I realized it was too late for me.
The formula would only work
on a child whose bones were still growing."
He shrugged.  "But if we need it,
I'm sure we can recreate it."

Victor gave Igor a long look then.
"I know we've both had bad luck with women,"
the scientist said, "and neither of us are the sort
to go about lifting other men's shirts,
but I hope you won't be offended
if I say that what I feel for you
could very easily be mistaken for love."

"Don't be silly, Victor," said Igor.
"I've loved you ever since the day
you saw me changing my shirt
and didn't  sack me for being
too hideous to look at.  The fact
that I don't want you in my bed
has nothing whatsoever to do
with how I feel about you."

"Oh," said Victor.
"Then I love you too."

They didn't share a bed,
but they did move into the same room
so that they could put the bassinet
between the two beds and listen,
all through the night, to the sounds
of the lifegiving rain on the roof and
their family breathing softly beside them.

* * *

Notes:

Transgender people have a deep history.  Because medical treatments for this are relatively recent, in the past people often just "passed" as their gender of identity, covering up their physical shape as best they could.  Some transgender people consider their sexual traits to be a deformity or birth defect; others don't.  Sometimes it gives them sympathy for people with other types of physical challenges.

Victor and Igor share what's called a queerplatonic relationship, which is a devoted bond that is not romantic.  They both happen to be heterosexual men who for various reasons don't feel able to marry women, and they've become deeply attatched to each other in a way that allows them to form an unconventional family.  They are not "in love" but they do love each other -- and their son.

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36 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: July 6th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)
AWWWW! <3 <3 <3 (that number is deliberate)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this odd little family.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 6th, 2013 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
That's lovely.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

Thank you. I'm happy to hear that.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 6th, 2013 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed that! Igor is wallpaper so much of the time; it was good to see a story exploring his character more.

And I hope that THIS Victor Frankenstein doesn't dump his creation and run away on a boat.

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I really enjoyed that!<<

Yay! That's good to hear.

>> Igor is wallpaper so much of the time; it was good to see a story exploring his character more. <<

I like him as a character. I did another poem earlier, "Igor's Creature," in which Igor and the Creature are decent people and Victor is an ass.

>> And I hope that THIS Victor Frankenstein doesn't dump his creation and run away on a boat. <<

He would never do that. He's a good person, and the original prompt stipulated "not abusive." So, no abandonment.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 12th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I read Igor's Creature now too! I enjoyed it a lot as well, especially since I have a bibliophile friend who LOATHES Frankenstein. She has a whole canned rant about him. I sent her a link to that one; I think she'd enjoy it.

And I'm glad this Victor is much less of a ponce.

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> I read Igor's Creature now too! I enjoyed it a lot as well, <<

Yay! I'm happy to hear that.

>> especially since I have a bibliophile friend who LOATHES Frankenstein. She has a whole canned rant about him. I sent her a link to that one; I think she'd enjoy it. <<

Thanks for the signal boost. "Igor's Creature" was heavily influenced by the interpretation of Frankenstein from my Women's Studies classes. I wondered what the story would be like if I pushed the feminist angle just a little farther and showed Igor using some of the same ass-managing techniques that women often use.

>> And I'm glad this Victor is much less of a ponce. <<

Well, this version of Victor is a lot more fun to spend time with.
lyonesse From: lyonesse Date: July 6th, 2013 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
adorable :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I appreciate that.
westrider From: westrider Date: July 6th, 2013 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just wonderful. So much win here :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.
serpentine.dreamwidth.org From: serpentine.dreamwidth.org Date: July 6th, 2013 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was hoping someone was going to fund this based on the title!

I really like what you did with Victor and Igor's relationship in here and how you handled Victor's issues.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I was hoping someone was going to fund this based on the title!<<

I'm very happy to share this with folks.

>>I really like what you did with Victor and Igor's relationship in here and how you handled Victor's issues.<<

Yay! I wanted something different from the usual interpretations, that would still fit with the culture at the time. So they're willing to buck things enough to make a place for themselves in the world, but their ideas are still framed by everything around them.
siege From: siege Date: July 6th, 2013 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for this. It's helping to clarify some of my own gender experiences.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

>>Thank you for this.<<

You're welcome.

>> It's helping to clarify some of my own gender experiences. <<

That's unexpected but gratifying. Thanks for letting me know. I'm glad I could help. Things like that are among the reasons why I write such stuff.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: July 7th, 2013 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I love this SO MUCH.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That makes me happy.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: July 11th, 2013 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
This is absolutely lovely.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

It's good to hear.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm strongly reminded of Lyria. She's not trans at all, but she is asexual and yet still wanted a family, so she made one. When Forizano comes into the picture, their relationship is asexual. I don't know if Forizano is an ace or not, but he might well be. At the very least, he doesn't mind that Lyria has no sexual interest in him.

I'm also reminded of my character Lord Ottoman Lichter, a bi-gendered inventor who starts dating his own doppelganger from an alternate universe. They have a robot child together. And his poor friend Jonathan Holmes, such an understanding (if long suffering) soul, is the narrator of their adventures.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I see the parallels. I like unconventional families!
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
By the way, this was an awesome poem. I love it, and the idea behind it. It's a lovely new take on an old classic.

Going along with the original themes of the original book, it'd be interesting to see what forces drive Adam away from Victor in this version. Since, in the original, they were at odds with each other. I don't remember the details, because it was so long ago I read it, but it would be an interesting direction to go. I doubt the reasons would be the same, since this Victor seems to love his creation.

But, well... what does the baby look like? Will the baby age and grow normally? Will the baby be able to reproduce? Does the baby, the result of mad science and reanimation, have any birth defects or mental disabilities? Is there something about how the baby came to exist that will cause him to eventually grow to resent, possibly even hate, his fathers for giving him life? It would be sad, but it would echo the original.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Given that he's the madstory-science creation of a trans man and a hunchback in an era of such intolerance and cruelty, I'd be very surprised if Adam grew to adulthood without some kind of issues, especially issues with his fathers.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

This is plausible. People aren't likely to be kind about those matters.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>By the way, this was an awesome poem. I love it, and the idea behind it. It's a lovely new take on an old classic.<<

Thank you!

>>Going along with the original themes of the original book, it'd be interesting to see what forces drive Adam away from Victor in this version. Since, in the original, they were at odds with each other.<<

In the original, Victor was a narcissistic, abusive bastard. This Victor is not abusive, per the original prompt, and therefore not prone to wrecking the family he's worked so hard to create. So I don't think anything's going to drive Adam away.

>>I don't remember the details, because it was so long ago I read it, but it would be an interesting direction to go. I doubt the reasons would be the same, since this Victor seems to love his creation.<<

Victor does love Adam, and Igor too although that's still a little wobbly as they try to figure out how their nonstandard relationship works. It can be really hard to get the hang of a primary relationship that's not based on sex.

>>But, well... what does the baby look like?<<

All babies look like potatoes.

*chuckle* More seriously, Adam looks like a baby who survived a bad accident. He's a patchwork, like the original creature, but much more carefully constructed. Babies heal well; some of the scars will fade, and the remainder probably won't be obvious after a while.

>> Will the baby age and grow normally? <<

Well, he's alive, so he'll age; but the process may have impaired ordinary growth. Igor and Victor can presumably compensate for that.

>> Will the baby be able to reproduce? <<

That's iffy. The mad science happened prior to puberty, but reproduction is an easy thing to scramble. I'd suspect a higher than average chance of fertility problems.

>> Does the baby, the result of mad science and reanimation, have any birth defects or mental disabilities? <<

Mental, probably not; physical, perhaps. With that much splicing of body parts, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the neural connections went astray. Remember how clumsy the original creature was? That's plausible, although given the careful workmanship here, the damage would be less.

>>Is there something about how the baby came to exist that will cause him to eventually grow to resent, possibly even hate, his fathers for giving him life? It would be sad, but it would echo the original.<<

Not directly. I think the most likely issue is simply that Adam has two fathers instead of a father and a mother. Children often feel weird about differences. Igor and Victor love him to pieces, though, so I believe they could work through what challenges arise.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 08:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

All babies look like potatoes.

One of the people sharing headspace with me, Alex, thinks all babies look like fat insect larvae with a vaguely humanoid shape. Or, as he says when he's feeling especially nasty about it, "maggots with arms and legs." The rest of us can tolerate small children fairly well when we have to, though we prefer to stay away from them. Alex has almost no tolerance or patience for small children at all. So we've basically decided that if we ever have children, we'll adopt a child at least 6 years old, skip the "does nothing but eats, screams, and poops" stages. :-)

I also want to say, it would be equally interesting to see more of this storyverse wherein Adam gets along well with his fathers.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

And honestly, I kind of agree with Alex. I think it's because Ah'Koi Bahnis babies spend longer in the womb, and have an easier time getting out. (Ah'Koi Bahnis solved the head size problem by evolving hip bones that can unhinge, similar to how snake jaws can come unhinged to accommodate large prey.) AKB also have a mental link to their babies in the womb. So AKB babies, when born, look like human toddlers and can already speak as soon as they're born. No need to guess what the different screams mean, the AKB baby can just tell you what djai needs.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> One of the people sharing headspace with me, Alex, thinks all babies look like fat insect larvae with a vaguely humanoid shape. <<

*laugh* I've heard them called "larval humans" before.

>>I also want to say, it would be equally interesting to see more of this storyverse wherein Adam gets along well with his fathers.<<

I'm open to that possibility, if you want to prompt for it later. The next Creative Jam theme is "families of choice" so watch for that.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2013 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Cool!
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 12th, 2013 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

One of my favorite kiddie sci-fi books, one of the characters calls young Earthling children 'larvae.'

And I personally would rather prefer one where Adam gets along with his fathers. I dunno, with all the stories of families falling apart, I'd like to see an unconventional one that's happy.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> One of my favorite kiddie sci-fi books, one of the characters calls young Earthling children 'larvae.' <<

That's cute.

>> And I personally would rather prefer one where Adam gets along with his fathers. I dunno, with all the stories of families falling apart, I'd like to see an unconventional one that's happy. <<

This would be my preference too, for the same reasons. Of course they're going to have challenges -- every family does -- but I'd like to see them overcome that stuff. If I wanted to see miserable families, I'd watch the news.

I also like the idea that changing one of the base premises in a story should have major effects. Here I've changed Victor from cisgender to transgender, which changed his family dynamics growing up, which made him more understanding about abuse and determined not to replicate it; and which also changed how he can interact with women. Those factors have a huge impact on the plot and characters, so it makes sense that the story would develop in a totally different direction.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: March 18th, 2014 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I did not like the original "Frankenstein", but I like this one.

They said it, they named it. I love that.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: April 10th, 2014 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
buffarama From: buffarama Date: September 17th, 2015 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
enjoying the series :)

also wanted to let you know that the trans 'deep history' link that links to albertatrans.org is no longer valid
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 17th, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> enjoying the series :) <<

I'm happy to hear that!

>>also wanted to let you know that the trans 'deep history' link that links to albertatrans.org is no longer valid<<

Fixed. I substituted another link on trans history.
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