Bicentennial of Frankenstein Inspires Global Contest for New Stories about Science and Creation

This piece was originally published on ASU Now.

Two hundred years after Mary Shelley came up with the vision for the story that would become Frankenstein, Arizona State University (ASU), National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Chabot Space and Science Center, and Creative Nonfiction magazine will launch a series of writing “dares” to inspire the public to imagine new stories about science, technology and the impact of creation.

In June 1816, Mary Shelley and a group of fellow writers challenged each other to tell a scary story. In the wee hours of June 16, Mary was woken by a nightmare that became the foundation for Frankenstein, a novel that continues to shape perspectives on contemporary scientific breakthroughs. Today, the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare competition will replicate that original challenge, inspiring amateur and professional writers to reflect on questions of science, ethics, creativity, and responsibility.

Frankenstein emerged in a moment of great social and technological change,” said Ed Finn, co-director of ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project. “Today, via incredible scientific advances, we have the power to create and guide many kinds of life, from genetically engineered organisms to snarky chatbots. We need new, updated myths about creators, creations, and the responsibilities we share for the things we bring into the world.”

The Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare will be separated into two distinct categories. The first, presented by ASU, NaNoWriMo, and Chabot, invites participants to write short and scary tales about unexpected consequences and unintended monstrosities.

“In Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley shows how science and storytelling aren’t separate fields, but are involved in a close and necessary dialogue,” said Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month. “Stories are important for the imaginative power they fuel―to help us envision and better understand the possibilities and perils of scientific discoveries. We expect the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare to spark tales that help us see the world’s scientific challenges and opportunities in a new light.”

Winners in the short fiction contest will receive personal feedback from Hugo and Sturgeon Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Elizabeth Bear, as well as a curated selection of classic and contemporary science fiction books. Submissions will be accepted through July 31, 2016.

The second, a long-form nonfiction competition presented by ASU and Creative Nonfiction magazine, asks authors to document true stories about the evolving relationships between humanity and technology for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize or one of two $2,500 runner-up prizes. Winners will be announced in mid-2017, and winning essays will be included in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

The Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare competition builds on ASU’s success in public engagement around science in society topics. The university has published a series of crowdsourced science fiction anthologies featuring stories by students across the United States. A similar fiction writing competition about climate change recently closed, with over 700 submissions from 67 different countries. Likewise, the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare will celebrate the impact of the Frankenstein narrative worldwide.

“Frankenstein is a story that transcends generations, languages and media,” said David Guston, co-director of the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project. “Pairing this globally-recognized text with a set of new and diverse voices is an exciting way to bring big questions about cutting edge science and emerging technologies into a broader public discussion.”

Submissions for the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare are being accepted now. Full details, contest rules, and guidelines for entries can be found at

Media Contact: Joey Eschrich