200 years ago Mary Shelley wrote a wonderful novel called Frankenstein. There was a competition to celebrate the anniversary. The challenge was to write 1000 words or so on “The relationship between creator and creation.” Here’s what I did. (I set up this post on what would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday. I know he’d have gotten a kick out of it.)
A remarkable inventor was Professor Thaddeus Plumpton-Green,
The man who was responsible for a most unique machine.
It turned out to be one of the best the world had ever seen.
He wasn’t very popular with other scientific brains.
They thought him odd, old-fashioned, and not up with modern gains
And in return he thought them trapped in unimaginative chains.
How things should work was what the Prof and his colleagues most would clash on.
Electronic new technology and computers may be fashion
But he didn’t care – gears and springs and clockwork were his passion.
He worked with cogs and wheels and springs and widgets made of tin.
Rack and pinion joints, and spools, and wire he’d coil around a pin
And the hammering of metal sheets that created quite a din.
The sound of his constructions could be as loud as you’d predict
So he lived and worked outside of town where the noise rules weren’t so strict,
And in that lab he called his home, he built the Thing that clicked.
Although he lived all by himself he seldom felt alone.
So much went on inside his head – a heavy traffic zone
But the Thing that clicked was company, in a way he’d never known.
Of course it could do more than click, if given half a chance.
It could nod and bow, and smile and wave. It could walk and run and prance.
When it was moved a special way the Thing would even dance.
That delighted old Prof P, who’d dance when on his own
To foxtrot records, classic jazz, on his wind-up gramophone.
If he tripped, or didn’t keep in time, the Thing would never moan.
Its clicking fitted with the jazz, in rhythm with the beat.
A dance partner who did not complain was, for clumsy Prof, a treat
For the Thing, it didn’t feel a thing if he trampled on its feet!
Once he told his Thing a joke and it gave him back a wink. It
Startled Plumpton-Green. He loved his animated trinket
But to call it ‘life’ was just too much – best not overthink it!
He hadn’t made a monster, of that he was quite certain.
The Thing was all of clockwork with no feelings to be hurting,
But Plumpton-Green still fretted as he peeped out round his curtain.
He went into town as he sometimes did to buy food, supplies and tools
When he saw some children as they walked to playgrounds or to schools.
“If they like my Thing I’m safe,” he thought, “For the young are no-one’s fools!”
Back in his lab he made more Things – just a few at first to share.
No monsters these, but playmates, each made with skill and care.
“If these kids like them I’ll make more for children everywhere!”
He took the new Things into town and gave them out for free
They clicked as they ran and danced and played and filled young hearts with glee
And parents seemed quite satisfied with his safety guarantee.
As children played with their clicking Things two men in suits walked by.
The fun the children clearly had caught one shrewd man’s cold eye.
He nudged his pal, said: “The next big thing! Let’s get rich, you and I!”
The men in suits were already rich from selling other stuff
But the funny thing with money is for some, there’s never enough.
When Professor P. said, “Not for sale!” they left him in a huff.
They found a boy who swapped his Thing for a computer game and sweets.
The lazy lad would rather play inside than on the streets
And the company of friends was less important than his treats.
So the men in suits had got their Thing and hardly spent a penny.
They had plenty cash, and grand ideas, but morals? Hardly any.
“If a few of these are such big hits, what dough we’ll make with many!”
“We can make more faster, cheaper, better too when we understand the trick!”
So their smart guys took the Thing apart to see what made it tick.
They even found the little bit that had given it its click.
They built a grand new factory with machines all big and fine,
Even automated polishers to give a brilliant shine
To New Improved Things by the thousand, off a huge production line.
Professor Plumpton read a press release of what the men in suits would do.
They’d flood the market with new Things, click-free, and cheaper, too.
He sighed and patted Thing the First and said, “At least I’ve still got you.”
But the New Improved Things didn’t sell – no-one wanted them as toys.
“What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?” the men asked girls and boys.
The answer came, “They’re not the same. We liked the clicking noise!”
The men in suits were horrified at what the children spoke.
The factory, sales plan, marketing had all gone up in smoke.
Their production line of monsters left the men in suits quite broke.
The men in suits sold all their Things to the sheikh of a far-off land
Who used them as cheap labour to construct his buildings grand.
But alas, they didn’t last for long as their gears were clogged with sand.
Tastes change quickly nowadays and novelty wears thin.
Even those few Things that clicked were soon no longer ‘in’.
But the Prof back in his lab still wore his quiet contented grin.
For he still had his Thing the First to proudly call his own.
They’d stay up late and dance to jazz on the trusty gramophone,
As years went by old Plumpton-Green never had to be alone.
When the old Professor passed away, the Thing it couldn’t cry.
It didn’t have the means for tears, however it may try.
It hadn’t been designed to weep or mourn or even sigh.
It held his body to its breast and danced a gentle sway.
The music stopped, the Thing still moved in a tender, loving way
Until the gears at last wound down, and the last click died away.