This year, 2018, marks the 200th anniversary of a novel that not only changed the life of its young author but essentially created an entirely new genre of literature.

Mary was just a wee snip of a girl - merely 18 years old - when she first conceived her tale. It was born from a challenge, issued by a friend while she and her husband visited that friend in Switzerland during the rainy summer of 1816.

As the story has it, the group amused themselves one evening by reading German ghost stories that had been translated into French. At one point their host suggested that each member should write a ghost story of their own. It wasn't until several days latter that Mary hit upon the idea for her story, inspired (so she later said) by a terrible dream she'd had - though there is ample evidence to suggest that she also drew inspiration from a number of other sources, ranging from John Milton's Paradise Lost to a scientific textbook entitled Elements of Chemical Philosophy, as well as the first of several personal tragedies (in this case the suicide of a half-sister) that marked her life.

When Mary finally began work on her tale, her original intent was compose a short story. With her husband's encouragement she expanded the concept into a full-fledged novel, but Mary was not credited as its author when the novel first appeared in print on Jan. 1, 1818. That first edition was published anonymously, in three volumes (the standard "triple-decker" format of the day for first editions), with a print run limited to only 500 copies.

By the time Mary’s byline finally appeared on the second edition (published in France in 1823), her story was already well on its way to becoming one of popular culture’s most enduring myths. Though she eventually wrote several other novels, none would have the impact of Mary’s first burst of creative energy.

"Mary," of course, was Mary Shelley - the daughter of philosopher William Godwin and pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and the young bride of the famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. And the novel that grew out of that rainy night ghost story session was Frankenstein, the immortal tale of a monster fashioned by a man and the destruction wrought by its creation.

Although generally considered as a horror story, Frankenstein is considered by many critics and genre historians to be the first true science fiction story. This has become a point of debate among those who typically view horror and science fiction as two different and mutually exclusive genres, but it bears noting that the core concept of Shelley's masterpiece is one of the most basic and familiar of all science fiction themes; the only things separating Dr. Frankenstein’s man-made monster from the countless robots and other artificial lifeforms inhabiting so many other tales, really, are the materials from which he was made.

Thanks to the countless motion picture adaptations that have been produced over the years, Frankenstein's monster has become best known creations in all of fiction. Oddly enough, however, the popularity of those films - especially the 1931 classic directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the Monster - has had something of a negative impact upon the novel that inspired them.

Many seem to consider the book a "difficult read.” My father - one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever known - read it only once and always claimed he had a difficult time getting through it. When I devoted a term paper in one of my college literature classes to Shelley's novel and some of the films it inspired, my professor seemed surprised that I had actually read the thing - and even more so when I told him that I had in fact read it more than once over the years, the first time being in the fifth grade when I’d borrowed my father's 1965 Dell Laurel Leaf paperback edition (which he later gave to me as a gift and which is still a part of my personal library today).

More significantly, the film adaptations have - like the movie versions of that other great literary creation, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes - substantially altered the public’s understanding of the original story. The depiction of the monster being animated through the use of electricity, for example, comes not from the novel, but originated with the Karloff film. In Shelley’s original work, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a previously unknown but elemental principle of life which allows him to imbue vitality into inanimate matter (though the exact nature of that process is never fully explained).

Also, the Karloff movie - and pretty much every other film adaptation, both before and after 1931 - also depicts the monster's appearance in a far different manner than in the novel. Shelley described the Monster as about 8 feet (2.4 meters) in height and proportionally large, with watery white eyes and yellow skin that barely conceals the muscles and blood vessels underneath - a far cry from the cobbled-together collection of body parts portrayed by Karloff, though it is Karloff who still comes to mind for most people nearly 90 years after that film's release.

Most importantly, let us not forget that it was the monster's creator, and NOT the monster which he created, whom Mary Shelley christened Frankenstein. And yet it is the Monster most people think of when they hear the name, and you'd be surprised by some of the dirty looks I've gotten from some people when I've dared to correct them on the subject.

While Karloff's cinematic interpretation is the one most firmly fixed upon public consciousness, the life of the original literary character has also extended far beyond Shelley's novel.

In 1957, French author and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriére wrote the first of six sequels - entitled The Tower of Frankenstein - in which it revealed that the Monster survived the events of Shelley's original novel. In the book the Monster finally is given a name - "Gouroull," one of the first words he utters upon being returned to life, but the meaning of which remains a mystery throughout the series.

Carriére novels (originally published under the pen name "Benoit Becker") emphasizes the inhumanity of the creature to a greater degree than even Shelley. The first novel in the series opens in 1875; the sixth volume, The Cellar of Frankenstein, takes place just before the start of World War II and ends with the Monster vanishing once more.

More recently, other authors - two of whom, Frank Schilidner and Matthew Baugh, happen to be friends of Yours Truly - have renewed Carriére's series with new sequels of their own. Schildiner's contributions to the mythos include two novels - The Quest of Frankenstein and The Triumph of Frankenstein - as well as a short story, "The Blood of Frankenstein," which appeared in Volume 10 of the anthology series Tales of the Shadowmen.

Baugh - whose other literary projects have included serving as co-editor of the 2012 anthology for Moonstone Books in which my Green Hornet story "Bad Man's Blunder" appeared - authored "Mask of the Monster" for the first Tales of the Shadowmen collection. A third short story, entitled "Patricide," was written by Christofer Nigro for Tales of the Shadowmen Volume 8.

The tales by Schildiner, Baugh and Nigro were each published by Black Coats Press and are available on Amazon. I'll confess that I've not yet read Nigro's story, but I can testify that those by Schildiner and Baugh are worthy additions to Shelley's mythos and are well worth seeking out. (And no, I am NOT just saying that because Frank and Matthew are my friends.)

In the introduction to an 1831 edition of her first and most famous work, Mary Shelley wrote the following: “And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.” Whether in print or on screen, that monster first dreamed up by an 18-year-old girl two centuries ago continues to loom large in the dark shadows of our collective consciousness - and no doubt will continue to do so for many a Halloween season to come.