“Sometimes, You Need to Roll a Hard Six”: the Gothic Science Fiction in Frankenstein and Battlestar Galactica

Carey Millsap-Spears
Professor, Moraine Valley Community College

The rebooted science-fiction franchise Battlestar Galactica, provides viewers with a heavy dose of the Gothic as well as time-honored sci-fi staples like exploration and space travel. The 2003 reboot of the 1970s-cult-classic, Battlestar Galactica offers Female Gothic imagery in the way the science of the Cylons is explained and in the escape narrative of the series; in addition, the opening scene to the series is completely Frankensteinian. The monsters we create always come back to haunt us, and in that vein, both Shelley’s Frankenstein and the reboot of Battlestar Galactica illustrate the destabilizing Gothic forces present in the Posthuman world.


Brian Aldiss argues “that science fiction grows out of the Gothic, not the utopian mould….” But his argument has been “rejected by a number of critics” says David Seed (qtd. in Mulvey-Roberts 272). In the end, however, Seed surmises that the Gothic “motifs and narrative procedures have continued to appear in science fiction…” (272). “The central message of the Gothic romance form, involving an assertion of the power of the irrational over the rational, is also the message of most science fiction,” adds Patrick Brantlinger (31). Tropes like the mad scientist, the struggle of good vs. evil, and the occasional use of space as the Negative Sublime keep science fiction relevant and mutable—like the Gothic. While the Female Gothic Romance tends to be an inward-facing narrative, science-fiction faces the vast unknown of space, and both genres stand on the precipice of horror and terror, adventure and containment, and escape and exploration. Many scholars name Frankenstein as the first science-fiction novel. Mary Shelley’s masterwork is claimed by many—Female Gothic, Science Fiction, and Horror.

2018 National Conference
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