In the early summer of 2017, I received a letter from the daughter of the noted Shelley scholar Roland Duerksen. Susan had read my article “My Father’s Shelley” and it had struck a chord. She wanted to connect me with her father, now 91 years old and living in New Oxford, Ohio. Roland is the author of two noteworthy and important books on Shelley: "Shelleyan Ideas in Victorian Literature" and "Shelley's Poetry of Involvement". His analysis is penetrating and nuanced, the style conversational and accessible. But it is his overall approach which makes him different, it is imbued with a humanity that reflects well both on himself and his subject. This much I knew, but I knew less about the man himself. I was thrilled that Susan had reached out to me, it was a chance to meet one of the great Shelleyans, but I had no idea whatsoever of the magic which lay in wait for me.
Shelley was after all, the man who, translating Lucretius, wrote, “I tell of great matters, and I shall go on to free men's minds from the crippling bonds of superstition.” However, were Shelley "beamed" to the present by Scotty, I think he would be very surprised to learn that "belief in the supernatural" was not already a thing of the past. He would be shocked to see the humanist agenda in retreat not in the face of benign, religious belief systems, but rather radical, intolerant, orthodox fundamentalism of all varieties. I think he would be profoundly unsettled by the realization that 200 years after the publication of Frankenstein and Prometheus Unbound, a secular, humanistic society was still an imagined future that was the subject of science fiction.