Thursday, April 01, 2010

Literary Mash-Ups: What do You Think?

Last year Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith hit the shelves and became an instant success. Due to the copyright being long expired and other legal complexities that basically don’t apply to a work of fiction so old, the text to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is essentially open to whatever use someone dreams up now. So, the original text is intermingled with new text from Grahame-Smith to change a classic Victorian Romance into a zombie apocalypse.

Part of me rejoices – I mean it just sounds so fun. Another part of me wonders if it’s really just an unoriginal hack job on a literary masterpiece. Is this something new and equally creative as any wholly original work? Is this a next evolution of literature? Is it a gimmick? Is this the new tie-fiction ghetto? Is this a way to get more people reading? Did that absurd high-school reading assignment just get a bit cooler? A clever idea taken way, way too far? I haven’t made up my mind on this and in all honesty, I haven’t yet read any of these new mash-ups. But I want to hear what others think on this. And should I start reading one?

Of course the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has bread faster than rabbits on Viagra. The prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by
Steve Hockensmith (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is out now and there other springing up like those listed below. Heck, we’ve even got one coming where a vampire Jane Austen is a bit pissed off by what people have done with her fiction and get revenge – no joke, for real – in Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound).

  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer by Seth Graham-Smith (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Queen Victoria: Demon Slayer by A.E. Moorat (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Emma and the Werewolves by Jane Austen and Adam Rann (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Flinn and Zombie Jim by Mark Twain and W. Bill Czolgosz (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers by Paul A. Freeman (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • War of the Worlds: Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies by H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

  • and many more.

    • Thoughts?


      Brandon said...

      I'm reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer now. I haven't read any of the others yet.

      Neth said...

      What do you think of it? Any good?

      Seak (Bryce L.) said...

      I have reservations about it too, but it sounds cool. The main point is, are people just jumping on the band wagon or are these real literary creations.

      I just won Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, so I'll let you know soon enough. :)

      Brandon said...

      It is entertaining so far. I like how the author converted deaths in Lincoln's life to vampire attacks. And a nice tie between the vampire community and Southern plantation owners. I'm about halfway through, so we'll see where he can go with it.

      N. R. Alexander said...

      My thoughts as to these books are mostly repellent. Better not to get into any greater detail than that.

      D-man said...

      I've never read any of these books, and I don't think I'll be jumping on the bandwagon anytime soon. Kinda feels like they're the "it" thing right now. I figure it'll all blow over in the next little while.

      D-man said...

      Then again, I've been known to be wrong, from time to time... :)

      Neth said...

      @Naill - oh come on, since when are you one to hold back :P

      An interesting comparison was made over on Westeros to classical music where this sort of thing happens all the time. So, it's not exactly like this is a new thing, just new to bookstores.

      I'll have to give it a try sometime to see what I actually think, though my instinct says that while it is certainly a fad at the moment, it is something that will be around for a while and shouldn't be dismissed too quickly. And of course Sturgeon's Law applies as always.

      The Mad Hatter said...

      I started Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter a couple weeks ago and put it down after 100 pages. This is the first time in at least 4 months where something like this has happened. Nothing in the story was grabbing me.

      Neth said...

      Paul S. Freeman - author of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers - A Canterbury Tale dropped me an email explaining that his novella really shouldn't be classified within the whole monster mash-up thing but as it's own animal. The email is below:

      Hi Ken

      I'm the author of 'Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers - A Canterbury Tale by Paul A. Freeman'. I've enjoyed reading the comments about monster mashups on your site. There are some very incisive views and opinions expressed.

      If I could, I would like to put my book into context.

      Although my novella includes zombies, it's not actually part of the 'monster mash' movement. The Robin Hood legends we all know are actually composed of myth fragments from a number of sources. Although I allude to one or two of these in my book, my novella is in effect an original tale. In fact, the first half takes place not in Sherwood Forest, but in the Holy Land during the ill-fated First Crusade.

      Also, 'Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers' is alternatively titled 'The Monk's Second Tale', and is the longest of a series of eight 'new' Canterbury Tales that I've so far written. It's part of my ambitious 'Canterbury Tales' project which involves each of Chaucer's pilgrims telling a second story in narrative poetry. All my Canterbury Tales are original stories, though I've borrowed Chaucer's pilgrims for the short prologues and epilogues.

      For your information, Chaucer envisaged his pilgrims each telling four stories - two on their outward journey and two on their homeward journey. Unfortunately he died before even completing a quarter of his tales.

      The Canterbury Tales I've written so far (which chronicle the pilgrims' homeward journey) are all in different genres, varying from fables to fabliau, and from crime fiction to chick lit; and since Coscom Entertainment offered me a chance at publication with 'The Monk's Second Tale', this became the horror Canterbury Tale'.

      The rationale behind this project is to renew interest in narrative poetry and to give students who are aiming to study the original Chaucer tales in Middle English a stepping stone by which to pique their interest.

      My Canterbury Tales project is now going quite well. My 'Miller's Second Tale' is being edited for an anthology of neo-medieval literature, and the abridged version of my 'Knight's Second Tale' (an Arthurian legend) will appear soon in the Every Day Poets' inaugural poetry anthology.

      Sorry I've been a bit long-winded, but this project of mine is very close to my heart and I wanted you to get the whole picture.

      Thank you for giving me this chance at explaining what on the face of things is a sensationally titled, band-wagon book, but is in reality meant to be anything but. Below are links to my website, where my CT project is explained in detail along with samples of my work, and a link to my Robin Hood book at Coscom Entertainment:

      I hope you will be kind enough to share my words with your fellow book lovers.

      All the best

      Paul A. Freeman

      Marilynn Byerly said...

      These mash ups are as respectful as painting a mustache on the "Mona Lisa" and as trite.

      Would these mash ups sell if they didn't have the marketing hook of the original book? I seriously doubt it.

      Vera Nazarian said...


      As the author of Mansfield Park and Mummies, I kindly invite you to read the complete first three chapters of my novel and judge for yourself whether your disdain is justified. :-)


      Vera Nazarian

      (a.k.a. the Harridan who lovingly mangled Jane Austen's classic original)


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