Friday, July 9, 2010

Riffs on the Tale - A Rant

Yesterday, Kelly posted about the phenomenon of the mash-up: the original text of classic tales infused with monsters. Sounds fun and it's a clever marketing ploy, what with the current flood of vampire and zombie stuff out there. I thought the first one, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was a cute idea.

I'm going to be honest and say that I haven't read any of the mash-ups. But I hate them. Hate hate hate them. Hate them more than nuts in chocolate (WHY do people ruin perfectly good chocolate in this way?). Hate them more than I hate having to deal with cranky library patrons. Hate hate hate.

Whew.

Why do I hate them? Let's explore what nearly all of the mash-ups have in common: they are almost all classic novels written by female authors and/or featuring female protagonists. I think the best way to explain my feelings is to make a list of the mash-ups I know about, which I have done below (note that these are strictly mash-ups, not original stories, so it excludes Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, as well as the one about Queen Victoria):

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - female author (fa), female protagonist (fp)
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters - fa, fp
  • Little Vampire Women - fa, fp
  • Little Women and Werewolves - fa, fp
  • Jane Slayre - fa, fp
  • Mansfield Park and Mummies - fa, fp
  • Emma and the Werewolves - fa, fp
  • Android Karenina - fp
  • Alice in Zombieland - fp
  • The Undead World of Oz - fp
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim
As you can see, even the books written by a male author still feature female protagonists, with the sole exception of Twain. (This is the point where I invite you to add to my list, with the hope that there are more mash-ups that feature male protagonists out there.)  I'm predicting right here and now that the next mash-up will be Wuthering Heights.  Soon, though, these hacks are going to run out of public domain titles to butcher (a good thing, but also shows the appalling lack of female classic literature out there).

It's no secret that most of the books Western society considers part of the classic canon are written by men and feature men, so the argument that this is merely coincidental is clearly untrue. What does the mash-up trend have to say about our society's views of literature written by women and featuring women? I'll venture a few ideas:

Our society thinks female-driven literature isn't good enough to stand on its own, that it doesn't appeal to enough people to make it worthwhile reading by itself, that it needs something extra to make it worth our time. Our society thinks female protagonists in classic literature aren't sufficiently "bad-ass" or interesting enough, that they need either more violence or more humor or both. Our society views female written and female-driven literature as inherently frivolous (the characters, the events, the themes) and thus these books are perfect for the monster mash-up, which is meant to be frivolous and fun and nothing more. I could go on.

Please, give me your thoughts in the comments. I know I'm not alone, since I've read similar rants elsewhere. I really don't think I'm blowing this out of proportion.

44 comments:

  1. I'd argue kind of the opposite - that female-driven classic literature is what will sell, so that's why publishers chose to do mash-ups of these titles.

    But now you've got me all intrigued. What male protagonists would make good monster mash-ups? OLIVER TWIST, DEMON HUNTER? SHERLOCK HOOOOOLMES, WEREWOLF? CHASING VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS? ;)

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  2. I'm tellin' ya: Moby Dick. Maybe The White Whale and Ghouls?

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  3. Abby - I never thought of that. I don't think I agree, but it's an interesting point...now I'm thinking "Does female-driven classic lit really sell better?"

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  4. I am fairly certain there is one featuring Abraham Lincoln.

    I think someone had a fun idea and did the first one and then it got out of hand and people wanted to make money. I have no doubt this will die a quick death. In fact, I simply like to pretend they don't exist and it hasn't presented a problem so far!

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  5. Patti - There IS one about Abraham Lincoln, but I mentioned in the post that I didn't include it since I don't think it's actually a mash-up (an original classic story with monsters added in). It just takes a historical figure and makes him a vampire hunter. It's the same reason I didn't include Queen Victoria Demon Hunter.

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  6. But do you think Charlotte Bronte would have written a different story if she lived in a society that treated women as equal to men and allowed them the same rights and respect? That's what I wondered when I wrote Jane Slayre, and I can only speak for my own mash-up here. It isn't that Jane needed to be more kick-ass. It's that she wasn't allowed to be in charge of her own fate to the extent that Charlotte might have wished. Charlotte, through Jane, expressed her own dissatisfaction for Jane's choices in life due to gender inequality.

    In retelling Jane Eyre giving Jane super powers to combat evil, I was able to explore new angles of the original. It's more of a "what if..." game, and Jane Slayre is fun, but never frivolous. It's very in keeping with the original with great respect for Charlotte Bronte's words. My style is nothing like Seth Grahame-Smith's, as you can see from the reviews if you had read any.

    All mash-ups are not alike. And just because one was first (and funny, but more in a comic book style) doesn't mean they are all the same and just out to make a buck. As an author, I wanted to explore Jane Eyre, what fascinated me with the original, and what might change and might stay the same by putting a new spin on the classic tale. I love Jane Eyre, and it is still there for all to read and enjoy, not at all diminished by the presence of Jane Slayre, which simply offers a fun new way to read and explore Charlotte's work with a twist of my own. There are no cheap laughs or easy one-liners, nothing inserted just for the sake of having a joke. You really can't judge all mash-ups on the basis of one, or any of them without having read. Purists might still prefer to steer clear, and that's perfectly fine. But you really don't know what you're talking about in criticizing without having read. I invite you to read Jane Slayre, and then judge. Have at it. :)

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  8. Sherri -

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. You are absolutely right that I cannot really judge a book without having read it. I acknowledge in the post that I haven't read any of them, so my rant has to be seen in that light. Thank you for taking the time to point out why you wrote Jane Slayre. If I do decide to pick up a mash-up, yours will probably be the one.

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  9. I couldn't resist responding, as a woman who takes a strong interest in the portrayal of women in books. Women buy more books than men statistically, so the female-driven books might just have more appeal to the majority book buying public. But interestingly enough, my other books have all been romance novels and suddenly I have a growing male audience after Jane Slayre. I think it's great to get men interested in a book many might dismiss as for women. If they read Jane Eyre next, yay!

    Oh, and Sarah Gray's Wuthering Bites is out next month, so you weren't far off on that.

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  10. I kind of figured they took classic books that lots of people loved (and it's a good thing many are written by females and with female protagonists) and tried to make them appeal to people who didn't love them. Maybe most of those are guys, but I'll bet a big portion are girls who just don't care for the style or the love story or whatever.

    I'm kind of holding out for something like To Kill a Mockingturd (don't know what monsters they would add, but I love the title). I guess it's not in public domain yet, though. :)

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  11. Sherri - The thing is, I don't think they will decide to pick up Jane Eyre (or any of the original classics) afterward. I think the reason people may pick up the mash-up is because the classic does NOT interest them, but the supernatural stuff does... which goes back to my contention that the classic is not "enough" to stand on its own. It would be interesting to compare sales of the original classic work pre and post mash-up.

    As you said, your book is garnering a lot of male buyers, so the fact that most book-buyers are female and thus we get the female classic mash-ups doesn't really make sense. I wish males were interested in female-driven classic lit on its own, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. I know as a librarian who purchases for children that we need to find ways to engage boys in reading, but I don't think this the way to do it.

    Melissa - While people do love the female-driven books, there are many more male-driven classics that people love in equal ore moer amounts (at least that's how I see it, from my experience as an English major and as a public librarian). Dickens is really ripe for a mash-up, but it hasn't been done yet, and he's got so many to choose from. What about Shakespeare? I'd venture that he is more popular than Austen.

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  12. Kim, it will please (maybe) you to know that this morning, I saw HarperTeen has "Romeo & Juliet & Vampires" coming out this fall.

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  13. What I percieve is that many of the current mashup writers are not willing to spend the time and energy to develop more original themes and stories. Addiction to werewolves and vampires is like addiction to bubblegum. I am traditional enough to want values in every book and complex characters as well. We take Frankenstein for granted but the story line originally was serious and shocking. Now we make satire of everything. Some of it is creative but much is derivative and to me not first class literature

    Beth Williamson (long time English biddy)

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  14. These books inspire people to take an interest in the classics. That can't be bad in any way. I was at a book sigining for LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES and the girl ahead of me, who had to be sixteen or seventeen years old, looked at the signature in her book and asked who this Porter person was. She actually thought the author was Louisa May Alcott!! The attention spans of people, and especially our young today won't allow too many of them to wade through the classics, so the mashups are fabulous.
    By the way, I firmly believe nuts vastly improve chocolate. The sweet and the salt, the creaminess mixed with the crunch -- Yum!!

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  15. Since you have read similar rants elsewhere, does that mean yours is unoriginal? If you think not, then you must admit there is much originality in the works of the authors writing mashups. The publishers and the public who are buying the works are dictating the trends. The writers are just making a living.

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  16. Anonymous - Just because there are other people that share my opinion does not mean it's not worth sharing on Stacked. I don't know if both of these most recent comments are yours, but I think the example given in the first Anonymous post is not a great one, since it demonstrates that the reader is having trouble discerning the difference between the original and the mash-up.

    I think if young people don't yet have the attention span for these books, maybe they should check out one of the illustrated, abridged versions, or wait until their reading level matures to the appropriate level. Just because someone can understand the book's words doesn't mean they are actually mature enough to read it.

    I'd also like to go back to my original point and reiterate that while I'm not a fan of the classic mash-up in general, I take particular issue with the fact that most of the mash-ups are female-written and feature female protagonists.

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  17. Dear Kimberly,

    I am the author of Mansfield Park and Mummies.

    First of all, I want to say upfront that you have every right to feel the way you do about mash-ups in general, and to respond as your heart dictates. And, I appreciate the fact that you started this discussion in the first place, with an interesting twist on female authors and female protagonists and how they seem to be often selected.

    However, I ask you to consider for a moment that there are so many reasons and variables that mash-ups are written, and also that each one is an individual work, to be judged absolutely on its own merits, and each author and publisher has their own agenda for writing and publishing these books.

    Yes, mash-ups are a hot new "genre." But just as with any new or trendy thing, there is something there, a kernel, a good original reason for it; there is something undeniably fascinating and worthy in the idea itself, and it has obviously intrigued a whole bunch of authors. It's not merely the profitability but the spirit of it that has got us involved. After all, the bulk of working authors today, even the relatively successful ones, are barely making ends meet and often hold other day jobs, and if we really wanted to make money we can go and work on Wall Street.

    My fellow mash-up author of Jane Slayre, Sherri Browning Erwin, has my complete sympathies and solidarity, because both of us are being "tarred" in the same manner as every other mash-up author.

    In this particular case, we are all women. We are writing about female characters that moved us in the first place, and just as Sherri Browning Erwin says she loves Jane Eyre, I love and adore Fanny Price, the often least-liked and most misunderstood Jane Austen heroine. I give many of my reasons in this interview over at Jane Austen's World.

    However, there is even more to this, at least in my situation.

    I am a two-time Nebula Award Finalist, a competent professional writer who would love nothing more than to write my own completely original books, but publishers don't want that from me -- in fact, I have to give away for FREE my own critically acclaimed best-known novel Dreams of the Compass Rose, just to get some attention and expand my readership.

    And then misfortune struck. So I painstakingly wrote Mansfield Park and Mummies because people like and buy mash-ups and Jane Austen, and because of truly serious life circumstances, out of desperation. But in the writing, I gave it my all. You can read the details of my misfortune here.

    And now, I ask you only to judge my work on its own merits.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak, and I appreciate this discussion.

    Sincerely,

    Vera Nazarian

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  18. Vera - Thanks for your comments. Of course every book and every author's situation is different, if only marginally, but that doesn't change the observed trend, nor does it change the fact that it's done to make money, as you yourself have acknowledged. I believe we must question WHY it makes so much money, which is what I have done with this post. Despite the circumstances under which the books are written, I still feel that the trend demonstrates a disturbing lack of confidence in classic female authors and protagonists.

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  19. How do you figure Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim is about female protagonists?

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  20. Anonymous - I don't. I put all the mash-ups I knew of on a list, and it was the only one that was not written by a female author or feature a female protagonist. As you can see, it does not have either abbreviation after it.

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  21. Hate? My goodness. What a waste of energy and emotion. Why not focus, instead, on something you can say that you love?

    As the author of LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, I simply had to jump in to add the two cents left from my advance on this book. There have, through the years, been uncountable novels inspired by other authors and their characters. Why do you view mash-ups as any different and as being so utterly deviant? I was inspired by LITTLE WOMEN, and I do not expect or want my book to replace or in any way demean that original inspiration, nor am I trying to take LITTLE WOMEN away from anyone. It isn't true that these books are not new stories. Although I paraphrased Alcott's words, nothing was cut and pasted in my manuscript -- every word was typed by hand, and my storyline was carefully braided into hers. I tried my best to reflect Alcott's morals, themes, characterization and plot, and this book was given much thought and sweat to write it the way I thought Alcott would have if she could have published a book containing werewolves in her time (which she absolutely would not have been able to do with the male Victorian editors and publishers censoring her work.)

    Louisa May Alcott wanted to write lurid tales about murder,adultry, and drug addiction, and she wrote LITTLE WOMEN for the money alone. Shall we now fault her for that? I sincerely believe she would be honored and amused by mash-ups of her work. If I didn't feel this way, I would never have written this book. I, too, am a librarian, and I believe every book deserves to be read by those who want to. I would never think of removing a book from anyone's reading list based on my opinion. To those reading my book and coming to my book signings -- thank you! For those who choose not to read my book, I only hope they are reading something. But please don't not read the book and then trash it as nonsense and call me a hack.

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  22. Just stepping in to say we DO write about what we love ALMOST EVERY DAY here on STACKED. We write what we love: reading, books, and writing. It's okay for us to share frustrations periodically, both as bloggers AND as librarians.

    That's not to say these books aren't worth reading, but stepping back a second: do we want libraries packed to the brim with books on the same thematic? No. It has been inundating us that trends pop up and keep coming -- not just mash ups, but let's also point out the vampires, the angels, etc. It's rare something is done differently.

    Kim's hatred doesn't stem from authors having ideas or working on a theme that others have. Her frustration is that so many of these titles feature females or are written by female authors. That's not the fault of the mash up writer, but it's a trend that can speak volumes, unintentionally or not. It's like I rant about in my fat girl posts: I HATE that people can write about people who aren't your typical skinny girl, but why can't we show that on a cover? Writers can write the mashups, but why can't "untouchable classics" be touched more? Why AREN'T Dickens books mashed up more? Why AREN'T other dead white men's works mashed up? There's a lot of fresh ground there, I think, but it so much IS the female protag/female author.

    Let me point out to the authors who've replied, we APPRECIATE your thoughts a lot. You're giving us insight, too. But let's reiterate here that we aren't attacking your work specifically. Kim pointed out the theme through your titles (just as I'm not attacking any writers of stories with fat girls). You have to make money sometimes, as one of you pointed out, but why is it that money comes from the female protag/author? That's NOT your issue; it's society's. That's what we're aiming at here.

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  23. I'd also like to add that we're females and it's okay for us to exude energy on hating. Just because it's not a socially acceptable female emotion doesn't mean we can't offer it, whether to a trend or to nuts in chocolate (which, btw, I ADORE..sorry Kim).

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  24. Porter - Thanks for your comments. Kelly said it best in her reply, but just to reiterate: I don't really take issue with the fact that the trend is unoriginal, which the authors who have posted replies seem to think. I take issue with the fact that the trend features classics written by female authors featuring female protagonists, and I was really hoping the comments would help explore WHY it is so overwhelmingly FEMALE-driven, not merely defenses of mash-ups in general. Abby, in the very first response, is one of the few who actually did this.

    I really don't know why you brought up the idea of removing a book, unless this is a form response that you post to anyone who doesn't like mash-ups - nowhere did I say I wouldn't buy these books for my library's collection or prevent anyone from reading them. Doesn't mean I have to like them. And it's also perfectly OK for me to dislike (and even HATE) what I see as a very sexist trend - oh, and to write about it, too!

    It seems like a lot of authors may feel like I am taking aim at their writing. I'm not - I'm taking aim at the fact that our society seems to produce and eat up these mash-ups that are mostly FEMALE-DRIVEN. The books don't interest me, and if the classics were divvied up more evenly between female/male, I most likely wouldn't have written about it all, other than to say "It doesn't interest me." But they're not, and I've been thinking about it for awhile, and this is a blog about books, so it's a good place to put down my thoughts.

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  25. And Alcott's lurid stories were successful - she just couldn't write them under her own name, sadly.

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  26. Also clarifying I comment I made: while I don't like the idea of libraries brimming with these books, I buy them. I buy the ones that are rated well or I know my patrons would like (I mentioned in the first post on this topic the HarperTeen titles - I bought the first Alcott mash up and it has yet to see the shelf because it's checked out so often) and I buy almost everything requested. My comment was the point that I'd like to be able to purchase titles of this style if they were a little different -- let's get some Chaucer mashed up!

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  27. I made it clear that I disagree somewhat with Kim, but in defending my own work, perhaps I didn't make it clear enough why. So let's remove the fact that some of us are mash-up authors eager to not be dismissed as jokester National Lampoon types and examine Kim's argument. This could be a topic that never dies, because it is thought-provoking and interesting (so well done, Kim!).

    Let's start with P & P & Z, because that one was first. And I think it worked so well because of the incongruity of horror elements (zombies!) in a polite ballroom setting. Does it really have anything to do with women or discounting female characters? Or is it more that the shock value of zombies playing against Austen's world of manners had some interesting potential? If you put zombies in say, Heart of Darkness, would it have had the same effect? So I think what was more at work there was the idea of the outrageous disparity.

    In my case, I've always loved Jane Eyre. The mash-up stemmed from that. I'm a woman and I love books with female leads. I was re-reading Jane Eyre when the idea struck me that she could have more power over her own fate instead of being so reactionary. Yes, it has something to do with her being a woman and with my reaction to her as a woman- but not because she wasn't good enough. Because she lived in a time that had limitations for women. I think Kim is entirely missing the boat in thinking that her reaction to "these books" is because "society thinks female protagonists in classic literature aren't sufficiently "bad-ass" or interesting enough, that they need either more violence or more humor or both." I think it's more perhaps because there is so much love and respect for these female characters that we want more of them, more for them. They're infinitely more interesting in the first place than male characters to most readers, perhaps, and so that is why they remain the focus. And I think Kim is grasping at straws to explain her strong reaction to mash-ups when she admittedly hasn't even read most of them to know the first thing about the treatment of female characters in the books anyway.

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  28. Kelly, yes. Actually, there is a guy who mashed up some Chaucer, but he added Robin Hood and people are confused by it and didn't understand it was a Chaucer tale. My next mash-up is coming out next spring and it does involve male lead characters in a book written by a man, just to put that out there. I don't think it's a passing trend. Or at least, it's not passing quite yet. There are so many classics and so many authors with wonderful new ideas.

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  29. But the point is not how the female leads are treated in the mash-ups, the point is that the female-driven classics were selected in the first place. I *have* read the majority of the books on my list in their original classic form, so I do know how the females are treated in them.

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  30. By the way, Sherri - Thanks for going back and addressing my original complaint. That's exactly what I hoped to get out of this post (aside from releasing some frustration). Now, you and Abby have got me thinking about today's readers and which classics they prefer to read (in their original form or otherwise).

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  31. This is a great conversation. I think the point that I was making originally got lost in other things, so allow me clarify.

    The reason I did _a_ mash-up, and the reason I chose the specific work I did for mashing-up has absolutely nothing to do with feminism or women's issues. It did not even cross my mind.

    I chose a book I love, from a highly popular author whom I love, and whose name on the byline is incidentally a guaranteed sell.

    I did nothing to change the fundamental character of Fanny Price, only enhance her already existent great qualities and put them in a paranormal or fantasy context. I did not make her any "less" of what she was, not in the feminist context of her time, nor, for that matter, our time. She remains true to herself.

    The subtlety lies in the fact that I managed to honor the original while weaving in the elements of the fantastic. Mansfield Park and Mummies incorporates the popular fad of its own time period, archeology and Egyptology, and uses it to hilarious comedic effect, and with the greatest authorial affection.

    Now, admittedly, in a perfect world, mash-ups would be written regardless of commercial value.

    In a perfect world, I would have taken on another classic, for example, my favorite Consuelo by George Sand (also a woman author incidentally). But in this English speaking modern world, most people (present company excluded) have not heard of the author or the book, so it defeats the purpose of taking a popular work and giving it the parody treatment.

    A mash-up done from an unpopular or unknown classic makes no commercial sense, and will NOT sell. (Or it possibly might if a publisher puts a sufficient promotional effort behind it, which never happens, of course.)

    Unless you are writing purely for yourself and don't expect publication (which of course is fine, but some of us need to make a living), there is no point in parodying a work, no matter how wonderful, if no one knows or appreciates the original. How are readers expected to care or get the in-jokes from a mash-up of Decameron or The Landleaguers? A mash-up should be done to a well-known, or popular book, and getting the mash-up treatment is indeed the highest compliment a work can receive.

    Yes, there is the commercial element in question here. And one can always argue legitimately that we are doing this in part (at least) for the money. That would be a valid point -- one of the points -- that can be raised, and certainly not the only one.

    Burt there is no logical way to argue we are intentionally selecting works because we want to put down female characters or disparage women authors.

    In fact, I only mash-up books I particularly appreciate and care about, on behalf of readers who do likewise. You will not find me doing Dickens... not because he is a male author, but because I don't like his work enough to bother. (He is certainly well-loved and high-profile enough to be used for mash-ups, and other authors are welcome to him.) Indeed, it may be a complete coincidence, but most of my favorite authors are female.

    This might bear repetition:

    A mash-up is a compliment to the original work.

    A mash-up requires is a commercially viable original work.

    Commercially viable in our publishing environment includes classic women authors and female characters. And a good thing it is! :-)

    Women authors and female (especially kick-ass female) characters are HOT, HOT HOT and have never been as popular and well respected as they are now, in this day and age, in our society.

    Yes, things could always be better for women, and feminism and women's rights have quite a long way to go, but the mash-up is only a symptom of this improvement of the female lot.

    Thanks again for allowing me to contribute to the discussion.

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  32. Vera, THANKS for following up. I think Kim's intentions were to hear from people who could offer insights such as yours -- and to hear from the writers themselves is bonus on this topic.

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  33. And thank you again, Kelly and Kimberly and everyone.

    I also want to add two other things that may be relevant here, and I'd forgotten to mention above.

    1.) It is a statistically documented fact that most readers of fiction (and, if I recall correctly, most readers of books in general, books of any kind, period), are female. This may also contribute to the fact that female characters and female authors are particularly popular right now -- being women, we can all relate to other women and their plight and their experience.

    2.) There is the fanfic factor. "Fanfic" or "fan fiction" (in case anyone has not heard the term, which again is probably not applicable here, but just in case) is a modern phenomenon where readers expand on well-beloved and popular books and stories by writing their own sequels, out-takes, variations, "slash" and other amateur (or professional) treatments of an original work. This obviously includes parody and our friend the mash-up.

    Something I often hear spoken in author circles is: "You have not 'arrived' until someone writes fanfic based on your work."

    Food for thought. :-)

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  34. Kim, going back to your original rant, then, I can't even imagine how you came to your conclusion. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn't seem to be out to reinvent the book to make the heroine more kick-ass or because it couldn't stand on its own. I think he was just having a laugh at inserting zombies into the parlour, and maybe poke a little fun at the popularity of Jane Austen novels-- which could be anti-women, but I don't see it as any worse than the Scream movies or those movies that parody other movies. As I said it earlier, it worked because it was most unexpected, not because anyone could possibly think that Elizabeth or any of the Bennet girls needed some kick-ass reinventing.

    And a few of us women writing mash-ups based on female characters have explained that the appeal is that we like female-driven books. There's great respect for the original and original characters in the first place. Women are the majority of the book buying public (60 % of book-buyers are women). So why wouldn't women be interested in a chance to reexamine their favorite books growing up in new ways, which happen to feature female leads? And why would that be offensive or negative? Why would you take that to mean the originals are being denigrated or the characters considered "not good enough?" That's what I don't understand. I don't think any mash-up author would dare to think he or she was improving a classic, heaven forbid. But why can't it be seen as a positive, as an honor to the originals, that there's still enough interest to play with the characters and situations?

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  35. I haven't read a mash-up yet although I do have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I'm hesitant to read more than one. Seems that if you've read one, you've read them all. But I must read the first one before I decide for sure.

    The most popular classics seem to be the target of the mash-up. Austen has been riding the popularity wave for a decade now, so she's pretty obvious. How long until we get a Middlemarch and Mutants?

    I wonder if the readers of the mash-ups are divided equally between the sexes?

    This is one reader who does not think the originals are not interesting or exciting enough! I will always love Jane Eyre just the way she is.

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  36. How about Daniel Deronda and Demons? Female writer, male main protag.

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  37. Chris said:

    I haven't read a mash-up yet although I do have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I'm hesitant to read more than one. Seems that if you've read one, you've read them all. But I must read the first one before I decide for sure.


    Oh dear...

    Okay, now, this kind of thinking is probably the most frustrating to hear, for those of us who write mash-ups.

    The notion that "if you've read one, you've read them all" is absolutely, categorically, false.

    You probably would not say this about other types of books, say, mysteries? Or fiction or literature in general?

    You probably would not even say this about any given author and their body of work (as in, if you've read one Elizabeth Gaskell, you've read them all).

    So why not try to keep an open mind about the mash-up as a whole new genre?

    Most mash-ups are each written by a different author. And even those of us who are writing additional mash-ups such as myself (my next mash-up Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons is coming this summer, followed by Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret, in October 2010) are treating each work as a completely separate thing, with different levels of seriousness, satire, whimsy, pathos, intensity, etc.

    Some mash-ups, such as the original Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are more gory and violent (mine are not at all, think Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy), others rely more on witty dialogue and language (mine do) and less on kick-ass violence.

    Others are completely serious.

    Others yet are completely slapstick.

    There is nothing in common among any of these books except the fact that they begin with an original classic text and add elements that take it to a different place, for different effect, usually involving some kind of supernatural or fantasy elements.

    So, if there is one thing I ask is, please, do give our different books the honor of allowing them to stand for itself individually, on their own merits.

    Please, do consider each one of our books.

    Because... If you find one not to your liking, it is also very possible the next one may enchant you.

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  38. I just don't see the mash-ups as honoring the classics, since it's the original text interspersed with monsters. It's not merely borrowing the characters or plot points, it's either verbatim or very close paraphrasing of the original work, which should be able to stand on its own. It literally is just ADDING something to the original story. I really like re-workings of beloved stories, but to me, the original text PLUS some other stuff isn't a re-working. That's just the way I see it.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Kimberly,

    Out of curiosity, just how many mash-ups have you actually read?

    I am guessing you have not read mine. Here's an excerpt (first three chapters).

    Incidentally, the mere "ADDING" of well-chosen words is an art in itself, and can make a world of difference.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain -- it's "the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

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  40. That's fair, Kim. So why not just say that to begin with? Trying to make it a feminist issue doesn't really hold up for me. I can't see that. It simply has no basis in fact. But not liking the idea of mash-ups, fine.

    You are working on quite a few misconceptions, though. Maybe a few of them do just what you say, but quite a few are much more than that. They're not all the same. They are all quite as different as the classics they are based on, and very different from one another in how they play on the originals. I didn't just take Jane Eyre and add monsters, and reading any review (like the Library Journal's starred review) might make that clear, for instance. You really can't say what you've just said about all of them without reading all of them. You could start with reading more than one to try to make an educated commentary. And if you are not interested in reading them, again, fine, but then why try to judge what you do not know?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Because I DO see it as a gender issue...like I said before, if it were evenly divvied up, I still wouldn't read them, but it wouldn't annoy me, any more than any other overplayed trend would. You've taken my aside that I don't see the mash-ups as honoring the originals and tried to make it seem like that's my original objection. It's not. My original objection is that it's a bunch of FEMALE-driven classic literature that is being messed with, not a bunch of MALE AND FEMALE-driven classic literature that is being messed with. Once again, IF IT WERE MORE EVENLY DIVIDED AMONG THE SEXES, it would not irritate me nearly as much. There's most definitely a reason for it being so overwhelmingly female. You've provided your reasoning and I'm grateful for it, but it doesn't change how I view it.

    That's pretty much all I have to say about it. I didn't intend to create a firestorm, and I really don't expect everyone to agree with me. I'm glad your novel has found success, but I stand by what I said.

    ReplyDelete
  42. My final response is to Kelly in her 7/11 comment at 12:14 pm, and then I'm never going on this site again. I don't feel it is acceptable for people of either sex to allow hate into their hearts. Screaming about it is even worse. Hate is a strong and powerful word and a terrible and hurtful emotion. Didn't you learn that as a tiny child? And why is everything a matter of male or female to you? We're all people! Whew!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Anonymous... but not AnonymousJuly 12, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    I don't know about you, but I hate Osama bin Laden, brussel sprouts, and child molestors (not necessarily in that order.)

    Guess I didn't learn something as a tiny child.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anonymous... but not AnonymousJuly 12, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Oh... and I also hate intestinal parasites... those nasty buggers.

    ReplyDelete

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