Thoughtful Thursday: What do you mean Mr. Darcy is a zombie?

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsBeth asked me a question this week, so I’m going to post her email here and see if my faithful readers have an idea of how to answer this:

Have you noticed this sudden flood of books in fantasy that are classics rewritten with paranormal creatures? Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and now apparently Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Mansfield Park and Mummies). Apparently it’s being done to Mark Twain’s work as well, and goodness only knows who else. Some of them are rewrites and similar, but some of them are also these… things. Where some writer adds in bits of monster action to someone else’s prose and says they wrote a book. As a reader they couldn’t interest me less, but as a writer I admit, I find them irritating. It’s not just the gimmick aspect… it’s insulting to work hard on a whole book and watch the shelves fill up with… these things.

I admit, I don’t have any idea what the appeal of these books are, or why a publishing company would back them.  So, dear readers, I’m turning to you to make sense of this new sub-genre.  Do you find them appealing?  Do you know someone who likes them? And to my writer readers, what are your reactions upon seeing these hybrids claim valuable shelf space?

Make sure to read Rebecca’s review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Post a comment and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Jim Butcher’s new hit novel First Lord’s Fury. We’ll announce the winner Monday, so check back!

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. I haven’t read any of them or felt overly tempted to do so…but at the same time, just seeing the covers in the bookstore cracks me up. The Sea Monsters one especially. The zombie cover is kind of gross, but the Sea Monsters cover has me in stitches.

    I like the idea of writing a story based on the classic and weaving the paranormal in; I remember really liking a book that was basically Hamlet with fairies. Lots of nods to the Bard, the book was peppered with quotations, but the bulk of the prose was Sarah Hoyt’s.

    I am not as interested in it when they just use all of the original author’s prose and paste in some paranormal elements.

  2. I find them rather irritating, but there’s no overestimating the taste of the public. I have wondered whether one might not piggyback onto the trend in order to actually teach people something. For example, lets ignore fiction out of copyright and look at non-fiction. If we could market “The Origin of Species and Vampires” and get people to read and learn a bit about evolution, this might be a rather good thing.

  3. I’ve already won this book, but since I haven’t gotten it yet, I’m up for another one. :) By the way, I did get Raider’s Ransom yesterday and it looks fabulous.
    Ok. My two bits. I completely agree with Beth, only I’m completely bowled over by the ridiculousness of even the idea. In my mind it seems a horrible and trashy thing to do – take a classic piece of literature and manhandle it into a fantasy? What bothers me is that some people justify it as a way to get to know the classics – a bigger motivation. I’m pretty sure Austen is turning in her grave to see her works zombified.

  4. When I first wrote my novel. I titled it Death of a Zombie Salesman: A Romantic Comedy. It was supposed to be the pulping of an American Classic, recasting the story of Willy Loman as a mytery novel in a contemporary fantasy setting. I say that to say that I’m not opposed to the idea of leaning on classics. But from what I hear of these novels, it is an odd way to implement them. I can’t speak about them good or ill because I’ve thus far resisted the urge to read them.

  5. A little further delving revealed that this has been done also to The Wizard of Oz and to War of the Worlds, and that there’s a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sequel on the way. And then of course there’s also a pair of books turning Mr. Darcy into a vampire, which if I had to venture a guess we can blame in part on Twilight.

    I’m not sure I really buy into that “it gets people to read the classics” nonsense. I just know it frustrates me. I mean, imagine how much faster I could have something to send in to a publisher if I just did this, rather than researching until my eyeballs bleed and then writing the whole book myself.

  6. I’m liking Mike’s idea. I think I’ll write a series of textbooks:
    Psychology for the Poltergeist
    Neuroscience for the Nympho
    Research for the Rusalka

  7. As someone who had to dissect the original Pride and Prejudice in college, under the guidance of a professor who spent probably 30 minutes on the famous opening sentence alone, I confess that I couldn’t help but grin when I read the first sentence of the mash-up:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. ”

    Other than that, I’m really not interested in reading it.

  8. @Mike: I like your idea. Then we can put a big red apple on the cover and it’ll sell. Have you seen the new versions of Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, and Wuthering Heights with the Twilight-clone covers? :choked:

    @Kat: LOL!

    @Beth: What the heck? The Wizard of Oz already has fantasy in it. I wonder why it was thought to need more…

  9. My little sister asked for this for christmas. I can’t say that I am all that interested in the orginalas plus I am not a big fan of alliteration. Would you enjoy the books more if you hadn’t read the orginal or if you hadn’t?

  10. I haven’t read any of them though I do have Mr. Darcy, Vampyre but haven’t had the nerve to read it yet…lol. Here is something for you though, did you know that they are making a movie out of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies..yep I seen it on….not sure when it will be coming out because it said TBA and didn’t really have much detail.

    I have seen mixed reviews about these books, but I guess some people are liking them..I just don’t know if I can read

  11. @Kelly: Apparently they thought The Wizard of Oz needed blood, gore, and zombies.

    Am I the only one who feels kinda bad for apples these days? That’s a lot of symbolism to stick on one little fruit.

  12. While I can understand frustration with books like this from an author’s perspective, I would rather write an entirely new book than to try to adapt someone else’s book to a new genre. Doing it well–really well–would be a challenge.

    Other than that, though, I’m not opposed to these books. Copyright expires for a reason, and works (are supposed to) enter the public domain to foster creativity and adaptation. Some adaptations are good, and some…not so good. (I can’t count how many manga adaptations of “Alice in Wonderland” I’ve run into, not a single one interesting enough to captivate me.) At the same time, though, there are wonderful creations like the rap version of “Green Eggs and Ham” by Moxy Fruvous (which book isn’t out of copyright yet, but…you get my point). Or, speaking of alice, “The Annotated Alice” is another wonderful adaptation.

    I guess I’ll have to take them on a case-by-case basis. I don’t have my hopes very high, though.

    Andrew Cannon

  13. I haven’t read them, though I’m looking forward to reading some reviews. The covers are really neat, and the titles, but it’s hard to imagine what the books are like.

  14. Try reading the back cover of the new twilight covered P&P, Wuthering Heights ‘Bella’s favorite book’, and Romeo and Juliet. Not sure whether to gag or give in to the giggles. I recommend reading the covers outloud in a dramatic teenage girl voice.

    I just can’t bring myself to read the zombies and sea monsters. But then I don’t think they are aimed at my demographic either. My child is intrigued by the idea.

  15. I have to admit that I thought the idea of these book are, of course, a slight blasphemy, but then again I want to read them(maybe if I get book money for christmas.) And while I will be highly vexed that they took the characters and made such a mockery of Jane Austen I do also think that that is the reason the books were written, to laugh at; at least that is what I did whenever I read anything from them.

    And I HATE the new “Twilight” covers of P&P, WH and R&J, the description on the back of the books don’t even correctly describe the books! Darcy and Elizabeth do not have “the world” conspiring against their love!

  16. I saw that War of the Worlds had had zombies added, and just went ‘abuhguh?’ I mean, we’re talking about a story of the end of the world as we know it – a vastly more advanced alien invasion force comes down here and starts killing people at random and lighting stuff on fire. Why were zombies necessary?

    And really, the alien invasion involving zombies angle has been done before. It’s called Half-Life and was critically acclaimed as the best first-person shooter game of the year. Only there, the zombies actually make a sort of sense.

  17. Rebecca /

    Well, as I said in my review, the book was amusing enough…for a while. But it didn’t really have anything new to say about the material, it was just tracts of Austen’s prose intersperced with zombies. After a while I began to ask myself: “what’s the point?”

    I bought a copy for a male friend who will never read the original classic unless I spoon-fed him the zombie-angle first, which is a terrible reason to buy this books, but…that’s the truth of it!


  18. @Rebekah – Clever. I might try this with my son who will read just about anything, so long as it has zombies in it, preferably with exploding heads, etc.

  19. I think this is a fad, myself. Unfortunately, this does not excuse it. I don’t know when or where it started, but I really dislike it (as a writer). It just grates on my nerves to see someone change someone else’s creation. I know, I know! It’s an accepted form of writing. I just can’t help it… :no: :ummm:

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