I’m going to put this under Pet Peeves, although this is more like.. an internal debate.
What do people think of monster mash-ups? What I mean by a monster mash-up is taking a famous piece of literature and splicing and dicing it and inserting things like vampires, werewolves or zombies to it. I think of a monster mash-up as actually using some dead author’s out-of-copyright words and putting in your own.
My first reaction to this idea was : I do not like it. It bothers me. My gut reaction is sort of like “Is nothing sacred?!” I guess I don’t have a sense of humor about it and kind of darkly eye each new ridiculous book that comes out and hops on the bandwagon. When AnimeJune posted a rant pretty much saying “WRITE YOUR OWN FUCKING BOOKS” I couldn’t agree more. Reading her rant makes me cheer.
But I’ve been thinking about it for a while because while I don’t like the idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I am ok with modern day retellings of Pride and Prejudice – taking the basic idea of P&P, putting it in a modern setting with your own characters loosely based on the originals. So I think to myself – ah, your feeling side doesn’t like it, but aiie, logical side is wondering if you you are kind of hypocritical.
Damn you, logical side.
In the past week there’s been a lot of brouhaha online about fanfiction. I think it started with Diana Gabaldon’s post calling it “illegal” (although I think fan fiction falls under fair use). I noticed that Diana Gabaldon was OK with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because the copyright for the original work had expired:
“Now, it’s possible to do this without being illegal, if you feel you just can’t get noticed on your own merits (and that being noticed is worth whatever it takes): you just do it with characters that are no longer under copyright. I.e., characters whose author is dead, and has been dead for…it was 75 years, last time I looked (copyright exists for the author’s life plus 75 years). So if the author of your characters died before 1935, you’re home free!
And some writers do this to good—or at least profitable—effect. Note PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, for instance, or the many (many, many, many) imitators of Sherlock Holmes.”
I think she’s right that the copyright has expired on Pride and Prejudice (and all the other Austen works) and so people can do whatever they want with it. There’s nothing illegal about literary monster mash-ups, despite what I may feel about them. And yet. I do think that it still feels wrong. Perhaps illogically so. It feels wrong seeing authors taking some dead author’s words, and then putting in their own. I think that it’s too easy. I wonder what the dead author would think if someone had taking their words and used them? I tell myself – well it’s not illegal, and it’s not plagiarism because they attribute the work to the original author, and it’s all for fun, so what’s the problem? Yeah. I don’t know. IT JUST BUGS ME SO MUCH! It smarts of plagiarism through legal loopholes!
And then I contemplate how much I love a good modern-day retelling of Austen, and isn’t that essentially fanfiction for sale? They may be using their own characters and settings but they are borrowing from Austen’s plot. Isn’t that plagiarism? Well, they’re taking the idea but not the actual words, but I see that there is a thin line and I may be splitting hairs in saying there is a difference.
Sigh. Anyway, I don’t like monster mash-ups. I do like modern day retellings. I do feel conflicted. Honestly – I want to have an open mind and maybe if I think about this more I will accept the existence of monster mash-ups, but the visceral, possibly hypocritical, part of me just wants the fad to die a fiery death.
What makes me even more hypocritical/confused is that I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in graphic novel format, and because I feel like translating P&P into a graphic novel is different from straight taking Jane Austen’s words, I am more ok with it than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the book. I’m not sure what to do with myself. This is like a crisis of faith.