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Classics and Monsters

Following the success of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2009), numerous mash-ups of public domain classic novels with horror creatures and tropes were published in the few years immediately following. I've recently reread LITTLE Vampire WOMEN and A Vampire Christmas Carol. Are such adaptations worth reading except as bizarre novelties? Their main appeal, judging from the types of books that have been adapted, seems to be incongruity, with fiction as unlike the horror genre as possible being transmuted by the insertion of supernatural threats into the original stories. Some others, for example, are JANE SLAYRE, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS, LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, and WUTHERING BITES.

In my opinion, those kinds of books turn out better if they involve a certain amount of actual rewriting. From what I remember of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, it's fun to read once but not transformative enough to comprise much more than Jane Austen's original work with zombies thrown in at suitable intervals. Granted, though, the image of Elizabeth as a trained zombie-slayer has a certain zany charm. LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN and A Vampire Christmas CAROL, on the other hand, rewrite their prototypes more extensively, although some undigested lumps of Alcott's and Dickens's prose do stand out.

A VAMPIRE CHRISTMAS CAROL raises the question of whether the entertainment value of such crossovers fades a bit when the source text already contains elements of supernatural horror. It strikes me as not too much of a stretch to have Mr. Scrooge stalked by vampires as well as haunted by ghosts. WUTHERING BITES falls into a similar category. Vampiric motifs pervade WUTHERING HEIGHTS, with Heathcliff explicitly compared to a vampire in one line. Turning him into a literal vampire-human crossbreed, cursed by the heritage of his monstrous half, fits fairly well into the original plot. In that case, the "co-author" can't depend solely on the appeal of incongruity; she has to create a believable story with an anti-hero who inspires genuine sympathy as well as horror.

A step removed from those books, which might be considered a peculiar sort of fanfic, we find "secret histories" such as ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, which I discovered to be better than I'd expected. The criterion for such novels is that the action must remain faithful to the historical person's biography as publicly known, while inserting supernatural elements into the hidden corners of his or her life, so to speak. Queen Elizabeth, H. P. Lovecraft, Lizzie Borden, and many others have received similar fictional treatment. A January 2022 release, THE SILVER BULLETS OF ANNIE OAKLEY, by Mercedes Lackey, will introduce magic into the career of the famed sharpshooter. I don't object to this type of fiction as long as the author does conscientious research into the historical background and treats the protagonist with respect.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

This post first appeared on Alien Romances, please read the originial post: here

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Classics and Monsters


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