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Jane Austen goes monster-crazy

Apparently, I am not the only reader who thinks Jane Austen’s novels could use a little more excitement. Last month, I reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I loved. Then, via USA Today, I got the news that Quirk Productions is negotiating a movie deal for the surprise best seller! And there are more monster novels on the way.

What is it with Jane Austen and monsters? There’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There’s the soon-to-be-released Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. (I missed out on an early reviewer copy, but I should be receiving a final copy sometime very soon, review to follow in short order.) There’s Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (huh? Not sure I get that at all). And those are not the only books in the works. Amanda Grange is the author of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, as well as a number of other novels about Austen’s characters, including Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary — you get the picture — and other historical romances. She is also working on a prequel to her Vampyre novel that will take place before Pride and Prejudice. According to the USA Today article, we can also look forward to Darcy’s Hunger and Jane Bites Back.

I have a theory that this has something to do with all of the fan fiction out there on the Internet these days — because that’s really what these books are. They take characters created by someone else and play with them for a while. They send them on new adventures, hook them up with other characters to create more interesting relationships, and explore themes that the original work only hinted at. I think it’s fun; there are plenty of writers who have made a living with these sorts of novels expanding on Star Wars, Star Trek, Torchwood and other “fandoms”, but I wonder why Jane Austen is the most popular ‘verse of late.

Maybe it’s also a desire to go back to high school English class and liven it up. Could we interest kids in Robinson Crusoe if we found a way to tie it into Lost? And how about Around the World in 80 Days? That’s not much of an accomplishment anymore, but just think of the places Phileas Fogg could go in the Tardis! Would Crime and Punishment have been an easier slog if Raskolnikov had been visited by Lizaveta’s ghost?

Of course, the truth is probably more pedestrian: one book was a hit, so a dozen variations will soon follow. Maybe some English teacher will be brave enough to use them in class, but I doubt it. Still, I hope it stimulates the interest of some kids who can’t get interested in Victorian manners and morals (heaven knows I couldn’t) and keeps them reading, if only to better imagine the scene where the Mummy shows up at the Bennet’s door.

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