Monday, February 15, 2016

FanFic For The Literati

So many...
In publishing circles, fiction written by fans of a particular book is normally looked at like so much detritus. How clever they are, those dedicated readers, imagining other scenarios and plots in which to insert their favorite characters.

There are all sorts of fanfic written for Harry Potter, Hunger Games or what have you. In general, the prose is not taken seriously because it's silliness from people overly obsessed with fictional characters.

Unless, of course, it's an acceptable author doing the fanfic dance. Then it's something more literary. It's worth publishing.

Why else would some Jane Austen fanfic make it to the big time? What was Jo Baker's Longbourn but a bit of fanfic that took its characters from Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice? We all know the story of the people upstairs, goes the reasoning, but what is happening below when Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett are circling each other? It's fanfic but with a more literate bent, the fanfic label avoided by the imprimatur of a genuine publisher.

The world can never seem to get enough fanfic, and now there's to be another. Did you ever create imaginary scenarios to fill in the back story for Jayne Eyre? Did you not use your flights of fancy to write a novel because you laughed it off as so much silly fanfic?

Sarah Shoemaker did not dismiss the notion. No one is calling her upcoming novel fanfic, however, but it has taken on a shiny gloss of respectability by being labeled a re-imagining of the Bronte novel. Let Ms. Bronte tell her story from the perspective of the downtrodden governess. Ms. Shoemaker takes the story and puts her own twist on it, narrating events through the eyes of Mr. Rochester.

so little time
Mr. Rochester will hit the shelves next year some time, with the deal just announced. Literary agent Jennifer Weltz did not see the manuscript as fanfic, or would she have taken it on and then sold it to Grand Central? Of course she would not market the thing as fanfic for those who adore the Bronte novel, even if that is what it is. No indeed, this is a re-imagining.

Because we can't have too much original storytelling these days.

The bean counters at the publishing houses get terribly nervous with original works that are unlike what is selling. They want the tried and true, and fanfic has a definite market among those who liked the original, even if it was originally released over one hundred years earlier. It's stood the test of time, hasn't it? More than one movie version made, still being read, so why not ride on the fanfic wagon as it travels to profitable places?

How much longer before we get a novel about Heathcliff's version of events at Wuthering Heights? What about the whale that was pursued to the ends of the earth by Captain Ahab, what were his (or her) feelings at being persecuted? After all, we've already heard it all from Ahab's wife. Let's give the whale its turn in the fanfic sun.

Hollywood is living off re-makes of old popular films. Why should the publishing industry not try the same trick? And then wonder why sales are sliding and no one seems to be reading books. Like they aren't flocking to the cinemas.

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