Friday, 20 July 2012

Sexing up the Classics

After a lull in the bloggage, I thought I'd share my take (you mean rant surely? ed.) on the news that some classic works of fiction are getting sexed up in the wake of the brainwashing juggernaut that is the Fifty Shades books. Up front I'll say I haven't read the Fifty Shades books - I got the original fan-fic and nearly wet myself with laughter trying to read some of the worst prose I've ever seen; "I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror." (Who the hell else would you be scowling at while looking in a mirror?), "I gasp and all the muscles deep in my belly clench... my inner goddess is doing the dance of seven veils" (Mwa ha ha ha ha!) . But they're selling like hot cakes, with free handcuffs, so it's no surprise someones come along and thought of a way to jump on the rumpypumpy-wagon. Enter "Total-E-Bound Publishing", who intend to release erotic versions of classic pieces of literature, including Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, and A Study in Scarlet. Claire Siemaszkiewiczm, the founder of Total-E-Bound Publishing, says, "We're not rewriting the classics. We're keeping the original prose and the author's voice. We're not changing any of that."

Oh, that's alright then. Because, if you rewrote the whole thing, that would be more insulting then shoehorning in a sex scene where none previously existed. And I'm sure it's just a coincidence that it would also be a lot harder for your "writers" to rewrite a whole book from scratch...

I have no problem with classic stories being redone. I really enjoyed Seth Grahame-Smith's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"; it used the original text in a knowing way, clearly indicating a respect and genuine affection for the original story, while throwing in a tonne of crazy zombie action. It was funny. It was clever. I strongly suspect the "Clandestine Classic" series will definitely not be the latter and unintentionally the former. And if you're wondering how I can know that before the books have come out, well the intentions for Sherlock and Watson were enough for me to see that Total-E-Bound Publishing are in this for a quick buck and not because of a life long love of classic literature and a desire to get more people to read them.

To use the Seth Grahame-Smith books as an example, Elizabeth Bennet in these is a smart, kick-ass zombie slayer. Her mother is very annoying and obsessed with her daughters getting married and her father is a very impatient but proper gentleman (who also happens to be a trained martial artist). The characters are slightly different to their original counterparts, but the decisions they make are still largely in keeping with those original characters. Getting Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to make the beast with two backs is not in keeping with their characters. Anyone who has actually read the Sherlock stories will know that they are true and genuine friends. Nothing more, no matter how much some might wish otherwise. In fact it's the friendship, and slight hero worship on Watson's part, that makes the tales what they are. A sexual relationship wouldn't be the same (and I don't know how you can't change quite a bit of the original text if you want it to make any kind of sense) and reeks of the same selfish desire that most fan-fic and slash-fic suffers from; to have characters do what you, the fan-fic writer, wants rather than what the characters would actually do. Too often fan-fic writers don't understand the characters they "borrow" and so have them behave in incredibly unbelievable ways. It's why so many published writers aren't fans of fan-fic - seeing your creations distorted and twisted into someone else's fantasy isn't exactly what every author dreams of.

I wouldn't even mind this so much if the publisher in question was being honest - they're just making a pornographic version of the classics, in the same vein as films like "Shaving Ryan's Privates" and "Jurassic Pork" are porn versions of known movies.There's definitely a market for that, but they certainly don't have to release them in mostly untouched form, with hanky panky snuck in where ever it could fit. Small, short versions of the classics would have been better, as well as appealing more to the market they're surely aiming for.

But what do I know. I would never have predicted the huge interest in Fifty Shades of Grey (especially after reading the first terribly written pages), so maybe these horny versions of classics will do really well. If so I may branch out and have a go at writing erotica. It obviously can't be that hard.*Cue canned laughter*

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