Friday, August 31, 2012

Mixed Feelings

I've been dreading writing this post. Mainly because I have such mixed, conflicted feelings on the whole Clandestine Classics thing, but also because one of the number one things I hate - and I mean HATE to do - is rain on another author's parade. Authors get plenty of rain all over them, all the time, from every angle. They don't need me adding to the deluge.

But it remains that I kind of don't really like the idea of putting erotic scenes into someone else's book. Not cos I think those books are sacred, or anything. Many classics are absolute tosh, bolstered by years of everyone feeling like they have to appreciate them when really they're a load of old nonsense. It's just matter how long these authors have been dead, I can't shake that feeling I just stated above:

It's someone else's book. Would I want someone to jig my books around, in one hundred years time? No. In fact, scratch the one hundred years. Would I like finding my book with another writer's words jammed into the middle, period?

Hell no.

And this is coming from someone who adores fanfiction. Who loves retellings of classics. Who adores modern day adaptations. All of those things are wonderful, to me. I love that people want to explore the worlds of other authors...which is where the conflicted feelings come in. Because isn't all of that almost the same?

It sort of us...but the sticking point for me is the idea of not using your own words. I want retellings because I want to see that story I love, in a different style. With different thoughts and feelings and flourishes. And while inserting your own story into someone else's achieves that, in part...there's still the rest of the story that doesn't.

I don't know. Like I said: conflicted. And unsure of how to say I totally support the authors involved, while kind of saying that I don't really like the idea. Because I really felt it, when so many people attacked the idea. I felt for them, and hope that this thing does get them some positive stuff out of all the publicity. I hope it gets positive stuff for TEB, too.

You gotta do what you gotta do, in this game. And I'd never begrudge anyone that.


  1. I really feel much the same way. It's hard to see old friend's reworked and made more than they are, but at the same time, it takes a lot of skill to make those twists work and not outshine the actual original work itself.

    So should I respect the authors for having the guts and passion to study the books and change them without losing the original focus, or be sad because my friends are different? I can't tell.

  2. Charlotte,

    I feel very much the way you do.

  3. You've really captured my own mixed feelings about this (though I'm far enough removed from it that I don't necessarily feel obligated to resolve what my opinion ultimately is). When I think about how these books can showcase the talents of our peers and hopefully reward them with readers and revenue, I can't help but cheer; but that doesn't mean my critical self really endorses the idea. By the same token, had things been a little different I could possibly see myself having written one of these, even if I had mixed feelings about it. I will say that although I've no problem with "just for fun" amateur fanfic, I've never really liked it when characters belonging to long-gone authors (author-specific characters, as opposed to folkloric ones) were appropriated on a professional level by current NYT Best Seller List writers—unless the intent was parody (see below). [Even here, I have to eat my words a bit, though, as I've read and enjoyed at least one post–E. F. Benson Lucia book written by somebody else.] The "transgression," if it is one, of inserting new scenes—as long as it's clear to everybody that you have done so—doesn't feel to me like the same level of liberty-taking as the "new story with classic characters" thing, though I imagine a lot of people would feel otherwise. [And no offense to anyone here who's written an NSWCC work! Who knows, maybe I'll wake up one day and find I've decided to do the same.]

    And, analyzing my feelings further, here's an insight as to why maybe I'm OK with the whole thing: This model of writing new sex scenes to add to classic books, endeavoring to insert them as seamlessly as possible in terms of both style and story, can be thought of as an interesting "experiment." I might even call it a "game"—not to imply that it's childish or trivial, but in the sense that it's a challenge set up for professionals to attempt, like when experts in this or that field compete on a quiz show or something. If I think of this as an inventive experiment or game whereby talented writers may entertain and fascinate readers—and perhaps earn the kind of money that they don't see often enough—then it seems harmless enough, even worthwhile. Maybe it's a little bit like the distinction between imitation and pastiche. If someone mimics a famous author's style as an entertaining exercise in parody, that's wonderful; whereas if the same writer said, "Hey, here's my new original book, check out my plotting and my style," and then everything about it read like Famous Author warmed over, that would be unfortunate. Nobody is marketing these eroticized classics as original literature or, I assume, denying that it's "messing around" with the work of venerable authors. The intent, hopefully, is transparent: "Just for fun (and maybe to learn something and, OK, also for profit), let's tinker with these vintage machines and see what new tricks we can make them do." Is that perhaps a reasonable way to look at it?

  4. Elise - Yes, this. You've got to appreciate the guts its taken...not just in terms of can I emulate this style, but also in the potential for backlash!

    Kathleen - phew! It's good to know I'm not way off base, here.

    Jeremy - wow, fantastic comment. So many interesting points raised that I was to discuss! For me personally, I prefer the kind of fanfic-changed-names thing. If only because the stories ARE so different...hell, even the characters are different. My only sticking point with that is the cashing in (perhaps disingenuously) on another author's fanbase. But hey, if you've said upfront that this started as fanfic, if it is very different from the original, and it's all your own words and style...I can't fault that. I know people get angry about 50 Shades, but no matter what you think of the quality of the's nothing like Twilight, really. It's the barest bones of Twilight, which is why I've always been kind of confused by AU fanfic. It's so barely related to the original text that it hardly seems worth the bother. Honestly think that some writers do it just cos they're afraid to fly away from the safety of fandom, rather than putting their own names on it and just going for it.

    However, I accept I could be biased on this. Because what I do isn't all that different to what EL James did. I use characters from film and TV as inspiration all the time.

    But I do like what you said about experimenting, and about being transparent. You're absolutely right - and as I said above that's a sticking point for me with work that started out as fanfic. Transparency is important.

    I don't know...I guess it depends on where you stand. Is a writer's own words more important to you, or is it some bare bones of plot or character? For me it's the former, because the latter has been done in more forms than fanfic. People reuse the same tropes, archetypes etc all the time, and always have. That's how I see it.

    And no matter what, I still can't get around that sense of...I wouldn't like it done to my books. I'd be bloody psyched if someone wrote fanfic based on my characters, but not if someone took my words and added their own.

  5. I wouldn't like it done to my books, either. So despite the skill it requires (to do it well), it leaves me with a feeling of discomfort.

    As for riffing on somebody else's characters, setting or even plot, it has been said that there are only a limited number of plots in the universe (though I'm not sure I agree). And I think Garce's post is a brilliant illustration of how an author can illumine something old and classic with new insights.


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