I’m sorry to report I have been slacking in my reading from my “To Be Read” list this year. I’ve been reading…just not the books I’m “supposed” to be. In my mourning-the-end-of-Harry-Potter fog, I somehow I got back into the altered history, aka fictional-monsters-added-to-stories genre. Some of these are humorous, and some not. Some of these are quite good, and some are decidedly not. Let’s discuss…
In this genre, I have read these, so far:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
The President’s Vampire (Actually, I threw it on the ground after 5 pages and cursed at it)
Zombie Island: A Shakespeare Undead Novel
What makes these stories good?
1. Not taking the story too seriously
C’mon, if you’re an Austen purist, you’re not going to like P&P&Z so why bother? However, if you like any story/sequel/fanfic ever written about the P&P world, give it ago. Also, if you have strict rules about what different types of monsters can and cannot do, put the book down and walk away. Monsters can do whatever the author wants, you know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T F***ING EXIST, THAT’S WHY.
2. Authors that know how to tell a story
Especially if you’re going from scratch, I think this genre is tough so you need to know how to write before you tackle this. Do you have a preferred main genre (i.e. romance, mystery, crime)? Work your monsters in from there and you’ve got a nice hybrid story.
3. Weaving enough truth into the fiction
These stories just work better if you’ve got all your real/true details down pat. Making your monsters be the cause, participant, or product of some well-known historical events is fantastic if you can make it believable. Also, sub-point; the further back in history, the better. Don’t try to tell me vampires caused 9/11 – I’m looking at you The President’s Vampire! Contemporary events are too fresh. Pick something that has the fog of time around it blurring our thoughts.
4. Weaving enough fiction into the cannon
See? Balance. I particularly like the altered classical literature take. Like so many, I know Pride and Prejudice almost back to front so I can read P&P&Z and not be distracted by “Wait, is that how the real story goes?”. The Abe Lincoln and Shakespeare altering I was less familiar with, so I have no ability to take away the monsters from the biographical details and know if it’s based in historical truth or not. Working with a fictional story as your base is just easier because even if the reader isn’t familiar with the original story, they won’t be taking ANYTHING as fact. That said, the Shakespeare series uses themes and actions from his famous plays (Romeo & Juliet and The Tempest so far) so that was a nice angle.
What makes these stories bad?
I really only have two points here. I want to like these books. They were made for my tastes.
1. Authors that don’t have an editor
Similar to “Good” point 2 above. If the dialogue sounds like a preschooler wrote it, I’m going to throw the book across the room in a real-life ragequit. QQ me all you want, your book is just bound fanfic!
2. Authors that are trying too hard/going too far
In the Shakespeare series he’s still in the midst of writing the work we know him for (great!) but he also randomly comes up with lines and ideas which we know from Star Trek and Indiana Jones (bah!). I’m never going to believe he might die if he’s making up stuff I know from the 20th century. I’ve already suspended my disbelief, don’t break it! Less is more. Also, don’t lose me by jumping the shark or applying plot duct-tape.