Friday, May 28, 2010

History of the Liteary Undead

Have you noticed all the historically undead on the bookshelves lately? Is it all just a response to the surprise success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or is there something else afoot that has so many writers (and publishing houses) going in for remaking history with zombies, werewolves, vampires and monster hunters?

Jane SlayreI should preface by saying that I've not read any of these books, but I've heard that the latest one to make a splash, Jane Slayer by Sherri Browning Erwin, is well done. Or, more precisely, my Source said it's well done if you're into that sort of thing -- I don't know if that sort of thing meant paranormal  fiction (which I'm a fan of) or if it meant the reworking of classics with modern twists of fantasy (which I don't really have an opinion on) -- one can never tell with Source what Source is really getting at.

Although, to be honest, the novel's tag line has me thinking I might get it the next time I'm in the store:
Reader, I buried him.

Queen Victoria: Demon HunterPublisher's Weekly calls it the "growing genre of horror mashups."   Including Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, and the soon to be published Shakespeare Undead (chapters 1-5 available to read online until the book's release on June 8), or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (the guy who did P&P&Zombies).

You can now take your pick of literary figures turned slayers or historical figures turned slayers.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterSome seem quite amusing and well done. From the Amazon review of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter:
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea MonstersMany are jumping on the bandwagon without much worry about how well they're done. Two that I doubt I'll ever read include Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Boleyn: Tudor Vampire (in which Anne Boleyn is conveniently not beheaded and can therefore return as the undead), but the mere presence of these two novels does make me smile -- if perhaps only weakly.

But why the sudden popularity?  Is it the logical outcome of two simultaneous pop culture crazes (Austen and Zombies)? Is it an ability to both enjoy the classics and laugh at them -- Publisher's Weekly claims that if you're a horror fan but not familiar with Jane Eyre you'll like the novel but miss much of the comic nuance -- or is it a sign that the contemporary urban fantasy market is saturated? 

Shakespeare UndeadOf course, people have been predicting the death of vampires as a genre for years now.  And -- like any good undead being -- vampires just keep coming back (with or without the use of Shakespeare).  So I hesitate to say the historical undead are a sign of saturation.  Which I'm just fine with; I like a good vampire from time to time so long as he doesn't go all sparkly in the sun.

I was about to make a guess that Wuthering Heights would be the next to receive a makeover from Gothic to Horror/Urban Fantasy, and then realized that Heathcliff is already scarier and more menacing than any werewolf could ever be. You wouldn't have to change anything about the novel except for adding a single line that said he'd been bitten as a boy and you'd still have a believable novel on your hands. Maybe that's why I always liked Wuthering Heights more than Jane Eyre.

Edit: Wuthering Bites hmm. I have to say the Bronte titles are much more creative than the others.

Highly Recommended