We see lots of weird things in fiction. I don’t love it all, but who cares? Authors write what they want, publishers publish what they choose, and readers bloody well read whatever piques their fancy.
So this reader is going to exercise her constitutionally mandated right to express her unhappiness over a certain literary trend. Actually, it’s more than a trend, it’s a flea infestation, pervading all corners of the house once that single step released the pupae from the egg. The pupa was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPaZ), the very deliberate footfall was Quirk Classics, and the spawn is the new paranormal-literary-historical mash-up that, frankly, could not die a moment too soon for me.
Human nature is partly to blame, I suppose. Our consumer society is built around crazes; unknown forces decide, merchandisers provide, and consumers gorge, until the next hot thing comes around six months later. The problem is when there’s a gap between what publishers think we want, and what we actually want; hence many (many many many) complaints about the fact that they just don’t listen.
Normally, I’d say that holds true in this case, that the new (okay, not-so-new anymore) mash-up is just a fad that’s long overdue to retire. But I go to the library, and I’m confronted by Android Karenina. I turn around from romance, and see Jane Slayre. I am so unbelievably sick of seeing these mash-ups everywhere I go, and you know what? The whole phenomenon reeks of nothing so much as exploitation – of literary classics, historical figures, and of course, the wallets of the general reading public.
Look, I’m not a purist. I like paranormals, I like alternate histories, and I don’t mind liberties taken with historical figures or classic stories, as long as they serve a purpose. Rationally, I know these mash-ups are no worse than other trends that have long outstayed their welcome; you might even claim that the mash-up is better. Some are irreverent and funny; they even provide the occasional insight.
I question all those points, especially the latter; I haven’t read a single mash-up that I thought was worth the mutilation. (And let me get this out of the way: I am so over Jane Austen as a vampire.) But okay, let’s say I take these books on their own terms, and chuck my snob side out the window. Well, I still have five problems with the sub-genre:
- Repetition. The jokes get very old, very quick.
- Hybridization as unflattering imitation. What, they couldn’t make up their own plot? Or characters? Or for that matter (and I’m looking at the genius who titles Katie MacAlister’s books), they couldn’t think of a more original title?
- The prose. Sometimes, in the case of a literary mash-up, the difference between the source and the “co-author” is painfully, regrettably obvious. Which, combined with the other two complaints, inevitably leads to…
- See #1.
And there you go. Five reasons mash-ups don’t work for me.
What’s your take on this sub-genre? Is it seriously annoying, seriously misunderstood, or somewhere in between?
– Jean AAR