“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” This is the captivating opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
If you want to write a bestseller and are too lazy to think of anything original yourself, you are pretty well guaranteed success if you tamper with Jane Austen. Especially with Pride and Prejudice. We’ve had at least twenty spin-offs in the last few years, including Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Bar Sinister, in which Mr. Darcy has fathered an illegitimate child on the Pemberly estate. Austen believed Darcy to be a moral and ethical person, but what did she know?
I am baffled by the trend of taking other people’s work, or lives, and using it for one’s own fiction. I think of such books as vampire books, where someone else is sucking the blood of the original creator. Do people do it because they don’t have confidence in their own creative ideas? Is it a form of laziness? Or does it stem from a desperate search for common cultural markers in a world where we’re inundated with Twitters and Faces and Jerry Springer and a host of other shouted comments?
I confess, too, to a dislike of novels based on historic figures. It feels both like an invasion of privacy, to take over another person’s life, and a limitation on one’s own creativity: the ending, indeed, the trajectory, are already determined. As my granddaughter, then seven, said when her mother wanted to take her to see Gibson’s movie, The Passion, “I already know how it comes out.”
A few years ago, I read a book whose author claimed to know the effect of the Manhattan Project on Fermi and his family. It wasn’t based on Fermi’s life or letters or the memoirs of others who knew him, but on the author’s anger over the development of the bomb, projected back on to Fermi.
Searching around for a book topic? Make up your own physicist. It will allow you to explore the human experience more fully if you’re not constrained by a pre-determined outcome. Make up your own Regency family. And make up your own damned Zombie!