This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is your opinion of prequels or sequels written for classic works that are out of copyright (i.e. not written by the original author)? Should authors be able to use other writers’ characters and plots for their “own” stories? Are there any classic prequels or sequels you recommend?
I am going to answer this question with a question. Why is it than when people do this with Sherlock it gets taken seriously, but when someone does it with Harry Potter it’s borderline plagiarism?
Because y’all, these books are really just fanfiction.
Now, it’s worth being said that there is a big difference in legal terms between Jane Austen fanfiction and Percy Jackson fanfiction. Because the classics are out of copyright and in the “public domain”, authors and publishers are free to publish any works written about those characters. Since Percy Jackson is still under copyright, to do so would require consent from Rick Riordan and probably include payment. So in that way, fanfiction is questionable in terms of legality. (We won’t go into fair use today, but let me tell you, I could and have written a whole essay about it!)
My beef with this subject is the scorn for which a lot of readers treat fanfiction, but then those same readers will gush about books like The Eyre Affair.
I think that fanfiction, whatever form it takes, is a valid way of expressing yourself. Whether it comes in the form of classic retelling, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, companions, or remixes, using preexisting characters and worlds that you are attached to is beautiful. Authors have been doing this for as long as there have been authors. You think Shakespeare created Romeo and Juliet? No. He was retelling a story people already knew.
That being said, I’m never going to read Mr. Darcy’s Daughter or anything like that. I’m sure those books are … fine, but no thanks. In general I tend to prefer retellings or re-imaginings to sequels and prequels. For example, I quite enjoyed A Study in Scarlet, which is a gender-bending of the original Sherlock story, but didn’t really care too much about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which is a Sherlock sequel.
Do you like prequels or sequels for classics written by contemporary authors?