Classic Remarks: Classic Fanfics

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?

13 thoughts on “Classic Remarks: Classic Fanfics

  1. For the most part I do not like the prequel/sequel thing of books done in the past. First off, I’ve rarely seen a well written one. Even PD James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice was abysmal. Secondly, I don’t like when 21st century authors attempt to “modernize” the books. The beauty of classics is their timeless interpretation of a story, fully fleshed out characters, and well thought out phrases. There are so many facets as to why a classic is a classic, and not everyone should have the hubris to think they can improve upon the model

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t feel like the modern interpretations I’ve read attempt to improve or even to give equal quality. I think it’s more that seeing a story you already love in a new way can be fun. For example, I adore Clueless even though I’m aware it’s not a masterpiece like Emma is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. Like West side Story recreating Romeo and Juliet. There are ways to adapt a story that are wonderful. Though I hated the Curtis Sittenfeld adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was awful, so you have to tread carefully

        Liked by 2 people

  2. No! Respect the author and their material!

    Yes! I love all things Sherlock Holmes, whether it is true to the source material or not.

    Due to too much free time in the last few months, I created a home-made Star Trek show with plastic bottle spaceships and bottle cap consoles. It is a spoof of the original series Star Trek, so you could say its a classic of sorts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I generally don’t read these either, though I guess people can do what they want. I did enjoy Marilla of Green Gables, but, of course, it’s just not what L M Montgomery would have written if she’d written a story about Marilla. Even if the authors try very hard, they’re simply never going to capture 1) the prose style of the original and 2) the mindset of the original. One of my biggest gripes with Marilla of Green Gables is that it presented Marilla as a feminist who would have fit more into today’s society than into the late 1800s. People can write stories about Mr. Darcy and other characters all they want, but they’re just not the same as they’d be if someone from the time period were to write the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also like your point about retellings and reimaginings, which I often enjoy, as well. If you’re upfront that you’re playing around with the world and the characters, that can be a lot of fun, and it feels very different from authors acting as if they’re flat-out “continuing the story” with a “sequel” or “prequel.”

      Liked by 1 person

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