Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jane Austen, Zombies, and Vampires -- Oh My!

Last summer, after trade industry magazine Publishers Weekly mentioned my 3-book deal with Random House for a series of novels featuring Jane Austen as a modern-day vampire in their "Hot Deals" column, I started getting e-mail from Austen fans. Some were a little annoyed by the idea that their beloved Jane was being turned into a bloodsucker, but the vast majority said they were looking forward to the book.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when independent publisher Quirk Books announced the publication of Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Grahame-Smith, the author of a bunch of riotous books including How to Survive a Horror Movie and The Big Book of Porn, has taken the original text of Austen's classic novel and inserted zombies into the action. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves worrying not just about matters of the heart, but about fending off the living dead as well. The bits I've read are hysterical.

So, apparently, are some Austen fans, who find this "desecration" of the author and her work to be more terrifying than the living dead. Across the blogosphere people are weighing in yea or nay on the book, all without having read it. It's not surprising given how protective Austen fans can be about their beloved Jane, but in the end it generates more interest in the book, so I say rage on!

Now just when you think things couldn't get any odder, word comes that Elton John's production company, Rocket Pictures, is getting ready to shoot Pride and Predator, in which the alien from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film (yes, it's that Predator) crash lands in Austen's world and carnage ensues. No word on whether or not the Predator will wear an Empire waist dress.

It's always fascinating when a cultural phenomenon like this occurs. And thanks to the interwebs it's easy to follow the progress. When I read about Grahame-Smith's book my initial reaction was that because it would be out first (the zombies arrive this April and my book arrives in early 2010) I'd look like the Jan Brady of the Austen monster craze. Even The New York Times online suggested as much. For a day or so I wandered around practicing my "It's always Seth, Seth, Seth" routine.

But the fact is, our books could not be more different, and not just because of the zombie vs vampire thing. Seth's takes place within the world of Austen's novel. Mine is set in present day and is about Jane herself, not her characters. Seth's book is 322 pages and mine is 324. His employs a Carlson font and mine uses Garamond. Mine is dedicated to my friend Liz and his is dedicated to . . .

You get the idea. The point is that there's room for all of us. There's even room for a werewolf Jane if someone feels like tackling it. And it will be interesting (and probably nervewracking) to see how this all unfolds. I'll be writing about what happens over the next months, so tune in for updates.

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