Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, September 16, 2021

From the same folks who brought you “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” comes “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”, the next installment in the sudden cottage industry of comic-horror reworked Jane Austen prose.

Ben H. Winters provided the supplemental authorship this time around, and he shares his creative process behind injecting Lovecraftian imagery into Regency chick-lit.

Key to Winters’ efforts was a liberal reimagining of basic plot elements, like subbing in a steampunked underwater city for 19th-Century London. This technique was greatly aided by a new ratio of new-to-old in the storytelling:

I had room to describe Sub-Marine Station Beta at considerable length, by the way, thanks to one significant difference between my book and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. In that work, [writer Seth] Grahame-Smith wrote 15 percent of the final text; the rest was Austen. The readers who gobbled up “Zombies” reported back to [publisher Quirk Books] that as much as they loved the Jane Austen stuff, they wanted a little less of it. So my mandate on “Sea Monsters” was to deliver a book that was 60 percent Austen and 40 percent me. Which made my life easier: I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to describe a city built entirely underwater, where wealthy Britons attend costume balls dressed as pirates and government scientists conduct ill-advised experiments whereby fish organs are transplanted into men, but it takes a few paragraphs.

The people have spoken, and so now the monster mashing-up wordcount is practically on par with the original Austen. How long before the balance is more than tipped, to the point where only the classic character names and broad strokes are commandeered into an entirely separate storyline?

Hopefully, any such future usurpation will follow Winters’ sensible plot synchronization:

Throughout this project, I found that Jane Austen and I collaborated best when I used the monsters and other interpolations not to replace but to accentuate what was already there in Austen’s novel. She made Col. Brandon a bit too old for Marianne so she would have to struggle to see his goodness; all I did by giving him an octopus face was make her struggle a little harder. Whenever possible, I coordinated monster attacks with the moments of high emotional peril that Austen had already created—the Devonshire Fang-Beast pounces just as Elinor learns the truth of Edward Ferrars’ past; Marianne’s heartbreak at Willoughby’s betrayal is heightened by the march of the death lobsters.

Surprisingly skillful application of a gimmick. Maybe Austen herself would approve — after she scrubbed away the mucocutaneous residue on her work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/16/2009 11:02:15 PM
Category: Comedy, Creative, Pop Culture, Publishing
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