Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jane Austen and the Vampires

I read that Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is just one of a queue of books lining up for release that infest the world of Jane Austen with aloof romantical vampires or possibly vampyres. This is just wrong. The world needs this sub-genre even less than it needs Father Brown and the Goblet of Fire or Aubrey and Maturin vs. the CGI Giant Squid*.

Ah, you say, but what about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Studdingsails? That's different. Some genres mash up better than others. Don't be deceived by the superficial undead similarity of zombie fiction and vampire fiction. They're as different as cozy and noir, if not more so.

The current fad for fiction featuring room-temperature vampire demon lovers that sleep in a box fills a very similar ecological niche to the horrid gothic novels Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey.
“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”
“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”
“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

Jane Austen had little patience with dark Byronic anti-heroes, even when they were only metaphorical bloodsuckers.

What might actually work would be a screenplay that updated Northanger Abbey the way Clueless updated Emma: 17 year old Kathy Morland has read too many Romantical Vampire Novels and through a series of misunderstandings wrongly concludes that various other characters are accursed, secretly undead, or both.

*At least Aubrey and Maturin would have the sense to know that you can't blow up a stockpile of gunpowder and rum by shooting a musket ball into it from a distance, and could have a prolonged discussion about swivel guns, heated shot, Admiralty regulations against the use of shot furnaces on shipboard, the possibility of improvising the armorers forge in an emergency, the desirability of doubled and dampened wadding, etc. Not to mention the tragedy of spoiling a unique and splendid specimen of Architeuthis Krakensis with a rum and gunpowder explosion that would probably just get it angry, for all love.

Well, it would have its moments, but I don't think you could sustain at over the length of a novel.

1 comment:

Monica Fairview said...

It depends how it's done, surely? One could argue that at least Vampyres reflect the zeitgeist -- they were there, and they were "horrid" (in the modern sense of horror), and Jane Austen parodied them. But are you sure Northanger Abbey is just a spoof? Doesn't the villain turn out to be a villain, after all? So on one level, Catherine M was right all along about Henry's father, though her imagination was moving along "Gothick" lines.
I say -- let's wait and see how the "horrid" novel meshes with Jane Austen.