Thursday, March 4, 2010

Attack of the Mash-Ups!

It all started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Then came Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Now, there are a whole slew of similar paranormal mash-ups coming down the pipeline.

USA Today posted an article earlier this morning to their website about the recent phenomenon:

It has been a year since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses.

Rather than running for their lives, readers ran to bookstores, making the quirky collaboration between Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith a huge hit, with more than 1 million copies in print.

With the surprising success of that first literary mashup from Quirk Books, there has been no stanching the flow of bloody titles featuring classic literary icons doing battle with B-movie demons.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters followed Zombies last year. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, a prequel by Steve Hockensmith, will walk among us starting March 24.

In Sherri Browning Erwin's Jane Slayre (Gallery Books), hitting stores April 13, Charlotte Brontë's plain Jane Eyre is an indomitable zombie killer.

We've seen gimmicky titles like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim (Coscom Entertainment) and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter (Eos) jump on the bandwagon.

But is the trend threatening to jump the shark, as well?

"There are so many classics to explore and so many ways people are approaching mashups. I think it has a long way to go before it exhausts itself," says Slayre author Erwin.

Zombies has had the best showing on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, rising to No. 24. Sea Monsters, with a very respectable 375,000 copies in print, peaked at No. 100. But Queen Victoria and Zombie Jim failed to make the list's top 400.

"We're having discussions on how far we can push this formula," Quirk publisher Jason Rekulak says. "What I don't want to do is something like The Scarlet Letter and Dinosaurs, where you just take a classic because it's a classic and add an element because it's an element."

Read the rest of the article HERE
It's tough to argue though that they aren't already doing just what Rekulak fears. I haven't read any of these mash-ups yet myself, but the concept seems clear enough to me. An author takes a classic novel, adds a pBlockquotearanormal element, and spins the story so that it works on a brand new level.

While creative and certainly entertaining, I think that "[taking] a classic because it's a classic and [adding] an element because it's an element" is exactly what these books do. It's the whole point, isn't it? They're taking something old and making it new again.

I won't deny that the idea is a clever and exciting one. When Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hit the shelves, I was horrified, but also strangely compelled. It was such a unique take on classic literature that I couldn't help but admire the person who came up with the idea. But now, the market is being flooded with similar mash-ups. They come up at editorial meetings all over New York every week, but don't really have a leg to stand on most of the time.

So, how long can a trend like this last? Zombies was such a hit because it was such a new and different concept. Now, the novelty has worn off. Or it will by the end of the year with all the upcoming publications scheduled.

What then? While, yes, there are more classics out there and more ways to "zombie them up," it's going to get old real quick. Readers are going to get sick of books that take someone else's idea and change it, rather than come up with something totally fresh.

Do you read mash-ups? Tell us what you think!

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently proofreading a mash-up. I tried to read P&P&Zombies but I couldn't do it and put it down quickly. I'm really enjoying the one I'm proofreading now--though I suspect it's because I never read the original text. Interesting post.