March 2, 2012

The Friday Five: Fanfic Edition?

Fanfic is one of those things everyone has an opinion about. (Well, everyone who knows what fanfic is, I guess.) There are arguments to be made about its purpose and its value on both sides, but one thing I've always believed is that it's not a new phenomenon. Taking stories and building on them, retelling them, embellishing them, exploring the characters, has been going for ... ever, as far as I can tell, if you want to go back to the Bible and Greco-Roman mythology (to name just two sources).

Copyright is the tricky issue when it comes to which stories you can retell or tell a new way (at least and get paid for it), but stories within the public domain are fair game. Witness: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys's fantastic novel about Rochester's first wife, Bertha), and every book or movie ever about Cinderella or Snow White or a dozen other fairy tales.

Wanting to know more isn't a new idea--otherwise there would be no sequels, no trilogies, no director's cuts, no bonus material. I'm totally guilty of this--if a story grabs me, I want to know everything. The first time I saw Lady Jane, a fantastic movie about Jane Grey, the Nine Days' Queen, I went in search of everything I could find out about her and her short-lived marriage because what was on the screen was great, but Not Enough. (And that's just one example. Some of my dives into Google and Wikipedia are pretty epic.)

And with the announcement of Claire Legrand's forthcoming YA novel, Winterspell, which is a new take on the story of The Nutcracker,  I started thinking about some of the stories I would love to see retold or reimagined or explored (again or further or in new ways).

So, a wishlist.

1) The teen years of either Roxie Hart or Velma Kelly (or both), from the musical Chicago. Dreams of stardom! Radio days! Silent movies! (Future) murder! (This is not so easy--the play is obviously still copyright protected, but I love the characters.)

2) Sara Crewe (A Little Princess) all grown up. Or newly grown up! Or, honestly, ten minutes after the book ends, because I love her.

3) A new take on Bluebeard. Margaret Atwood published a volume of short stories called Bluebeard's Egg, and one of the stories was, you guessed it, about Bluebeard. But it wasn't enough for me. I want someone to figure out why he was doing what he did, or if he really murdered all those girls at all, and I want his newest wife to triumph. Somehow.

4) A different take on Alice in Wonderland. It's been done a zillion times and ways, I know, but not one of them has really hit the sweet spot of "what it?" for me. I think the closest is probably the old-now video game American McGee's Alice, which was deliciously gruesome and twisted.

5) The story of Atalanta. I knew this only through Free to Be ... You and Me for a long time, and it did, naturally, smooth over some of the grislier parts of the myth. It looks like the forthcoming Pixar movie, Brave, plays with the "I want my princess daughter married off!" part of the story, purposefully or not, but I want a real exploration of a girl who became a fierce hunter after her father left her on a mountaintop to die. (You think your dad is strict.)

How about any of you? What tales would you retell? What characters got short shrift?


  1. Great list, Amy! One of the women in my writing group has already tackled #3. Now if she could just get it published...

    I love Sara Crewe almost as much as Mary Lennox, and I'd be curious to see her story continue. But someone (I forget who) did that for Mary and it didn't turn out so well.

    And Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is flying again, but I haven't had a chance to read Frank Cottrell Boyce's new version.

  2. Whoo gruesome and twisted! Those tend to be the most interesting, no? I like Maguire's take on "Wicked" even though it's not technically considered fan fic, yet it is in many ways! I enjoyed the twist that the bad guy was just misunderstood.

  3. Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. Wow, I would love to read "Winterspell!"

    Among my many unfinished projects is a retelling of "The Frog Prince." I love fairy tales - getting at the heart of what they say about us as individuals and as a society.

    I also read lots of Jane Austen "sequels" but that market is pretty much saturated now.

    For me, the best fan fic is always inside my own head. :)