I come bearing dreadful news; tales of tentacles unbounded by either long or short stays; tales of opium and infamy, and a most unlikely hero in the form of the cad Wickham! It is true - the aliens are among us!
You may remember a blog post I wrote last year, about a little bit of fluff and silliness by @RealMrsDarcy who serialised her flights of fancy weekly on the internet? I should never have encouraged her, I blame myself, for now look what she has produced:
As if the abomination that was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was not bad enough, now we have aliens and all those rather phallic tentacles to deal with. And worse, it seems our trust was utterly abused, for this creation is actually by a man!
I caught up with this fiend and asked him some pressing questions.
You're a bloke. Right? So what are you doing reading Jane Austen? And how dare you presume to write a sequel to one of her greatest works?
I see where this is going. Start off by questioning my masculinity, eh? Hmmm. Well, I could say that the fragrant Mrs P is more of a true fan than I am, but in fact I see no reason for appreciation of JA's wit to be confined to 50% of the population. Actually, that sounds a bit pompous, doesn't it? Never mind.
How dare I presume to write a sequel? Ha. Try and stop me.
Why aliens, of all things? What's wrong with vampires, zombies and werewolves? Everyone knows they're the only mythical creatures worth writing about.
Never really seen the appeal of vampires, even less of zombies. Werewolves? Meh. They're all constrained by their own mythos. Did I really say that? I might use that again. Anyway, aliens are more fun. And you can explore sci-fi tropes with them.
So how would you respond if I said the word "bandwagon"? I think you know what I mean...
I'd probably sigh and then think of some unspeakable way in which to kill you. Or I might simply say that I thought of the idea for this book waaaaay before the zombie thing came out (well, a year or two, certainly, and I have witnesses). The P&P&Z bandwagon was actually a major irritation for me and nearly caused me to stop writing my book.
Poor, poor Charlotte! Isn't her life already sufficiently miserable? Was it really necessary for you to inflict a drug addiction on her as well?
I think the drugs are the least of Charlotte's concerns. If I were her, I would be extremely worried about the kind of theatrical productions that Lord Byron is asking her to take part in towards the end of the book. However, despite this, she seems happy, if oblivious to much of what is going on around her.
Why is Wickham suddenly a good guy? Do you secretly sympathise with Wickham, is that it? Are you, sir, in fact a cad and a seducer of women?
A cad and a seducer of women? Moi? No, the Wickham thing was more a case of doing the most counter-intuitive thing with the character that I could think of. Or to put it another way, it was a bit of mischief-making on my part.
You've come up with some pretty nifty ways of promoting your bastardisation of my favourite novel. Wickhampedia? The YouTuberances? I suppose you think you're pretty clever, don't you?
Amazingly clever. No, not really. I just like playing with stuff. And the wonderful thing about the internet is that you can have a daft idea and make it available for all to see in a very short space of time. The YouTuberances were actually borne out of desperation. I needed something I could use to lure people in - to give them a flavour of what the story was like. So I thought I'd do one of those "Downfall" mash-ups. You know the kind of thing? I had a storyline lined up (I can't quite remember it but it had something to do with Hitler discussing the plans for the Berlin Jane Austen theme park and then gradually discovering that his acolytes had, as per orders, excluded the zombies and sea monsters from the list of attractions but had somehow let aliens in), but then it struck me that that it was a bit of a tired meme and in any case the producers of the original film were starting to issue takedown notices. So I hunted around for a foreign-language dubbed version of the BBC Pride and Prejudice, but I couldn't find one, so I dubbed my own French soundtrack on. You're right. I sounded too pleased with myself there. Sorry.
If (heaven forfend) one of your impressionable readers wished to publish their own flight of fancy, what advice would you give them? Would you suggest that they, too, serialise a book online, for example?
Ooh, tricky. I think Mrs Darcy worked (if indeed it did work) as a serial because that's the way I started writing it. I'm a short story writer by inclination, so the only way I could think of writing anything longer was to do it in very small steps, which meant that I was always trying to make each section a self-contained episode. I think 600-700 words is about the maximum length you can get away with if you're expecting people to keep coming back - which means that the style works well for comedy or action, but I'm not sure it would work for a romance, where you need to slow things down a bit and take your time. Either way, I would try to publish conventionally first, and only resort to serialisation if you think that's the only way to prove the existence of an audience.
Finally, what's next for you, sir? Will you sleep soundly on a pile of filthy lucre acquired while the great Miss Jane Austen revolves in her grave, or do you intend to inflict more such nonsense upon us?
A pile of filthy lucre sounds an attractive proposition, albeit it an unlikely one. The next thing on the schedule is my book of short stories, "Dot(.), Dash(-)", which will appear next year, courtesy of Salt (who are - entirely coincidentally - the parent of Mrs Darcy's imprint Proxima). Apart from that, I certainly have plans for a sequel (sorry), but that's of course all subject to demand. I've also got a completely different sci-fi-ish thing I'm working on, but you may rest assured that no classics will be harmed in the course of its production.
Of course, there are those who would say that Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens is not just a hodge-podge idea thrown on top of a classic as an easy way to make money (P&P&Z cough cough), but that it is, in fact, a very clever, well written and amusing sequel to a great work of literature. Some may say that, but I'm sure I wouldn't be among them.
Good day to you, Sir. I will not shake your hand, nor will I send any good wishes to your wife. You deserve none of my attention.