Back in December I kept finding great things to read on-line when I didn't have time to read them. So I made hardcopies to take on vacation with me last week. Two particularly good finds:
1. Revisiting the Classics by Colleen Mondor at Bookslut. I mentioned this article a while back but didn't get a chance to read it myself until last week. Colleen discusses a number of books that are new spins on classic stories. She opens with The Looking Glass War, which has had a very mixed reaction from readers, and covers books that rework a couple of Shakespearean plays and a comic book series on Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I am particularly interested in Straight On 'Til Morning, which Colleen eventually "follows J.M. Barrie's original design."
The article concludes with "It is a mystery to me how could anyone possibly be angry or insulted that...any of these new books were written. Love them or not (and I know some of you are still proudly brandishing the originals like shields), you have to respect this willingness to take a creative chance."
While I agree with Colleen, I have to say I know at least one person who would argue these writers aren't taking a creative chance because they're using someone else as a crutch, that reworking someone else's original idea isn't creative at all.
I think reworking a classic is a creative and acceptable work of art (or an acceptable attempt at one) because once a story has been around for generations, once it has become such a part of the culture that people who haven't even read the original recognize references to it, it is no longer just that original story. It now represents something, it now brings up feelings and images that are independent of the original creator. Those feelings and images are, themselves, fresh material.
Supposedly a young Beddor read Alice in Wonderland and found it a little girlie for his tastes at that point in his life. That reading experience was his, and he should most certainly have the right to act upon it by creating a tougher version of the story.
How would I feel if a hundred years or more after my death another writer reworked one of my books in the manner of the books Colleen discusses in her column? I should be so lucky.
2. Nine Stages of a Novel The Creative Lifecycle of a 'Garth Nix' Book by Garth Nix. This is a fantastic description of what it's like to write any book. I'm going to go back and study Stage Three and Stage Five again because they're the hardest part of writing for me.