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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Be My Guest, Jane Austen (as channeled by Steve Hockensmith)!

Last week we had the Easter Bunny, this we Jane Austen; isn't Be My Guest glorious? ;-p
I don't think this one needs much preamble: it's just awesome.
If you don't know who Steve Hockensmith is, check out my PPZ:DOD review.  (If you don't know who Jane Austen is, shame on you -- but I'll forgive you when you come back for Jane in June).
And be sure to stop back by later for a super fun(ny) interview with Hockensmith (as himself this time).
Take it away, Steve.  Er, Jane...

              “Wait a second,” you’re no doubt saying to yourself. “Does that headline really say today’s guest blogger is Jane Austen? How could a woman who’s been dead 200 years be posting to a blog? And when did I start talking to myself and should I see a doctor about it?”
              Those last two questions you’ll have to wrestle with yourself. The first two, though, I can handle.
Your eyes do not deceive you. Shortly (in 181 words, to be exact), I’ll be handing this post over to Miss Austen...as I imagine her, anyway. And I’ve been imagining her quite a bit lately. Not in a Harveyesque, “I see dead authors” kind of way. More in an I’m-writing-the-prequel-to-Pride-and-Prejudice-and-Zombies kind of way. In fact, exactly in that way, because that’s what I spent most of 2009 doing.
              Unlike PPZ, which slipped zombies and martial-arts mayhem into Austen’s classic, my book -- Dawn of the Dreadfuls -- is 100 percent original. Same characters (mostly), but all new storyline, all new words. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work closely with Miss Austen, however. I wasn’t trying to mimic her inimitable style, but it was important that I not do a disservice to it or her. Though I’m sure some purists would say I did just that, I like to think I was paying tribute in a way Miss Austen wouldn’t entirely hate -- for reasons I’m going to let her (via the magic of literary necromancy) spell out below.
              Ladies and gentlemen, I give you today’s Book Rat guest blogger, Jane Austen.
*                                          *                                          *
Due to circumstances beyond my (or anyone’s) control, I couldn’t write the first word of Steve Hockensmith’s Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Yet now I find I can have the last. I would be within my rights, I suppose, to use this opportunity to take Mr. Hockensmith to task for having usurped my characters for his own low purposes. However, I shall -- perhaps to your disappointment, if you are of a certain turn of mind -- endeavor to be gracious.
Some of my most ardent admirers, I’ve been told, imagine me taking offence at the presumption a book such as Dawn of the Dreadfuls represents. If I did, though, I would have had little more than a quarter century to rest in peace. One of my own nieces wrote an ending for an unfinished novel of mine, The Watsons, and published it under a different title. And at least half a dozen other writers have seen fit to complete Sanditon, the book I was working on when I laid down my pen and took up my harp.
I have no intention of spending eternity dizzy. I gave up spinning in my grave a long time ago.
              And it’s not as though I had no hand at all in Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Mr. Hockensmith consulted me frequently, wondering aloud “What would Jane do?” (Or “WWJD?” as he sometimes put it.) In the end, I served as both muse and anti-muse: Ideas of which I might approve were incorporated into the story, while many of which I would disapprove were dropped. Although, alas, my sensibilities didn’t carry the day in every instance, you can thank me that the book is free of jokes about breaking wind, a “love scene” in the most modern (not to mention repulsive) sense of the word, and a lengthy rampage by a zombie fetus.
              The legions of fully grown zombies, on the other hand, I had no choice but to accept, the novel itself having little reason to exist without them. Yet I must say that I found the “dreadfuls,” as villains, wholly unconvincing. In my experience, those the most in need of brains rarely realize it and, in fact, actively resist the acquisition of more.
              My low opinion of zombies, however, is beside the point. What matters is that so many modern readers find them amusing. As a great thinker once wrote, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other,” and the truth of these words I find irrefutable. (Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the great thinker was me.) If I’m not charmed by the idea of rotting corpses rising from their graves to dine on the living, what of it? You might blanch to find upon your plate a blood pudding or a dollop of jellied eel -- hearty English fare I myself enjoyed, once upon a time.
              “We are not amused,” the niece of my own Prince Regent is famous for saying (or so I’m told), and unfortunately some haven take that royal “we” to speak for all of the English in perpetuity. Yet I can assure you, I both was amused and sought to amuse through all my life -- and through most of my writing. To quote that great thinker again (this time from a letter to the Prince Regent’s librarian, who had suggested she take up a more elevated subject in her next novel):

I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.

              You have noted, no doubt, that I said “laughing at myself and other people,” not “laughing at myself and other people and ghouls gorging on human flesh.” So, no, I am not amused by zombies. If you are, however, then I would be the last person in the world to deny you the pleasure. It’s one of those I do not understand, true. Yet that doesn’t mean I disapprove.

There you have it, folks.  A very special BMG; bringing back folks from the dead to condone your zombie-love...one of the many lovely aspects of Book Rat. ;p

Interested in guest blogging on Book Rat?  Fill out this form: it's quick, it's easy, and it has a sheep!
And it means you are automatically entered into my Random BMG Drawings! 

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