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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Re-Setting Austen | a Janeite Conversation

I’ve asked a lot of questions in our Janeite Convos over the course of the last nine years, but this may be one of my favorites, purely because of the possibilities… You’re about to read some things that, well, are gonna make you wanna read some things.
I asked:
There's a TON of traditional representations (in books, film, stage...) and continuations of Austen's works out there, and a smattering of contemporary, less-traditional takes (like Bollywood's Bride & Prejudice or Bridget Jones' Diary, etc), but even if non-traditional, they're still pretty...traditional, ya know? If you could reset any of Austen's works into any other time / region that pushes the envelope a bit more (P&P on a pirate ship, Mansfield Park in space!), what would you love to see (or create!)?

ME: Bring your A-game, my dears. Whatcha got?
DEBRA-ANN: I actually like the time travel aspect - taking a modern man/woman and tossing them back in time to see how they handle and adapt to that time period.
ME: There are a few books that have done that, and I think we’ve all thought about it. It’s certainly interesting, and we tend to enjoy the fantasy – the sanitized version – but once confronted with the reality (no phones, no Doritos, no toilet paper, no tampons; shoddy medical practices, no personal autonomy as a woman, etc., etc.), it maybe loses some of it’s glow. But I’m thinking more futuristic time travel. How does Lizzie cope with a whole new, unfathomable world? That’s one of the things I like about Lost In Austen, actually: Lizzie feels like she was born in the wrong time, and adapts readily to the modern age. It’s interesting to ponder. But even just resetting the characters and story in a different time – not Regency, not contemporary – makes for an interesting shakeup, like Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars

LAURIE: Mansfield Park in space? Yes, please. As in 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Mansfield Park...
ME: Haha, oh god!
LAURIE: *hands making a square, like a wannabe-director in a movie, cropping a scene*
MARY CRAWFORD, in full spacesuit regalia, is at the helm of a space pod that is unable to gain re-entry to the mothership. MARY speaks over the comms to FANNY PRICE, who is the AI computer that has taken control of the ship.
Open the pod bay doors, Fanny.
I’m sorry, Miss Crawford. I can’t do that.
Open the pod bay doors, Fanny.
Miss Crawford, I do not think you believe in the mission
as much as I do.
Open the pod bay doors, Fanny!
Edmund will be happier without you.
I’m sorry, Miss Crawford. You may have stolen my horse,
but you will not steal Edmund.  I’ve had about all I can take
of your rears and vices. Not to mention your harp playing. Goodbye.
The computer goes silent, and we FADE on MARY, now outside the pod, clinging with one gloved hand to the mothership while pounding on the hatch with the other.
ME: Wow. Space-Fanny is ruthless.

LAURIE: Now that I’ve got that out of my system, and although I love to watch good period films and TV, I would actually love to see more contemporary adaptations of Austen like Bride and Prejudice or Clueless or Bridget Jones’s Diary. All three of these films (and in the case of Bridget Jones’s Diary, the brilliant source material of the novel) did a fantastic job of reimagining Austen in modern times. Hey, and if a clever screenwriter really can reimagine Austen in space, I’m in. Or a comic thriller based on Austen; that would be amazing.
ME: Oh, I could totally go for that. There’s so much snark to mine! So many horrible characters to kill off or blame!
LONA: I definitely want to see Mansfield Park in China. It is still a much more traditional society and a girl could plausibly be kept down in the family the way Fanny is. But it would have to be a Chinese writer to take it on!
ME: Now that’s intriguing.
ALEXA: I’d love to cross Austen with ancient greek theater. It would have to be one of those bizarre novellas I do that no one reads. Mr. Darcy as Oresties. Poor Mr. Darcy! I’m not sure even I can put him through that. Then again, now the idea is in my head ...
ME: So a 2019 release, is what you’re saying? *winks*
NANCY: Someday I still want to write Pride and Prejudice with Elves.

ME: Yes.
NANCY: High fantasy, with telepathy.
NANCY: I started it during NaNo four years ago, but wishy-washy world building stopped me. Someday… (This is along with my stack of other fantasy novels that I want to write. I will conquer world building eventually!!)
MARIA: I am a Sci Fi/ Fantasy lover from way back. I’ve been dabbling with P&P and fantasy with my  dragon books.
ME: You sure have.
MARIA: I would LOVE to see a really good Sci Fi adaptation of Austen’s works.
ME: Good being the operative word. Some of the mashups that have been done have been fun, but most have seemed like throwaway cash grabs or jokes. I’d like to see a solid fantasy that stands on its own as a fantasy, and also as a perfectly incorporated Austen retelling.
MARIA: Been dabbling with that here and there, but still haven’t quite found the sweet spot to make it work well. But who knows!
LEIGH: I think it would be fun to take a Firefly approach to P&P.
ME: My god.
LEIGH: Let everyone be in space and fighting reapers. I think it could translate well and I would love to see a devilishly handsome and very casual Darcy.
ME: Have you ever not known you needed something until you knew it was a possibility, and now you wonder how you’ve ever lived without it?
RIANA: This question is fun. I’ve read some gender-bender versions of Pride and Prejudice, some of which work really well and others of which fall a bit flat.
ME: Yeah, so, “gender-bent” is one of my buzzwords that will absolutely make me read a book, and I’ma need a full list, asap.
RIANA: But I’d love to see a version in a drag club.
ME: How are you guys doing this to me?!
RIANA: Darcy is the nephew of the owner – the high-class glamour queen, and Lizzy (Leonard?) is an impertinent newcomer with some rough edges but talent to burn. Sssssss, that could be hot!
ME: 10/10, would read.
RIANA: Another adaptation that could be tons of fun would be to set Northanger Abbey in J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter, with witches and wizards and things that go bump in the night. Who knows what Catherine would find in that chest in her room at the Abbey? I’m sure it wouldn’t be a laundry list!
ME: *wipes tear* It’s like you guys can see into my soul.
ROBIN: Let’s see. I’ve already written Darcy as Elizabeth’s guardian angel (The Guardian Trilogy), and  I’ve written a time-swap series with Regency Darcy switching places in time with modern Darcy  (Yours by Design series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, Forever Yours), so I’m obviously a  fan of the non-traditional variations. I’ve even taken part in an unpublished, never finished  variation with Austen characters as superheroes (Austen Avengers).
ME: And this is unpublished and unfinished, why?
ROBIN: In the past year, I find myself drifting more and more to original characters mixed in with  Austen’s familiar ones. One of my new go-to guys is Thaddeus Beckett. He’s Darcy’s rival for Elizabeth’s affections in my soon-to-be-published More to Love.  Beckett will also appear in my  next anthology story. If he behaves, he’ll get his own book – the first in The Beckett Brothers series.
However, my characters seldom act as I want them to. They seem to get ideas of their own,  much like Hollywood actors! Horrors! Who do they think they are? They confuse their roles with mine. I will tell them how to act!
ME: Whoa there, Lady Catherine…

ROBIN: *composes herself. Barely.* I’m a huge fan of paranormal romance, so I would enjoy a clean shifter series. Darcy as an alpha male wolf or dragon? A tortured, gorgeous anti-hero? Yes, please. I’m even thinking of  putting Darcy and Elizabeth in a YA Dystopian Paranormal romance. They could save the world  together. I like it.
ME: Honestly, it’s a little surprising both of those things don’t already exist in abundance. Although maybe half of what is out there is secretly Pride & Prejudice in format, if not in name.
MELANIE: Pirate Mr. Darcy would be hot.
ME: Right?!
MELANIE: Or pirate Captain Wentworth. Or pirate Tilney!
ME: I’m sensing a theme…
MELANIE: But I feel like there's already a pirate version of P&P? Also, this has already been done, but I adore Diana Peterfreund's FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, which is a sort of sci-fi/post-apocalyptic version of Persuasion. It's excellent.
ME: Agreed! And the sequel takes on The Scarlet Pimpernel!
MELANIE: I think I'd love to see more mashups. Or maybe magic! I should do that.
ME: No argument here.
CHRISTINA: I’d like to see my modern adaptation of Mansfield Park set in California wine country become a movie.
ME: I could see that. Actually, I’d like to see that. Funny how a lot of this revolves around a total upheaval of Mansfield Park… *laughs*
CHRISTINA: I have lots of idea about this trapped in my head. Well actually, I have an outline. Ha!
ME: I’m hoping, after this conversation, there will be a lot more outlines and glorious, glorious books coming!
But what would YOU like to see? Continue the Convo with us in the comments!

This year's Janeite Conversations features the following authors. Please give them some love in the comments, and support them by checking out their books!

Alexa Adams, author of Being Mrs Bennet, et al
Leigh Dreyer, author of The Best Laid Flight Plans
Riana Everly, author of Teaching Eliza, et al
Maria Grace, author of the Jane Austen's Dragons series, et al
Robin Helm, author of A Very Austen Christmas, et al
Nancy Kelley, author of His Good Opinon, et al
Debra-Ann Kummoungauthor of Falling for Elizabeth Bennet
Lona Manning, author of A Contrary Wind, et al
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, et al
Melanie Stanford, author of The Beast of Pemberley from The Darcy Monologues, et al

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event

Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. This was a fun conversation. I have read some of the stories mentioned, but would love to see more mashups and fantasy. I am not fond of paranormal, but love sci-fi. Wish Doctor Who/Jane Austen mashup could be done, but I know it is not permissible.

  2. Loved many of these story ideas and hope to see them come to fruition. I am particularly fond of mash-ups where two of my favorite stories are combined. Currently, my favorite series is A Song of Ice and Fire so I would love to see the JA characters thrust into this world or if not necessarily in the same world, a medieval setting with fantasy elements.

  3. Laura Hile does hilarious mashups. She's written a Sir Walter/Lady Catherine pairing for A Very Austen Valentine, coming out in late December (fingers crossed). She had every Austen book represented in her story for A Very Austen Christmas. I love her writing.

  4. Yes, space and Austen! Any of them. Lona, the Chinese version of MP is totally doing it for me.

  5. Well, this post has me drooling.
    Mansfield Park in modern-day China? Yes, please!
    Ancient Greek adaptation of...well, any Austen (but P&P and S&S would probably work the best there)? Yes, please!
    Sword and Sorcery adaptation (I'm gonna suggest Sanditon here)? Yes, please!
    Drag queen S&S just would work so beautifully together. Also drag competition Northanger Abbey. I am seeing this in my head. Oh gods, somebody needs to write this!
    And of course I'm down for pirate any Austen. :D
    Firefly P&P wins the day, though. I mean....yes. Absolutely yes.

  6. Lots of interesting ideas you got here. I totally would like to see Mansfield Park and all the other Jane Austen novels set in China (modern or historical) or Japan or even Korea. Or during the Dark Ages/medieval in Europe? That would be lovely.


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