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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Austen Through the Ages Celebrates Austen In August

Austen Through the Ages Celebrates Austen In August

Hello fans of Jane! I’m Karen M Cox, the current web mistress for Austen Through the Ages, a gathering place for authors who adapt Austen to other eras and settings (besides Regency.) 

Everyone has their own idea of how far an Austen novel  can be modified without it becoming…well…not an Austen-inspired novel anymore. Some readers adopt a strict “Regency-only” view; the Regency setting is what draws them, and that’s where they’d like to stay. #ILikeMyJaneRightWhereSheLives

Still others start with Regency tales but eventually branch out into other eras when they’ve devoured all the Regency stories they can find. Or sometimes they get to a point where the Regency begins to feel a bit stale, so they try a modern or two to spice things up. #KeepItFresh

And some others are like me. I was drawn to moderns from the start, way back when I started reading JAFF in 2006 at the Bits of Ivory, Hyacinth Gardens, and DWG websites. I loved the extrapolation of Austenesque ideas and my beloved characters. #AustenIsEverywhereYouLook

At Austen Through the Ages, we take a broad view of Austen’s work: its themes and characters can speak to us even in modern times (it’s why we still read the original works, right?—they’re relevant today), so why not in other time periods and settings as well? 
Austen in Outer Space? Cool. Austen in the American Old West? Why not? Austen in the Cold-War era Spy genre? Let’s do it! (#ShamelessSelfPlug) 

However, writing Austen-inspired stories in other settings and time periods is no walk in the (Netherfield) Park. So, from my point of view, here are the Top 5 Challenges in adapting Austen’s work to other eras/settings: 

  1. How much canon/Austen language do I put in here? (Or, how many ways can I write, “It is a truth universally acknowledged…”?) As an JAFF author, you want to make the analogies clear, but if you use Austen’s verbiage too much, you get the sometimes justified “lifted straight out of Austen” critiques, and your story can sound a little awkward. Trust me, I have been there.
  2. What’s an entail? Many of Austen’s plot points revolve around society structures and codes of behavior during her time. In other words, why can’t Jane Bennet just tell Bingley she likes him? Or, why does a runaway teenager bring an entire family to the brink of social ruination? When you adapt Austen, especially to modern times, you have to find other ways to turn the story crank—ways that still bring out the character behavior you want. For example, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries did this brilliantly with the Lydia/Wickham story line (as well as in many other ways.) As far as the entail goes, what could hamstring the Bennets financially? Maybe someone else owns a controlling interest in their business. Maybe their home is mortgaged to the hilt. 
  3. “Passive heroines” Let’s face it, women in modern times (or even late 20th century times) have it much easier than most women in the past. #WomensLiberationForTheWin Anne Elliot is at the mercy of her father’s careless, spendthrift ways. Fanny Price suffers under the boot of Mrs. Norris and is treated as a second-class heroine at Mansfield Park. Even women with significant resources had little freedom of movement, of profession, of self-determination. The times that Austen addresses this inequality are some of the most memorable (Elizabeth Bennet defies convention and brings up Darcy’s rescue of Lydia; Anne Elliot defies her father’s command to see Lady Dalrymple. Fanny Price refuses Henry Crawford, against Sir Thomas Bertram’s urging.) I have used personality characteristics, family dynamics, and different settings to keep heroines where I need them. The name of the game is to make that story run! It’s a problem that requires some out-of-the-box thinking. FYI: The easiest heroines to adapt to modern times are Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, and Catherine Morland, in that order. Trust me, I have been there.
  4. How far can I stray from canon events and still call this Austenesque? When does it become “inspired by Austen?” When does it become an original story? (if there really is such a thing) Does Darcy remain haughty if he has been to war? Does Wentworth still fall for Anne the second time if he’s been married before? How forthright can you make Lizzy and have her still be Lizzy? Sometimes as you write, a story goes off the rails and turns into something else. Then, you have to decide: keep going in an Austen vein and hope it resonates with readers or change the names and go off into the great unknown. 
  5. Convincing readers to read it. Maybe “convince” is too strong a word. Some readers love moderns and all you have to do is put them out there into the universe. But it is no secret that Regency-era Austen fare is more widely ready/bought than other-eras. This is why a lot of authors write both Regency and Other-Era Austenesque fiction. So, if you love moderns and other-era stories, let your voice be heard! Tell your friends! Ask for the books at your library! Leave reviews! JAFF Other-Era readers and writers around the globe, let’s find each other!

Come visit us at Austen Through the Ages today. As a thank you, I have made some desktop wallpapers and phone wallpapers—Austen themed, of course!

While you’re there, you can check out our authors’ pages (listed on the sidebar.) We also have some short stories and interviews, etc. 

If you Facebook, we also have an Austen Through the Ages group here.

Great big thank-you’s to Misty for coordinating Austen in August! [You're welcome!]

How about you? Do you read other-era JAFF stories? In what time or setting would you like to see an Austen novel, and which novel?

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. Enjoyed learning about your website and group, Karen! Good points about translating Austen into other times. BTW, love each of yours. :)

  2. FYI for readers: the link takes you to the Author Features page. Just click on the Austen in August post, and the link to the wallpapers (on Google Drive) is there.

    And thanks, Sophia :)

  3. What a thoughtful piece. I agree with all you said, especially the importance of making certain canon details relevant/believable in an other era story. Tricky. Very tricky.

  4. I think other-era JAFF is wonderful (of course I do, but still!) I personally love WWII JAFF and contemporary, but I will honestly give any era a try!

  5. I really love moderns. Thank you for taking the time to write them.

  6. I really enjoyed this post, as I have read modernisations where these items haven't been considered, for example the women from S&S not expecting to work - absolutely correct and believable in Austen's time, unreasonable in modern times.

  7. I started only liking Regency-era variations but have since come to appreciate other eras. It's a nice departure and can bring in some very fun scenarios. I think you captured the issues that can arise brilliantly and I am always glad when authors put some thought into it and try to avoid the pitfalls you mention.


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