Yesterday, we received a copy of Grave Expectations: The Classic Tale of Love, Ambition, and Howling at the Moon in the mail. Yes, it's another monster mashup—a book created by taking a well-known story and adding a supernatural blood-and-guts-fest. Now I'll admit to chuckling at the first of these, Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but the two years since then have given rise to untold numbers of these slapped-together stories and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY.
First, the impetus for these books is inherently lazy and confusing. I'll give a pass to PP&Z because every idea seems freshest the first time, but the rest of these classic-story-meets-trendy-monster tomes are tired at best. "Oh hey—Twilight and True Blood are popular! Is there any way we could capitalize on that without coming up with an original idea?" Answer: Yes. (See also: MTV's Teen Wolf.) And what's the point, beyond money? Are these adaptations really adding anything to the discussion? Is Mr. Darcy, Vampyre inspring meaningful discourse in high school English classes? As contributor B. Helen Carnhoops asked in the Fall '09 (yes, we've been talking about this for two years now) issue of Bitch: "Did the originals really need to be improved with monsters?" Answer: No. No, they didn't.
Now, a lazy and confusing idea is one thing, but it becomes something else when A BAJILLION people decide get on board with it. Don't believe me that this trend is being beaten to (un)death? Take a look at (some!) recent publications that are doing the Monster Mash(up):
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
- Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
- Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
- Mansfield Park and Mummies
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim
- Jane Slayre
- Little Women and Werewolves
- Little Vampire Women
- The Undead World of Oz: L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Complete with Zombies and Monsters
- Android Karenina
- Wuthering Bites
- Emma and the Vampires
Keep in mind that those are only SOME of the mashups out right now (seriously, there are more here), and that I didn't even include quasi-original stories like Jane Bites Back, Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter, or Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (which, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is being made into a movie). Clearly this is not a passing fad.
In addition to being overdone at this point, there's an argument to be made that this genre is downright sexist. Says Selena Chambers of Bookslut of the trend:
It seemed juvenile and cheap, and at that point, given that only works by female authors were being discussed in the mashup/what-if game, it seemed incredibly sexist. Seth Greene's insertions of a zombie here, a fart joke there, did not bring anything to the table.
Now Chambers goes on to say that, if authors would pull back from the mashups a little, "Monster Lit" as a concept has a chance. After all, the notion of revisiting classic stories and adding supernatural elements could be cool, as long as the author is willing to be creative instead of derivative. So far, however, I'm not convinced. In fact, the trend seems to me to be moving in an even worse direction: toward the not-so-distant past.
Books like Gossip Girl, Psych Killer, a re-imagined slasher version of the popular YA story; and Paul is Undead, a zombified book about the Beatles; remove what little charm monster mashups had going for them by rehashing cultural phenomena that just happened. The quirks of the old-timey past (the March sisters are wasting zombies while wearing corsets!) fall away, leaving only predictable garbage in their wake (Serena van der Woodsen is fighting off a killer using her iPhone!). The old-timey stuff was bad enough!
So mashup artists, if you're reading this, take note: It's time for this idea to die already (and actually die, not kinda-sorta-die and then rise up to eat Mr. Darcy's flesh) already.