Friday Fiction: Monster Mash Ups

I’m skeptical about mash-ups. I know Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been immensely popular, it even has a sequel: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Not to mention the spate of other mash-ups that followed in its wake: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim; Alice in Zombieland; The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies; The Undead World of Oz; Emma and the Werewolves; Mansfield Park and Mummies; Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters; Android Karenina; Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers….

But I just can’t help but lament the lack of new, original stories in an era of remakes, reloads and sequels – not to mention the fact that while the mash-ups obey the letter of copyright law I’m not convinced they’re really in the spirit of the law… though I must admit to a fascination with Android Karenina

Anyway, I digress…

In an effort to come to grips with the whole mash-up thing I thought I’d have a go at the genre – but using nursery rhymes.

Mary Had A Little Zombie

Mary had a little zombie, little zombie, little zombie,
Mary had a little zombie, its flesh was grey as stone.

And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went,
Everywhere that Mary went the blood was soon to flow.

It followed her to school one day, school one day, school one day,
It followed her to school one day – breaking quarantine.

It made the children run away, run away, run away.
It made the children run away, to protect their brains.

Any nursery rhymes you’d like to see invaded by zombies (or vampires, werewolves or other nasty bitey thing?) Let me know for future Friday Fictions!

What’s your take on the mash-up phenomenon?


4 Responses to “Friday Fiction: Monster Mash Ups”

  1. Two competing views actually, as we encourage mashups for Picture Australia (see the Re-Picture group on Flickr).

    On the one hand it encourages creative use of other peoples work, and people are more inclined to use creative commons as a form of rights, which is more granular than copyright and allows works to be used by others more easily. Which leads to community creativity – all good.

    On the other hand you get bad mashups, such as the first example, which owes its popularity for the timing, rather than quality of the work. I’ve tried to read it, the language use jars alarmingly with the original Austen. First couple of times it’s amusing, then it gets annoying. Mashups suffer from the same lack of editorial control as fanfiction – which leads to the same problems: a market flooded with crap you have to wade through to find something good, literary shortcuts taken which lead to the practice of bad writing – the mashup writer (like the fanfiction writer) doesn’t learn writing skills they need – because they are never forced to use them and have no incentive to acquire them – the hard work has been done by others.

  2. I’m the author of ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers – A Canterbury Tale by Paul A. Freeman’. Your piece about monster mashups and the incisive views expressed in the reply make interesting reading.

    If I may, I would like to put my book into context.

    My novella, although it includes zombies, is not actually part of the ‘monster mash-up’ movement. The Robin Hood legends we all know and love are actually built from myth fragments from a number of sources. Although I allude to one or two of these in my book, my novella is in effect an original tale. In fact, the first half takes place not in Sherwood Forest, but in the Holy Land during the infamous Great Crusade.

    Also, ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers’ is alternatively titled ‘The Monk’s Second Tale’ and is the longest of a series of eight ‘new’ Canterbury Tales that I’ve written. It’s part of my ambitious ‘Canterbury Tales’ project which involves each of Chaucer’s pilgrims telling a second story completly in narrative poetry. All my Canterbury Tales are original stories, though I’ve borrowed Chaucer’s pilgrims for the short introductory prologues and the epilogues.

    Chaucer envisaged his pilgrims each telling four stories – two on their outward journey and two on their homeward journey. Unfortunately he died before even completing a quarter of his tales.

    The Canterbury Tales I’ve written so far (which chronicle the pilgrims’ homeward journey) are all in different genres, varying from fable to fabliau, and from crime fiction to chick lit. Since Coscom Entertainment offered me a chance at publication with ‘The Monk’s Second Tale’, this became my horror ‘Canterbury Tale’.

    The reasoning behind this project is to help renew interest in narrative poetry and to give students aiming to study the original Chaucer tales in Middle English a stepping stone.

    My Canterbury Tales project is now doing quite well. My ‘Miller’s Second Tale’ is being edited for an anthology of neo-medieval literature and the abridged version of my ‘Knight’s Second Tale’ (an Arthurian legend) will appear soon in the Every Day Poets’ inaugural poetry anthology.

    Sorry if I’ve been a bit long-winded, but this project is very close to my heart and I wanted you to see the whole picture.

    So thanks for giving me this chance at explaining what on the face of things is a sensationally titled, band-wagon book, but is in reality meant to be anything but. Below are links to my website, where my Canterbury Tales project is explained in detail (along with samples of my work), and a link to my Robin Hood book at Coscom Entertainment. The Amazon and DriveThruHorror links allow you to read 4 and 6 pages of my book, respectively:

    Best wishes

    Paul A. Freeman

  3. Hey 🙂
    I’ve read some of the recent mashups on your list (Pride&Prejudice w/ Zombies being one) and some that aren’t (including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as well as a bit of fanfic.
    I’m not sure what to say about them, really. The juxtaposition can be funny, if one is unfamiliar with the source material (eg: P&Pw/Z), because the novelty can excuse any clunkiness in the writing. It can also be about 50 types of awesome (eg: The League) if it is done cleverly (I was familiar with a fair chunk of the source material referenced in those books and loved them).

    Probably the best thing about things like P&Pw/Z is when they are a novelty. P&Pw/Z was funny because it was out of left field and prompted doubletakes when shelved with the rest of the Classics section (as I’ve seen in a few shops now), but perhaps the main thing it has doing for it was, as Peter said, the timing. Now that there are lots of books that (at least on the surface) appear very similar, the idea isn’t as funny anymore.

    I’ve found that in some mashups and fanfic I’ve read – the writer hasn’t needed to put as much effort (or any!) in characterisation because they’re relying on the reader knowing about the characters already and filling in the gaps that appear in the text.

    Of course, there are good writers out there who do carry on ideas and characters in a believable way. Unfortunately timing and the current glut in the genre would make it hard for the good ones to shine (like writers of magical boarding school novels after Harry Potter, of vampire romance after Anita Blake/Twilight, etc. etc. etc…)

    Aaaaaaand I realised I’ve just taken a lot of words to pretty much exactly agree with what Peter said! 🙂 Oh well!

  4. Krissy raises a lot of thought-provoking points on the monster mash-up phenomenon. For me, one of the best things to come out of the experience of writing my novella has been to delve into blogs like this one and discover such highly literate people voicing their opinions of books at a time when we’re told no one reads any more.

    From my own experience, last July, in Abu Dhabi, and having only heard vaguely of PP&Z, I wrote my Robin Hood ‘Zombie’ narrative poem / novella. As I’ve explained, the stories of Robin Hood come from fragmentary sources. So I didn’t use a pre-existing text, though I did use largely pre-existing characters.

    Also, since my book is a ‘Canterbury Tale’, I was faced with either using a title such as ‘The Monk’s Second Tale’, or ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers – A Canterbury Tale by Paul A. Freeman’. The former would not have been very marketable, hence the sensational title to my book.

    Another point you may find interesting is that the ‘Chaucer List’ (a diverse group of Chaucer fans) has recently been discussing why Chaucer never wrote a Robin Hood Canterbury Tale – which is a major reason that I chose to do so.

    As for topicality, the new ‘Robin Hood’ movie comes out later this month, starring Russel Crowe.

    Anyhow, if my present Canterbury Tale doesn’t take your fancy, I hope that those scheduled for publication in the future might. And as for the monster mash-up fad, yes, I feel too that it’s probably had its day.

    Happy reading!

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