BiblioBitch: Stop it with the Monster Mashups Already!

The text "BiblioBitch" is in capital letters, with "BIBLIO" in purple and "BITCH" in black. To the right, there is an icon of a purple cartoon worm with cats-eye glasses reading a purple book.

cover of grave expectations. a young white man wearing blue is starting to turn into a werewolf by sprouting dog ears and a beardYesterday, 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):

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.

Comments

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Finally

Thank you!! Finally someone agrees with me about how ridiculous these books are. Anytime I'd explain them to people they would say "well...what's wrong with that?" I had no idea it had become such a popular thing, I only knew of a few books rewritten with the monster stuff. I really hope it ends SOON.

The novelty is way over

I'm definitely in agreement that this publishing trend needs to fade away along with the accompanying monster mash-up t-shirts. Fortunately, the books haven't been super popular at my library, but we do have plenty of them off your list as well as a few audiobooks. Both the other adult fiction librarian and I are weary of seeing these books reviewed, though we are glad if they've gotten people reading. We haven't ordered as many of this type lately since the popularity of paranormal books seems to be waning slightly. Personally, I don't like humor mixed in with horror or the supernatural, and many readers that enjoy revisiting the classics don't want the paranormal addition. It would be great if more authors trying to break into the horror genre produced more original, solid works, because that's what the horror genre really needs despite the new attention it's received over the past few years.

I guess I'll agree to

I guess I'll agree to disagree, having read, re-read and loved almost all the classics that have been mashed up I don't mind this trend. Some are better than others, and I have fun reading them.

You forgot the best/worst one!

Star Wars and zombies: "Death Troopers"! ;-)

Like many, I thought the idea

Like many, I thought the idea was sort of fun (although, unlike many, I thought P&P&Z was a wasted effort with a heavy dose of lazy and a large helping of completely offensive, although Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters was SO MUCH WORSE -- it was downright hateful.) P&P&Z had potential to be fun, goofy good fun, but it was just so full of ..oh, bah, it was such a prejudiced, vitriol spitting slam at the original book, as well as insulting to geek culture.

The only one I've read that was any good (and they are addictive, damitall) was Jayne Slayer, which, I'd like to note, was done by a woman and actually made a kind of twisted sense as well as doing a good job of honoring some of the themes of the original Jane Eyre. I've finally sworn them off after Little Women and Werewolves, which I have yet to finish because it is just so very, very bad.

However, people have been making money off these public domain novels -- they are cheap, they aim at the lowest common denominator, they allow people to mock "elite" literature and feel superior to it. I keep hoping the trend will run aground and cease to populate bookstores with garbage, but...a movie? I cringe at the thought. I hope at least they take a short tour through Wikipedia for a touch of research and that they rewrite the whole Charlotte/Mr. Collins storyline.

I agree. Enough is enough.

I agree. Enough is enough. PP&Z was okay, though I never finished it because it got old too quickly for me. Stop ittttttt

I actually liked JANE BITES

I actually liked JANE BITES BACK. Haven't bothered with the true "mash-ups" though, as they do seem (from the outset) a complete waste of time.