Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Gothic Remixed

I haven’t actually read Megen de Bruin-Molé’s recently published Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfiction in 21st Century Culture.  But I like the blurb for it on the Amazon website, which starts as follows: ‘The bestselling genre of Frankenfiction sees classic literature turned into commercial narratives invaded by zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other fantastical monsters’.  And in a local charity shop this afternoon I came across a secondhand copy of Pride and Prejudice and Sea-Monsters, which contained a nice introductory quote from an American critic: ‘What work of literature wouldn’t be improved by the inclusion of a few zombies?’

So I’ve been playing with the idea of turning News from Nowhere into Frankenfiction, in the spirit of Barbara Gribble’s 1985 observation that ‘One wonders how Dick [Hammond] or Walter [Allen] would react to a sudden epidemic of smallpox or an invasion of malicious aliens’.  Only, with Morris’s utopia, we wouldn’t have to import the aliens, monsters and zombies from outside, from a literary elsewhere, since there are plenty of them in Morris’s own works, who could be colourfully unleashed against his utopian socialists in some great Thames valley Ragnarok.

Those two vicious werewolves in the first book of Sigurd the Volsung will try to sink their teeth into Dick Hammond’s throat.  Fafnir the dragon from that work will incinerate Kelmscott manor with his fiery breath.  He will be backed up by assorted monsters from The Earthly Paradise: the hideous serpent from ‘The Love of Alcestis’ and the uncanny Chimaera from ‘Bellerophon in Lycia’, among others.  The repulsive dwarf from The Wood beyond the World will be ‘scuttling along on all-fours like an evil beast and anon giving forth that harsh and evil cry’, and the Harpies from The Life and Death of Jason will launch aerial attacks when required to.  Their leader is the shape-shifting witch-wife of The Water of the Wondrous Isles, who ferries them all down the Thames on her blood-powered Sending Boat to attack communist London.  And they have recruited Grettir from Morris’s translation of the Grettis-Saga, who, though not strictly a monster, has near-superhuman strength which allows him to hurl great boulders and reduce the Hammersmith Guest House to rubble.

Ellen, Dick, Clara, Boffin, Bob the weaver and old Hammond will need all their wits about them (and perhaps William Guest’s time-travelling advice too) to prevail over this terrifying Morrisian crew.


Kotick said...

Perhaps the key issue, politically speaking, in your Frankenfictionalising of 'News from Nowhere' would be which way the old Grumbler and the Obstinate Refusers would incline. If they side with the good guys, then all might yet be well and socialism will be saved. If, however (as seems more likely) they side with the werewolves, witches and monsters, then the good guys will be in real trouble! You should definitely write this up at full length, Tony.

Tony Pinkney said...

Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I seem to recall that there is a whole series of ghosts and ghouls in Morris's early poems and his 'Oxford and Cambridge Magazine' stories that might play a role in this sequel too.