ago, publishers sought texts that reimagined literary classics with new
pop-culture elements in what Time Magazine
called a “literary land
grab.” The frenzy was in choosing which classic texts to twist.
There are a
million ways to tell the same story such as Marissa Meyer adopting Cinderella
to cyborgs in the futuristic “Lunar Chronicles” (2012). Fairy tales are
expected to be revived and re-told (think “Into the Woods”), but really good
bent-classic fiction focuses on universal themes to achieve cohesion in the
Well ahead of
the surge, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked
(1995) looked at the Wizard of Oz from a different perspective, examining
tyranny and disenfranchisement. Seth Grahame-Smith’sPride and Prejudice and Zombies (2008) deftly made zombies
as real a threat to Jane Austen’s characters as money, gender roles, and polite
authors’ lament that writers who use another’s work are unoriginal at best and
plagiaristic at worst, I’m thrilled by the literary acrobatics of such work.
of my favorite musicians, Ryan Adams, re-created the Taylor Swift album 1989.
This undertaking was remarkable for two reasons: 1) the original album was only
recently released (2014) and Adams’ version
followed only a year later and 2) he covered the entire album, every song.
A lot of
musicians do cover songs. Colbie Callait did this
mash-up of “Break Even” and “Fast Car” in 2011. Chris Cornell
recently released a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song made famous by
Sinead O’Connor in 1990. Many even do it better than the original. Stevie
Wonder recorded “Higher Ground” in 1973 but the Red Hot Chili Peppers released the
definitive work in 1989.
cover songs to pay homage to the original artists, to experience the emotions
and complexity of the work, and to redefine the art itself. While Johnny Cash’s
version of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” seems like a wild mismatch — the former
being country music legend and the latter heavy-metal gothic rock band — the
subject of addiction created a bridge between the artists and the two
interpretations are equally haunting.
interpret one another’s work, either through critique and discussion or
analysis and debate, we elevate the art. By identifying and examining themes,
we sew ourselves into the fabric of our craft. We are redefining old stories
and paying homage to the work that came before ours.
sometimes called ‘fan fiction’ and writers like Stephanie Barron (The Jane
Austen Mystery series) have made a living at it. But it’s more than imitation,
I think. It’s a way of covering another artist’s work and by doing so,
elevating the entire artistic medium of storytelling.
I like the
idea that all writers are part of the same quilt, wielders of the same needle
and thread, blanketing the world in our stories. When we break out of strict
marketing genres and mix styles and elements, we create a world where anything
is possible. A fictional world.