18 February 2014

Fiction Inspired by Fiction

Fiction has a long history of being inspired by other literary works. This is true even in the speculative fiction realm. For example, one of my favorite novels of all time (no pun intended), To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997) by Connie Willis, was strongly inspired by Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (1889) by Jerome K. Jerome. Interestingly, Jerome's novel is also mentioned in Robert Heinlein's Have Space Suit--Will Trav el (1958). As another example, I recently read Triggers (2012) by Robert J. Sawyer which seems to have been influenced by Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1953)--I'll let you read for yourself to see why I say this.

You may be wondering why I mention all this. Well, I'll tell you: our upcoming marvelous March 15, 2014 Electric Spec issue has two stories inspired by other famous literary works. One was inspired by William Carlos Williams' poem "This Is Just To Say". One was inspired by William Shakepeare's play "The Tempest." Of course, any story inspired by something else must stand on its own two feet; it must make sense whether you're familiar with the other work or not. If you are familiar with the reference work, it can add some lovely layers and complexity.

However, be careful not to let the other work overtake the story. In an early draft of the Tempest-inspired story the author was too slavishly following the plot of The Tempest. Readers raised important questions like 'Why is the Cal[iban] character so bad? Why's he trying to hurt the hero?' Once the author looked at the story with fresher eyes, it became clear the story could lose some of The Tempest influences and be stronger for it.

We'd enjoy reading more fiction-inspired fiction in the slush pile...

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