Today we are going to talk about one of the oldest and earliest niches of Fan Fiction: Jane Austen Fan Fic. It’s been around for over a century! Fans of Jane Austen’s works have been fascinated with her books for a long time. Wanting to extend the story beyond the frame of the original works is popular enough and the source material is public domain enough that it has created it’s own niche within publishing. There are an abundance of works that look at the original stories in different ways. This fandom has been referred to as “Janeites” since 1894, and that term has sometimes been used in a not-so-nice context…but in our time, it is a pretty neutral term for folks who just can’t get enough of Jane Austen. I know we have a lot of those on staff, myself included. We’ve made a list of books that extend her works in a lot of different ways…and, being a librarian, I’ve also categorized and provided examples of the types of Jane Austen Fan Fic out there.
Before I dive in, a note to the reader who might not be familiar with fan fic conventions: the term canon when discussing fan fic refers to whether a plot point or character is derived from Jane Austen’s own words or not. So: the fact that Mr. Darcy said “I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” is canon. The fact that when we picture this scene many of us see the line being delivered by a young Colin Firth is NOT canon.
This post was inspired by my reading of a recent novel that is an interesting sub category of Fan Fic that was new to me: It’s kind of an “MCU”-ization of Jane Austen’s works in that main characters from all of her completed novels appear together…like there is an alternative Austenverse where all those characters exist and in this one story crossed paths. In this case, that book is called The Murder of Mr. Wickham and, spoilery-ish title notwithstanding, is a mystery that extends the stories of ALL of Austen’s novels. Mr. Wickham’s behavior in Pride and Prejudice is canonical. In the context of this novel, he has also behaved very badly in ways that impact the characters in the other four novels adversely. So, we have a mystery at a house party where everyone has a motive. Fun!
But there are other kinds of Austen fan fic if that does not appeal:
- Sequels: Stories that extend the events of an Austen novel into the future. These titles are written to extend the novels beyond their happy endings. My experience with these is that they aren’t as satisfying as I’d like them to be because life is complicated and the only way to write an interesting novel is to put another obstacle in the way of a beloved protagonist’s happy ending. Often this will be in the form of a mystery…so to try one from this category, look to Death Comes to Pemberly by PD James.
- Different Point of View: This can sometimes be combined with the sequel category. It is AMAZING how different a story can look when you tell it from a different point of view. My favorite from this category is Longbourn by Jo Baker in which the entire story of Pride and Prejudice is told from the point of view of one of their servants. It is fascinating to look at a story that deals a lot with disparity in privilege between the two romantic leads when it is told from the point of view of a character with even less privilege. In this category you will also find books that extend the stories of main characters: from Mary Bennet (The Other Bennet Sister) to Anne DeBourgh (The Heiress), you can experience the story of Pride and Prejudice in lots of different ways.
- Modernization: These titles ignore canon and hang the plot points of the original source material on a modern setting. I first experienced this type of retelling when I read Bridget Jones’ Diary. Today you can find an even wider array of modernizations, many of which pull from different cultural traditions. Ayesha at Last and Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors are excellent examples of this category as well!
- Mashups: This is the category that The Murder of Mr. Wickham falls into…but you can also find the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Pride and Prometheus which finds Mary Bennet falling in love with Viktor Frankenstein. Fun Times!
If you’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books and are looking for more, check out one of the titles or others which can be found on this list: https://catalog.jcls.org/MyAccount/MyList/14323
And if you prefer viewing, check out one of these DVDs for your viewing pleasure! https://catalog.jcls.org/MyAccount/MyList/1149