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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: How to Write a Public Domain Mashup

 

Reviewers are surprised that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the plot of Jane Austen’s original novel so closely, but they shouldn’t be. The book of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is mostly made up of the original text. The author made a fortune by just adding a few paragraphs here and there to an existing book. This is the start of a new genre: classic book mashups.

Book remixes are possible because copyrights do not last forever. Copyrights are designed to increase the earnings of authors and their immediate descendents. Most expire between 50 and 90 years after the author’s death since it’s a little silly to think that Jane Austen’s great-great-great-great grandnephews deserve a cut of her book sales.

Once a copyright expires, the book enters public domain. Public domain works have no restrictions at all. They can be stolen, republished, edited, used in music, movies, or video game, or just zombified. The public domain includes millions of books ready to be butchered.

In this lesson, we’ll be doing the messing. Why stop with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? How about a romantic comedy, Moby Dick in Manhattan? Or a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet? There are many possibilities, but executing them is harder than it appears.

Just like mixing music, mashing up classic literature takes some real thought. The newly edited portions need to match up to the original text, in grammar, cadence, word choice, and structure. In this lesson, we do a deep dive into how classic literature and modern genre fiction work, so that we can mix the two together flawlessly.