Tuesday, September 14, 2010

iDrakula: iClassic? (courtesy of Kiss My Lit)

How would you update your favorite classic book?

by Bekka Black (aka Rebecca Cantrell)

I solemnly swear that I did not ask this question myself nor bribe my fellow panelists to make it come up this week when it’s my turn (Josh, the chocolate is in the mail). It’s just the absolutely perfect question for me at the absolutely perfect time.

Using my secret identity of Bekka Black (wait, just blew my cover, delete this later), I wrote a modernization of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s called iDrakula and it’s supposed to come out in iPhone, iPads, and iPod Touch’s everywhere tomorrow (although the day may wiggle about bit).
Coming out on the phone first? I can already see Bram Stoker’s fans shuddering. But bear with me. The original Dracula was written showcasing the gee whiz communication methods of Bram’s day: typewritten reports, recordings on wax cylinders, and newspaper articles. The characters actually spend entire scenes typing notes and then reading them to each other. iDrakula was written using today’s latest communication methods: text messages, emails, voicemails, and web browsers. Nothing happens in the story that couldn’t happen on a cell phone. But they’re both still about a group of teens defeating the most powerful vampire of all time.

I’ve already gotten some flak for it on blogs that pre-reviewed the book (great reviews so far, including from Kirkus). The Kiss my Lit blog has a very well formulated breakdown of the issue. The reviewer, who had actually read the book, loved it and felt it would entice teens into reading it and perhaps picking up the old classic as well. One commenter (who had not read the book) accused me of dumbing down literature for an entire generation and chastised me for using someone else’s characters because I can’t create my own.

I had expected controversy and I’m pretty certain I’ll get it. My view is that an adaptation of a classic into another form is like a film adaptation. Because you are changing the story’s medium, the story changes. Does that mean that someone goes back in time and erases all copies of the original? No. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is alive and well and anyone can read it. In fact, it’s online and free right here. I highly recommend it and re-read it regularly.

A movie of a book is almost always very different from the book, but after the film is released more copies of the book itself sell because of the attention paid to the film and because people who saw the film wish to read the book too. I’ve never heard an author complain that fewer people read their book because it was made into a film, even if it was made into a bad film.

It's not an either or equation. I don't think readers will stroke their chins, think long and hard
and then say, "I will either read Dracula or iDrakula but on no account will I ever read both."

If we make the classics too precious people become afraid to interact with them or place them in their own context, and they run the risk of becoming so irrelevant that they'll only be read when the readers are forced to read them, as when they are assigned in school. Then we all lose.

Next up? iFrankenstein.

What’s your take on remakes?


Sophie Littlefield said...

Becky, I'm so excited for your launch tomorrow!

Listen sugar, anyone who steps outside the "known" gets hit over the head like a Whack-A-Mole. I'm sorry that happens, but you were brave enough to do something exciting and fresh - and now you will be brave enough to ignore the people who don't get it, the people who are intimidated by it - and keep making new wonderful things.

I know you probably didn't need that pep talk 'cause you're awesome and strong, but I just felt like saying it anyway. :)

Kelli Stanley said...

Becks, you've done something AWESOME, and thanks for spilling the beans on your secret identity. :) IDRAK rocks, and the whole non-issue issue is just part of the creative attack cycle.

Sophie, of course, is absolutely right. Whenever you try something new, some will hail you for it and others will excoriate you.

Just celebrate your immense accomplishment and don't worry about the nay-sayers and people who try to elevate themselves by attacking others. Bottom line: you're turning people back on to the original vampire, and Bram Stoker's gotta be really happy. :)


Stephen Blackmoore said...

Doing something different is always going to get some people up in arms. Screw 'em.

This is a great idea. The world's changing. Why not keep up with it?

Congratulations on your release. I look forward to reading it.

Joshua Corin said...

You bring up an interesting point. Why is it that people believe that stories are sacred and should never be revised/revitalized? Certainly Shakespeare disagreed. All but two of his plays contained recycled plots and characters.

Ironically, DRACULA itself (as you know) is a revitalization of Eastern European myth and history, with Stoker simply reframing it in a Victorian mode. Well, not so simply, but oh-so-effectively - and just as effectively as you reframe Stoker as hypertext.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Sophie! Your Whack-A-Mole comparison made me laugh about it. It's so true! There's always someone out there with a hammer. :)

And I don't necessarily NEED the pep talk, but it sure was nice to hear.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Kelli! I do wonder what Mr. Stoker would think, but I can't imagine he'd be more shocked by a book version than the musical, the stage play, the movies, or the ballet based in Dracula. It's a work that seems to speak to other artists, which is a sign that he touched on something powerful.

I think he'd like it too.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Stephen thanks for commenting! It's alway great to hear a new voice on the blog.

And thanks also for the kind words re: IDRAKULA. It was great fun putting it in a totally new context, and I hope readers respond to it, positively and negatively (well, I'm hoping for more positive responses, of course).

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Josh, it's all a rewrite, isn't it? I do wonder why people get so up in arms about any attempt to rework something. But man, do they ever.

Romanian myths are really cool. When I get time, there are some others I'm looking at...

Bill Cameron said...

And isn't interesting that the commenter who was so up in arms hadn't actually read it? Seems like there is an entire tribe of people who live to get angry about things they refuse to engage because they're predisposed to believe there's something wrong with what they're attacking. Nothing to do with the merits (and usually actual content) of what they're criticizing.

That, of course, would take effort. It's so much easier to bitch about something one knows nothing about.

I think this sounds like a marvelous idea, and I completely agree with your understanding of our relationship to previous art. Reimagining old stories is as old as humanity.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Bill! Condemning without reading certainly does save time. Of course, much else is lost...

Michael Wiley said...

Congratulations on the "release" --a word that takes additional meanings when talking about Dracula or Frankenstein or electronic media. I think electric is the perfect way to go for characters like these.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Michael!

Electronic is where the scary is, for authors and readers....

Meredith Cole said...

Congrats Rebecca! I'm so glad your book is getting lots of buzz. Honestly, those negative folks are just going to help you sell more copies--everyone will be so curious to see why they've got their panties in a twist!

Gabi said...

I can't wait for it! As for dumbing down, you haven't got it in you and even if you did getting more people to read, react, respond and reflect isn't anything but great.

You not only are updating a classic, you're updating the literary salon to the smart phone in the pocket of every teen.

I'm not usually a gusher (of course, since we're talking blood drinker here maybe I ought to take it up) but everything about this project screams -- fabulous.