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Jane Austen's colossal death robot

Transpose literature consistently through time
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There are many film and other versions of Shakespeare's plays or adaptations of his plots which are set in later time periods. In a sense, almost all productions of Shakespeare do this because the pronunciation is in present day English. Notable examples include the Nazi Richard III, the version of 'Romeo + Juliet' with Leonardo di Caprio, and more loosely, 'Forbidden Planet' (i.e. The Tempest). However, the transposition is uneven: Richard III has been moved four and a half centuries forward in time, but 'Forbidden Planet' has been shifted way further than that. This means there can be jarring inconsistencies and a sensation of bunched up and stretched out periods of time.
There is a book called 'Shakespeare Our Contemporary'. I suggest this title be taken literally. Shakespeare is a screenwriter who is alive now. He's twenty-six at the moment (i.e. in the middle of his life). Throughout his life, he will write a series of screenplays which are either contemporary to that time or, if they are analogous to history plays, moved forward exactly four hundred and nineteen years. Hence the Nazi Richard III still makes sense as does 'Romeo + Juliet', but 'Julius Caesar' is set in the last days of the Roman Empire, King Lear is during the time of Julius Caesar and all of his contemporary plays are set in the future. Construct a consistent and convincing future history and universe to correspond to this transposition, and then extend it beyond Shakespeare. Jane Austen then becomes science fiction, set in the twenty-third century and her novels can include androids and colossal death robots. Dickens' 'Great Expectations' begins near a spaceport and is somewhat reminiscent of Blakes' Seven, with its theme of deportation to other planets. Then, from H G Wells onwards, things become deeply perplexing and mind-mangling, ending in Postpostmodernist literature.
The thing is to be utterly, uncompromisingly consistent. Shakespeare was a twenty-first century screenwriter, Chaucer was a Restoration author and Beowulf was written during the Crusades. The transposition isn't new, but the consistency is.
Why? To put to rest the argument that science fiction is not literature, to make literature more accessible to the young, to expose odd clashes of values and cultures and for fun.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

Beastie Boys, 'Intergalactic' http://www.youtube....watch?v=niZwbvVNIi0
"And the Oscar for best use of colossal death robots goes to..." [DrBob, Apr 03 2009, last modified Apr 06 2009]

Pride and prejudice and zombies http://search.barne...ith/e/9781594743344
Is there any chance this was your inspiration? [fridge duck, Apr 03 2009]


       Why is King Lear during Julius Caesar (the historical figure or the Shakespearean one ?)? And when are books that are written about in books (e.g. Encyclopedia Galactica)? And authors that temporally locate their stories by two mismatched frames if reference ("Dying Earth" = end of sun (~x billion years hence) _and_ 21 Millennium.)? This will keep a lot of linguists fed for a long time[+].
loonquawl, Apr 03 2009

       My first reaction is to bun on title purposes alone. [+]   

       Having read the idea, I like the premise of shifting everything a set number of years into the future - but that's slightly different to shifting Shakespeare the same number of years into the future - he can/would still write about Richard III, or Julius Caesar, whether he's contemporary or not.   

       But that's just me being picky - back to (what I think) is the main thrust of the idea - to transpose literature (not literacists) a fixed number of years into their future. If nothing else, it puts time into context - e.g. Jesus is to the Crusades as the Crusades are to us (crikey!) is Beowulf really that old?
zen_tom, Apr 03 2009

       Sounds like a big job. Writers of all genres have been shamelessly lifting stories from 'the classics' and making them 'more contemporary' (normally, but not always, this is a euphemism for 'worse') since literature was invented. However, putting that aside, I have to confess that my own science fiction library is rather large and I don't come anywhere close to being able to read all the good books that get published each year, so where am I going to be able to find the time to read all this extra stuff?

Big fan of death robots though! (linky)
DrBob, Apr 03 2009

       I've assumed that King Lear is based ultimately on the mythical Celtic figure Llyr, supposedly the basis of Geoffrey of Monmouth's King Leir, on whom Shakespeare's character King Lear is supposedly based. This person is supposed to have founded Leicester, hence the name of this city. His tomb is under the River Soar. That makes him prehistoric because he's pre-Roman invasion, and i'm guessing he preceded the Belgae, who seem to be mixed Germanic-Celtic ethnicity, which puts him several centuries before Caesar's invasion a few decades before the Christian Era. I've said five centuries because the local people here were the Corieltauvi and were Iron Age, so i've glibly plonked Lear in the middle of the first millenium BCE. Add four and a bit centuries and you're left with the time of Aulus Plautius and Julius Caesar.   

       // when are books that are written about in books? //   

       Hadn't thought of that. They are similarly transposed. It would make no practical difference to the Foundation Trilogy, but Cyberpunk would undergo a huge shift. Steampunk is really hard to imagine. It does odd things to 'The Time Machine' and to stories involving time travel into the past. 'The Time Machine' is a problem because people now believe it'll be a lot longer before the sun becomes a red giant than H G Wells did.
[Zen_tom], yes, he could still write about the historical Richard III, but i was really impressed by the resonances setting the play in the 'thirties caused, and by the fact that it was still set in England because it makes it clear that totalitarianism can and does happen here as well as in "far away countries of which we know little," and i'd want to keep that sort of thing. Richard III ends in Edwardian times by this reckoning.
Beowulf is difficult and controversial to date. It probably has an oral history before being written down, and since it depicts the Scandinavian Geats positively, i think it has to predate the Viking raids. That puts it before the sacking of Lindisfarne at the end of the eighth century. That means it would be moved to the early thirteenth century, which puts it in the middle of the Crusades in the revised chronology.
The Crusades were only eight centuries ago. Concerning the Dark Ages, Hengest and Horsa got here six centuries before William the Conqueror. That's a lot of history.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       Thanks, [DrBob], i've been looking for that for ages! Yes, it might end up being a bit dumbed down but it also reveals new nuances. It could make it sort of satirical, and might also make it more obvious when certain plots have been lifted. Apparent eternal verities would be tested by doing this too.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       [Fridge_duck], i knew about that and i recommended that book to someone i know who's making a zombie film in which my daughter is an extra, so it may have been at the back of my mind, but my main inspirations are the tendency to update Shakespearean settings, particularly the films i mentioned, and an episode of 'Friends' where Phoebe pretends there are cyborgs in a Jane Austen novel to embarrass Rachel in an adult ed class. Such is the sad nature of my taste in popular culture.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       Was there not already a zombie death robot in Pride and Predjudice? It was jumping up and down on the roof, no?
bungston, Apr 03 2009

       are you thinking of Jane Eyre?
po, Apr 03 2009

       Now you've made me think of 'Frankenstein', [bungston]. Very confused about that now.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       Anything that would cause the death of Jane Austen gets a bun from me.
eight_nine_tortoise, Apr 03 2009

       You're really keen on Hodgkin's Lymphoma?!
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       she's dead 89T (philistine)
po, Apr 03 2009

       um, I'm not a JA fan myself and would also slightly enjoy a dramatic way to vent that, although a monster than ate her characters one after the other would also do.
WcW, Apr 03 2009

       Sounds a bit like when Robinson Crusoe landed on that asteroid with the gray goo scenario.
nineteenthly, Apr 03 2009

       Entertaining idea - but face it, science fiction isn't going to be taken seriously as literature until the death robots develop feelings, calorie counting, mistaken identities and shopaholism.
moomintroll, Apr 04 2009

       Well, we all know what a groundbreaking work of genius Bridget Jones was.
nineteenthly, Apr 04 2009

       Good title, but I can't say the same for the idea: "The thing is to be utterly, uncompromisingly consistent." That's sort of a rant, isn't it?
ldischler, Apr 04 2009

       very good bigsleep.
po, Apr 04 2009

       this is such a wonderful idea [+]
calculust, May 12 2009


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