Summer Guest Blogger — Jeri Walker-Bickett

It’s time for another Summer Guest Blogger — Jeri Walker-Bickett!

Monster Mash-Ups and the Case of Edgar Allan Poe

We live in an age of mash-ups. Abraham Lincoln slays vampires, and Jane Austen’s characters bludgeon zombies. Countless fairy tales provide fodder for X-rated romps or modern day re-telling. Would the stories of Stephen King exist if it were not for Edgar Allan Poe? Perhaps, but our modern masters of horror often cite the influence of Poe’s works on their creative process. Which may leave some of us to wonder where, exactly, to draw the line between inspired and borrowed material?

Art begets art, but is all art created equal? For instance, in Shakespeare’s day, copyright did not exist and it was commonplace to beg, borrow, and steal from colleagues. Yet, the language and the insight allowed by the Bard’s lines are what readers and viewers alike remember. Fast forward over 400 years and countless versions of his plays now exist for the stage and screen. Such tinkering seems par for the course when it comes to the likes of Shakespeare, Arthurian Lore, and assorted fairy tales.

Every day, the copyright on classic works expire, and they then enter the public domain. Such availability means countless derivative works can be created. Where does the re-working of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short stories fall on this spectrum? Poe purists, those academic scholars and language purists who revere his work may surely find fault with my attempt at rewriting five of his most popular stories in accessible language. However, it’s a given some readers feel daunted by Poe’s complex style, so if my version can serve as a gateway to pique further interest in Poe’s works, I believe that is a good thing.

Amazon readily allows derivative works of classics to be published on its site, so long as the author and publisher have added original content that goes beyond a mere introduction. This can mean adding illustrations, providing study guide questions, or somehow differentiating it from the other public domain titles of the same work.

But what of works inspired by classics, such as our very own Candy Korman’s novella Poed? I find her mash-up of some of Poe’s best works now set in a modern day institution for the criminally insane to be beyond compare, and at the opposite end of the spectrum from my paraphrased versions of Poe’s stories. Her self-described “literary novellas inspired by classic tales of horror” serve as a prime example of how fascinating it can be to breathe new life into the literature of yesterday.

My take on the matter of finding inspiration in classic works is to enjoy the possibilities rather than condemn the results. Such attempts are merely the natural progression art must take in order to remain vibrant and alive for potential audiences. So long as the financial and intellectual stakes put nobody in harm’s way, endless variations can be wrought from the classic stories we all know and love.

What’s your opinion on re-working classics? What re-imaginings on film or literature have you abhorred or enjoyed?


More About Jeri…

Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) is an author, editor, and teacher. She primarily writes contemporary literary fiction and psychological suspense. Such is Life, her short story collection, is now available. Her forthcoming novel, Lost Girl Road, is a ghost story set in the woods of northwest Montana. She blogs about literature and writing on her twisted book blog: What do I know? Please connect with her at

Despite growing up in the rough Idaho mining town of Wallace, she earned multiple writing degrees, and became a devoted English teacher who has since left the classroom to pursue writing and editing full time. Food and travel continually inspire her creativity and love of photography. In addition, she dabbles in creative nonfiction, poetry, and educational video tutorials. She currently lives in North Carolina with her wonderful husband and their demanding pets.

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  1. Candy

    I’m very happy to have Jeri W-B on hand to talk about mining classics for inspiration. I hope everyone reading this post checks out her wonderful short story collection “Such is Life.” Her hyper-realism brings the emotional life of her characters alive!

  2. It is kinda funny, our view on retellings. We have spent generations upon generations finding new ways to tell the tales of those who came before us. I like to think of it as our way of carrying the story telling tradition forward. Many of our stories now can be traced back to their roots, when stories were not written down but told as oral histories. Only the names and the places have been changed to protect the innocent…

    Even the greats like JRR Tolkien are not exempt from this. Much of his histories and creatures were gladly stolen from the very same oral traditions I am talking about. We tend to get so tied up in ownership and rights and all that other lawyerly stuff that we forget our origins.

    • Candy

      I think re-thinking, re-writing, re-creating is part of the DNA of storytelling. The origins of all good stories can probably be traced back to a really cool and imaginative person by a fire outside a cave.

    • Jon, just think… a Rhapsode would roll into town, and people would gather at dawn to listen to a story re-telling that would last all day. Our attention spans have certainly grown shorter, and people forget the roots behind great storytelling and theater. I would be curious is there’s any poeple who attempt to recite the Odyssey like way back when. That would truly be something to witness.

      • Candy

        There’s a couple of annual literary events with people reading out loud the entire text of James Joyce’s Ulysses and other major literary works. Close but not exactly the same thing. Although, I just saw Alan Cumming in a one man version of Macbeth in which he played all the parts. It was wonderful! Truly something to witness and the Broadway house was not full. It’s too “difficult” a show for many audiences. (That attention span thing…)

  3. I think innovation only ever happens in increments, and we are all influenced or inspired by other people. How can it truly be otherwise? The only thing that annoys me is writing that is formulaic. Retellings however can be an absolute joy. Power to the mashup!

    • Andrea, it’s so true that innovation happens little by little. Under these circumstances I always am reminded of the Mark Twain essay “Corn Pone Opinions” where he discusses how there is no such thing as a truly original idea. The case of mash-ups only makes that more obvious, and also shows how powerful sources of inspiration can be.


  1. […] We all have sticky books whose stories stay with us long after the reading ends. Candy Korman, the author of today’s best books guest post, shares the books that have lingered with her, and why she doesn’t reread them. We’re swapping guest posts, so make sure to also read Monster Mash-Ups and the Case of Edgar Allan Poe. […]