Benjamin Walker and Erin Wasson in “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”/Image © Stephen Vaughan/Twentieth Century Fox
In this age of fusion cuisine, hybrid cars, and music mashups, it was only a matter of time before the literary world adopted this Dr. Frankenstein approach to splicing its way toward making everything old new again. With Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith pioneered a post-modern approach to fusing classic novels and historic figures with down and dirty genre tropes and contemporary pop culture’s high-concept conceits.
It was a risky move that might have caused the more uppity members of the Jane Austen Society to issue a fatwa. Instead, all of Grahame-Smith’s sacred cow-prodding novels have become beloved bestsellers with strict constructionists and casual readers alike. The first of Grahame-Smith’s books to be adapted for the big screen, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, hits theaters Friday. Directed by Russian action commissar, Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”), the film stars Meryl Streep’s son-in-law, Benjamin Walker, as the titular 16th U.S. President who makes it his mission to end slavery while abolishing a cabal of power-mad vampires.
There is something dangerously addictive about the process of melding unlike parts to create a monstrously compelling whole that somehow equals more than the sum of all its elements. We discovered this in assembling the following list of literary chestnuts and history’s bold-faced names most ripe for a Grahame-Smith-style makeover. This process was the literary equivalent of getting tattoos: One is never enough to satisfy the heretical thrill of defiling something pure and pristine. We managed to limit ourselves to the following five cheese-coated classics. We dare you to come up with your own list. And we double dare you to limit it to five.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT AND SUCCUBI
Connecting the Plots: This journey into the catacombs of madness based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterwork (itself a genre-melding blend of nineteenth-century romanticism, existential philosophy, and literary crime fiction) comes equipped with a natural entry-point for the supernatural, when starving student Raskolnikov plots to kill an unpopular old crone and bungles the murder, leaving him plagued by paranoia and personal demons. Enter the succubi. Think this as a more metaphysical depiction of Raskolnikov’s inner torment.
SUSAN B. ANTHONY, ALIEN EXTERMINATOR
Connecting the Plots: This story of the stalwart suffragette, an early pioneer of the civil rights movement and tireless public speaker who was instrumental in gaining women the right to vote, comes equipped with a built-in role for a loathsome enemy. Only in our version, Anthony hurls her lethal word daggers at misogynist aliens attempting to silence women and keep them shackled to their domestic duties. It turns out that a well-turned phrase, written or spoken, is like Kryptonite to these extra-terrestrials posing as husbands, legislators, and non-females of every stripe, hell-bent on halting the march of change.
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN AND THE SWAMP THING
Connecting the Plots: In this B-Movie version of Mark Twain’s classic tale of pre-teen spirit, Huck and Jim encounter a mythological monster dwelling in the depths of the Mississippi River. The young runaways battle the beast early on in their journey and then strategically seek it out in order to throw the two crafty stowaway snitches into its gaping maw before facing off against far scarier foes in Twain’s pre-Emancipation South.
ULYSSES VS. CYCLOPS
Connecting the Plots: James Joyce’s monument to Modernism revolutionized notions of novelistic structure, form, and voice with its stream-of-consciousness account of a day-in-the-life of a smitten Irishman wandering the streets of Dublin convinced his wife is having an affair with the auspiciously named Blazes Boylan. Somewhere in between reading letters from competing love interests and eating a gorgonzola sandwich in the pub, our protagonist, Leopold Bloom, does battle with the one-eyed creature preventing him from returning home to his beloved wayward Molly.
LOLITA, PREDATOR SLAYER
Connecting the Plots: There are several ways one might read this title. To genre fans, this epithet promises an action-packed showdown between a twelve-year-old girl and the jungle-dwelling, human-hunting technological marvel at the center of John McTiernan’s 1987 sci-fi spectacle starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a special forces op who barely survives the beast’s savage killing spree. The alternate, and possibly more intriguing, approach to this redux version of Nabokov’s novel, is to pit the titular nymphette against Humbert Humbert, who is quickly neutralized when she unleashes a secret arsenal of lethal Krav Maga moves. Still seething with rage, Lolita wages a vendetta against child predators vowing to rid the world of them, one creepy pervert at a time.