The Creation of Book I

Back in 2008 or 2009, a piece of classic literature was rewritten to make it a zombie story.  I compared the two books and saw that… well, I looked at the first couple of pages… and saw that not a whole lot was changed.

At the time, I had been teaching Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations for several years  and thought the opening scene would be great for a zombie story: Pip is out in a graveyard and gets attacked by an escaped convict who threatens to eat him.

So I downloaded the text and went to work. At first, I turned Magwitch into an escaped zombie, but then realized that wouldn’t work. A zombie would not be able to talk to Pip, much less move off to Australia, start up a business, and get rich..  So it had to be that everyone thought he was a zombie, and came up with the “suspected” bit. This turned out to be an easy way for the gov’t to lock up undesirables – orphans, homeless, and the mentally ill. After that, it was just a matter of working my way through the text and making changes in the right spots.

Those changes are often subtle, and the one I always use as an example is from the first time Pip and Estella meet.  In the original, Estella does not want to play with Pip, and Miss Havisham says, “You can break his heart.”  In my version, when Estella says she does not want to spar with Pip, Miss Havisham says, “You can break his arm.” In one scene, I have Trabb’s boy stagger down the street like a zombie to mock Pip rather than mocking him for being a “gentleman” as it was in the original.

I also wanted things to be based on historical facts, much like the original. Pretty much anything in the story you would want to look up is based on something historical. This was true for the original, and it’s true for my adaptation. Readers can look up miasma, Jem Mace and Bob Brettle, Queensberry Rules, Kneller Hall and the Pallgraves, and, of course, a bit of Latin here and there.

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