Rewriting Legend

There is a genre of fiction, Alternative History, “consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which one or more historical events unfolds differently than it did in the real world” (according to Wikipedia). Harry Turtledove is perhaps the most prolific practitioner of the genre. I’m currently rereading his 4-volume WorldWar series, in which an alien invasion comes right in the middle of World War II.

In comparison, what I write might be called “Alternative Fiction.” Take a well-known fictional saga, and have it unfold differently than it did in the original. But there are a number of problems with that.

First, if you’re writing an alternative to a particular work of fiction—Moby Dick, say, there’s the little matter of plagiarism. Although I suppose Melville no longer cares. Nor do the dozens of people who have written alternative versions of Pride and Prejudice. I guess that’s why it’s called Fan Fiction–true fans don’t care about little shit like plagiarism. Plus people are so busy writing fan fiction versions of Twilight they’ve forgotten all about Moby Dick, I suppose.

Not to mention, who remembers exactly what happened in Moby Dick? If you’ve actually read the entire book (rather than the Classic Comics version of it), what you probably remember most is that there are hundred-page expositions on exotic topics such as whales as fish. And you’re pretty much stuck with 2 alternate endings: 1) Ahab kills Moby, cuts off his pasty white head and nails it to the prow of the Pequod, or 2) Moby kills Ishmael, in which case the book is very short (as are most 1st person narratives in which the narrator is killed).

So I guess what I’m really talking about is “Alternative Legend.” A legend big enough—and well know enough—that it is similar to history in a way. In that category we have King Arthur, and . . .

Hmmm. No wonder Alternative Legend is often called Arthurian Fiction.

What else comes close? The Iliad and the Odyssey, I suppose. Beowulf? That’s going to be a short Alternative novel (he rips off the other arm, maybe?). Jesus? Been done some—Christopher Moore’s Lamb as a shining example (Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail as another, maybe not quite as bright).

Ah, I have it. Winnie the Pooh! Now there’s a subject primed and ready for Alternative Legend treatment.

Next time somebody asks me, “What do you write?” (which means next party I go to), I’m going to proudly answer, “Alternative Legend.”

Winnie the Pooh, look out! You’re next.

winnie the pooh


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