A favourite blogger of mine, Alyssa, is finally back from her blogging hiatus! One of the things I love best about Alyssa’s blog is her discussions. They are thoughtful, in-depth, and always have me leaving novel-length comments in response. So when Alyssa reached out to me to asking if she could guest post about retellings there was no chance I’d say no! So, without further ado, here’s Alyssa on why retellings aren’t a dead genre…
Retellings are everywhere these days. Fairytales, folklore, Shakespeare … everything is fair game. Not just in the blookunity, either. Even Disney is leaping aboard the bandwagon with countless remakes.
Retellings are undoubtedly awesome, but can’t there be too much of a good thing?
To be fair! Retellings of the same old story can get dull. Every time I hear about another Cinderella retelling, I roll my eyes. And I honestly can’t be bothered to read another Arabian Nights retelling when The Wrath and the Dawn is basically on my always-rec list.
So yes, retellings will obviously share similar elements from the source material! But it’s not going to become a so-called “dead genre” like dystopian, or vampire romance (is that really a specific genre?), or apparently contemporary.
Here’s why retellings are not a dead genre (and probably won’t be for some time!):
1. There are always more spins even on the same story.
The same source material can be re-imagined in a completely different way. In the book world, retellings enjoy quite a bit of artistic liberty. Here are just some of the ways authors could re-invent a familiar story:
- gender-bending, race-bending, etc.
- a modern version
- different genres: fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, magical realism
- plot divergences, averting the happily ever after
- an “untold story”, from the point of view of a sidekick, a love interest, or a villain
Even though there will be similar plot elements, most retellings don’t even follow the original storyline that closely! So there’s no reason that a similar premise should rule out a new book.
And of course, the writing style and voice of each author is different, and can significantly change the tone of retellings.
2. There’s definitely more room for better representation in retellings.
Let’s be honest for a moment? I won’t name names, but plenty of the hyped-up retellings—especially the ones that have been around for a while—don’t do much in terms of diverse representation.
It’s only recently that the bookish world has begun to include more diverse retellings, and it’d honestly be a shame if we buried the genre before these stories are told too. I recently started reading The Seafarer’s Kiss, a f/f Little Mermaid retelling, and could not be more excited to finish the whole thing.
So again, I’m just going to be honest: if retellings seem bland, perhaps you just haven’t had the opportunity to read beyond the super-hyped, big-name releases.
In fact, even if we ignore the fact that there are so many alternate ways to retell the same story, there’s plenty of source material to go around!
Obviously, fairytale retellings have been really, really common. But there’s so much folklore and history out there to explore! While some recent releases haven’t done the best job in retelling stories from marginalised cultures, there are great #ownvoices ones out there too, like The Wrath and the Dawn as I mentioned earlier.
So yes, while the thousands of Cinderella retellings might threaten to bury the entire genre, I’m waiting for it to be resurrected with lesser known tales.
3. Retellings have ALWAYS been around.
The reason that retellings and even cinematic remakes are so popular is simple: familiarity. It’s impossible to resist revisiting an old favourite, and personally I love that retellings include moral complexity and unique twists to an old story.
Besides, who can’t resist more of an awesome thing? It’s the same reason that a blurb that compares the books to The Hunger Games makes us linger a little longer. (Even though we have all been let down by that claim before. Books might as well offer free lemons every 100 pages.)
And if us bookworms get sick of even the word ‘retelling’, most retellings have the originality to hide in other genres. Even a lot of Shakespeare retold older works, and they’re not labelled as retellings. Just like dystopian elements are popping up in new releases again, retellings can do the same.
So there we are! Thanks so much to Chiara for hosting me for my blog relaunch at alyssacarlier.com! If you love retellings, I’m currently writing a Mulan + Swan Lake retelling which you can keep up with over riiiight here.
And I hope you’ll join my international relaunch giveaway for plenty of bookish swag!
I hope you enjoyed Alyssa’s guest post as much as I did! I agree with all three points, especially #2 (which no one should be surprised about, really). I’m really hoping that diverse YA retellings are published more frequently in the near future because we certainly need them. Don’t forget to enter Alyssa’s awesome giveaway, and leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Tata for now,