Thursday, June 9, 2016

I wish Internet Fandom communities would discover Paul Feval

The opportunities that could come from doing Fan Fiction and Fan Art and Cosplay and so on inspired by Paul Feval's characters is quite rich.  And other writers of interest to BlackCoatPress as well.  Including the lesser known works of well known authors like Alexandre Dumas.

Now of course everything written in Tales of the Shadowmen fits the basic definition of Fan Fiction,  Crossover Fics to be exact.  (I don't how many TOTS writers would be the kind of writer to be offended by that comparison, I would hope none and I'm optimistic in that regard.)  But they're distinct from what we generally think of as fan fiction, in terms of the concerns that drive the Authors, besides arguably myself.

Nearly all TOTS contributors have been male so far, but anyone who'd like to contribute is free to take a shot at it.  There is contact info at their Website.  For my first contribution I just emailed a description of the basic idea to see if it would fit and we went from there.  Also if anyone multilingual is interested in helping Translate more Public Domain French poplar fiction novels and plays not yet available in English.  They are the ideal Publisher I'd recommend for submitting your translation to.

Of Feval novels still not yet available in English, the one I largely most want to see done next is La Louve (The White Wolf), the first Female Maksed Vigilante in all of literature, that I'm aware currently and I'm aware of some pretty obscure stuff.  Written in the late 1850s, it was a prequel to Le Loup Blanc (The White Wolf) but it wouldn't be the first time BlackCoatPress started a series with prequels (Salem Street and The Invisible Weapon) and I'm a Star Wars Prequel Evangelist so I'm all for doing them first, I'd bet Feval likely meant it to be able to work as a stand alone.  Besides three Public Domains translations of The White Wolf exist, they are impossible for an average person to find right now but since Libraries have them I suspect they'll wind up online eventually.

But back to the subject of Fan Fiction.

Warning, Spoilers for various Feval novels will occur, though generally not more then what CoolFrenchComics spoils, which is a website ran by BlackCoatPress.

1. Fan Reinterpretation.

Dawn Felagund's survey showed that
only 21.5% of participants chose Agree or Strongly Agree for the statement, “It is important to keep my stories consistent with Tolkien’s moral beliefs.” Just about twice as many writers, on the other hand (52.1%), agreed or strongly agree with the statement, “Writing fan fiction lets me challenge Tolkien’s worldview.”
Thing about Feval is, he may very well be even more Conservative then Tolkien.  None the less he unwittingly contributed a lot to the history of Popular Fiction for Liberals including Feminists to be interested in.  And he probably does do better by his female characters overall then Tolkien, he certainly created far more.  But he's also not without problems.

Brian Stableford's Afterward for Revenants shows how Death of The Author is quite applicable to that story.  And in his Afterward for Heart of Steel he calls that book "unintentionally Proto-Feminist", and he also laments the fact that that story's real Hero has to be married off at the end, that subject I'll return to later.

But there is one opinion Stableford expressed in that Afterward I disagree with, when he says Marguerite isn't as strong a character as Lecoq.  As someone who read quite a bit about The Blackcoats online before I was able to buy the books myself.  Lecoq is the character I considered the most disappointing.  My post comparing him to PLL's Wilden shows the value I see in the character, but I feel he pales in comparison to most Super Villains that Feval created.  For The Blackcoats, The Colonel is definitely number 1, but the real number 2 to me is Marguerite Sadoulas.

Lecoq also ultimately never actually moved against The Colonel, even when he was on his death bed he refused to act till The Colonel was dead.  That tells potentially interesting things about his character, but it's also a missed opportunity.  And I think in-spite of himself Feval too may have like Marguerite more, since he never retconed Lecoq's demise as he did for others (it would have been easy, just say the ending of the first novel was changed for a more conventional ending and Lecoq's fate was in fact what Mayoneta originally planned, for him to go to prison).  And it was Marguerite who gets to confront The Colonel (officially not the same character but really it is) in the high council's ultimate rebellion in The Companions of The Treasure.

In the end Heart of Steel may not even be the most female driven Blackcoats novel, that honor may well go to The Invisible Weapon.

2. Shipping, including Slash.

Not all Fan Fiction is shipping, and not all Shipping in fan communities is Slash.  But those trends are common and important and Feval gave us plenty to ship.

Any discussion of slash potential in Feval I feel must begin with Echolat and Similor.  In at least this case, I feel confident Feval himself intended us to consider a Homoerotic subtext to their long (chronologically confusing) and complicated relationship.  The fact that in almsot every book they appear in (which is 6 our of 7 Blackcoats novels, they are almost the R2-D2 and C-3PO of that saga) they are compared to Orestes and Pylades, plus that they're raising a son together.

Now in Feval's canon this relationship is not the most positive one, Echolat is ultimately good but Similor is the opposite, and Echolat's redemption tends to correlate to marrying a woman (though a not traditionally feminine one).  But I feel to modern readers they have the potential to come off as the Harley and Ivy of the 19th Century.

Now to return to The Heart of Steel.  The most difficult thing to interpreting the book in a Feminist fashion is how everyone has to be hetero-normatively married off in the end.  Especially since Feval intentionally portrayed the three male romantic leads weak and ineffectual (as he often does).  I suggest the fan community should screw that and make Rose and Nina a couple.

If you're hoping for a Femslash option for Marguerite, in The Companions of The Treasure in the second half, she has a three chapter long conversation with Irene Carpentier all about her talking her into letting her stay in her room.  I've intentionally misled the context there, but regardless it's an intense scene.  While there is really no real interaction between them in the books to use as a starting point, I like to consider Marguerite and Fanchette possible, I've written Fanchette to be Pansexual in The Piano Maidens.

The 1996/7 film version of Le Bossu very heavily encourages the audience to read a subtext into Lagardere and Nevers.  And we get to see Aurore dressed as a guy briefly, if you're one of the many women or men into a Bifauxnen looking women, that sequence will be fun.

Fandom does do Het pairings and even sometimes supports canon pairings.  In which case not quite all of Feval's canon pairings are boring. John Devil and the first Blackcoats novel both have some fun Love Dodecahedrons going on.  Of course some of the not boring ones have other potential issues going on.

Incestuous ships are sometimes popular.  (And I don't think enjoyment of such a thing in fiction in anyway tells us if a person would do it in real life).  And in this context Sarah O'Niel and Robert Surrisy in John Devil have potential, I personally feel it more then the pairings that were the endgame.  And since some people still insist on thinking of Cousins as taboo Feval has a quite few Cousin relationships.

One thing that is sometimes a problem for a modern reader in enjoying a work of 19th Century literature is the 19th Century's tendency to be okay with relationships with significant age gaps (usually the Man is older) including a relationship that starts out as quasi father-daughter and then becomes romantic.  This makes Vrai uncomfortable with the relationship between Edmund and Haybee in the Count of Monte-Cristo and why Vrai supports the romantic aspect being removed in Gankutsuou.  I for one think Edmund/Haydee is very important, and didn't even notice on my own that the Anime had deromanticized it.

However such relationships are not without supporters in the modern world, and sometimes they become popular for Fan Fiction writers even if it was never canon.  From Spike and Dawn in the Buffy Fandom to Sansa and Sandor for GoT.  Well there is nothing Father-Daughter like about either of those, but they're what pops in my head.

That I know of Feval has only two books (and only one is yet among those BlackCoatPress has translated) where he expects the reader to root for such a relationship.   I have a problem with neither, but others might so I shall mention them here.

One is Lagardere and Aurore in Le Bossu, Rick Lai has suggested that the potential problems with this relationship is why Hollywood has never adabted this novel that the French Film industry takes a crack at every decade.  And suggests The Mask of Zorro was an attempt to repackage the plot with that issue removed (and with the more marketable to English speaking Zorro brand).  (I think an equally likely factor is that the novel doesn't have an English translation that doesn't suck.)

Salem Street was the first Blackcoats book Stableford translated.  In the Afterward for The Sword Swallower both Stableford and Jean-Marc express that regardless of their publication order the books should ideally be read in the order Feval wrote them.  I don't necessarily agree, though I would recommend saving Cadet Gang for last simply because it's the only one I don't recommend reading at all, and is certainly dependent on Companions of The Treasure and Heart of Steel being known to the reader.  But I would save Sword Swallower for after the other 5 good ones.

Parisian Jungle can work as an introduction to Blackcoats, but neither it or John Devil I would recommend for introducing one to Feval in general, they're the longest Feval books BCP has done and that's because Feval meanders more in them, not the way Ponson tended to but he does.  Both are great Books, but I feel you need to be used to Feval a bit when you read them.

I started with The Vampire Countess and that worked out well, Knightshade is also pretty good, both are really more Crime Novels in-spite of their Vampire aspect.  For The Blackcoats, The Invisible Weapon is absolutely the best, and not truly dependent on any prior knowledge.  Though I read it second following Salem Street.

Salem Street was designed to be an introduction to the world essentially, it was a Reboot of sorts.  And as a shorter novel is a better intro to Feval in general then the original first book.  But it's atypical of the other books in a few ways, including lacking Echolat and Similor.  Pistolet is Feval's most successful attempt at writing a Detective type character while also being Genre Savvy and willing to Crossdress, and so to many he'd be this book's greatest strength.  It's the only book where The Colonel, Lecoq and Marguerite are all 3 featured and all as more then just Cameos, but none of those three is quite the central villain of this one, that would be the false Prince.

But now to finally return to what I was talking about before diverging to what order to read a non chronologically written book series in.  The one downside to starting with Salem Street is if you're the kind of reader who'd be turned off by the relationship between Suavita and Paul Labre, where she is younger and he at first views her as a daughter.  From her standpoint the relationship was always romantic however, and is definitely a bit of a coming of age story for her.

I haven't talked about Fan Art or Cosplay yet, which I also mentioned at the top.  Much of what you do with them overlaps, for Cosplay I'll just say if you have a Quaker Hat you have the first step to being John Devil The Quaker.

It is only Fan Fiction I can myself contribute to, and I shall try to do just that, while mostly saving my Crossover Fics for TOTS, I'll try to get to writing more restrained stories I can put on more traditional Fan Fiction sites.

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