All posts by Leif Smart

A Christmas Carol – ReGendered

Happy New Year Everyone!

And Happy New Decade!

Wow, what a long time it’s been. I was shocked to see my last post was eighteen months ago! My last ReGendered novel release was over two years ago. Seems life decided to grab hold of me and give me a good shake. So many highs and lows, with plenty of adventures in between.

While I’ve become super busy with various other jobs and projects, The ReGender Project continued to simmer away. Always waiting patiently for me to find the time to devote to it. I’m hoping this year will provide the opportunity to give it the attention it deserves, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’ve made some progress. The ReGender Project will be moving to its new home at, though the site is still under construction. I’m also pushing to have my works included in the Amazon Kindle Select Program. While this will mean making them exclusive to Amazon, it will allow its members to easily access the ReGendered Novels. I’m still torn on whether this will achieve my goal of getting the novels into the hands of the people who might be interested in them, so if you have any thoughts on the matter, drop me a line!

Finally, some good news. I have a new ReGendered novel for you to enjoy. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was hoping to have it ready last month but it took a little longer than expected. Turns out I’m a little rusty. It’s available now on Amazon, so check it out.

Authors Note:

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Just in time for Christmas, I’ve regendered one of the most classic stories, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The story of Scrooge being confronted by three spirits, past, present, and future, in order to change his ways and find redemption is one that continues to resonate today. The numerous adaptations and rereleases are proof of this.

Once again, names proved to be one of the trickiest parts of regendering this novel. Ebenezer is such an iconic name, so closely aligned with Scrooge, that I was loathed to change it. During the regendering process, however, I found it only appeared in the text twice. So, in order to emphasise the change in gender, I chose to regender the name to Evelyn Scrooge. Similarly, Tiny Tim is nearly as famous as Scrooge but I chose to regender the character to Timara, in order to emphasis the change in gender while still feeling close to the original Tiny Tim.

One particularly problematic chapter concerned shaving, one of those activities that doesn’t regender easily. I chose to replace it with combing, which isn’t really the same but close enough within the context of this novel.

The last tricky section was towards the end, where the family had gathered together. There’s plenty of romantic situations developing which don’t feel natural after being regendered, but that is one the main reasons I have for The ReGender Project. By examining these situations, looking at them from different points of view, I hope we’ll start presenting the genders more equally.

Thank you for reading my Regendered novel, A Christmas Carol. I hope you have a very happy holiday!

Return to Action!

Hello everyone!

First of all, I want to apologise for my long absence. It’s been ages since I last posted, let alone blogged or released a regendered novel. In recent months work, my other writing, starting a new business, and planning a wedding have all been given higher priority, leaving little time left over for The Regendered Project. But while those things have been more urgent, I don’t consider them to be more important and I haven’t stopped thinking about The Regendered Project. It’s never far from my mind, constantly bubbling away, begging me to return to it.

Recently, I’ve come to the realization that life probably isn’t going to get easier any time soon and if I’m ever going to return to the project, then I just have to be more determined about devoting time to it.

So, I’m going to endeavour to be more diligent about putting in the necessary time. I’m not sure it will extend to blogging regularly, but I’ll return to posting links I find relevant. More importantly, I want to return to releasing a new regendered novel each month. If all goes according to plan, August will see the release of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, more than likely towards the end of the month.

Down the track I have more changes planned. I want to redesign my website, giving The Regendered Project its own page and do a better job of promoting and spreading the word about it. I also want to create printed versions of my regendered novels, though there seems to be a big learning curve before I can make that a reality.

Finally, I want you all to know if there’s any novels you’d like to see regendered, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can add it to schedule. Just make sure they’re in the public domain so they are able to be reused and modified freely.

Thanks again for your patience and support. Together we can get The Regendered Project back on track!

THE REGENDER PROJECT: Treasure Island – Regendered

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – Regendered, is my latest Regendered novel. It’s available from your favourite ebook retailers now. You can find their links at the bottom of this page. If you enjoy it and wanted to find out more about The Regendered Project be sure to signup to my newsletter. You’ll also receive another regendered novel, absolutely FREE!

Wow, it’s been a really long time since I last released a Regendered novel. Real life and other projects have conspired to keep me busy but I’ve continued chipping away at The Regender Project.

I’ve also made a major change and expanded the availability of all my regendered novels. You’ll now be able to find them all on your favourite ebook retailers, including Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and many others. So, if you’ve been putting off purchasing one because you don’t know a kindle, now’s your chance to grab them!

Treasure Island is one of the greatest adventure novels. The idea of a young child finding a map to a fabulous treasure, and embarking on an expedition to find it, is one that resonates with everyone. It perhaps presents us with an overly romantic view of piracy but one we’re all too ready to believe in.

I’ve always been particularly interested in regendering nautical novels. Even today, it’s one of the most male dominated segments, but in the 19th century, it was exclusively so. Ironically, the illegal world of piracy allowed women to partake and achieve some semblance of equality. By regendering such novels, I hope to show how perfectly normal it is for woman to inhabit such spaces.

Authors Note:

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The world of swashbuckling pirates and adventures on the high seas was particularly interesting for me to regender. While there have been many notable pirates, Anne Boony, Mary Read and Cheng Shih, to name but a few, it was still very much a male dominated world. Maritime itself was a man’s world, to the point where it was considered bad luck for a woman to even set foot on a ships. These are the sorts of worlds I feel need to be regendered the most since they directly challenge the preconceived notions and stereotypes we have of them. I hope that by showing how normal it is for woman to inhabit these places, we’ll become more accepting of them in our own world, where there are still far too many barriers holding them back.

Being such a nautical novel, there were a few more challenges than normal when regendering it. For starters, much of the terminology, as usual for the time period, defaults to a masculine version. Many of the terms don’t even have female equivalents. Even the ones that do, such as seawoman for seaman, don’t quite feel natural since we are so conditioned to thinking of sailors as being male. Despite how unfamiliar these versions feel, I decided to use them. I think by confronting these feelings we’ll becoming more accepting of them and make significant changes to how we view women in settings they’re not traditionally associated with.

Another tricky decision I had to make was in how I would regender Captain Flint. Early on in the Regender Project I decided historical figures that weren’t part of the story would be exempt from regendering. My purpose behind this was to help maintain the historical position of the novel. Having the same kings and queens meant it was easy to identify the novel as taking place in Victorian England, even while the regendering process made it a very different one to the one know. In the case of Treasure Island, Captain Flint was an infamous pirate of historical significance, and since he doesn’t appear in the novel, would normally be exempt from regendering. Yet, even though he’s not a character in the novel, he’s a major presence. His actions, even though they occur before the events depicted in the novel, cast a long shadow and influence the plot and subsequent actions of many other characters. In the end, I decided to adhere to my original dictum and keep Captain Flint as male. I also like how having such a notorious pirate heading a crew of female cutthroats becomes an unremarkable situation in the regendered version.

The other major issue I had was how to regender Squire Trelawny. While the name wasn’t any harder than most names I regender, the title proved particularly problematic. It stems from the time when a young boy would work as an apprentice to a knight and by the time of the novel had come to refer to the landed gentry. Neither of these had female equivalents that were exactly the same since, again, they were situations only men could enter into. Arguably, there was no need to regender it at all, since there’s no reason why squire couldn’t refer to a woman, yet I think we are so conditioned to thinking of squires as male that the regendering wouldn’t be as noticeable as I’d like. There was also some evidence for Lady Squire to be used, but I tend to avoid simply adding lady, or woman to an existing word in order to make its female version. I finally decided upon Lady. It’s a more generic title but is distinctly different from squire while also giving the same sense of referring to a distinguished person of an elevated social rank for 19th century England.

I hope you enjoy this regendered version of Treasure Island. It still has all the action and adventure of the original but now it’s woman doing it all!

Treasure Island – Regendered

Treasure Island – Regendered

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel of treasure hunting on a remote island has been completely rewritten with all the characters regendered. Now follow Jill Hawkins as she’s caught up in a voyage to treasure island, while avoiding the machinations of the suspicious Long Jane Silver.
Working in her parent’s tavern, Jill Hawkins befriends an old sailor. When the sailors past confederates catch up with her, she leaves Jill with a map to a fabulous treasure. Enlisting the aid of two family friends, she puts embarks on a grand adventure to recovery the treasure.

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The latest novel I’ve regendered is Jane Austen’s Persuasion, available to buy now from Amazon. Be sure to sign up to my newsletter and you’ll receive another regendered novel, absolutely free!

While Persuasion might not be one of Austen’s better known novels, it does have the distinction of being the last one she wrote, it being published posthumously. Like nearly all of her novels, it features her biting satire of the class divisions in her society and the strictly defined roles women and men had to live with.

What is interesting about Persuasion, and Jane Austen’s novels in general, is they don’t need really regendering at all. They’re already filled with women who are given as much importance and consideration within the narrative as the men . The reason I chose to regender Persuasion was because Austen’s novels are still filled with the rigid gender roles and stereotypes defining how women and men should behave. In regendering Persuasion, I wanted to explore what the narrative would be like if it was focused on the men vying for suitable matches to secure their futures, with the women holding the positions of power and influence.

I hope you enjoy this regendered novel and look forward to reading your reviews on it!


My latest regendered novel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, is now available for free from Amazon!* Yep, that’s right, Free! As an added bonus, when you sign up to my newsletter you’ll receive another regendered novel, completely free also! So grab a copy for yourself and tell all your friends about it!

The novel itself represents a departure from the other novels I’ve regendered so far because it’s the first time I’ve revisited an author I’d already tackled. It’s always been my intention to regender multiple works from the same author but initially I’ve wanted to focus on tackling different authors. This way I’d be able to experience a broader ranger of writing styles and discover which are more suitable or more effective when regendered.

While I still plan to explore new and different authors, I thought it was time to revisit one. Sherlock Holmes continues to be one of the more iconic characters in literature, and narratives in general, making him the perfect candidate for regendering. Also, being a collection of short stories, I think this is the perfect introduction to regendering, demonstrating how such a simple change can fundamentally alter the tone and style of the story.

I hope you enjoy this regendered book, and if so, please leave a review and tell all your friends about it!

* it seems not all the Amazon stores have updated to the free price. If your local one hasn’t yet, please drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do about hurrying them along.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes represents a change in how I normally select a novel to regender. It’s the first time I’ve returned to an author whose work I’ve already regendered, not to mention a specific character. My reasons for doing so are not too different from the reasons I chose Sherlock Holmes in the first instance: Sherlock remains one of the most iconic figures in literature, and given how regularly his exploits are adapted, narratives in general.

I was also a little unsatisfied with the story of the first Sherlock Holmes novel I regendered, A Study in Scarlet. While it’s a fine story in its own right, it’s not really what I think of when I think of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, particular when it diverges into the prolonged backstory. I believe these shorter stories are more indicative of a Sherlock Holmes story.

Being a collection of short stories, there’s also quite a divergent number of topics and themes covered. The main one I wanted to explore was to see how a woman can perform the prominent role of a leading detective investigating crimes. To some degree this might not be necessary given how many women perform such roles in narratives already. Literature is filled with examples such as Nancy Drew and Miss Marple, while in television we have Veronica Mars, Kate Beckett and Olivia Benson. Yet, despite this, I continue to read news stories and articles about the struggles women have in pursuing careers in law enforcement, which suggests we still have a long way to go.

As usual, I encountered a number of specific issues while regendering these stories but the one that stands out is a scene from The Boscombe Valley Mystery. In the original, Sherlock is able to deduce some of the circumstances of his new client based on the way he shaved his face. Usually I can adjust any references to beards or shaving by editing a word or two. In this case, it comprised the better part of a paragraph and required significant rewriting in order for the deductive reasoning to apply to a woman.

Finally, I’d like to point out how much I like the new opening to this regendered novel. It now begins with, ‘To Sherlock Holmes he will always be THE man. I have seldom heard her mention him under any other name. In her eyes he eclipses and predominates the whole of his sex.’ I think this quickly establishes the regendering that has occurred and how different this world is compared to the original.


War of the Worlds, my latest regendered novel, is now available for purchase from Amazon. This is probably one of the more well-known novels I’ve regendered, no doubt due to the many adaptations it’s received over the years. While the latest starred Tom Cruise in 2005, the most famous would still be Orson Welles’ radio play of 1938. While the stories of it creating mass panic from people believing it was a real invasion are probably exaggerated, that just adds to the mythology of the story.

As a long time science fiction geek, I’ve been eager to regender the works of one of the pillars of the genre, H.G. Wells. In terms of the genre, his work still stands the test of time, with many of predictions and creations remaining just as interesting today as when he first wrote them over a hundred years ago.
What I’ve also discovered about his work is how gender neutral it is. While his novels, including this one, are still made up of mostly male characters, there’s not as many indications of it. As I explain a little more in the author’s note, there’s not as many gendered nouns or pronouns used, so swapping the characters was a very smooth process.

The story itself remains as interesting as always, with great descriptions of fantastical machines, mixed in with the vivid pictures of London. While the regendering ends up being subtler than others I’ve done, I actually think it’s more effective. I hope you all enjoy the novel and I look forward to hearing what you think about it!

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I continue to be amazed at the work of H.G. Wells. Not just for his brilliant imagination and visions of the future but also for how gender neutral his writing is. This is the second novel of his I have regendered and in both cases, the result has been a novel with very few differences from the original.

One of the way’s he’s achieved this was through the use of first person perspective, along with generic, non-specific names for his characters. This means there isn’t the constant and regular references to characters using gender pronouns. Instead of having lots of HE’s and SHE’s, there is the gender neutral I.

Similarly, the protagonist’s name is abstracted to ‘The Narrator,’ rather than a specific name that might indicate gender, like John or Richard. This doesn’t quite work for the other characters since the generic names of The Artilleryman and Clergyman are obviously gendered, but it’s the protagonist, The Narrator, who’s featured most prominently.

These two relatively simple methods mean the novel has far fewer gender pronouns and nouns, or general terminology than most of the novels I’ve regendered. So much so, I’m actually curious to see if I can come up with a system to quantify it and compare different novels. But that’s a job for another day.

Even though the regendered version of the novel doesn’t differ too much from the original novel, I think it’s still worth a read. The effect is a subtle one, with just small gentle reminders that the novel is predominately filled with female characters rather than male ones.

This also made War of the Worlds one of the easier novels to regender. I don’t recall encountering any major obstacles in the process. The story is as good as ever, and worth a read for that reason along but the regendering effect isn’t as pronounced. This perhaps makes it a great choice for someone curious about regendered novel but doesn’t want something too jarring. Alternatively, it might be great for someone who’s read a few already and is looking for something a little more neutral. In either case, I’m curious to hear what other people think about this novel, so feel free to drop me a line on my website or through social media.


This week’s regendered novel is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Miss Hyde, available now for purchase on Amazon. The original novel concerned a distinguished doctor who created a concoction that unleashed his primal nature in the form of an alter ego. This is one of those stories I think everyone has some awareness of, even if they haven’t read the original novel themselves. No doubt it’s because, like The Prince and The Pauper, it’s a trope that’s been used time and again in various movies and television shows.

I was drawn to regendering this novel for two reasons; firstly, its premise has a timeless quality about it, with a board appeal, which explains why it’s been used so often. More importantly, for me, was the idea of exploring the different personalities everyone has inside them. Of course, the idea of someone having their identity and personality completely swapped is something I think is particularly relevant to The Regender Project.

Perhaps because of the innate duality within the novel, I didn’t find it as technically challenging as most of the others I’ve done so far. This was more than made up for by the challenge in designing a suitable cover for it. From the start I had a clear idea of what I wanted but I struggled to articulate it properly, much to the frustration of my cover designer. Thankfully a friend came to our aid, lending her artistic talents to the endeavour and providing a great illustration to work with. I owe her, and my designer, a debt of gratitude for pulling it off!

Author’s Note:

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Regendering Jekyll and Hyde was a fascinating experience. The novel already deals in duality, in the form of someone who has a controlled side of their personality at the same time as a wild side. While this has been reduced to a simple good vs evil debate, the original novel is more nuanced and deals more with the idea of people having to suppress their wilder impulses in order to conform to the morality of their societies and cultures.

I feel this theme makes the novel a great choice for regendering since it strikes at the very heart of one of the great gender imbalances in our society. While it applies to somewhat to men, it is predominantly women who have to suppress their desires and impulses in order to fit into the image society has of how they should look or act. In this sense, regendering this novel isn’t particularly enlightening but does help to illustrate the point and the dangers of trying to suppress parts of our nature.

I must also admit that one of things I enjoyed about regendering this novel was simply the conversion of Mr Hyde, another iconic name and character, into Miss Hyde. Just like Sherlock Holmes I liked how the regendering challenges the reader to imagine our world in a whole new light, without the male dominated preconceptions we usually have.


Welcome to this week’s official regendered novel release, The Scarlet Letter, available now for purchase from Amazon. The original novel, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was one of the first great American works of literature. Set in Puritanical New England, the regendered version follows a man who commits adultery, resulting in a child born out of wedlock, a grave sin in the 16th century. Refusing to name the mother of the child, he is ostracized from his community, forced to raise his son alone, on the outskirts of the town.

I’ve looked forward to working on The Scarlet Letter for some time now. I was particularly drawn to the idea of creating a story that now shows a male suffering from the same social stigma women have had to for so many centuries. This is precisely the sort of situation the project hopes to examine and explore.

The novel had its usual quirks when regendering, which I discuss further in the author’s note, but there’s one particular issue I wanted to mention. Central the original novel is the main character’s affair and subsequent pregnancy, even though it isn’t actually depicted. The regendered version requires a significant leap of faith on the part of the reader, since they need to believe it’s possible for a mother to hide her pregnancy and childbirth, particularly in a small, tight knit community in the 16th century.

To be honest, I’m still a little unsure how I want to handle these situations when regendering, so I’m using this novel to test the waters. In this case, I’ve chosen to ignore it for the most part, relying on the reader to accept such an improbable premise in order experience the rest of the story fully. It’s not an ideal solution but I hope you still find it an enlightening read.

Author’s Note:

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The Scarlet Letter was one of the novels I’ve looked forward to regendering ever since I began The Regender Project. It’s also proven to be one of the hardest to regender, both technically and in the way its tone was changed by the process.

The technical side was mostly due to the language used in the novel. Almost all the novels I work with are set in the 19th century, which has its own quirks in the way language is used compared to modern times. Set in the 17th century, The Scarlet Letter is as far removed again, making the language feel even more archaic and difficult to work with. For instance, all too often, people and events were mentioned obliquely, not directly, making it hard to follow who was being talked about at times. This was particularly important when regendering since I needed to make sure the gender pronouns still matched the regendered characters, which took a bit of deciphering.

The section at the start of the novel, The Custom-house, was also tricky to handle. It serves as a sort of prelude to the story, though it’s set well after the events, and details the narrator’s discovery of Hester’s story, and his search for more information. While this section is also fictitious, it’s also reminiscent of Hawthorne’s actual life, sharing many similarities to his own time working in a custom house and the experiences he had there. I decided keeping the narrator unchanged helped to anchor the story with historical accuracy around its original author.

Clergy also feature a lot in the novel. While I haven’t come up with a rule for how to regender them, it’s become somewhat of a habit to leave them unchanged as well. In this case, it wasn’t an option since Dimmesdale’s affair with Prynne is crucial to the story. Therefore, if I was going to regender one clergyman, I’d need to regender them all, though for some reason is feels far more jarring to historical accuracy than any other profession.

This in turn led to probably the biggest flaw resulting from regendering this novel. The original novel hinges on the idea that the father of Hester’s child is unknown. After regendering, we’re left with a situation where it’s the mother of the child who is not known. While this isn’t outside the realms of possibility, it does stretch plausibility quite a bit. A woman’s pregnancy and the effects of giving birth are far harder to hide than just an affair. And that doesn’t even take into account a mother’s bond with her baby, and the decreased likelihood she’d give up any involvement in raising the child. By and large I chose to ignore this issue, glaring as it is. Partly this is because the pregnancy and birth occur before the start of the story, effectively making them ‘off-screen’. It still requires a suspension of disbelief but it’s limited to this particular point and not prolonged throughout the novel. But the main was reason was I felt it helped to illustrate one possible cause of the double standard that exists in how we treat boys and girls with regards to sex: namely, it’s far easier for men to hide their involvement in the act along with having the option of not having to deal with the unwanted consequences, such as pregnancy.

Of course, the biggest issue I encountered when regendering the novel was how much the tone and themes changed. The original story presented us with Hester Prynne, a woman who instead of succumbing to the effects of being ostracised, takes the opportunity to think for herself and break free from the indoctrination her society imposes. While she does still consider her act a sin, she no longer believes it should condemn her for all time. This is exactly the sort of strong female characters I felt were lacking when I started The Regender Project. So, by regendering her character into the male Heston Prynne, I couldn’t help but feel I was undermining many of the goals I was striving for with the project.

Still, I couldn’t shake the appeal of regendering the novel. In particular, I was attracted to the idea of portraying a man going through the same persecution, and suffering the same consequences, that so many women have had to. I hope that by shining another light on this double standard, I’ll help foster the main goal I have for the project, which is to promote gender equality.


Welcome to the official release of The Princess and the Pauper – Regendered. It’s available now for purchase on Amazon! The story follows two young girls in 16th century England, one a princess and heir to the kingdom and the other a pauper. Circumstances arise which allows them to trade places, and they each must adapt and learn how to live in the others shoes. If this plot sounds familiar, then you’ve probably encountered one of the countless adaptions of it that’s appeared in movies and television shows.

While the central plot has been used over and over again, with varying degrees of success, I think it continues to be interesting and relevant. The idea of looking at someone else’s life and imagining the grass is greener for them is something that people continue to do. By showing us what it’s actually like for someone to live in another person’s life, we gain some insight into their reality, and hopefully a little more appreciation for our own lives. It feels like this trope is even more relevant in today’s social media age where all too often we get a false sense of how other people live based on what they choose to share with the world.

As usual, the novel presented its own unique challenges when I was regendering it. I talk about these in more detail in the Author’s Note, which I’ve included below. There aren’t too many spoilers in this one, so feel free to take a peak, but I’ve hidden it just to be safe.

Author’s Note:

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Once again, this novel was selected for The Regender Project due to its author as much as for the novel itself. I’ve admired the work of Mark Twain for ages and wanted to ensure I included something he’d written in the project. His two more famous works, the Adventures of Tom Sayer, and Huckleberry Finn, would have made great choices but I was particularly drawn to The Prince And The Pauper. The theme of characters swapping positions and roles, and discovering insight into how the other lives just resonated so much with what I’m trying to achieve with The Regender Project.

The biggest challenge I faced when regendering the novel was how I wanted to handle historical figures. One of the original ‘rules’ I established when creating The Regender Project was historical characters would remain unchanged and retain their original genders. Given this novel is centred on the royal family of England, I had to reassess this rule. In the end, I decided to keep the king, Henry VIII, and his wife, unchanged but regendered all the other characters. I felt this create enough of an anchor to its historical setting while also allowing the story to be regendered. It does end up creating an alternate version of history where one of the most famous kings of England had many sons and just a younger daughter who became his heir. It’s a situation I wanted to avoid but couldn’t in this case.

The next challenge was all the titles in the story. Just keeping track of them was difficult but the main issue was how biased they are towards males. While certain titles have obvious female equivalents, such as King and Queen, Duke and Duchess, and Baron and Baroness, there some many without them. Lords, Earls, and Sirs all regender to simply Lady. Not only would this have proven to be confusing, it didn’t accurately convey the differences in rank between the titles. I decided to regender Earls into Countesses, even though it’s a European rank not used in England.

As always, names proved to be a thorny issue. In this case, it was mostly due to the volume of them. Not only were there more characters than any of the other novels I’ve regendered but there were quite a few using the same name. ‘John’ in particular seemed very common, which no doubt mirrors the time the story’s set in. Regendering them all to the same name, such as ‘Jane’ or ‘Joan’, didn’t really have the same feel, as well as making the story a tad overly complicated. Therefore, I chose to regender each character into new, different names when they happened to share a first name.

Apart from these challenges, I found regendering the novel to be a delight. The end result keeps all the main themes and social commentary from the original novel but centres them around female characters. There is some sense of gender stereotypes are play, particularly with how now it is women who are presumed to be heirs and holders of important positions and titles. Also, the regendered novel features men portrayed as being soft, caring and nurturing, which is jarring a first but I think reinforces the lack of depth that female characters generally have.


First up, I want to apologise for the delay in officially releasing Billie Budd. I’d originally intended to post this blog last week, but in between gallivanting across New Zealand and unforeseen technical issues, I had to wait until today. The Book is now available for purchase from Amazon. I should also mention I’m experimenting with a new linking system, which should take you straight to the Amazon store appropriate for you region. Since I know a lot people maintain a US Amazon account, I’m not sure if this will end up being a benefit or a hindrance, so feel free to let me know which you prefer.

The original Billy Budd is a fascinating story even though it’s not as widely known as a classic these days. First published posthumously  in 1924 after its author, Herman Melville, died before completing it. It was a critical success upon its release, reaching the peak of its fame in the 1950’s and 60’s when it was adapted into a stage play, an opera, and a movie starring Peter Ustinov and Terence Stamp.

As a novel I’m particularly familiar with, Billy Budd was one of my first choices for regendering, becoming Billie Budd. Its original setting, a warship crewed exclusively by men, also made it particularly appealing for the project. But what really resonated with me, and what I think made it such a classic, was the moral dilemma central to the story. It’s not just a matter of right and wrong, but it also brings in the question of justice vs the letter of the law, particularly during times of war, along with trying best course of action in the context of a great conflict. I was pleased to see all these questions, which I feel are vital to the story, remained intact after regendering.

The Author’s Note, where I talk about the specific challenges I encountered when regendering this novel, doesn’t actually contain many spoilers. Still, I’ve hidden it just to be safe. I’m also experimenting with embedding the books, so you’ll be able to flick through a chapter or so to see if the story interests you enough to purchase.

Author’s Note:

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Billy Budd was a strange choice for inclusion since it’s not as well-known as Melville’s other work, Moby Dick. Technically it’s not even complete since it was published after his death from his notes. I hadn’t even heard of the novel before a few years ago when I encountered it during my studies. Then I came across it in two completely different subjects from two different universities.

While I enjoy the novel on its own merits due to its interesting plot and story, it is actually the setting that prompted me to select it for regendering. Even today, sailing tends to be a male dominated profession but back in the 19th century it was pretty much exclusively so. To me, regendering such a scenario represented the ultimate expression of the project.

Of course, it also led to quite a few complications beyond the ones I normally encountered during regendering. While the names weren’t any harder to regender, the fact the title of the novel is shared with the main character’s name gave me food for thought. I was tempted to change it slightly, to Billie, in order to reinforce the change in gender but given Billy can be used for a girl’s name, albeit uncommonly, I decided to stick to my guideline and leave it unchanged.

Where I encountered the biggest issues was in the terminology used throughout the book. Almost all the nautical terms used were male regendered, such as seaman or foretopman. These started to sound weird and awkward when referring to female characters, yet they are part of our history. In the end I decided to break the guidelines I had set and regender these terms. Partly it was to aid in readability but mostly to help create an image of what it might have been like on a ship with all female crew. It wasn’t a complete change, since I kept the tradition of referring to ships as females unchanged, as well as the big class of warships continuing to be called Men of War.

One of the interesting results of the regendering process was the change to one of the subtler elements of the novel. One reading of the novel suggests a homoeotic attraction on the part of Claggart towards Billy and it is his torment at the possibility that causes his antagonism. I’m not sure this carries over after the regendering.

Apart from that, the regendering of Billy Budd had a fascinating result. Perhaps what I found most interesting was how easy and natural it felt to have a ship of war with a completely female crew, led by a more than capable female captain whose qualifications for the job were never put into question due to her gender.

While I had originally published this novel under it’s original name, Billy Budd, I’ve decided changing the name slightly could be more effective. This was a result of my decision to change the protagonist’s name. At this point, it’s more of an experiment to see the effect of changing names more then necessary. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you think of the change.