THE REGENDER PROJECT: Around the World in Eighty Days

Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days” is the second regendered novel I’m officially releasing and it’ll be available for free for a short time. It wasn’t actually the second novel I worked on and has only been completed relatively recently. The reason I moved it up in the release order was because of how much I enjoyed reading the regendered version. It proved to be such an easy read, while at the same time demonstrating everything I wanted from regendering a novel.

While the feat itself is fairly easy to achieve these days, there’s still something about a race against time, particularly towards a destination or along a route, we can call relate to. Anyone who’s ever missed a train, bus, or connecting flight knows just how much of a difference it makes to their total journey. Throw in a few obstacles and mishaps and you have a classic adventure story.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most was how easy it was to read after regendering. It read just like every other adventure novel, and the fact the main protagonist, along with most of the other characters, were now female had almost no impact on the story. Perhaps there was some bending in how characters behaved in their new genders compared to what we might expect, but that’s exactly the story of impact I’m looking for by regendering novels. To explore gender stereotypes and our preconceived notions of how they should act.

As usual, Around the World in Eighty Days had its own unique challenges and quirks to address. You can read more about them in the author’s note below. Be warned, though, it may contain spoilers if you’re not familiar with the story.

Author’s Note:

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Around the World in Eighty Days has probably been the most enjoyable novel for me to regender so far. While still a classic piece of literature, like all the others, at its heart it is still an adventure tale.

While the main protagonist is English, there was a number of major foreign characters, with matching names and vocabularies. For the most part, these were fairly straight forward to regender but some, like Fogg’s companion, Jeanne Passepartout, caused me some consternation. One of the guidelines I’d set for regendering was to keep names the same whenever they were used for both genders. This didn’t quite work out in this case since, while Jean works as a female name in English, the original male character’s name is French. I decided I needed to bend the guideline a little and change the name to Jeanne, the French female version of Jean.

One of the more interesting effects of the regendered novel was the transformation of Aouda into a ‘bachelor in distress’. That phrase itself doesn’t quite regender from ‘damsel in distress’, but the effect is the same. Aouda remains the same passive, secondary character that women are generally relegated to in most forms of narrative. Seeing a male character put into that role, and subservient to the proactive female characters, felt quite jarring at times, which is exactly the effect I’m trying to achieve with the Regender Project.

Speaking of Aouda, he’s the subject of another section I had particular difficulty with. In the original text, Aodua is female and is described by comparing her to a famous passage that describes a queen. After regendering her, this no longer makes as much sense since the now male character is being compared to a beautiful, historical queen. Since the passage is a historical piece of work, it also didn’t fit my own guidelines to regender the queen into a king. After much back and forth, I decided that having the male Aouda compared to the female queen was the best option to use, though it doesn’t quite flow as well as I’d like.

Finally, I should also mention the cover. As most of you are probably aware by now, Philomena Fogg’s trip around the world doesn’t involve a balloon at all. It’s briefly considered as an option but she quickly dismisses the idea. Yet the balloon has become intricately associated as a symbol for the story ever since the 1956 movie. Even knowing how false it was, I had the image stuck in my mind from the moment I chose the novel for regendering and just couldn’t shake it when it came time to create the cover.

The Regender Project: A Study In Scarlet

As promised, here is the first novel I chose to regender, A Study in Scarlet. It’ll be available for free for a short time, so grab it while you can. The original novel marked the first appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Ever since I started developing The Regender Project, one of the images that’s been stuck in my mind was the famous detective being portrayed as a woman. I had no doubt one of his stories would feature as my first regendered work.

Even being the first novel, I found the experience of regendering it wildly different from what I’d expected. While the process may seem straight forward, and in so many ways it was, there were plenty of little quirks and quibbles that gave me pause. Most of the regular ones I’ve talked about in the Regendered Project: Method page, but each novel seems to have its own unique set of challenges.

I’ve decided to include an author’s note with each novel where I talk about these issues and choices I made with that particular work. I’d originally planned to place it at the front of the novel, serving as an introduction, but realised there were quite a few spoilers in them. While I know the original version of these novels are over a hundred years old, I figured there’d be plenty of people who might not have read them or didn’t remember them clearly, so I’ve placed them at the end.

I’ll also include the notes when I introduce each novel on this blog, so you can get an idea of what it might be like after the regending. They’re hidden behind the spoiler tag below, so you’ll need to click to read them, but do so at your own risk!

Author’s Note:

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A Study in Scarlet was the first novel I chose to regender, and as such is probably a little rougher in the methods I used to do it. What appealed to be about this novel was how iconic the central character is, with Sherlock appearing in dozens, if not hundreds, of various adaptations. Even with all the small changes arising from different interpretations, we’re so used to seeing Sherlock portrayed in a certain way, and almost always male, that I felt it was the perfect way to showcase what I was trying to achieve with the Regender Project.

Similarly, the transformation of Victorian era London from a patriarchal society, where men held all the positions of authority and importance, to a more matriarchal one was just as enlightening.
The biggest transformation was in the second half of the novel, set amongst a Mormon community. Suddenly, it was women who kept a brood of husbands, along with having their choice of which ones to add. It also created a challenge in how I would regender historical characters within a story. One of the guidelines I decided to use was leaving historical figured unchanged, so as not to create an alternate version of history. I hadn’t thought about what to do with historical figures who appeared as characters, as Bringham Young does in this novel. While it might have been interesting to present him as having multiple husbands as well, that didn’t quite fit with what I was trying to do with regendering. Fortunately, there weren’t any references to his wives in the novel, which would become husbands after regendering, so I was able to leave his character male without creating too much of a disconnect. It does present an interesting situation where, within my regendered version of the novel, he’s helped found a society that’s effectively ruled and controlled by women. While not precisely the scenario I am trying to create, it provides just as much thought and discussion on the issue.

Overall, I found regendering A Study in Scarlet to be even more fascinating than I thought it’d be. So much so, I’ll probably regender more Sherlock Holmes stories in the future.

Introducing: The Regender Project

While I briefly introduced Regender Project in my earlier post,  I thought I might take a moment to introduce it properly and explain what it’s all about.

WHAT IS THE REGENDER PROJECT?

The Regender Project stems from my growing awareness of how unbalanced the genders are represented in nearly all forms of fiction. It’s most obvious in the case of movies, where all the main protagonists are male. So too the antagonists. Supporting cast as well. Even the minor characters are generally played by men. In fact, only 31% of named characters and 30% of speaking roles are given to women.

It’s also rare for these roles to be as substantial as the ones given to their male counterparts. All to often, women are relegated to being the love interest or just defined by their relationships to men. American cartoonist Alison Bechdel perfectly illustrated this with her Bechdel-Wallace test, which in order to pass, a movie must have: two women in it, who talk to each other about something besides a man. It’s pretty sad how many films fail such a simple test.

And literature is not much better either. In fact, it’s worse since so much more of it has been written over the centuries.

THE PROBLEM

I grew up believing this was normal, without really questioning it or seeing it as a problem. If anything, it just made sense for movies and books to show more men in the most prominent positions since that just mirrored the real world; most politicians, senior officials, senior managements and just prestigious jobs were filled predominantly by men.

Of course, that begs the question: Are women underrepresented in fiction because that’s what it’s like in the real world? Or is the real world predominantly male because women are underrepresented in fiction? If people are told from an early age, in multiple different forms of narratives, that only men can fill such roles or perform those tasks, is it any wonder that girls and boys accept this in the real world?

TAKING ACTION

Thankfully things are changing. There’s a growing awareness of this issue and many people are taking steps to address it and hopefully correct it. As a writer, I vowed to do my best to ensure my own writing represented the genders in a balanced way, but I couldn’t help thinking I could do more. After all, there were centuries upon centuries of literature to overcome.

It was while thinking about that mountain of existing work I had the seed of an idea.

  • What if those novels could be rewritten so they were balanced in how they represented the genders?
  • How much differently would they read and what sort of view of the world would they portray?

As interesting as that would be, I decided it wasn’t enough. I wanted to show just how unbalanced the representations of the genders had become by showing the complete opposite. The only way to do that would be to rewrite them with all the male characters becoming female and all the male characters becoming female. I dubbed the process, Regendering.

THE REGENDER PROJECT

So, taking classic works that had entered the public domain, I started to rewrite them, following a loose set of guidelines I had developed. It’s still very much a work in progress as I adapt and learn more, but so far the results have been illuminating. So far I’ve completed a number of regendered novels which are available here, and my goal is to release two new ones a month. I’ll introduce each of them when they’re ready so you can learn more about that particular novel and what experience I had regendering it. Check back here for the first of those to appear later this week, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you up to date as I release more books!

A Collection of Unfortunate Tales

Hello again!

First up, this has been a crazy week. Well, a crazy few weeks actually. It’s amazing how many things need to be done in order to build a website and launch a collection of books. No doubt it’ll continue to be crazy around here while I get on top of everything.

On the plus side, the reason everything is so crazy is because I’ve actually got books to put out. Quite a few books actually. The bulk of them will be for The Regender Project, but I also have some of my own writing to release.

My original goal when I set out to become an author was to write novels. While that’s still my plan, I’ve found short stories to be a better format to use while learning the writing craft. They’re certainly not easier. If anything, I find them to be quite a bit harder, but their size means they can be finished within a reasonable amount of time. I can then learn from having finished a completed piece of writing before moving on to the next one.

The end result is that, as I’ve practiced and worked on my writing, I’ve collected quite a few stories. As I mentioned in this post, it is these stories I’ll be releasing together as A Collection of Unfortunate Tales, accompanied by a free promotion.

Most of the stories in the collection are fairly quirky, with a few twists and turns thrown in, but they’re quite diverse in the tones they have. They range from comedic, to thought provoking, to ones that are a little more dark. Hopefully that means there’s something for everyone in it.

So grab a copy of A Collection of Unfortunate Tales by clicking the link below. It’s free for a short time, so be sure to tell all your friends about it also, and leave a review about what you think of it!

Also, be sure to check back later in the week when I introduce The Regender Project properly, along with the first of its novels!

A New Year and a New Beginning

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year’s period. Mine was pretty fantastic but also filled with a fair amount of work. As you might have noticed, my website has been completely overhauled. I didn’t mind the old one but it had turned into more of a diary and personal journal than I had originally intended it to be. I decided since I was ready to release some books this year it made sense to give the site a fresh start as well. Turns out that rebuilding a website takes a bit more time than I thought, and while I’m happy with the results so far, I’ll keep working on it over the next few months to make it better and easier for everyone to use.

Did you notice how I snuck releasing books in there? Yep, I’m finally ready to ready some real pieces of work and start promoting them. Previously I’d published some short stories but it was mostly to get some experience in the self-publishing process and working with Amazon. Those stories are now included in my first original work, A Collection of Unfortunate Tales, along with the best of the other stories I’ve written over the last few years. They’re mostly quirky tales, with a few twists and turns thrown in. There’s also a wide range in their tones, so there is something for everyone in the collection.

The other major release I have is The Regender Project. It’s something I’ve been working on for a few years now, and thinking about for even longer. You can read more about it on The Rengender Project page but the short version is, I’ve taken classic novels and re-written them after swapping the genders of all the characters. So Sherlock Holmes is now a woman, as is Dr Jekyll, whose alter ago has become Miss Hyde. The goal in doing this is to help promote gender equality by illustrating how unbalanced the genders have been represented, historically, in fiction.

Having worked on the project for a while, I now have a number of regendered novels are available. I’d originally planned to release them, one at a time, during the first week of January, along with a free promotional period. Unfortunately, it turns out publishing can take more time and effort also, so I’ve had to adjust my plan somewhat. I’ll now be introducing one of the books each week, along with the free promotional period until I’ve caught up with all the novels I’ve regendered. Then I’ll switch to releasing two new books a month for the rest of the year. Sign up to my newsletter now so I can keep you up to date with all these releases.

In the meantime, click on this link to download and read my short story collection, free for a short time, then feel free to write a review telling me what you think!

Leif Smart spent most of his life tinkering with technology, eventually turning it into a career, of sorts. At the back of his mind, however, he always dreamed about creating fantastical stories, set on far off planets or amongst mystical lands. When he finally grew tired of trying to fix the never ending computer problems of the world, he knew it was time to chase the dream. So, armed with a steady supply of skinny lattes and under the indifferent watch of his cat, Aeolyn, he set out to do just that.

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