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.
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