I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the process of adaptation, and I’ve written a couple of posts about the dangers of adapting a much-loved story and the fallacy of thinking there is a “right” version of any legendary material. It got me thinking about what can and can’t be changed.
More literature is adaptation than people tend to think. With the rise of printing and then the rise of copyright law, coupled with a post-romantic idea of “inspiration” over imitation, I think we’ve forgotten that there’s nothing really new under the sun. And this is a good thing – the stories of the past are part of how we understand ourselves. But, when you’re adapting, how far is too far?
I am personally of a vaguely Swansonesque persuasion in that, that is to say, for the most part I think people should be free to do with existing material what they wish. That said, if you travel too far from the original then you lose that sense of working with something and remaking it creatively – and remaking is in many ways at least as creative as making new.
That said, I’m yet to come across any Arthuriana that successfully translates the story through time (except perhaps Avalon High, for its shameless disnified tweenieness). I’d be very interested to read one (or perhaps write one one day, ho ho). But that said, every version seems to shuffle things around; family relations, the order of events, goodies baddies etc. And I think that’s what’s attracted me to it the most.
So really I’m just interested to know – what do others consider when they adapt? What is “off-limits”? What’s “fair play”? Does anyone know of any adaptations of *any* stories that have worked particularly well?