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Literature is getting smutty. Once reserved for guilty pleasures and dirty little secrets, some hugely successful erotic fiction has increased the popularity of the acceptability of erotic novels, so much so that some publishers are looking to cash in on adding some love scenes to classic novels. I’m not talking subtle sexual tension, I’m talking “explosive sex” scenes. E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey is being called the fastest-selling book of the year, and the “mommy porn” genre is becoming less taboo, so publishers of the racy take on well-known literature are “100% convinced that there’s a market out there” for steamy versions of 19th century novels.
One of my college lit professors taught that even brushing by a love interest or taking a man’s hand as he helped a lady out of a carriage could be explosive if you looked at them in the context of the time and the society in which they were written. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough for some modern readers who are jumping on the erotic novel trend. Even novels that were banned for being too racy in their own time, like Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, seem tame compared to the bondage in 50 Shades. So to spice up old classics so that they can compete with new, almost-pornographic books, an adult publisher is adding a few extra scenes to novels like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.
Total-E-Bound Publishing will publish digital erotic versions of classic novels in a collection called “Clandestine Classics.” Claire Siemaszkiewicz, founder of the company, says that she has “often wondered whether the Bronte sisters, if they were alive today, would have gone down the erotic romance route. There's a lot of underlying sexual tension in their stories.” Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre will have “explosive sex” with Mr. Rochester in the Clandestine Classic version. Catherine Earnshaw will take part in bondage with Heathcliff in the racy version of Wuthering Heights. Even Sherlock Holmes is being given a steamy twist: he will have a sexual relationship with Watson, his sidekick. The preview to the XXX Sherlock Holmes book reads: “As Watson reveals more of his desires to his lover, Holmes does his utmost to make sure those desires are met.” Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is also getting a sexy makeover.
The books aren’t being rewritten; the new adult scenes are being written to match the original author’s prose and style by some of the publishing company’s 250 erotica writers. This is similar to mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The aforementioned book is about 85% Jane Austen’s words, 15% co-author Seth Grahame-Smith’s. The classic tale was changed to take place in an “alternative universe version of Regency-era England where zombies (and indeed skunks and chipmunks) roam the English countryside,” according to Wikipedia. Just like the erotic version, this was a way to cash in by updating classic novels with current trends.
Why is all of the focus on classic novels? Surely adult versions of popular young adult books would prove popular. It all lies in copyright law. Classic novels are now in the public domain, so publishing companies can use them for free without having to pay royalties to the estates of the authors. Adding new scenes to a classic, free work is much more cost-effective than writing a whole new book, plus each classic has an established fan base who will no doubt discuss the new version.
So how do fans feel about the hot versions of their favorite novels? Jezebel found that some readers aren’t taking it well, calling it “glorified fanfiction,” though Total-E-Bound Publishing believes there is a demand. If you want to read about your favorite classic characters getting down and dirty, fire up your e-Reader: Clandestine Classics will be out on July 30.