In a recent article – Taking a Leaf Out of Somebody Else’s Book – I wrote about how easily science fiction absorbs stories from other genres. I suggested that writers take the plots of non-scifi stories as inspiration for their own works to generate interesting cross-genre story ideas. You can read the article here.
One example I used was the story of ‘Jayne Eyre’ but set on an alien world where humans have imposed themselves as the aristocratic masters of a technologically inferior native species. Shortly after writing this I realized that another, more interesting story would better suit this setting. It’s called ‘I Walked With a Zombie’
‘I Walked With a Zombie’ was a 1943 horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur. It’s plot was heavily influenced by ‘Jayne Eyre’ and centred around a love story involving a rich and troubled master with a sick wife (the brooding type) and his somewhat subservient female employee. However, it had a dark twist that fits perfectly with the science fiction setting I have proposed.
Here’s a quick outline of the original plot…
A shy Canadian nurse, Betsy Connell, travels to a remote and somewhat eerie Caribbean island to work as a live-in carer for the wife of a wealthy plantation owner, Paul Holland. Holland’s wife has been bedridden and catatonic for several years. Betsy and Mr Holland slowly fall in love (or is it lust?) even though Mr Holland is supposedly dedicated to his comatosed wife (19th century stereotypes are such pigs).
Ok, so it’s basically ‘Jayne Eyre’ so far but here’s the twist: Mr Holland’s plantation is worked by former slaves who, although recently freed, despise the Holland family for the many injustices done to them over the years. It turns out that they are responsible for Mrs Holland’s ill-health; they have cursed her with their voodoo magic!
Using the same voodoo magic (and with the help of a voodoo doll) the plantation workers take control of Mrs Holland’s body, making her roam the halls of her mansion in a zombified state. Slowly but surely they lure their victim towards them.
How does the story end? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film. Or you can write your own version of the story with an ending of your own design.
What to Change
All you need to do is switch the location of the story to another planet and turn the slaves into aliens, and wham – a creative reinterpretation of a classic horror/romance.
Of course, you can change the plot as much as you want and add/remove ancillary characters as you see fit. I also think it would be a good idea to see things from the alien/slave’s point of view a little more, so as to better understand their motivation. Some background information on how the aliens became slaves would also be interesting, as would a detailed description of the alien landscape. Details like this are where your interpretation of the story would really come into its own.
If anybody does decide to develop this idea please let me know. I’d love to see how it turns out.