It’s been quite a while since I read any Jane Austen fanfic, but a friend of mine lent me Mrs. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston. When you write in a post-copyright fandom, you can sell your fanfic just like Real Fiction. I’d love to write some Barsoom fanfic and get paid for the pleasure.
Mrs. Darcy’s Daughters is high on plot and low on atmosphere, not unlike the Jane Austen fanfic I used to read. The Darcys have gone off to Constantinople, leaving their young sons at Pemberley and their five daughters in London for the season. These daughters bear an uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Bennet’s troublesome brood, with one telling exception - there is no equivalent of Jane.
Two daughters are saucy, one preachy, two flirty. Our Lizzy-equivalent survives her requisite crush upon an unusual Wickham-equivalent, then manages to get into an Elinor-style bind with her cousin’s fiance. Yet nowhere do you see the stoicism that marks true Austen heroines. Instead, the author goes out of her way to point out the amoral nature of society’s restrictions. In Pride and Prejudice, blame for the waywardness of the younger Bennet daughters is attributed to the unequal marriage of their parents, but no explanation is ever given as to how Mrs. Darcy’s Daughters turned out so poorly.
Since true Austenfic revolves around issues of character, it is strange to find the five sisters unchanged in the end, except for the odd marriage or two (or three). Fanfic can be literary but in this case, despite the fancy trade-paperback binding, it isn’t.