Something Old, Something New

Citi Field, May 2022
Citi Field, May 2022

I re-told a classic story in the “After the Second Wave” world. The original is from Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado. Poe’s narrator lures an enemy into his family catacombs under the guise of inspecting a cask of Amontillado. Once in the catacombs, slightly drunk and coughing badly because of nitrates, the enemy is chained to a wall and entombed while still alive. The tale is spun by a cold, manipulative, and unreliable narrator… very Poe.

Writing a version of this tale in my world was interesting. As written, the story stays true to the original plot. And writing it was… easy? Fun? I didn’t have to spend cycles worrying about what should happen.

Poe’s style bled into my writing. He was from a different era, with a flair for the dramatic, a love of exclamation points and adjectives. In trying to emulate the feel of his narrator, an unstable man who committed a terrible act years ago, I wrote like Poe. It felt natural.. and one character is quite pompous, so this style befits his speech.

After completing a first version of this retelling, I’m worried it’s not interesting enough… and is just a copy, not a re-interpretation. Sure, the details are different, with new characters in a post-apocalyptic future (opposed to the nineteenth-century Italian setting of the original). But it doesn’t have any deviation from the original plot. Does it need… a different, more shocking outcome? When a story is “re-imagined”, how many does it need to deviate to be a unique work?

Often, when a story is said to be re-imagined, it’s just swapping the gender of characters, or setting the story in a different time and place. What is the dividing line… can updated details make the story new, or does the plot and ending have to differ as well?

In the end, I want to revisit this piece after a few weeks or months. I’ll pick up the story new and edit with fresh eyes, rather than trying to match how Poe set up his story.

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