Animal Revolution = Russian Revolution? How interesting!
Explosive books lead to explosive sales, as British bookseller Waterstones can prove with whopping year-to-date figures: a 50% increase in political book revenue. The explanation? A frightened—and growing—mass of writers and readers “urgently seeking to understand this scary new world.” Though hot, controversial releases like Michael Wolff‘s Trump exposé Fire and Fury and Tim Shipman‘s Brexit commentary All Out War have been driving these sales, the relationship between divisive politics and modern literature is hardly a new phenomenon.
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These new figures are only a continuation of an ongoing trend, with political literature moving to the forefront after the “twin surprises” of 2016, Trump and Brexit. As early as January 25, 2017, just days after Trump formally took office, George Orwell‘s 1984 sales spiked as Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway infamously coined the phrase “alternative facts.” Many compared Conway’s comment to 1984‘s concept of “doublethink,” a relevant term to describe the acceptance of contradictory truths. While always a political text, activists continue to cite the book during protest, with signs such as “1984 is a work of fiction, not an instruction manual” grabbing headlines.
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Fear over restriction of women’s rights took hold early in the Trump administration, leading to a February 2017 spike in sales of Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood speaks to its timeless relevance: “when it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched; however, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at some time.” In the wake of the #MeToo movement, works with similar themes have burst into the public consciousness. Naomi Alderman‘s prizewinning The Power depicts a reality in which women have the power to cause pain by violence and consequently live without fear.
“What the raw numbers don’t communicate,” comments Waterstones politics buyer Clement Knox, “is a larger belief permeating through the publishing world that the present poses questions that must be addressed and that writers have an obligation to turn their attention to those questions.”
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So it may be that ‘all’s well that ends well,’ but some of these books nearly didn’t! The secret alternate endings of these five popular novels are different from the endings that made it to our bookshelves. (That’s ‘different’ as a synonym for completely bizarre.) Some endings changed the tone of the story in ways the author decided against. Some endings changed other important things, like whether or not anyone would buy the book.
1. The Fault in Our Stars
It’s hard to imagine John Green changing one thing about his devastating hit The Fault in our Stars (besides the title, which would work just as well as Buckets of Our Tears). Actually, Augustus’ death was almost the second most tragic thing about the novel. In a twist that Green himself describes as “epically terrible,” the novel initially ended with Hazel Grace and author Van Houten attempting to murder a drug dealer in order to honor Augustus’ life… knowing that they will likely die (just relatable teenager things). This ending supposedly lasted only forty pages, which begs the question—what? It gets worse. Green also considered using the ending of the novel to explore the Trolley Problem—which, to sum it up, asks whether it’s more morally heinous to let a trolley crush five people or to personally divert the train to crush only one person. His editor admitted later that she “[couldn’t] tell whether or not it [was] a joke.” It wasn’t.
2. The Dream Thieves
Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle series stands as one of the most positively critically reviewed YA series of all time. Its second book, The Dream Thieves, is particularly rife with the dark (best friends replaced with subservient clones) and the delightful (every possible use of ‘Dick’ as a nickname for Richard). In one earlier draft, troubled protagonist Ronan enters into a magical drag race with distinctly-more-troubled antagonist Kavinsky—which, contextually, is not as strange as it sounds. The two subsequently have their magic race up the side of a mountain, and in a reckless but astoundingly unsurprising move, Kavinsky drives his car off the edge of a cliff. Stiefvater herself summarizes the whole plot as: “Fireball! Death!” This is also an excellent description of the novel’s actual ending. However, this earlier draft lacks the redemptive elements and positive LGBT representation of the rewrite—especially since the rewrite is also full of cars and danger.
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
One of the most chilling lines in the Harry Potter universe reads: neither can live while the other survives. It would then logically follow that… to use J.K.’s own words… neither can live while the other survives. So it doesn’t exactly add up that J.K. Rowling almost concluded her series with Voldemort AND Harry surviving. In one strange version of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ending, the spirits of Voldemort’s dead parents appear during their showdown to comfort Harry and turn Voldemort into a child. When Voldy tries to zap Harry with his final curse, it rebounds, freezing him as a living statue. If you’re wondering how the rebounded spell doesn’t kill him, you can keep on wondering—there is no real explanation. Fortunately, we have the original standoff between Harry and Voldemort, as well as all the powerful scenes and lines that come with it.
4. Thirteen Reasons Why
Especially after its TV debut, Thirteen Reasons Why is almost universally recognizable as a story of the tragic suicide of a high school student and the following series of upsetting confessional tapes detailing fellow students’ contributions to her death. But what if Hannah didn’t die? According to author Jay Asher, that’s exactly what almost happened. As the near-suicide of a close relative inspired Asher’s work, he considered that Hannah might also live. In the end, he decided against it. He felt that Hannah’s survival meant fewer consequences for the students who tormented her, as well as lower stakes surrounding the issue. Asher explained: “it felt false for this particular story and for the seriousness of the issue. If someone goes through with a suicide, there are no second chances for anyone involved.”
We all recognize George Orwell‘s 1984 as the classic behind the phrase “Big Brother is watching.” Fewer people know that this grim tale once had an alternate ending—one that made the ending tonally more optimistic (not an easy feat, given how depressing this story gets). Free-thinking Winston undergoes torture in order to destroy any part of him that might rebel against the novel’s totalitarian government. But just before the end, he has a brief nervous break and thinks to himself: 2 + 2 = 5. This signifies the extent to which Winston, wholly indoctrinated, now accepts Big Brother’s lies. However, Orwell’s first edition tells a different story. There, the sentence ends with 2 +2 = (without the number 5), implying that Winston manages to hold onto some sense of self and that resistance is real. One letter subtly but unmistakably changes the meaning of the entire novel… and makes it a whole lot sadder.
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George Orwell’s beloved dystopian, Animal Farm, is coming to the small screen. Netflix has bought Andy Serkis’ feature film adaptation of Animal Farm and will work with the director-producer to develop it.
Director Andy Serkis, who may be familiar due to his recent role in Black Panther, acquired the rights to Animal Farm in 2012 with the intention of adapting it into a TV series. Since then he’s been looking for a home for the series and has finally found one in Netflix, though it will air as a film instead of a series. Serkis will produce it alongside Matt Reeves, Rafi Crohn, Adam Kassan, and Jonathan Cavendish.
Andy Serkis | Image Via Getty Images
Serkis commented that Netflix is the “perfect creative home” for Orwell’s dystopian story. The successful media provider is certainly known for being a home to many successful dystopian and sci-fi series, including Black Mirror. With the success of Black Mirror and the overall popularity of Orwell’s classic novella, it’s no surprise that Netflix had jumped on board.
In an age in which equality is at the forefront of public discourse, now is as good a time as any for an adaptation of Animal Farm to hit screens and the producers are very much aware of that.
Cavendish told Deadline that the producers intend to approach the adaptation in a “contemporary fashion” which will, “highlight the staggering relevance today of the satirical and dramatic power of Orwell’s re-imagined classic.”
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For as long as we have been granted freedoms, there have been people fighting to take those freedoms away; this is the most human of cycles. There has never been (and will likely never be, at least not right now) a time when people haven’t had to stand up against the systemic and societal oppression they’ve been forced to deal with everyday.
We’ve been warned about what can happen when we allow ourselves to stop caring about the state of the world and the other people inhabiting it by authors since the beginning of time; the entire dystopian genre is centered around it. So, don’t allow yourself to grow sedentary but also don’t grow too fearful; for as many greedy, selfish, oppressive, bad figureheads there are in existence, there are way, way more of us who really do care and move with empathy while fighting for a world of genuine equality.
So, take a look at these thirteen quotes from dystopian novels and give yourself that extra push you may need to keep marching forward!
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“Every faction conditions it’s members to think and act a certain way. And most people do it. For most people, it’s not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way. But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can’t be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can’t be controlled. And it means that, no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them.” Veronica Roth, Divergent
“Did you ever feel, as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell, 1984
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it.” Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
“Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.” Lois Lowry, The Giver
“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.” Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
“Tell freedom I said hello.” Lauren DeStefano, Wither
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
“I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.” Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave
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