6 Beloved SF/F Authors Who Hated Their Legacies

clockworkIt’s the damnable literary cousin to typecasting: a surprising number of authors hated the one thing they were remembered for the most. Arthur Conan Doyle, plagued by success (and reader expectations) went so far as to violently murder his super-detective Sherlock Holmes in 1893, only to cave in and bring him back to life a decade later for more adventures, paving the way for another century of pop culture domination and further cementing the author’s legacy to that of his famous creation.

But there are more contenders: Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, regretted the novel’s vast impact on sharkphobia. The tale of a dorsal-finned terror might not be science fiction proper, but the science was certainly fictional—no shark actually develops a taste for human flesh, goes “rogue,” or starts haunting public beaches for snacks (nor do they seem particularly prone to revenge fantasies, but that’s chum for an entirely different post about ludicrous sequels). Yet, as this year’s 40th anniversary event proves, the 1975 film Jaws was just too blockbusting for the public to care about the facts. Benchley went on to dedicate his career to protecting sharks, even writing a non-fiction book on ocean conservation.In his honor, I present this list of other science fiction or fantasy authors who wound up hating their own Frankenstein’s monsters.

Jaws isn’t the only anniversary this year: Alice in Wonderland turns a whopping 150 years old this November. If you’re unfamiliar with the author’s real name—Charles Dodgson—there’s a reason: he took the Lewis Carroll pseudonym to escape the fame that eventually made him regret the world’s most popular and enduring work of literary nonsense.
“All that sort of publicity leads to hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and treated as a ‘lion,'” he wrote in a recently revealed letter. “And I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all.”

Anthony Burgess was haunted by A Clockwork Orange 

Burgess jotted down his 1962 dystopian novel in the span of just three weeks. It was full of sex and violence, written entirely for the money, and ended with the protagonist repenting of his choices in the final chapter. The American publisher cut the final chapter for a more “realistic” ending, Stanley Kubrick based his hit film off of the very different version, and Burgess hated the only story he was known for afterwards.”The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about,” he said, “and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”

P.L. Travers wished Mary Poppins had stayed on the page

Picture Mary Poppins. You’re thinking of Julie Andrews, aren’t you? Dick van Dyke and dancing animated penguins, perhaps? (If you’re me, you yelled “Mhary Popp’ns!” in a terrible cockney accent.) P.L. Travers’ fantastical book series followed a far sterner nanny than the sugary sweet one in the Disney film, which Travers abhorred (she reportedly cried through the film’s 1964 premiere). Yet it is the film that has become almost the sole legacy of her classic children’s books: even the stage version is a combination of the books and the film. As a final insult, Disney made a similarly Disneyfied version of the making of the movie, 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks. They were just rubbing it in at that point.
According to his son, the real “Christopher Robin,” A.A. Milne regretted his masterpiece because it was his masterpiece: he never topped his tales of lovable talking woodland creatures, despite a prolific writing career. Christopher Milne never escaped his fictional persona either, and possibly regretted that silly old bear even more than his dad. Even the artist who illustrated the books hated them, as they overshadowed his political cartoon work. Disney really loved them, though. So there’s that.

Alan Moore hates every adaption of his work. And all modern film.

Moore’s bibliography is an impressive list of influential graphic novels: Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell. Unfortunately, they are so good, Hollywood keeps adapting them, and Moore hates the end result every single time. Eventually, he realized that he just hates adaptions, saying “I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying.” (He was speaking about the Zack Snyder-directed 2009 film, which he panned without even watching.)
“It spoon-feeds us,” he said, further explaining his general opinion of modern film, “which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open, waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms.” So he didn’t like it.

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