Jane Austen is one of the most famous authors in the English language. Although her characters and situations are far removed from present-day, her novels have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide since her death in 1817. What other author continues to attract this much attention 200 years after their death?

She only completed six novels in her short 41 year life, but this relatively small trove of literature is now dwarfed by the millions of words that have been written about her, about her writing, and about her times. Scholarly and amateur papers, investigations, and speculations have been published. University degrees have been awarded.

There is now a worldwide Jane Austen organization that hosts elaborate annual conferences with events ranging from scholarly readings to costume parties. All this is a tribute to how readable her novels are.

Recently, enthusiastic amateur (and some professional) writers are adding their stories to the Jane Austen oeuvre. This is called JAFF — Jane Austen Fan Fiction — which takes Austen characters, or her novels, or Jane’s own life and times, and embellishes them in fictional ways. Some of it is quite good. For example Wendy Zomparelli’s novel, A Life of Her Own extends the Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility by taking a minor character and writing her life story.

Since I am a science fiction fan, I particularly like JAFF stories which incorporate a time travel element: people go back in time to when Jane Austen was alive and interact with her or influence her writing. One of the better novels in this subgenre is The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn.

I've even written several JAFF stories myself, describing what Jane Austen could have been doing in the little-documented period 1804 to 1809. No time travel in these stories — just speculation about what could have happened. If you are interested in reading my short story An Inch of Ivory, click the button below for a downloadable PDF.

Mike Trial
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