(First of all, this was posted in a different category, so I apologize for not posting this here sooner)
As you may have guessed, I am a major ATTWN (And Then There Were None) fan. It is, in my opinion, Agatha Christie’s best novel. I love everything about it, including the characters (my personal favourite is Vera Claythorne; I find I enjoy writing for her the most) and enjoy writing fanfiction for it. I am a truly sincere and devoted fan. Others, however, may scoff at that remark. Which others? The purists. If I were to call myself a pureblood purist, such a remark would be met with scorn and merciless flames by any purist who has read my stories.
But first, let me explain a bit about ATTWN’s back story in order for you to better understand the situation (I should warn you now that there will be SPOILERS ahead). The original story does not end on a happy note. There are no heroes who defeat the villain and live happily ever after. The two characters who could have solved the mystery together, Philip Lombard and Vera Claythorne, both die. Vera shoots Lombard through the heart, and hangs herself minutes after. The murderer’s confession is found in a bottle floating in the ocean, revealing everything, by which time it is too late. Not a very happy ending, now is it? But it is a satisfying one for those who are sick of seeing the same ‘they-all-lived-happily-ever-after’
The book was greeted with very positive reviews, many of which claimed that at last, Agatha Christie had written a book that now surpassed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as her masterpiece (which is a fine book in itself, and the solution is indeed very clever, and it deserved a much better adaptation than the treatment it got from the Suchet version). An adaptation of some shape or form was inevitable. She received a request from Reginald Simpson to be allowed to dramatize it, but she refused, stating that if anyone were to adapt the story for the stage, she would the first to do it.
Now in the past, several others have adapted her stories for the stage, and her main complaint was not that they strayed away from the original novel, but that they stuck too close, because she felt a mystery should surprise people. In addition to, she personally felt that the novel’s ending would not work for the stage because there would be no one left to tell the tale (however, it has been used for the more recent stage adaptation by Kevin Elyot a few years ago, and from what I hear in the reviews, it did indeed work just splendid). This in mind, she altered the ending so that Lombard and Vera were innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, survived, and fell in love. The subsequent Hollywood adaptations all used the play’s ending with a very slight modification; the one adaptation to actually use the novel’s ending was a Russian film made a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union called Desyat Negrityat (Ten Little Negroes).
While some AC fans approve of the changed ending, others—lots of others to the point where it could be said the majority of them—did not. They felt it was a cheap cop-out that butchered the story, which was supposed to be an intriguing murder mystery that was also part psychological thriller, not a sappy love story.
And what is my opinion on all this? Personally, I am neutral—the novel’s ending is very well-written and goes against what you would typically expect in such a story; however, I have always wanted to see Lombard and Vera get together. I admit it, mea maxima culpa: I am a Lombard/Vera shipper. I can’t really point a figure at the exact thing that makes me root for them, but I can say there are a lot of things you can do with their relationship that feeds an author’s fetish to exercise the imagination.
Now the play is well-written, except I personally felt that Lombard and Vera’s relationship was a bit, well...rushed. They go from an infatuation on day one, to something of a relationship on day two, to being engaged by the final act. I know the alternate ending to the Ten Little Indians rhyme is ‘He got married and then there were none’, but let’s be honest: If we were in such a situation, would marriage really be the first thing on our minds? The 1945 movie version handled it much more realistically, but (aside from Vera’s crime being watered down which was the biggest let-down for me personally) I was sorely disappointed there was no kiss. A hug? That’s it? We hug our brothers and sisters, but does that mean we are in love with them? No, it does not. The biggest offender of handling it poorly, however, is the 1965 version. The relationship is handled realistically until the third murder; after which, everything leaps from kissing to intimate hugging to love making that’s poorly implied. In that adaptation, it really feels as though it was added in for the sake of showing off Shirley Eaton in her underwear, and Hugh O’Brian shirtless. I have not seen subsequent Hollywood adaptations, and from the little I have heard of them, thank God I haven’t!
Longing to see Lombard and Vera in each other’s arms, but unsatisfied with what was offered, I resolved to write my own AU story based on the book of them surviving the ordeal and gradually falling in love while overcoming their inner demons. Just to give myself a bit of a challenge, I decided to make the story 50 chapters long. After I planned everything out, I needed just one, small detail: The title. I spent weeks agonizing over what the title could possibly be, until I came across an IMDB review for Desyat Negrityat where the reviewer said they were satisfied to see everyone end up where they were supposed to because, in their own words, “it is called ‘And Then There Were None’, not ‘And Then There Were Two’”. Thus, And Then There Were Two was born.
I had my fears that I would be mercilessly flamed by any purists who stumbled across my story by accident. To my relief, only one purist reviewed a few times. According to them, the story was well-written, but they personally believed the book’s ending was far more appropriate. Fair enough, I say. You can’t please everybody. At least they thought it was well-written, that's all that matters.
My other AU was not based on the book itself, but on a film version of the book. Remember when I mentioned the Russian film version, the one that was the only film adaptation to have the balls to use the novel’s ending? That’s the one. It was not enough for me to create an AU for the book, now I have to create one for (in my opinion) the best movie adaptation of the book as well. But why? Why would I want to create an AU based on a movie when I already have an AU based on its source material if the movie is already so faithful to the book in the first place?
Yes, about that, it will also require another back story: Desyat Negrityat is an extremely well-made movie. The acting is outstanding, the score haunts you for weeks, the setting of the house is close to how you would imagine it, and it is extremely faithful to the book, all the way to its pessimistic ending. Well...it’s almost 100% faithful. There’s no use mentioning the minor details that don’t even matter, so I might as well mention the two, major deviations from the novel, both of which will be listed out of chronological order so I can get to my point faster: First, the murderer’s motive is slightly changed and instead of a message in a bottle at the end, they just have an internal monologue and shoot themselves. Second, there is a scene between Lombard and Vera in which...well...he rapes her. There, I said it. I was blunt. He rapes her.
See, what happens is, after the sixth murder, Vera is getting undressed for bed when she thinks she hears Cyril’s voice coming from Lombard’s room so she follows it there, and there’s no one but a drunk Lombard who offers her a drink. He grabs her and kisses her and begins to undress her despite her protests, and they fall on the bed. Vera threatens to scream, but Lombard reminds her she came to his room half-naked. At the same time, however, it also plays out as more of an imposed love-making session (I couldn’t really explain HOW, you would have to see the film for yourself in order to understand what I’m talking about). In the technical sense, it is rape; she said no, did not react out of fear, tried to stop him from undressing her, he refused to listen, and tried to convince her it was her fault.
In spite of the fact that the scene was not in the book, it still managed to work. Needless to say, the scene itself sparked an idea in my head: What if they had conceived a child in that moment? How would Vera deal with it? How would Lombard? It took me a while, but eventually, I came up with a storyline that I liked: Vera takes Lombard to court and deals with her pregnancy while Lombard fights to prove his innocence. The story in question is called Aftershock, so named after the scientific term for the earthquake that occurs after another (the main shock), which seemed to fit in with the story: The main shock was the events on the island. The aftershock was Vera persecuting Lombard and learning she was pregnant. So far, I have received fairly positive reviews; however, I did indeed receive a review from the same purist, and they were surprisingly lenient. They said the plot I came up with was "interesting and original" but the basic idea of Lombard and Vera surviving just didn't appeal to them personally. Their verdict was: "Well-written, but an unnecessary alternate ending". Fair enough. As said before, you can't please everybody; besides which, "interesting and original" is preferrable to "blasphemous and disgusting" (this doesn't stop me from thinking them a tad bit snobbish, however). However, such a story would not be looked on kindly by any fanatic Lombard/Vera shippers. As of today (7/12/09), I am two chapters away from wrapping it up and I will not reveal the ending, but I will say the ending I have in mind is not going to please everybody.
I adore the Lombard/Vera pairing. One of the many things I like about it is how you can do so much with it. You can either make them passionate lovers, or bitter enemies. In each of my stories, I explore each possibility through the magic of AU. I explore what could have been for them, whether they would’ve had a happy future together, or whether they would’ve hated each other to the point where they each wished death on the other. What’s the crime in that? I am not respecting the canon. I am completely ignoring the author’s original intentions. I am stamping on the fact that the purists are sick and tired of the Lombard/Vera pairing. I am disregarding the opinions of the fans who believe Lombard and Vera were horrible people who should stay dead. Apparently, you cannot like the Lombard/Vera pairing without committing great blasphemy to Agatha Christie’s masterpiece.
In the wrong hands, yes, it can be an awful pairing (Harry Alan Towers, anyone?). In the right hands, it can be absolutely beautiful. The fans would handle it much better because, while Harry Alan Towers appeared to be in it for the money, fans are in it for the passion. How is a Lombard/Vera shipper supposed to be any less of a true fan than a non-Lombard/Vera shipper? Are Harry/Hermione shippers not true fans? Do those who support Jacob/Bella hate the story? Should Jack/Elizabeth shippers be forced to give up their title as lovers of Pirates of the Caribbean? Of course not. They are as valuable to the fandom as anyone else, even the ones who don’t like the romance aspect of the story. They may have their different opinions on who should be with whom, or if there should even be any romance at all, but what it all boils down to is that we all love a particular fandom and we’re really not that different from one another in that aspect, now are we?
And besides, those who write AU stories are not writing them to make the purists happy; they are writing them to make the people who did not like the canon happy. While I failed to make one person happy, the ones who wished Lombard and Vera had lived were more than pleased with And Then There Were Two. While some purist who lacks an ff.net account and are thus unable to log in may be crying, the people who do not mind seeing an AU are crying for different reasons—for the as yet untold fates of their beloved characters. When you publish a story, you are sharing it not just with your friends; you are unleashing it for the whole world to see. And even if the purists are not happy with the way you re-wrote the canon, all that matters is your sincere love and devotion to the source (guaranteed everyone is behaving in-character, the grammar and spelling is correct, and the story is overall well-written, of course!).
In short, I am a Lombard/Vera shipper. And I am a devoted fan to ATTWN. Take it or leave it as an oxymoron.