I wonder if either of these two scenarios ever happened:

  • Author A: writes story
  • Author B: This stinks. writes derivative work of A's work that fixes perceived weakness from the original


  • Author A: writes story
  • Author B: I disagree with a premise found in A's story. writes derivative with different premise

The second scenario doesn't necessarily have to be a philosophical/ideological disagreement. It could also be a disagreement like "The author doesn't understand the real cause in 1830s China of that problem; if I wrote it, this would be the consequence of doing that given the situation..." "I don't know of anyone who would react that way to the inciting incident/climax, and this colors the rest of the story for me. Let me fix that..." or even "The author sets up this situation thinking it's a good thing, but I think that would be awful to happen to me! I'd like to see a character that hates this setup..."

I am aware that there is probably less of either of this explicitly nowadays due to copyright. Do these ever happen, and how does an author pull off "improving" a work without doing looking like they're attempting to do insult to the original/original's author?

By "well-known" I mean, and please take these as metaphors, "not something you'd find on Wattpad," "not from a vanity publisher," "something you may or may not have heard about in a college literature survey class depending on the sort of professor you had," and/or "has had at least a million pairs of eyes touch it."

  • 3
    The scenario you describe has happened but I fear there are two issues with your question: (1) asking for prominent examples makes the question opinion based, and (2) simply asking for examples turns this into a list question. Both are reasons for closure on this site. I hope you can edit this question so as to eliminate both issues.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 1, 2020 at 19:02
  • Is this about fanfic in particular? Because a writer of original fiction can derive inspiration from disgust with another work.
    – Mary
    Sep 2, 2020 at 2:09
  • It’s not about fanfiction, it’s about “fanfiction.” Not necessarily what we would identify as the modern phenomenon, even if it happens in the modern era. A good example might involve something where an author in an interview about their work, “I explicitly wrote this as a response/in reaction to/as an improvement upon...” It also might not; that’s just one possible answer. Sep 2, 2020 at 2:12
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    @mikado Right. Authors have rewritten existing works throughout the history of literature. (Which is why this is an open-ended question.)
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 2, 2020 at 12:05
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    Agreed that this is too open-ended and that there are many examples of "fixed" works out there. Plus, adding the question of "how does the author get away with this?"adds an additional question. Sep 2, 2020 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


To pick a narrow and specific interpretation of your question that doesn't devolve into a list of historic "derived works" like Milton's Paradise Lost retelling Biblical stories, or any of the hundreds of King Arthur or Robin Hood retellings, I'll focus on works that explicitly reject an aspect of the original work and seek to redress its shortcomings, not just a retelling of classic stories.

I think a good example that illustrates your concept would be Kirill Eskov's The Last Ringbearer, described by Wikipedia as "an alternative account of [..] the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings". The core conceit of the book is that the narrative of Lord of the Rings is one "written by the victors", which in this case is the anti-industrial, anti-technological regime of the Elves and their Gondorian vassals, who oppose the nations of Mordor who focus on developing industrial technology to challenge the ancient superstitions of the elves.

This work is an explicit rejection of the ideological mindset that underpins the original work, and an attempt to create an alternate version with a modernist, possibly rationalist mindset.

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