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Rippers I Have Known

May 11, 2015

Books I’ve read involving Jack the Ripper:

The Map of Time

The Name of the Star

Anno Dracula

The Severed Streets

TV Shows I’ve watched involving Jack the Ripper:

Sanctuary

Grimm

Ripper Street

Penny Dreadful

Books I want to read involving Jack the Ripper:

From Hell

Sojourn

I might have a slight Jack the Ripper problem, but then, the whole speculative fiction genre seems to share it, so that’s all right. I can be forgiven. But it does have me thinking—why?

I get why the case is such a big cultural Thing over a century later and why we’re still rehashing it and looking for the True Jack. It caused such a sensation at the time. It deals with the sort of sordid, macabre stuff that people can’t quite look away from. The possible culprits are so varied and everyone had a different theory, even then. We’re not even sure if the five victims are the only victims…. Yeah. I totally see why it’s stuck with us.

What I’m wanting to know is, why are the novels about Jack predominantly of the fantasy-horror vein? What is it about the case that makes people think “ghost”, “immortal”, “werewolf,” “vampire,” etc., rather than “mentally disturbed human”? Why do people veer towards SFnal settings over straight-up Victorian London when dealing with Jack? Because the violence was so violent we shunt it to the realm of make-believe? Because speculative fiction has a general “Late 1800s” problem and Jack was so seminal during that period? Because the True Jack could, almost literally, be anyone and so you can write a Ripper story without worrying too much about historical accuracy?

I guess, like the True Jack’s identify, we’ll never know.

To clarify: yes, I (and SFnal stories) might have a Jack the Ripper problem, but I’m not ashamed of that and neither should the genre be. You want to write another variation of the story, with a different True Jack? Power to you. (And drop me a line?)

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