Responding to increasing reader complaints about an oversaturated market, top publishers in the United States and the United Kingdom have entered into a ground-breaking agreement: not to publish any fiction about the Tudors until at least 2018.
A senior editor at Penguin, who preferred not to be identified, explained, “Readers—and editors—have simply had too much of Henry VIII and his wives. Why, the other night, I dreamed of Henry VIII, and my husband doesn’t even look the least bit like him. It’s unhealthy.”
Though some civil libertarians have expressed concern that the Tudor moratorium amounts to censorship, an editor at St. Martin’s, speaking on condition that his name not be mentioned, saw no cause for concern. “This is purely a voluntary program. If an author really insists on writing about the Tudors, there’s always small presses or self-publishing, though it’d be great they chose to go with the program as well. It’s really a healthy thing to do, sort of like giving up smoking. Once you do it, you realize how much better you feel, even though it’s hard at first.”
Only fiction is included in the moratorium, though some editors are hopeful that it will later expand to include nonfiction as well. “We wanted to sort of ease people into this,” explained the Penguin editor. “Besides, once the novels are gone, people won’t be looking for nonfiction to see if the novels got it right, so I think you might see the nonfiction dying a natural death—sort of like Anne of Cleves.”
Though many readers describe themselves as pleased by the publishers’ plan, not all are willing to kick the Tudor habit. “They need to let us down gradually—maybe one wife at a time,” said Gwen, a homemaker from Virginia. “Start with not publishing anything about Jane Seymour, maybe—I always thought she was kind of a wimp, anyway.”
Other readers, such as Jean, an attorney from Washington State, have vowed to boycott the publishers involved. Such a reaction, says the editor from St. Martin’s, is extreme. “Readers who are hopelessly addicted to the Tudors—and that’s just what it is, an addiction, if people will just admit it—just need to look for alternatives. For example, Henry VIII had a bad temper. So find some fiction about other kings with bad tempers, like King John. Or you might want to read about Catherine of Valois instead of Katherine Parr, since they both remarried after their king died. Why, they’ve even made it easy for you by having the same first name.”
The Penguin editor added, “We are concerned about the mental health of some readers who may have problems adjusting to not having any new Tudor novels. We’ll be setting up an 800 number they can call day or night, and there will be several operators concentrating on Anne Boleyn alone. And Barnes and Noble has agreed to host twelve-step groups for the Tudor addicts who need a bit more help to see this through. Ultimately, we know people are going to be all the stronger for this, though.”
The moratorium takes effect immediately as of April 1, 2008, meaning that novels currently in production with Tudor themes will not be released. Asked if this might cause a hardship for some authors, the Penguin editor replied, “Not really, if they’re creative. They can take the story they did and rework it. For instance, if an author did a novel about Henry VIII and his six wives, he or she can update it to modern Hollywood and have it be about a big-name producer and his many divorces. There’s still a lot of glitzy clothes and parties, after all. All the writer would really have to do is take out the beheadings. And maybe not even that. Some people in Hollywood are pretty whacked out, you know.”