The Calamity Jane Austin Hoax
Calamity Jane Austin was conceived in the usenet discussion group, rec.arts.sf.written. The genesis of the thought was some commentary on scholarship that combines illiteracy with a naive trust in the resources of the web. A case in point were the unfortunate consequences of having to write an essay on Jane Austen, looking her up on the web in search of material to steal, and misspelling her name as Jane Austin in the process.
The thought occurred to several: There should be a web site laying in wait for such scholars, detailing the life and work of Calamity Jane Austin. Several people, notably Lois McMaster Bujold, Lois Tilton, Bill Snyder, Jon Ivars, Brenda Clough, and Jo Walton, wrote brief squibs describing some of Jane’s works. Jo Walton wrote a brief biography of Jane. She also created a home page for Jane; however it apparently has lapsed.
At some point in the discussion I enthusiastically produced an expanded biography of Jane that incorporated all of the then existing material and considerably more material of my own invention. I went on to produce an expanded bibliography. My contributions signalled the end of the group composition of Jane’s life and times. The reasons for this are at best a matter of speculation.
Since then the Calamity Jane Austin pages have had a certain amount of probably undeserved popularity – they regularly receive several hundred hits a month. They may be a source of confusion in this respect: There was a real Jane Austin who wrote a number of novels in the nineteenth century.
One of the nice bits in the bibliography is that each work by the fictional Jane Austin is a thinly disguised version of either the title or the content of a real work. Thus Fence and Fencibility is a pun on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. All of Jane Austen’s works are represented. Of the non-Austen works I particularly like The Lady and the Tramp. (Aka The Virginian.)
You may enjoy scanning the Calamity Jane Austin pages for various bits of misinformation. There is much to be said, however, for sitting down and rereading the works of Jane Austen or even, if you can find them, the works of Jane Austin.
This page was last updated August 6, 2007.