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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Media Tie-ins: Good or Bad?

Jim C. Hines has recently been berating himself over his bias against media tie-in novels here and here. I think he's being a little hard on himself. Granted, it's probably "unfair" to have this bias, but he's not the only one.
I've had this bias for years. When I was younger I used to read media tie-ins all the time: Star Wars and Dragonlance mostly. Now, I don't read any media tie-ins and here's why:
  • I'm mostly uninterested in the worlds they are presenting. I don't care about the Magic the Gathering universe, or Star Trek, or Forgotten Realms, or any of it. I don't. They're old news to me and boring. There are too many damn books in those series anyway.
  • I think of media tie-ins as lesser forms of literature. Yes, I understand this is silly, much for the same reasons that Mr. Hines stated about his own relationship with this particular form of bias. My problem is that I've read quite a few media tie-in novels, and only a small handfull have even been worth my time. Yes, there probably are many great media tie-in novels, but I've never read them and I don't have the patience to wade through the crap to find them. I got turned off after reading three or four horribly written books in a row. Think of it like food: you eat something that looks good, but it tastes like crap, and every time you try a different version of that something, it's crappy; would you keep eating that food or eventually pass it off as something you're just not going to eat? Yes, this is probably a terrible bias to have, because there are likely dozens of great authors who write media tie-ins, but it has a reason to exist.
  • I like original worlds better. I get the impression that authors who create their own worlds subsequently create better stories. The exception might be the Star Wars stuff set in the future (cause we all mostly hate the milking of the prequel era stuff). There's a lot of room for originality there because, for the most part, none of that story has been told or established, and Star Wars has hundreds of planets that were never written about or discussed in the movies. There are quite a lot of good Star Wars books (I've read four that I really enjoyed and then one about Han Solo which was crap, but I was younger and I just loved it, so it has a special place in my heart).
  • There's too many of them. The most popular shared universes are flooded with stories by dozens of authors. Where do I start? Who is good? Who isn't? Which series are more interesting? There's just too much there. Even the Star Wars universe is flooded, and now with a lot more stuff I really don't want to touch anymore.
That all said, I understand that I probably have a rather silly bias towards media tie-ins. Authors who write in shared worlds probably put a lot of work into it, or at least I hope they do, because that wouldn't look good for media tie-ins if they didn't do any work at all.
At the same time, however, I don't think it's all that silly to have a bias, or to dislike a particular form of literature. If you just don't like something, you can't force yourself to like it. I don't like practically all literary fiction novels, because they put me to sleep, and you can't really force me to like them (the occasional few novels will wow me, but most of them make me wonder how it got published). Disliking media tie-ins doesn't make you a bad person. There are plenty of people reading such books, so it really doesn't matter if you're one of those who doesn't read them--there will probably be a market for them for a long time. There are loads of people reading literary fiction, even though I mostly don't like it (some of it is growing on me though). This is just the way it is. Some of us only read mystery novels, while others only read mainstream fiction, or romance novels, etc. It can't possibly be expected of all of us to read everything, can it?
What forms of literature are you biased against?

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