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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Media Tie-ins: A Little More

A lot more discussion has been going on regarding media tie-ins, making me realize how big an issue this really is in the genre world. Lou Anders wrote a fascinating post here and in it he quoted someone else who likened the bias in genre fiction against media tie-ins to the bias of non-genre folks against genre. This has made me question my own bias towards media tie-ins. Am I no better than the literary academia who find joy in bashing us genre folks down for writing crap literature?
And as I thought more about all of this I started to think about the wealth of literature I never got to read. You see, during high school I went through a period where I absolutely hated reading. Why? The same reason high school kids to this day hate reading: I was forced to read stuff I didn't enjoy, that didn't make reading fun or interesting, and because everything about literature revolved around standardized tests or annoying essays about stuff that was completely irrelevant, and still is, or annoying vocabulary tests of "what's going on in the book" tests. None of this helped me become a person who loved books. For most of high school I absolutely hated reading. And that was anything. Only in freshman year did I actually read for fun, and those were media tie-ins such as Star Wars and Dragonlance, the former primarily because I was in love with SW through and through (still have some of my SW tie-in favorites, actually). But, then I was subjected to the horrors of our current educational system and that killed reading for me for several years--I got back into it when I started reading Star Wars yet again, and Dragonlance (and the works of Richard A. Knaak, who wrote for Dragonlance and then his own series). I wasn't a reader before high school either, by the way, for the same reason.
So, in a way, it was media tie-ins that made me a reader of science fiction and fantasy. I've always loved SF/F, because the movies were always awesome (mostly Star Wars, of course), but media tie-ins created my love for the literary form, where Star Wars novels allowed me to follow some of my favorite writers outside of the SW universe to original universes. And...that's a good thing, right? If tie-ins drive us to read other things, what's wrong with that? Nothing, but we're not really talking about there.
I'll talk more about the crappy educational system in this country later. For now, I think I need to start realizing that I can't be biased to media tie-ins as much as I used to be. I will always hate the Magic the Gathering stuff, because all of the ones I have read have been terrible, but I remember loving the SW stuff, so why shouldn't I be able to pick those up again and maybe find new things to read?
I think my biggest issue with SW is that it got too...I don't know what to call it. I loved the stuff that followed ROTJ, showing us what happened to the Empire and our heroes, but then the whole thing lost me when they started delving into characters that just didn't interest me (such as Han and Leia's kids, who I couldn't care less about...). But I can go back. I really can. And I think I will, some day.
Additionally, this whole thing got me thinking about media tie-ins as something I should consider doing one day. When I was younger I wanted to write a Star Wars novel so bad that I would spend hours and hours figuring out what things I'd put into my story. I never write anything, but I wanted to. I don't know when that desire left, but just in these last few days it has come back. In fact, here are the many shared universes I'd like to work in one day, and why:
  • Star Wars
    The obvious one. I love Star Wars. Always have. I don't care much for the prequel stuff, mostly because it feels a bit tired and dull in comparison to the far future. And I'd like to work in the SW universe. I really would. I'm feeling a resurgence of love for the universe and all those childhood memories came flooding back, reminding me of why I wanted to be a part of the SW family. If I can, I'd like to write a SW novel, or two, or more.
  • Star Trek
    I love SW more, but I do think there is a lot of fun stuff in the ST universe, particularly looking at it from a space opera perspective. I'd have a lot of fun showing the Federation at war and the politics involved. Imagine the complexity of such a complex situation as war within the Federation? Has it actually be done well? I mean the full political, social, and economical implications of interstellar war where allied worlds start fighting against one another? Sounds fun to me.
  • X-men/Marvel
    I was in love with the cartoon show when I was a kid and wish all five seasons had been released on DVD, because I'd love to watch them again. Something about that gritty world of mutants was fascinating. I don't know what I'd do with the X-men or any Marvel creations, but I know I'd like to do something with depth, drawing upon the social issues of a society where the minority are scared of the majority, and vice versa.
  • Warhammer
    I'm not entirely sure why, but something about it makes me curious. It'd take a lot of research on my part to know what I'm writing about, etc., but I'd take a lot of joy in expanding on this militaristic war game's universe.
  • Rifts
    The novels are dead, but dangit, this would be such a cool game to write for. Rifts is my favorite pen & paper RPG and there are so many fantastic stories to write about. It's such an enormous "world", with magic, monsters, technology, etc. I don't think I'd ever get the chance to write a novel set in the Rifts world, but I can at least dream a bit.
So, I guess in some ways my bias is lifting. I don't know if I'll intentionally read media tie-ins, or buy them (except perhaps Tobias Buckell's Halo book, but only because he's a fantastic writer and if anyone can make me fall in love with a media tie-in, it's him). I do know that to some extent I'm realizing that I have come to treat media tie-ins with the same dislike as literary snobs have treated my love of science fiction and fantasy. To me, that's a big issue. True, I think there are major flaws in media tie-ins, and other forms of literature (such as Harlequin Romances or self-published novels), but I should at least respect the form, right? Yeah.

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  1. Thanks for the love. Kate Orman's Doctor Who novel, The Left Handed Hummingbird is tremendous - challenging and complex, and had a lot to do with getting me into the television show (not the reverse), which in turn brought me to a career in Hollywood, which lead to a career in publishing...

  2. Wait, you were in Hollywood? What the heck? When did this happen? The things I don't know about Lou Anders...