discussions genre stuff

On Tie-In Fiction

I’ve just posted the next blog entry up at Jeff VanderMeer’s site, and it’s on the genre’s attitudes to tie-in fiction, in conversation with million-selling author Dan Abnett.

In a previous life, I worked as an editor of tie-in fiction for properties of 2000AD and New Line Cinema – further adventures, not merely novelisations of screenplays. It was an immense amount of fun. The books were entertaining, the stories possessed many facets, and the authors were great to work with. They handled the job as seriously as any other writers I’ve met, and took immense pride in their work. For many, it was a stepping stone to getting their own work published. For others, they developed their craft in worlds belonging to others, exploring aspects that couldn’t be covered on the screen.

I’m now a writer of original fantasy fiction, and I’ve been hugely lucky in the reception to my work, and this difference in attitude between original and tie-in fiction has interested me, and even shocked me.

I think it’s an essential debate, and one of importance to readers. Check it out and let me know what you think.

EDIT: Here’s an interesting article from Emerald City in 2006. (Thanks to Cheryl for the link.)

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

5 replies on “On Tie-In Fiction”

I have to admit, that I turn my nose up at tie in fiction. It could be that I’m just not that interested in the tie-ins themselves. I used to read DR WHO books as a kid but that’s because they were from shows I didn’t have access to (in many ways I think i benefitted from my imagination over the crappy SFX).

It is mainly directed at books though. I happily read comic books of Buffy or Farscape and superheroes in comics are arguably tie-in fiction too.

I often wonder why people demand a film adaptation of a book but never the other way around. It’s almost a concession to one medium being superior to the other. That or it’s a wish to make the story become “real”.

The books, for the right franchise, add huge amounts of layers where films simply can’t afford to go. A book is cheaper than a film to produce, and the imagination can do more than a production company. Plus you can always cover and expand on issues that would be too minor to film.

As for film adaptations, well, it’s a ready-made story with a proven fanbase. I guess these things are easier to run with, rather than creating something from scratch. Quicker too.

Ever since I saw Star Wars books on the shelves, I’ve always avoided tie in novels. I guess it’s because I don’t want to spoil my memory of a great movie experience or I didn’t like the movie enough to follow up. That’s probably nonsense, but I’m pretty sure that’s why.

Another thing that I don’t care for is when a book is made into a movie and they slap movie covers all over it, such as they did Lord of the Rings. I think that’s because I like my imagined look and feel of a book to remain untainted by someone else’s visual depiction. Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was the only movie I’ve ever seen that matched how I imagined it. Just a weird observation.

The main article doesn’t seem to be allowing comments any more, but interestingly one of the commentators asked if a tie-in novel could fulfil Michael Moorcock’s challenge of being a transformative and subversive work whilst having to be written within realtively narrow creative guidelines.

Interestingly, this question was almost immediately followed by the news that Moorcock is writing a DOCTOR WHO novel, so I guess we’re going to find out 😉

Jonathan – surely making the prequels ruined your great movie experience? 🙂

The thing is, tie-in fiction isn’t merely the novelization of a screenplay, it covers further adventures. So huge amounts of new series and whatnot that couldn’t be covered in the original movies. Or not even movies, but RPG universes, which were made for games to be played and stories to be written.

Hi Adam – I think WordPress holds comments with links in to be approved, just in case of spam.

I noted that Moorcock didn’t claim it was a “tie-in” novel, but I guess that’s all down to people’s definitions. In my mind, further adventures are still tied-in to the franchise.

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