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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old June 29 2009, 02:33 AM   #61
Octavia
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Thrawn wrote: View Post
The problem arises, though, when you conflate a continuity of character & context with a lack of stylistic variation. It sort of misses the point, I think. The two are not inextricably connected.
I must not be expressing myself very well, because I don't think that's quite what I meant. I'm not linking greater continuity of character and context with lack of stylistic variation, I'm linking (a) that continuity with tie-in fiction, and (b) a narrower style variation with tie-in fiction.

Like, a long single-author series is clearly not going to vary much in style, and so that makes another valid comparison - part of the appeal of tie-ins is that several different authors get to interpret the same source material. So I'd argue that one of the appeals of tie in fiction is that you do get stylistic variation, while still keeping the continuity of character & context.
There's obviously more stylistic variation in tie-in fic with multiple authors than there is in a long single author series, I agree. But that's not the comparison I'm making. I'm not comparing multi-author to single author, I'm comapring multi-author to multi-author.

The style argument was simply another example of that argument. I'm not trying to trivialise tie-in fic by arguing that there's a lesser variation in style than in original fic, any more than I'd be trying to trivialise many romances by saying that they don't have as many gunfights as westerns. That would be comparing two different genres (romance and western) falsely, I think. I could do it, but it's an essentially meaningless exercise.

And that is what I thought the OP was doing when he complained about things like tie-in fic using the same bunch of characters to save the world over and over again. Of course tie-in fic is going to use the same bunch of characters! It's a facet of the genre in general... I don't think one can legitimately criticise something that intrinsic to the genre simply because it doesn't occur in other genres. It's like me saying, for example, that romance is worse than other genres because there's so much lovey-dovey stuff in it.

I think you'll generally get a better comparison comparing tie-in novel to tie-in novel than you will comparing tie-in novel to an original novel. I'm not, please note, arguing that either is better than the other. I'm simply arguing that they're different, and that you can't use exactly the same standards when comparing them, any more than you can use exactly the same standards when comparing a romance with a western.

Basically, my whole argument boils down to this: with apologies to the OP, I don't think he or she is judging tie-in fic by the best-fit standards, so his or her judgement is likely to be flawed.
rahullak wrote: View Post
Octavia, you preside over the assumption that a tie-in is limited by what it can accomplish because of its background. I maintain that a tie-in can accomplish what a solitary original non-series sf cannot: evolution of characters, settings, and events over large time-spans that makes the fiction wholly more believable and paradoxically allows writers to explore and use the wildly unbelievable with greater vigor.
I agree with you that tie-in has the advantage when it comes to that ongoing evolution. I am quite prepared to concede that. However, I don't think that has any inherent connection to believability. The most wholly believable SF novel I've ever read is Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, for instance - Orwell managed that in a single novel. But believability is a digression - suffice to say that for me, believability is not related to that evolution.

My point is, again, that you can't compare that evolution with original fic because original fic (bar the endless series) simply doesn't have the same capacity for it. In general, an author simply can't put, in a single novel, the same evolution of character, setting, and event that an ongoing tie-in series can have. Therefore, it's not useful to compare them, to say that "There's more character evolution in the last ten books of tie-in X than there is in original-single-novel X."

I think that's fairly obvious, and something we can mostly agree on.

And I think, again, that it's a false comparison to say that tie-in is "bad" because it uses, as the OP says (for example), the same set of characters saving the world. It's false because to say that this is "bad" is comparing it - whether explicitly or no - to fiction where that is not the case. Like it or not, tie-in is a different ball-game than original fic, and to say tie-in is "bad" because that genre has a particular characteristic is like saying that westerns in general are "bad" because they have gunfighting in them. Western or tie-in may not be a person's favourite genre, but they're not fundamentally inferior simply because they exhibit characteristics typically associated with that genre.
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Old June 29 2009, 02:45 AM   #62
Octavia
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Geoff Thorne wrote: View Post
A book is a book. Either it's compelling or it's not. Either it reaches you or it doesn't. If some preconceived notion about the inherent, intrinsic, "lesser" quality of modern tie-in fiction causes you to view it, in advance of reading, with a jaundiced eye, I submit you might want to rethink your paradigm.
Do you think that I'm arguing that tie-in fic is intrinsicly "lesser" than original? Because I'm not. Believe me when I say I've read plenty of original books that seem to have been published for the express purpose of wasting trees. There have certainly been tie-in books that I have enjoyed more than some original fic.

It's true that my favourite books are original, and that in general I prefer original to tie-in. I've spent over 25 years reading SFF original and SFF tie-in and my preferences are pretty much set. But a lot of that is due to the difference between the two genres. In the vast majority of cases, character evolution, for example, is not my prime reading interest - therefore I'm less likely to be interested in reading genres where this is heavily emphasised, such as tie-in. This doesn't mean that tie-in is intrinsicly worse - nor does it mean that it is better. It's just different.

I've spent the past five years getting more and more annoyed with tie-in. I've already said adaptations are not a favourite of mine, and Voyager has pretty much given my interest in Trek-fic a slamming. But recently I've been giving it some thought, and my disillusionment is not only greater than those two things, but I've come to the conclusion that it's based on false premises. I've been expecting things from tie-in that it's been unreasonable to expect. I never used to do it. As a teenager, tie-in was my primary reading material, and I gobbled it down. Then I started reading more widely, and found different types of SFF that I enjoyed much more - highly stylised stuff like Calvino. I kept reading tie-in, but I was judging it by the standards of my preferred SFF type. It doesn't work that way, any more than it would work if I preferred tie-in and started judging original fic by the characteristics I found in tie-in.

My reading experience has made the difference between the two very plain - although I quite understand that a different reading experience would lead to a difference conclusion. I feel much more capable now of making a more accurate judgement (both of tie-in and original) because I no longer let myself judge them on an identical basis.

I am NOT arguing that tie-in fic is inherently lesser than original. I am arguing that it is different, and has different characteristics. These characteristics are different enough so that a straight comparison between them (e.g. these books use the same characters to save the world over and over and so are "bad", while these books use original characters in original settings and so are "good") is WRONG.

It's wrong because it doesn't take sufficiently into account the differences between the genres. If I pick up a tie-in fic and then rate it badly because it uses the same characters, or because it is set in the same universe, or because it doesn't have the extreme style I like then it doesn't mean that the book is bad. It means I'm an idiot for picking up, say, a Trek book, and expecting the characteristics of a different genre. It means my rating is off. Likewise, if I pick up an original fic and get pissy with it because Joe Bloggs' future humans aren't bothered with the Prime Directive, and because I have to start my world-creation imagining from scratch then I am also an idiot.

Tie-in is not the same as original fic. They do have similar characteristics, but they also have differences. If I want to read tie-in I'll read tie-in. If I want to read original I'll read original - and you're absolutely correct when you say that my enjoyment of each should be predicated on the quality of the writing. But if I read any genre at all - be it SF, fantasy, western, post-modernism, etc - and judge it by the standards of another genre, then my judgement will be off. And I think that's what happened with the OP.

Last edited by Octavia; June 29 2009 at 03:33 AM.
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Old June 29 2009, 03:24 AM   #63
Geoff Thorne
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

I'm sorry. I had something snarky and complex to say in response to all that but, frankly, you've just got it all wrong.

Read more of these books and you will see how off the mark you are.

I will say this: you are, in fact, making a value judgement, whether you want to cop to it or not.

In the context of art MORE creativity vs LESS creativity is an emotional judgement of value rather than, say, an intellectual description of the differences in color or mass between two similar books.

It's just as creatively complex to write a Star Trek book as it is to write "original" fiction. If it's not, you're doing it wrong.

Just as you are if you read these books the way you seem to.
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Old June 29 2009, 03:48 AM   #64
Octavia
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

^And yet, Geoff, I've consistently said that tie-in has greater scope for character evolution and development than original. If it really is true that, "In the context of art MORE creativity vs LESS creativity is an emotional judgement of value", then aren't I making an emotional value judgement that tie-in is superior, and more complex, than original fiction in this area?

You can't say that and yet continue to believe that I think tie-in is less creatively complex, can you?
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Old June 29 2009, 03:54 AM   #65
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Octavia wrote: View Post
There's obviously more stylistic variation in tie-in fic with multiple authors than there is in a long single author series, I agree. But that's not the comparison I'm making. I'm not comparing multi-author to single author, I'm comapring multi-author to multi-author.
No, you're not. You're comparing a single tie-in series with the entirety of original literature, which is a totally unfair and spurious comparison. Obviously a whole body of literature is going to have more stylistic variation than a single series. If you want to be remotely fair, then you should compare a specific tie-in series to a specific original series. If you follow a single ongoing series, regardless of whether it's tie-in or original, single-author or multi-author, there's going to be an expectation that it will have a consistent style. That's not a feature specific to tie-ins, it's a feature of series fiction, period. Readers buy series fiction because they want to see more of a certain thing they've seen before.

Nor is all tie-in fiction the same regardless of series. A single tie-in series can be expected to conform relatively closely to its source material, but different tie-ins can have great stylistic differences from one another. And there are exceptions to the rule of tie-ins conforming to the source. A lot of modern Trek fiction is a departure from the style of the shows it's based on. The original Doctor Who novels published by Virgin in the '90s are an even more radical example; Doctor Who was a lighthearted adventure aimed at younger viewers, but the Virgin New Adventures novel line became increasingly adult, dense, literary, dark, cynical, and cyberpunkish, as far as you can get from the children's-book style of the episode novelizations.

So if you compare individual tie-in series to individual original series, you'll see they both have limited stylistic variation, because original series are just as shaped by market forces and reader expectations as any other; and if you compare tie-in series to one another, you'll find a wide range of variations just as you will in original fiction. Your assumptions about the intrinsic narrowness of tie-ins are stereotypes based on unbalanced choices of classification.


The style argument was simply another example of that argument. I'm not trying to trivialise tie-in fic by arguing that there's a lesser variation in style than in original fic, any more than I'd be trying to trivialise many romances by saying that they don't have as many gunfights as westerns.
The difference is that the latter is actually true. Tie-in fiction is a specialized subset of fiction in general, so it's unfair to judge the subset against the whole scope of the rest. You could just as easily say that mysteries have a lesser variation in plot than "original fiction," since they all have to have murders in them. It's unfair to compare anything against "original fiction" as a universal category, because it's just too broad to be meaningful.


And that is what I thought the OP was doing when he complained about things like tie-in fic using the same bunch of characters to save the world over and over again. Of course tie-in fic is going to use the same bunch of characters! It's a facet of the genre in general... I don't think one can legitimately criticise something that intrinsic to the genre simply because it doesn't occur in other genres.
But it does occur in other genres, because other genres have ongoing series as well. Dominic Flandry saved the Terran Empire dozens of times, and before him, Nicholas van Rijn was constantly saving the Polesotechnic League. Louis Wu has saved the Ringworld three or four times by now. I'm sure Honor Harrington has saved whatever body she works for on many an occasion. Outside of science fiction, how many times has Jack Ryan saved the USA or James Bond saved Britain? You're mistaking a trope of series fiction in general for a trope exclusive to tie-in series fiction.

My point is, again, that you can't compare that evolution with original fic because original fic (bar the endless series) simply doesn't have the same capacity for it.
There you go again. Why bar series fiction from your definition of "original fiction"? That's so arbitrary as to constitute a blatant falsehood. Tons of original fiction is series-based. Why does being series-based make a non-tie-in novel any less a member of the "original fiction" category? You're deliberately defining your terms in a way that makes an honest and even-handed comparison impossible. You're arbitrarily defining the two categories according to incompatible standards, and thereby forcing the conclusion that they're fundamentally dissimilar. Of course if you start with the assumption that only non-series fiction qualifies as "original," you're going to come to the conclusion that "original fiction" is less uniform than tie-in fiction, but that's circular reasoning, defining your initial terms to guarantee that you'll reach your preconceived conclusion. In short, it's cheating.


I am NOT arguing that tie-in fic is inherently lesser than original. I am arguing that it is different, and has different characteristics.
I understand that, but I'm pointing out that your assumptions about the differences between the two are stereotyped and oversimplistic. You're assuming that average differences constitute universal differences, and thus ignoring the possibility that the bell curves overlap, that there could be tie-ins that you could enjoy just as much as the original fiction you read.
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Old June 29 2009, 04:42 AM   #66
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

There have been good tie-ins. There have been bad, cash-in tie-ins.

As for Trek tie-ins, while the current crop of stories haven't really interested me personally, I am in the minority. Many, many people have enjoyed what the current crop of TrekLit authors have created and those people are anticipating what they have cooking next.

Also, as a rule of thumb, if something generally sells well again and again, that means that people like it. Pocket doesn't release sale numbers. However, I would have to imagine that if the Trek line was selling poorly, Pocket would logically come in and refocus/redirect the line (Trek authors, correct me if I am wrong on this).

In short, the impression I get is that they are doing well. Doing well indicates that people are liking the books. People liking the books indicates that they are good.

On a personal note, I do like, generally speaking, how the books are falling into the more-or-less same continuity.

----

As for tie-in vs. not-tie-in, I look at it like this:

Tie-in literature is like playing in someone else's sandbox, but making your own castle. Non-tie in is like having your own sandbox. In the end, it's still sand and it's still fun.
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Old June 29 2009, 04:54 AM   #67
Octavia
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Christopher, I'm not sure we're on the same page as to what we think I'm thinking.
I'll try to put something together tonight to explain how and why I'm thinking the way that I do, as I'm off out soon and can't do it justice now. Be warned, there will be cladistics! I know you hate them, but I can't help them, I trained as a biologist. Clades are how I automatically categorise difference.

But regarding the original series question, mostly I've been trying to leave that out to avoid digression. I'm not barring it so much as refusing to stick the apples in with the oranges. I had a little continuum in one of my earlier posts, but edited it out to try and snuggle closer to brevity. It went something like this:

Tie-in --- Original series --- Original novel

Now I tend to think you can track general trends on this continuum. Let me give a couple of examples.

Firstly, I think that the potential for character evolution and development lessens as you move to the left. Multi-fic (whether tie-in or original) simply has more opportunity than a single novel. And within multi-fic, the multi-authors that are usually present in tie-in fic have the potential to provide a greater number of character perspectives than a single author with a series.

Another variant would be style, the potential for which I think increases as we move to the left, though this is less clear-cut. A single author with a single book has the most freedom to use whatever style they please. A single author with a series can also use any style whatsoever, but generally keeps it consistent over a series. Within tie-in, you have multiple authors using multiple styles, but these styles are still kept within a boundary to make the series relatively consistent. There might be more style variation within the tie-in than the single author series, but the authors of the tie-in have less potential freedom than that single author working on his series.
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Old June 29 2009, 05:42 AM   #68
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

I like that last bit Broccoli.
As for tie in vs. non-tie in, up until about a year or two ago I used to read pretty much 80% or so tie, but now I'me trying to knock that down to about 50% or 60%. And since I hear people rip on ties so often (I'm not talking about anyone here specifically just talking about people in general), I've been looking for any major noticible differences between the two, and you know what, I have not found it. I've looked, I really really have, but it just isn't coming to me. Now I'm just talking about the writing, and the style and that kind of stuff, so I'm ignoring the obvious like how tie-ins are based on preexisting material, since IMO that stuff has nothing to do with the actual types of stories being told.
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Old June 29 2009, 09:52 AM   #69
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
SpaceLama wrote: View Post
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To be honest, I was expecting more destruction in the Destiny trilogy than what we got.
Here is at least one person who seems to confirm what I suspected about the new novels. Anyone else have any counter point?
I apologise if I am misunderstanding your points, but I'm confused. You suspected there to be more destruction than Sxottlan is suggesting we got?
I should probably clarify that or at least have rephrased.

There is plenty of destruction, but I found myself oddly indifferent to much of it. I mean, Coridan? The galaxy's perpetual red shirt planet? Regulus? Besides a lot of references to things that come from there, do we really have reason to care? Deneva? I had to go to Memory Alpha to find out that it was from a TOS episode that I hadn't seen in 15 years.

Naturally, a place like Deneva can have a completely different place in someone else's heart, but even the brief attacks on Vulcan, Tellar and Andor seemed kind of tokenish. About the most upset I got was wondering the potential damage to Vulcan's Forge. Otherwise, I shrug, thinking everything will be rebuilt in short order.

I could be a victim of my own preconceived notions on this one. I thought I had read a spoiler ahead of time that said a whole pre-existing race would be wiped out. Turned out to not be the case. Would have been interesting to have destroyed one of the supporting species entirely, like the Deltans or the Tellarites. Perhaps more existing regular characters should have been killed? Was that ever discussed?

The story possibilities surrounding the forthcoming destruction of Romulus I think I find more intriguing.
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Old June 29 2009, 12:36 PM   #70
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Sxottlan wrote: View Post
even the brief attacks on... Andor seemed kind of tokenish.
* sits on hands *
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Old June 29 2009, 01:27 PM   #71
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Octavia wrote: View Post
But regarding the original series question, mostly I've been trying to leave that out to avoid digression.
It's not a "digression," it's simple fairness. You're talking about tie-in series, so the only fair and rational comparison is to original series. Like to like. If you're a scientist as you claim, then you surely understand that you need to isolate and test each variable independently. Series vs. non-series is a separate variable from original vs. tie-in. So by comparing tie-in series to original non-series works, you're allowing two variables to change at the same time and are falsely assuming that the differences arising from the series/non-series variable are attributable to the tie-in/original varaiable. And that's improper methodology.


I'm not barring it so much as refusing to stick the apples in with the oranges.
Again, circular reasoning. You assume going in that there is an insurmountable "apples-and-oranges" divide between the categories in the first place, and so you define your terms in a way that forces the conclusion you've already decided on. And that's just plain dishonest.


Tie-in --- Original series --- Original novel

Now I tend to think you can track general trends on this continuum. Let me give a couple of examples.

Firstly, I think that the potential for character evolution and development lessens as you move to the left. Multi-fic (whether tie-in or original) simply has more opportunity than a single novel. And within multi-fic, the multi-authors that are usually present in tie-in fic have the potential to provide a greater number of character perspectives than a single author with a series.
Nothing more than stereotypes. You call them clades, I call them dumbed-down overgeneralizations. You're still making the unexamined assumption that "tie-ins" are a monolithic category without internal variation, and you're completely ignoring all arguments and evidence that disprove your narrow-minded preconception.
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Old June 29 2009, 01:38 PM   #72
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

A question that would be worth asking is 'how is tie-in literature perceived by the general public?' Of course this is the wrong place to ask it, as answers will be skewed quite obviously.

I do know that twenty or so years ago, it was considered inferior to original fiction. I remember failing a book report in school because I chose to review a Star Trek novel and not 'classic' literature. It still infuriates me that the teacher chose to ignore what I had written and mark me down for my choice of reading. In the real world, reviewers don't always get to choose what they review, and newspapers' entertainment sections would be remarkably barren.

However, 20 years of evolution in pop culture has certainly changed the landscape of entertainment, and if university courses in modern media phenomena exist, then surely the perception of the tie-in novel has changed also?
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Old June 29 2009, 04:26 PM   #73
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

Octavia wrote: View Post
^And yet, Geoff, I've consistently said that tie-in has greater scope for character evolution and development than original.
And that is also false.

You're assuming these things can be codified the way you have in the first place and that is such a catastrophic foundational error that it invalidates the rest of your thesis.

You have to look with better eyes than that.

If it really is true that, "In the context of art MORE creativity vs LESS creativity is an emotional judgement of value", then aren't I making an emotional value judgement that tie-in is superior, and more complex, than original fiction in this area?
As I said, your math is wrong on this. Because it's math. As CLB and others have pointed out, your generalizations about fiction are so sweeping that they are, themselves, fiction.

You can't say that and yet continue to believe that I think tie-in is less creatively complex, can you?
Clearly you do.
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Old June 29 2009, 05:42 PM   #74
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

The Laughing Vulcan wrote: View Post
A question that would be worth asking is 'how is tie-in literature perceived by the general public?' Of course this is the wrong place to ask it, as answers will be skewed quite obviously.

I do know that twenty or so years ago, it was considered inferior to original fiction. I remember failing a book report in school because I chose to review a Star Trek novel and not 'classic' literature. It still infuriates me that the teacher chose to ignore what I had written and mark me down for my choice of reading. In the real world, reviewers don't always get to choose what they review, and newspapers' entertainment sections would be remarkably barren.

However, 20 years of evolution in pop culture has certainly changed the landscape of entertainment, and if university courses in modern media phenomena exist, then surely the perception of the tie-in novel has changed also?
Sadly, I don't think it has changes much. I don't know about other people on here, but I've gotten some weird looks, and snotty comments from people who've seen me reading Trek Lit. Most people are pretty cool about it, and sometimes even ask about how the book relates to the movies/shows and act like it's just another book, but the other reactions still happen from time to time.
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Old June 29 2009, 05:58 PM   #75
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Re: Majority of tie-in literature bad?

JD wrote: View Post
The Laughing Vulcan wrote: View Post
A question that would be worth asking is 'how is tie-in literature perceived by the general public?' Of course this is the wrong place to ask it, as answers will be skewed quite obviously.

I do know that twenty or so years ago, it was considered inferior to original fiction. I remember failing a book report in school because I chose to review a Star Trek novel and not 'classic' literature. It still infuriates me that the teacher chose to ignore what I had written and mark me down for my choice of reading. In the real world, reviewers don't always get to choose what they review, and newspapers' entertainment sections would be remarkably barren.

However, 20 years of evolution in pop culture has certainly changed the landscape of entertainment, and if university courses in modern media phenomena exist, then surely the perception of the tie-in novel has changed also?
Sadly, I don't think it has changes much. I don't know about other people on here, but I've gotten some weird looks, and snotty comments from people who've seen me reading Trek Lit. Most people are pretty cool about it, and sometimes even ask about how the book relates to the movies/shows and act like it's just another book, but the other reactions still happen from time to time.
Oh yes, sadly on the whole you're quite right, JD, *sigh*. I'm always getting comments that I should read things other than Trek lit EVEN THOUGH I'M STUDYING LITERATURE AT A PROMINENT UNIVERSITY AND DOING VERY WELL ACCORDING TO MY SUPERVISORS. I know how to appreciate the "classics", probably better than most by virtue of actually studying them. Luckily, not everyone is snooty about Trek; my old English teacher was quite open to Trek lit- I even lent her "Well of Souls" and she really liked it.
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