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

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Old May 17 2014, 07:03 PM   #1
rfmcdpei
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The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Via Una McCormack's Facebook page I came across a link at The Paris Review to an article in The Guardian by one Damien Walter about the franchise novel.

Make of it what you will, but it's a plain fact of publishing life that more people will read the latest Star Wars franchise novel than all the books shortlisted for last year's Booker prize put together. The world is a noisy place, made all the more so by the democratising influence of the internet, where it sometimes seems that all seven billion members of the global village have self-published their own book. Confronted with this tumult of competing egos, you can hardly blame the average punter for sticking with entertainment brands scorched into their psyche by the lightsabers of multibillion-dollar marketing budgets.

The parochial world of literary fiction tends to deal with mass-media franchises in the same way it deals with genre fiction, comics and the other narrative arts that eclipse it by magnitudes for size, influence and profit margins: by giving them the silent treatment. This isn't an entirely stupid strategy. Literary fiction may very well touch parts of the human condition its more successful cousins fail to reach. But then it may not, and the arrogant assumption that novels published within a franchise that has touched the hearts and minds of millions have nothing to tell us is … well … arrogant.


What franchise novels can certainly do well is compelling storytelling. And at their best, they can do it much better than the franchises that spawned them. Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire introduces the malevolent Grand Admiral Thrawn to the extended Star Wars universe, where he remains hands-down its best antagonist. One of the many problems with the vastly overrated Star Wars movies (Empire being the moment of genius that rescues the entire franchise) is the absurd incompetence of their villains. Any evil galactic Empire that can be brought low with a missile up the exhaust pipe is not worthy of the name.
No mention of Star Trek fiction, alas.

FYI.

Last edited by rfmcdpei; May 17 2014 at 07:04 PM. Reason: typos
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Old May 17 2014, 07:33 PM   #2
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

It's a good article, if a bit narrow in its examination of the field.

Sadly, the reader comments that follow the article are the usual disappointing melange — complaints of "franchise novels" just being printed television, or repeating the ignorant belief that one must have seen every episode and have read every previous novel in order to enjoy the newest ones, or that franchise novels "bring nothing new or original" to the page.

I give the article's author a polite hat-tip for trying to give media tie-in novels a fair shake, but I want to kick the shit out of some of his dumbfuck readers.
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Old May 17 2014, 10:39 PM   #3
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

You don't want to make David Mack angry, people. Get your acts together.

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Old May 17 2014, 11:38 PM   #4
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

David Mack wrote: View Post
Sadly, the reader comments that follow the article are the usual disappointing melange — complaints of "franchise novels" just being printed television, or repeating the ignorant belief that one must have seen every episode and have read every previous novel in order to enjoy the newest ones, or that franchise novels "bring nothing new or original" to the page.
I will continue to buy the novels you write for the insight about the Borg that you shared (via Ezri?) that the television show never quite got, that the Borg drones were slaves deserving liberation not annihilation. "And, paradigm, shift."

(There are many other reasons, but that one stands out in my mind.)
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Old May 18 2014, 12:48 AM   #5
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

It was a nice article, but I would have liked it better if he had mentioned some of the other big franchises with lots of novels like Trek or Doctor Who.
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Old May 18 2014, 02:07 AM   #6
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

I'll say this and only this:

I dare anyone to read the following TrekLit books and argue that franchise tie-in fiction can't be legitimate literature:

- Destiny by David Mack
- Crucible: McCoy - Provenance of Sorrows by David R. George III
- The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
- The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
- The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack
- Reap the Whirlwind by David Mack
- The Persistence of Memory by David Mack
- Day of the Vipers by James Swallow
- Spock's World by Diane Duane
- The Final Reflection by John M. Ford
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Old May 18 2014, 09:13 AM   #7
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Those internet article comments are written by people with a very limited knowledge of the subject and aren't worth getting upset over. And anyway, since when did they matter? If the books keep selling, people are still enjoying them. That's the bottom line.
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Old May 18 2014, 09:56 AM   #8
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

It's nice to see franchise novels getting some praise like this. I've said it before, but one of the most touching novels I ever read was The Neverending Sacrifice. I hugged that book when I was done. It was simply put, damned fine literature. It's a pity a lot of people won't give it a shot, simply because it says Star Trek on the cover.
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Old May 18 2014, 11:49 AM   #9
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Telling a good and satisfying story within the artificial confines of an established franchise is no easy task. It takes skill to balance the basic requirements of a good, accessible novel with the limitations and conventions of whatever franchise you're writing in. A lot of thought, I imagine, has to go into it - you are both playing in someone else's sandbox and making it your own.

I took a literature course at university (not that I do anything with it), and I'm pleased to say that the faculty in my college readily acknowledged franchise tie-in fiction as its own form of legitimate and worthy literature, so it's not all bad news.

By the way, I can count on one hand the works of "classic" literature that don't bore me to tears; they're mostly notable from an historical point of investigation, not as something it particularly benefits you from reading. That's just my perspective on it.
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Old May 18 2014, 01:52 PM   #10
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
By the way, I can count on one hand the works of "classic" literature that don't bore me to tears; they're mostly notable from an historical point of investigation, not as something it particularly benefits you from reading. That's just my perspective on it.
This is as short-sighted a position as the one this thread is critiquing. Adam Bede or Buddenbrooks or Arrowsmith have so much more offer than historical background.
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Old May 18 2014, 02:07 PM   #11
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Stevil2001 wrote: View Post
Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
By the way, I can count on one hand the works of "classic" literature that don't bore me to tears; they're mostly notable from an historical point of investigation, not as something it particularly benefits you from reading. That's just my perspective on it.
This is as short-sighted a position as the one this thread is critiquing. Adam Bede or Buddenbrooks or Arrowsmith have so much more offer than historical background.
It's a personal perspective, nothing more. I've read a great deal, and while I always find a work interesting and enlightening from the perspective of how, when and why it was written, very rarely do I find it speaks to me as a work of fiction.

"I bowed to the company, and turned my back on them".

Besides, I have no issue with people saying they find little to enjoy in franchise fiction; my issue, personally, is when people dismiss the writers by suggesting that it isn't "real literature". You can think it's nothing you're interested in or would enjoy all you like. I'm certainly not suggesting that "classic" literature isn't real or worthy or relevant; I just have little personal investment in any but a handful of examples.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; May 18 2014 at 02:18 PM.
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Old May 18 2014, 02:48 PM   #12
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Re-reading what I've written, perhaps I should clarify that "not benefiting from reading it" was poorly phrased - I don't mean I have no interest in actually reading it - quite the contrary - merely that I don't read such works for the sense of "well, that was an enjoyable experience of fiction", because it's rarely at all to my tastes, and very rarely do I have a sense of satisfaction from a story-telling perspective. I mean that my response is almost always "that was interesting from the point of view of the context, what was being explored and why, the society it was written to or in response to", etc, or "that was an interesting style or use of language, etc". Rarely "I was invested in the literary experience from the viewpoint of sitting back and enjoying a tale".
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Old May 18 2014, 03:03 PM   #13
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

It just seems odd to me, I guess. I wouldn't expect anyone to like all "classic literature"-- but then, who likes all kinds of science fiction? But it just seems unlikely that there'd be no "classic literature" someone might respond to emotionally.
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Old May 18 2014, 03:08 PM   #14
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

Stevil2001 wrote: View Post
It just seems odd to me, I guess. I wouldn't expect anyone to like all "classic literature"-- but then, who likes all kinds of science fiction? But it just seems unlikely that there'd be no "classic literature" someone might respond to emotionally.
Well, I do have a tendency (one I'm not exactly apologetic for, but which I acknowledge can be troublesome) to be rather pronounced - very likely far too much so in most peoples' perspectives - in my desire to distance myself from what I perceive as a collective series of cultural assumptions. It can cause me to be a little frustrating at times, I imagine.

Also, my post up there was poorly phrased and not at all thought out, as evidenced by the fact that I had to then try to clarify myself over several other posts, so, really, my foul.
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Old May 18 2014, 03:19 PM   #15
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Re: The Guardian's Damien Walter on the franchise novel

There was a similar article earlier in the month:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014...ter-film-books
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