Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franchise)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by DigificWriter, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Hi, all. This is a question specifically for those authors who post here, particularly those for whom Star Trek is not the only franchise for which they write or have written tie-in media of any sort:
    What are some general 'rules' regarding tie-in media that you've found to be universal?

    Note: I'm asking this question due to an ongoing discussion on the message boards of The Force.Net concerning what could potentially happen to the existing media of the Star Wars 'Expanded Universe' - the majority of which takes place in the years after Return of the Jedi - now that we know that the Sequel Trilogy is coming and will be covering that same time period, and would like to be able to offer some specifics concerning how writing tie-in media generally works.

    Thanks in advance for any replies that I get, BTW.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    If you're looking for some universal practice regarding how canon and tie-ins are related, there isn't one. It depends on the individual franchise and the decisions of the people running it. A lot of tie-in franchises don't worry too much about continuity, or even about accuracy to the source in some cases I've seen. Star Trek has generally maintained a policy that the books and comics have no impact on the canon, and though there have been occasional periods of continuity among different books or comics, in general there's been no effort to maintain a uniform tie-in continuity. Pocket novels currently have an interconnected continuity, but there are still novels that are separate from it, and the comics and Star Trek Online game follow their own distinct courses. As for Star Wars, the licensed tie-ins have long been treated as a continuous universe and have sometimes influenced canonical material, but as is always the case, the creators of canon have the option to rewrite the universe (including reinterpreting past canon) as needed to serve a current story. (The fan perception that canon is unalterable gospel is entirely wrong. It's all just made up to begin with, so it's easy enough to pretend some earlier part of it happened differently than was originally pretended.) Then there are those occasional instances where the creator of the canon personally supervises the creation of canonical tie-ins, as J. Michael Straczynski did with the majority of the Babylon 5 novels and all the comics, as Rockne S. O'Bannon did with the Farscape comics scripted by Keith R.A. DeCandido and David Mack, and as Joss Whedon has done with the comics tie-ins to his shows (although the canonical Buffy/Angel comics were preceded by years of non-canonical comics and novels).

    Basically, the only universal rule of tie-in writing is that we're hired to work for the owners of the franchise and our job is to follow their lead and their instructions. Generally that means we have to stay consistent with the canon as it currently stands, but they don't have to stay consistent with what we do. If they call our books canonical, as Lucasfilm has done with its tie-ins, that's an indulgence on their part that can be revoked whenever it suits them. And that's fine, because it's their universe, not ours; we're just borrowing their toys and playing with them for a bit.
     
  3. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Thanks for the reply, Christopher. I was hoping that there might be some general uniformity in terms of the function of tie-in media, but it doesn't sound like that is the case. You did give me a new avenue of 'argument', though, so thanks for that.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Like Christopher said, it varies. One important factor to take into account: is the the original show or movie series still a going concern or not? In general, you tend to have more latitude when the show is off than the air rather than ongoing.

    Case in point: When wrote my first 4400 novel, the show was still on the air so I had to be careful not to contradict or change anything (which was tricky given how serialized the show was). I basically wrote a standalone adventure that left the universe the way I found it--but, even still, I had to do multiple drafts of the outline before we worked out a plot that the licensors would approve. There was much discussion of which characters I could use, when exactly the book took place in the timeline, etc.

    By the time I wrote my second 4400 book, the show had been cancelled so I was given much more freedom to wrap things up and move the plot along--because there was no longer any danger of contradicting the show.
     
  5. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Sorry - I'm not an author, but have been considering the fate of the Star Wars EU. I would think it will either get a full reboot or one almighty retcon. Something along the lines of the Trek JJverse may be a good idea as it would leave the old EU novels alone and still allow a restart.

    I would think the new EU (and even the new films) may reflect some of the characters of the old one being as Lucasfilm have been so involved with it, but that's their call.

    What do you authors think ?

    And Welcome Back Chewie...
     
  6. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I asked what would happen if something similar happened in Trek's post-Dominion War era, back when Micheal Dorn was talking about his dreams for a Captain Worf series: http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=177895

    I imagine there will be many furious Star Wars readers come 2015.
     
  7. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I'd like Christopher, Greg, and other authors' opinions on how best to respond to the following post without offending anyone:
     
  8. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Ultimately, it's a practical issue, not an artistic one. No studio in their right mind is going to worry about contradicting some old tie-in novels when it comes to making a Major Motion Picture or TV series which will be seen by millions more people than have ever read the books.

    We're talking whole different orders of magnitude here. Movies have audiences of millions . . or maybe even billions. Tie-in novels are read by tens of thousands, tops.

    And I wouldn't take offense if a new movie contradicted one of my books. Hell, my novelization of UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS completely contradicted my earlier novel, UNDERWORLD: BLOOD ENEMY. Why? Because the new movie continuity took priority.

    That's just the way it goes. The movies and TV episodes always trump the books when it comes to continuity. They're the dog; we're the tail.
     
  9. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    To be honest, I always thought the Traviss situation was dumb. Not that The Clone Wars contradicted what she had written about the Mandalorians -- having your work contradicted by an active or future production is part of the territory when when you write a tie-in, and you know that going in -- but her reaction to it. She was paid for her books, she had fans who bought her books, she had an audience online -- and she pulled an Eric Cartmann and said, "Screw you guys, I'm going home." It seemed excessively petty on her part, and not being any sort of active Star Wars fan I'm sure there are nuances and backstory that I'm completely missing.

    To answer your question, the short answer is that, no, Lucasfilm doesn't care about the fans who love the novels or the authors who wrote them. Both groups are infinitesimally small in comparison to the number of butts Disney wants in the seats for Episode VII. Fans will grouse, but they'll still see the film and buy the books. Authors may be annoyed their work was ignored, but even if authors refuse to write more Star Wars novels there are other authors who gladly will.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Well, I think the only way to avoid offending anyone in online fandom is to say nothing. But what I would say is this:

    The money being put into the books -- and gotten out of their sales -- is a minuscule fraction of the money involved in the movies. The thing to understand about tie-in novels and comics is that they're basically promotional tools, a way to create additional interest and keep the fans engaged between movies, just as video games or action figures or coloring books or toothbrushes are. So it doesn't matter if they're canonical any more than it matters if a Darth Vader PEZ dispenser is canonical. What matters is that they're keeping the characters and the universe active in the audience's attention, which supports the core franchise itself. The movies and TV shows are the real thing; the books and comics are just an optional supplement for people who like to read, just as the video games, action figures, LEGO sets, and the like are optional supplements for people who enjoy those forms of entertainment.

    As I said above, it's only fans, not creators, who treat canon as a rigid, immutable thing. The process of creating a book or a movie, of constructing a story, is a process of constant refinement and adjustment -- trying out ideas, cutting the ones that don't work, folding in new ideas as they occur to you, gradually improving things until you get something that pretty much works. Fans only see the finished product, and think of it as a monolithic, permanent thing, but creators see the canon as the result of a process of change and improvement. And that process never truly ends as long as the canon is still being made. The creators of any canonical work are always open to changing it as they go. If they don't have the option to actually go back and alter things in earlier installments, as Lucas did in the film re-releases, they'll just retcon or ignore the bad or problematical ideas from earlier installments and pretend they always happened differently. Canon is a moving target.

    And I'll say what I always say: since all stories are equally imaginary and unreal, it doesn't make sense to say that one made-up story is worthless just because it's contradicted by a different made-up story. I used to think that removing a novel or comic from my personal version of the Star Trek continuity constituted "throwing it out," but eventually I realized that that was silly, that the stories were still just as good whether they were compatible with other stories or not. Consistency is not the same thing as quality. Maybe it is if you're studying for a history exam and need to get your facts straight, but this is fiction. All that matters is being entertained.
     
  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    It should be noted that this is nothing new. Johnston McCully did the same thing back when he was writing the original ZORRO novels, and I imagine (although I can't quote chapter in verse) that the same applies to DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW, TARZAN, THE HARDY BOYS, NANCY DREW, and probably even Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer.

    And don't get me started on the continuity lapses and retcons in the old Universal and Hammer monster movies. Or the Godzilla films for the matter. And, you know what, audiences back then didn't seem to mind.

    (Maybe because there was no home video or internet?)

    As I like to say, continuity is a virtue, but it's not the only virtue or even the most important one. Last time I checked, Zorro is still around . . . .
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    There are famous inconsistencies in the Sherlock Holmes canon, like Watson's war wound moving from his leg to his shoulder.

    As for Godzilla, the creators of those films have intentionally rebooted the canon multiple times. The original films from 1954 through the mid-'70s (named the Showa series after the namesake era of the Japanese calendar) didn't really bother much with continuity (dead monsters came back to life with little explanation, and there were virtually no recurring characters), but sort of vaguely formed a rough continuity. The Heisei-era series from 1984-95 ignored everything but the '54 original and started a new, tighter continuity from there, complete with a few recurring characters for a change, although it had its own continuity glitches. And then, with the Millennium series of films starting in 1999, they started over, experimenting with setting each new film in a separate continuity, a different interpretation of the Godzilla universe -- though every one was still nominally a sequel to the '54 original, even though some of them reinterpreted the causes and meaning of its events or retconned its ending (and the last three films -- and two universes -- were sequels to a few other Showa-era monster movies as well, while contradicting others). They embraced discontinuity, and it was actually quite intriguing to see all the different variations on the theme (though only a few were really worthwhile). And while I was watching those, I couldn't help but wonder why many Star Trek (and I guess Star Wars) fans feel so threatened by the idea of multiple continuities. Reinventing a fictional universe from the ground up, or nearly so, can be a lot of fun.
     
  13. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    ^I confess. I knew that if I mentioned Godzilla, Christopher would explain its various continuities much better than I ever could! :)
     
  14. Admiral Rex

    Admiral Rex Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Why do Star Trek and Star Wars fans think that all media must tie into a single, consistent continuity? Do Batman fans complain that Nolan's Dark Knight movies are consistent with the Burton Batman movies? And both movie versions don't stick with the continuity of Batman comics and TV shows (both live-action and animated).

    Even the recent Amazing Spider-man doesn't tie in to the previous films, comics, and TV shows.

    I like seeing new takes on classic stories. When universes become too big, it gets to be impossible to keep everything consistent. If Star Trek was one big canon between all media, there would never be any new five-year mission stories because the timeline is filled to capacity.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    All fans don't think that way. I think the reason a lot of them do is that they haven't been given an explicit alternative. All the screen incarnations of Star Trek have been presented as part of the same history, up until 2009 (and even that's presented as an alternate timeline branching off from the original continuity). And the books and comics are all presented as consistent with the screen canon even when they're not consistent with each other. So it's not like Batman or Spider-Man where they've seen multiple screen and print incarnations explicitly set in distinct continuities. There's an expectation that there's a single core continuity.

    As for Star Wars, there really hasn't been that much screen content up until recently, and again, most of the tie-ins have purported to be in the same reality as the screen content rather than being an alternate version of it. And you have the added factor there of Lucasfilm Licensing actively pushing the tie-ins to be consistent with each other and telling the fans they were "canonical" in some way, promoting that perception quite strongly. The only alternative takes SW fans have seen are parodies like Lego Star Wars and the upcoming Detours show from the Robot Chicken producers.
     
  16. James Swallow

    James Swallow Writer Captain

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Interesting thread here. To add my 2p, I'd say that Greg and Chris hit the marks regarding the "rules". At the end of the day, the tie-in writer must serve the source material over all other concerns - even if that source material contradicts itself, other tie-ins or goes on to contradict the work being written. Generally speaking, screen trumps paper.

    Of course, a good writer will try to ensure that their tie-in work doesn't ride roughshod over other tie-in works in the same sphere (and if they do, the line editor should pull them up about it!), but that's often down to the writer to police those details.

    Check out Doctor Who fandom; many of those guys have tied themselves in timey-wimey knots trying to create a coherent continuty from the many differing elements of that mythos...
     
  17. Lonemagpie

    Lonemagpie Writer Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    "Respect & play true to the source material" is pretty much the rule.

    As for canon and continuity- Canon is subjective, and different for everybody. Some franchises have a single spokesperson who decrees what it is, and others don't, but in any case every member of the audience has their own canon.

    For continuity, I think Dr Who legend Terrance Dicks said it best- "Continuity is what you can remember at the time"
     
  18. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    I can't speak for others, but I love the interconnectivity. The idea that it's the same Spock from "The Cage" through to "Unification", who gave Selar advice in New Frontier, who legalized the Unification movement in Rough Beasts of Empire, who watched his world die in an alternate past in JJ's Star Trek, is mind-blowingly cool. Yes, there are too many adventures for one lifetime (let alone that first five-year mission!), but I can easily suspend my disbelief about that sort of thing.

    If it's suddenly different Spocks... it loses something. I'm not saying it's a deal-breaker, but it's something I'd like maintained where possible.
    I've always found it odd that Star Wars novels are supposed to be canon, when George Lucas is on record saying that the model of Star Trek's non-canon tie-ins were what he agreed to, and that he considers what happens in the SW novels to be a "parallel universe" to the movies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_canon

     
  19. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    They don't.

    Sure. Some.

    And Catwoman switched from caucasian to African-American in the 60s TV series, a trick repeated by Harvey Dent, in reverse, in the "Batman" movies of the late 80s and 90s.

    You've answered your own question. Not all ST fans think the way you stated.
     
  20. rahullak

    rahullak Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Question for authors: General 'rules' for tie-in media (any franch

    Isn't it "personal continuity" that's subjective? Doesn't "canon" mean core body of work, which in the case of Star Trek is the onscreen material?
     

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