My Photo

Other writers' blogs worth reading

« RIP: Mr Wilson Pickett | Main | G'Nort in G'lasses »


Johnny Crow

I am not really sure why it is considered Ghetto.. but I supose it is because it's not "Original" but I don't see that. Because I see it like writers for a T.V. show, you have all this talent working together a creating a whole world with different voices. I like different voices because it gives you a fresh perspective.

To me it is just another form of writing like, poetry, or prose, or short stories, or sonnets, or anything.. writing can be in so many forms, no one better than the other. But I think people always have thier favorites, and with society we tend to be mobocratic about it, we follow the herd. Fortunatly some of us are smart enough to have taste.


Because if it's a tie-in, the publisher gets to pay you with a bushel of apples (more or less). But if you pretend it's not a tie-in (like "Scarlet," Alexandra Ripley's sequel to Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind"), you get a $5m advance. :P

Alexis M.

I'm doing my MA degree right now in English, and I just had this discussion with my boyfriend. We study postcolonial novels written as theoretical/critical responses to original texts like Gone With the Wind (The Wind Done Gone) Jane Eyre (Wide Sargasso Sea) and Great Expectations (Jack Maggs). These books are considered, at least in terms of academic study and criticism, to be worthy of critique. I doubt a media tie-in novel like War Craft or a Buffy novel would every be placed in that lofty (and lauded) position, and I suppose that oversight can be blamed on one of two things:

a) Bias, prejudice, or simple ignorance of how creative, well-written and interesting some tie-in novels can be. I'm sure if academics bothered to read tie-ins, and discovered how such texts work as creative responses to their original subject material...well, someone would be sure to write a PhD thesis on the matter.

b)The arbitrary classification system of literature. I think this may be more helpful in explaining why tie-ins are ghettoized by the literary community. As much as we academics rail against the canon and creative authors work to destabilize it or expose it as an arbitrary and inherently flawed system, we still stick to what we think of as "worthy" texts vs. "popular" texts. Those who move outside of those strict guidelines are expected to either be doing something interesting with theory (Buffy and Derrida, perhaps) or maintain a smug, self-aware knowledge that what they're reading/writing about isn't really serious, it's to illustrate a larger point about popular culture. The media tie-in itself will never be the true focus of such a study, just a way for an academic to prove a point and justify themselves.

So if you're looking for a boost in the status of tie-ins from the academic community, it probably won't happen until younger academics start shrugging off the weight of the canon and take some initiative. My boyfriend might write on Preacher for his PhD thesis; I'm hoping to tackle The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Neither is really a tie-in, but they're both texts that, up until a few years ago, academics were only supposed to read in their time off.


Interesting choices for thesis work, Alexis. Buffy is starting to get a little bit of academic attention (as do comics, these days)--my friend and sometime collaborator Nancy Holder was a guest at an academic conference on Buffy in Tennessee last year or the year before. Mostly the discussion centers around the series and its metaphorical content--TV as lit, that sort of thing. But Nancy has nothing to do with the show, so there was at least lip service to the role of the tie-in novels in expanding/illuminating the experience. As to how serious they really were about it, or if the whole thing was a big academic in-joke that they did instead of a vacation that week, I can't say.

Beyond the realm of academe, however, the problem is still what is a "real" book and what isn't. I doubt that academics will ever take Danielle Steel any more seriously than they do tie-ins. But her books are promoted and reviewed (if only in the non-serious outlets like Entertainment Weekly and People, rather than the NYTBR), and they make her lots of money. For someone who supports his family and growing, adorable pets on his writing, that's a key consideration.


Maybe it's a reflection of a lack of respect for the original source material? There may be other examples, but working with yours, the distinction seems to be whether the original is a novel or other media...
not justifying the snobbery (I've read some crappy original novels and some damn fine novels set in someone else's tv/movie/comics universe in my time), just noting...

Todd Kogutt

I posted this on Keith DeCandido's blog:

I wonder how much can be attributed to the owner of the property, instead of the public.

When Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars novel came out, it was a big deal. (Not study in school big, but Time magzine, big displays, etc big). Same with the Shadows of the Empire book. Lucas made a big deal about these...I notice that doesn't happen anymore.

The Trek books are the bastard stepchild of Trekdom. Look at TrekBBS. The book section is lumped with Fan Fiction and fan art. It's not at the big kids table with the TV shows and movies. The Video games! are in a more prominent spot!

Has Newsarama interviewed Keith yet about the Spider-Man book? Or Priest about the GL books? Or Marco about the JLA books? If Marvel or DC said, "We'd like to see some coverage of these", how long do you think it'd take for Keith to get an email from Matt Brady?

Did you catch the commericial for the CSI novels that was durring last night's show? Neither did I.


True enough. In fact, my list of recognized, "accepted" tie-ins includes Conan, which is originally a literary property. But certainly not one that polite society looks on as particularly worthy, so the overall point that the source material is considered somehow inferior remains valid.

On the other hand, as you say, there are certainly "original" novels that are terrible on their own merits--why would a good book based on Buffy be less worthy than a bad book?

John C. Bunnell

Books set in the world of Peter Pan, or The Godfather, or Gone With the Wind, are works made for hire, based on characters and settings created by other writers. The originals are loved by millions. The new books are approved by the copyright holders of the original material.

Umm -- I'm not sure this is correct with respect to Peter Pan in particular. A look at the copyright page of Peter and the Starcatchers, via Amazon, says that the book is copyrighted to Dave Barry and "Page One, Inc." (I would guess the latter to be a personal corporation created by Pearson), not to Disney. Similarly, J. V. Hart's more recent Capt. Hook is copyrighted to Hart. It's probably worth observing that both books flow from the prose version of Peter Pan, rather than a filmed or staged version.

As far as I can tell, the various literary Pan spinoffs already in print (as opposed to the authorized followup announced by the Great Ormond Street Hospital) are more properly pastiches akin to the post-Doyle Sherlock Holmes tales, rather than works made for hire in the mediaverse sense. (OTOH, Terry Brooks' adaptation of the film Hook was clearly a tie-in and a work for hire.)

I add here that I have every respect for tie-in books; I've recommended them for Nebulae, and I regularly included them in the review columns I wrote for Dragon and Amazing, handing out kudos or criticisms as I thought appropriate.


I have very little respect for 'Scarlett'. I just wish I could have those hours of my life back....

I think it hinges on the amount of respect given the original work. Fans love Conan, Star Trek, Star Wars, but they're not respected. Star Trek novels aren't given less respect than sequels to the best-selling Dragonlance series.

Also, Barry & Pearson did not have the permission of the Hospital. In fact, they got sued for copyright infringement.

The copyright had expired in the US but not the UK I believe.


I thought I had already posted this in comments, but I guess not. My friend Matt Forbeck explained the Peter Pan rights situation--they expired, but the British government decided they should not be allowed to expire and wrote a law making a single-case exclusion to the copyright laws, for Peter Pan. Those rights would belong, in perpetuity, to the Ormond Street Hospital for Children, to which Barrie gave them.

But some governments, including ours, don't accept the legitimacy of that copyright--hence the non-authorized Peter Pan stuff we see. If it's published in the UK or anywhere that does honor that copyright, then the hospital takes its cut.

At any rate, the book that started the discussion, Peter Pan in Scarlet, fulfills all the criteria of a tie-in book. Peter and the Starcatchers wasn't work made for hire, but in the most important sense--is it a purely original work, or is it based on characters and a world created by someone else?--it's a tie-in. Or, since it's not approved and authorized, it should rightfully be considered fanfic.

I think Todd is right to some extent--if the rights holders themselves make a big deal about tie-in works, they tend to be more accepted by fans of the original property and to sell more copies. I believe that Monk does promote the Monk tie-ins on the air, and they've built a terrific website around the books.

All this goes to my real point, which is that tie-ins should not be judged purely on the basis that they are tie-ins, and therefore somehow inferior to "real books." They should be judged on their own merits, as other books are. If it takes pointing out that Peter Pan in Scarlet is a tie-in book, then that's what should be done.

John C. Bunnell

It's certainly true that the existing vocabulary creates many difficulties in discussing the kinds of books we're dealing with here -- as the Peter Pan case illustrates, using the terms we have can create or reveal inconsistencies. Some examples:

My sense in applying the term "tie-in" (per many years of book reviewing in the SF/F community) is that to date, and as used by the IAMTW, it's been reserved for "works made for hire" (WFH for short). While /Peter and the Starcatchers/ is clearly a derivative work in terms of copyright, if we count it as a tie-in, we're extending that definition well past prior usage.

In the Sherlock Holmes niche, any work not part of the original Doyle canon is often referred to as "pastiche". This term has seen little use outside the Holmesian community, however, although it could arguably be applied equally well to many other works based on pre-existing literary material.

While "fanfic" in the modern sense is usually said to have originated in connection with /Star Trek/, it could be argued with considerable merit that Sherlock Holmes fandom (in the person of the Baker Street Irregulars) was doing the same thing many years earlier, with the first of the "pastiches" noted above.

At the same time, "fanfic" is usually reserved for describing works which are not commercially published -- yet in a qualitative sense, there's no real difference between the best of what's circulated as fanfic and such professionally published works as /Peter and the Starcatchers/ or Chelsea Cain's /Confessions of a Teen Sleuth/ (a novel billed as the autobiography of girl detective Nancy Drew).

Just to complicate matters still further, one characteristic usually counted as unique to "tie-in" or "work for hire" fiction is the idea that many authors contribute works to a pre-existing common setting, often with pre-defined characters (/Star Trek/, WotC's /Forgotten Realms/). Yet that concept is also used in SF/fantasy as the basis for author-created, non-WFH "shared world" fiction; two famous examples are /Thieves' World/ and /Wild Cards/, with a more current instance arising from Eric Flint's /1632/ or "Ring of Fire" cycle.

At the end of the day, of course, it's silly to judge the literary merit of a given text on the basis of whether its copyright holder is an individual or a corporate entity, or whether it was written by an individual or in collaboration. In those cases where a work draws on pre-existing material, it *is* appropriate to evaluate the work in the context of that material (that is, it's fair to draw comparisons between a /Star Trek/ novel and other /Star Trek/ stories) -- but it's still silly to judge the work's overall literary merit based on its use of the prior material (else we'd have to fault Shakespeare for borrowing most of his plots).

Which makes my underlying point, I suppose, that while the lack of respect for "tie-ins" is a serious problem, it's only part of a rather more complicated problem in what we might call the evolution of collaborative creation.


The non-Howard Conan stuff also earns the "pastiche" terminology, so as of the end of this month, I will have committed pastiche.

I think IAMTW considers anything a tie-in, for their purposes, as long as it is done for pay with the permission of the copyright holder. By those standards, the Wild Cards model would qualify. So would the new Peter Pan novel, but Peter and the Starcatchers clearly would not. In the loosest sense of the word, with a tie-in being any work based on characters and situations not original to the new work's author, it does, but that's probably too broad for a professional org like IAMTW, partially because then the only difference between that and pure fanfic would be publication. With the internet even blurring the lines of what is "published," that opens up a can of worms I suspect the org would like to avoid.

I completely agree with your final two points, John. That's why I began this conversation here, and why I'm glad it's taking place at various points around the 'net. Like most evolution and most revolutions, it's bound to be messy and complex, but it's something that should happen.

The comments to this entry are closed.