I got this story from ~brb, but it's the perfect opening for this week's UGF column so I'm going to appropriate it.
I suspect most of you are familiar with the name Michael Stackpole, a quite prolific science fiction and fantasy author. I actually first heard of Stackpole through gaming, both computer and role playing. His computer adventure Wasteland, a post-apocalyptic adventure game released back in 1988, was extremely popular when I worked in a mall computer software store. I always regretted being unable to play that game, having moved up to a 16 bit Amiga before Wasteland was released.
Anyway, the same year Wasteland was released, Stackpole's first two novels were released. They were gaming-related novels set in FASA's Battletech universe. I've read those books and, given the restrictions of staying true to Battletech, they're quite good. Since then, Stackpole has written more Battletech books, original novels, and a bunch of Star Wars novels.
Now the story from ~brb. At conventions, many a fan has enthusiastically approached Stackpole, proudly proclaiming that they've read everything he's ever written. This is something any author would enjoy hearing and Stackpole is no different. Unfortunately for him, it quickly becomes apparent that the gushing fan standing before him has not read every novel Stackpole has written. What the gushing fan really means is that he has read every Star Wars novel Stackpole has ever written. The gushing fan rarely even knows Stackpole has written anything else.
That brings me around to books based on outside properties. By "outside" I mean novels based on movies or games or comic books or television shows or, lately, even video games. Anyone who has looked through the science fiction section at a bookstore has likely seen lots of these books. My local Barnes & Noble has several shelves filled with books based on Warhammer 40K (miniatures-based wargame), Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek and its spin-offs, Star Wars, and things I just can't remember right now.
I readily admit to having bought and read quite a few of these novels. I just finished the latest Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels and own all of the ones he's written and quite a few more. I've read my share of Star Trek novels, a few D&D novels, and, obviously, some Battletech novels.
It used to be that books based on properties like these were almost throw-aways. The author wasn't someone you'd necessarily have heard of because publishers figured people would buy the books for the property, not for the author. But, as with any market, the book market for properties has improved considerably. Some big name authors can be found writing novels for some of the properties these days. On top of that, the number of releases can be downright staggering.
After Zahn's Heir to the Empire was release in 1991, the flow of new Star Wars books was manageable. A guy could read almost all of the new novels and still keep up with his regular reading as well. At least, a guy could back before a certain Boy came into his life and he went from reading 50 to 60 books each year to 15 to 20 books each year. But within a few years, the steady flow became a flood. I've now met a guy who reads nothing but Star Wars novels -- absolutely nothing else -- and he can't keep up with all the new releases.
Is this a bad thing? Harlan Ellison says yes. Sales of those books take away sales (and shelf space) which could go to better, original novels. Of course, Harlan Ellison says a lot of things and says them very forcefully. But is he right about tie-ins like these? What do you think? And, do you read or have you read tie-in novels? Got a favorite? Stake out your position and defend it.
Let the arguments begin!
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