Thursday, October 22, 2009

"It's ok! I'm just picking up where he left off!"

There have been a lot of books published lately featuring characters from the classics, whether it be a re-telling of the same old tale with a new twist, a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, fan-fiction, or an official or unofficial sequel, people love to breathe new life into old characters.

But what would the authors' think of these new adventures?

Neely Tucker of The Washington Post gets upclose and personal with the authors--and estates---of three of such sanctioned official sequels:

In bookstores this week, Arthur Dent is hitchhiking through the
galaxy again. Dracula glides through the London fog once more, still in need of overwrought young women with plunging necklines and exposed veins. Winnie the Pooh is back to toddling around the Hundred Acre Wood.

This would not be remarkable were it not for the fact that the authors who created these literary icons -- Douglas Adams, Bram Stoker, A.A. Milne -- have been dead anywhere from eight years to nearly a century. But in the twilight world of officially sanctioned sequels, death is not an impediment to character development.

In three new books -- "And Another Thing . . . ," the sixth volume of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series; "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood," the new Winnie the Pooh book; and "Dracula: The Un-Dead" -- the estates of the deceased writers (or their descendants) have hired writers to breathe new life into these characters, whether their creators would have wanted them biting people on the neck again or not. It's not a new practice, but this troika of high-profile revivals, all within a 10-day period, brings these after-death sequels to a new level of prominence.

For more of Tucker's story, click HERE

The general consensus among Tucker's interviewees seems to be that it's perfectly ok to go ahead and continute classic characters since the original creator is no longer alive to do so himself. But Jane Belson, Douglas Adams's widow, gets to the heart of it without meaning to, it seems. When asked how she thinks Douglas would feel about this news, she said:

"He hated writing books, but he loved having written them. . . . I'm not sure how he would have reacted to someone doing it for him. But it seemed like a good idea."

Personally, if you aren't sure how he would have reacted, I don't think it seems like such a "good idea."

Characters are an author's children; they are a little piece of an author's soul. I know if I were to publish a novel, I would most certainly not want someone else to finish something they think I didn't finish by writing a sequel. You don't play with someone else's genius. Continuing a character's life can change the entire power and meaning of the original work. I can't think of a better way to honor a writer and loved one. *Insert sarcasm here*

While I understand the argument for continuing a beloved character for the fans, I still feel some things are sacred. A writer's work being one of them, especially when he/she is no longer around to have an opinion. The fans will survive. They'll cherish what they do have and keep reading.

Some may say that writing a sequel like this is no different than taking a book and turning it into a film or television series, but I disagree. It's a horse of a different color. It's taking the author's vision and seeing it through a new set of eyes in an entirely new way. A sequel is almost shouting, "I'm prentending to be 'insert author here'!"

Dacre Stoker, author of the new Dracula sequel (and great-grandnephew of Bram himself), clearly disagrees, telling Tucker that:
"I'm not claiming I write like Bram, and I'm not claiming to be an authority on all things vampire," he says. "We're just coming back to Bram's character, to a man lost in the fray in a lot of ways, and to what he created. That's the point of the book."

But, quite frankly, the "point of the book" was expressed when Bram Stoker put down his pen.

If you want to write your own book, tell your own story, don't just continue someone else's.

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