So I recently read on The Bookseller website (one of the few articles I was actually able to read in full as a non-paying freeloader) that Century, an imprint of Random House (or Penguin Random House if you’re being fancy/correct), will be ‘relaunching its Star Wars novels to become part of the “unified Star Wars storytelling future”‘. This bugged me, and I had a think about what my problem was. I mean, I have to admit that I’m excited about the prospect of the new Star Wars films, but is it really necessary to relaunch the entire franchise? I’m sort of in the camp of people who enjoy a good film adaptation of a book (have I mentioned this before…) but I still struggle to understand the point in publishing books based on films or television shows. The conversion doesn’t make sense to me.
When you read a book, most of the joy comes from allowing your imagination to construct characters, cities and landscapes out of the words on the page. Books, depending on their content, can allow you to create whole new worlds that could never exist in real-life. It must be such a joy to have the skill to be able to replicate your vision of what these worlds should look like on the big screen. And naturally, most people are curious about what someone else envisioned, and how this vision compares to their own. So much debate and discussion can come out of these adaptations, which can only be good for the book, right?
Not really. It isn’t always good for the book, or should I say future readers’ enjoyment of the book. The whole experience of creation and imagination is snatched away if you’ve already been exposed to someone else’s vision – it’s almost impossible not to picture those actors or that castle or the colour of the sunset from the film during that pivotal scene. This is even the case after you’ve read the book – can you honestly tell me that, after seeing the Harry Potter films, you don’t picture Emma Watson as Hermione or Alan Rickman as Snape when you reread the books? I feel a little bit as though those characters have been taken away from me. We used to be friends, but not I don’t know them anymore…
I’m getting a bit maudlin for my childhood now, so I’ll move swiftly on.
It seems as though there’s a real problem with publishers, and just creatives in general, recycling (or renewing/rejuvenating if you prefer) old material. Why must we constantly adapt and update old books and films with new casts and covers? Is it foolish to suggest that film-makers come up with their own ideas for films? Is it too much to expect writers to create their own fictions, rather than put someone else’s film down on the page? I don’t think it is. You can enjoy films and books without always paying homage to them through adapting and updating them. Can’t we just enjoy them for what they are?
I’m becoming more and more aware of the cyclical nature of creative content – someone writes a book, the book is adapted for film, the film stills make it on to the covers of the books, the books are entirely rebranded, the film almost entirely takes over the original work until all that’s left is the words on the page (though their descriptions are impotent as they’re expressing something that has already been rendered), and the inevitable rise in book sales just encourages the whole process to repeat itself forever and ever. I wish we could just put some space between films and books – these films are versions of the book, not one and the same thing.
Although I do enjoy some film adaptations of books, I really don’t see ANY need for book adaptations of films. I think that some people would argue that encouraging people to read is important, and anything that does this is valuable. I don’t really agree. I think it depends on what you read – reading isn’t, in my eyes, intrinsically worthwhile. For example, I stumbled upon book adaptations of the Skins series in HMV one day, and I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. If this writer (‘writer’) had spent some time producing something new, and the publisher had put the production costs for that book into a new novel by a new author, wouldn’t that be more worthwhile?
I think that publishers and writers have an obligation to, at the very least, provide the world with something new (even if it isn’t particularly good or marketable). Otherwise, what’s the point in any of it?