Friday, September 12, 2008

Biographia Cinerati-philos: Opinions of the "Friends of Cinerati"

SF Signal has an excellent regular feature, entitled Mind Meld, where they ask Science Fiction and Fantasy authors to write their thoughts regarding some subject related to the SF/F industry. The answers give great insight into the minds of some of the leading authors, and upcoming authors, to their fans.

Beginning with this first Biographia Cinerati-philos (to borrow a page from Coleridge who I am certain is rolling over in his grave), or the Life and Opinions of the Friends of Cinerati, we have asked friends of the site to answer a question recently asked on the SF Signal website. Future entries will include additional authors covering a range of subject areas from film and literature to games. There will be no consistent theme which forms the pool of questions, save the interests of the site. The questions will have something to do with popular culture, as will the respondents themselves.

The responses to the question are listed below.

Q: How do you think media tie-in novels affect the genre of sf/f?

Aaron Rosenberg

Media tie-in novels are good for the SF/Fantasy genre for two reasons.

First, they bring in new readers. People who’ve never read SF/F will pick up a Transformers novel or a WarCraft novel because they loved the TV show and the movie or play the game. Then they’ll discover they enjoy reading the genre—they’ll look at similar tie-in novels and may also branch out into original SF/F fiction.

Second, media tie-in novels give the writers a chance to develop worlds, characters, and events more fully. For example, when I wrote the WarCraft book Tides of Darkness I was essentially novelizing the first WarCraft game. But I got to connect events, to offer character insights, and to generally flesh out the storyline from the game, transforming it into a full novel. This is not only great fun to do—and hopefully fun to read—but excellent practice. By doing work like this I get better at developing stories and characters, which translates to my original work as well as to any other tie-in writing I might do. That means that tie-in writers get stronger as writers in general, and help raise the bar for the genre overall. This encourages stronger, sharper, more insightful SF/F novels from everyone, so everyone—especially the reader—benefits.

Aaron Rosenberg has written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, WarCraft, Warhammer, and Exalted. He also writes roleplaying games, children’s books, and educational books. He lives and works in New York City.

Susan Palwick

In general, anything that limits the number of new ideas in a field -- that decreases inventiveness rather than increasing it -- makes me sad. Of course, some media tie-ins are excellent work in their own right, and they can provide useful steady money for writers. But I'd be happier if creative artists of all sorts (and this is even truer in film, where everything these days seems to be prequels, sequels and remakes, rather than original work) were taking risks and giving us new ideas rather than rehashed old ones. SF/F arguably allows more inventiveness than any other genre, but too much of the material out there is formula of one kind or another.

Susan Palwick is an American science fiction and fantasy writer who began her career by publishing "The Woman Who Saved the World" for Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1985.

Susan Palwick is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author who holds a doctoral degree from Yale. She currently teaches as an associate professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is the author of three novels (FLYING IN PLACE, THE NECESSARY BEGGAR, and SHELTER) and a collection of short stories entitled (THE FATE OF MICE). She is currently working on her fourth novel, DRIVING TO NOVEMBER, which is historical fantasy set in central Nevada. Her fiction often centers on concepts of identity, belonging, and sense of place.

Matt Forbeck

Tie-in novels lure people who might not otherwise read genre fiction into the science fiction and fantasy aisles of their friendly local bookstores or their favorite internet shop. They expand upon familiar settings (and sometimes plots and characters too) to give readers a new way to experience something—whatever the novel is tied to—that they already love. They encourage reading, and I never see anything wrong with that.

Matt Forbeck has worked full-time on games and fiction since 1989. Projects Matt has worked on have been nominated for 23 Origins Awards and won 12. This includes the Best Roleplaying Game for Deadlands and The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, Best Miniatures Rules for Warzone and The Great Rail Wars, Best Roleplaying Adventure for Independence Day, Best Fantasy Board Game for Genestealer, and Best Short Story for “Prometheus Unwound” from The Book of All Flesh.

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