Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Different Authors, Same Universe

In some of the more popular fictional universes – Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, etc – it’s not uncommon for multiple authors to publish stories with the same setting.  It gives us lots more stories about our favorite characters than we could get otherwise, so fans will flock to them, but is this necessarily a good thing?

The difference in the quality of writers is the most glaring weakness in this.  Let’s take the Star Wars universe, for example – following Return of the Jedi, there was little left in that realm.  Most of what had been published was done prior to the last movie, and the spark seemed dead.  Then, in 1991, Timothy Zahn revitalized the franchise with Heir to the Empire.  It was an instant classic, drawing fans back in with a zeal similar to the original movie.  It led to a whole host of new stories and new writers writing them.

Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, Zahn was far and away the best author out there for this type of work.  I found others that followed to be dry and uninspiring, mostly relying on boring old clichés and worn settings that they couldn’t breathe life into.  I often wondered whether the Star Wars universe would’ve been better had those other writers come in first and let Zahn be a later spark, or would it all have died before ever getting off the ground.

The second issue I have with multiple writers in the universe is consistency of story.  I have a hard enough time keeping my own story straight – keeping it straight over several writers and several books may be all but impossible.  And believe me, fans will find those inconsistencies.  I’ve read a few books that play fast and loose with the canon, and it’s frustrating.

Third…are we really so out of ideas that we have to borrow from another?  Maybe I’m being an old codger here, but I find writing so much in an already established universe to be lazy, especially when taken from one so prominent.  My ten year old daughter could write a story in the Harry Potter universe; do we really need folks not named Rowling to do that?  Where has the creative spark for creating your own world gone?

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