· Posted: 20 May 2005 13:12 · Edited by: Pelaphus
Well, I'll say this much, Jock, it sure is fun agreeing to disagree with you.
Okay, quality: most tie-ins may be only fair (actually I find that most of the ones I have time to read these days -- not near what I used to -- hover between good and pretty good), but note I said that the PROPORTION of worthy ones to bad ones, AT ANY GIVEN TIME, is not much different than the PROPORTION of good to bad originals.
And yes, I agree too that (for example) the COLUMBOs (almost all teleplay novelizations, save the first two COLUMBOs by Alfred Lawrence) and ROCKFORDs (teleplay novelizations by Edgar winner Mike Jahn) of our youth had a different impact because of a different technological daily existence. But those are two curious examples to have chosen, because in the post VCR era both detectives graced HARDCOVER series of original stories, that sold well and were well reviewed in the mainstream press: Two ROCKFORDSs by Stuart Kaminsky and six COLUMBOs by the late William Harrington, both established crime/mystery novelists. These did very nicely for a different generation -- well a different generation PLUS the previous one -- in a time when profligate and ubiquitous rerunning made taping and reliving the eps. easy for anyone who desired to.
In fact, onto popularity now (putting aside quality as a subject just for a moment), certain kinds of TV tie-ins have proliferated at a rate UNHEARD OF in our youth. Yes: I remember the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.s very well -- 23 over six or seven years (after the series was cancelled, Ace Books continued to burn off manuscripts they'd already commissioned); next to the DARK SHADOWS series by Dan Ross as "Dorothy Ross" (never got into those) it may have been the tie-in series with the most titles, published at what was then an average rate. But that's nothing compared to over 100 one-a-month BUFFYs and I don't know how many ANGELs, plus SABRINAS and ALIASes & etc. So "tie-in as pre-VCR memory aide" doesn't explain the continuing popularity of the genre. In point of fact, during that period where TV tie-ins were adaptations more than originals (the 70s), a trend due to a writer's guild contract development that made them cheaper to produce, the sales went down so drastically that for awhile the genre all but vanished. So tie-in as pre-VCR memory aide didn't even WORK for very long, and even then, only here and there. It was the original TREKs of the late 70s that turned the tide and set the "new" precedent. Which really only renovated the old precedent. The most popular teevee tie-ins prior to that had been the "classic" 60s ORIGINALS: not because they massaged the memory by adapting scripts, but because they expanded the lore with new stories.
Shelf-Life: It may be possible that the Collins CSIs will leave print once the series is no longer actively produced, but not necessarily (the MURDER SHE WROTE novel series is still producing new titles; and the current DIAGNOSIS MURDER books began only AFTER its parent series was cancelled). And that's still a worthier (even a better) shelf life than most original novels get in the ruthless marketplace. (From my own personal experience: ALIEN NATION was on the air for one year; the tie-ins didn't get published until two years after cancellation, and my title stayed available -- and in big bookstores visibly so -- for about four years thereafter; so there really is no clean generalization.) To me media-related shelf-life is a bit of a straw argument ... it doesn't hearken at all to quality or intrinsic worth, merely the possible vicissitudes of the marketplace. I don't even think it matters that such novels are created as merchandising ... when it gets down to writing, it's still one lonely scribe in front of his/her computer doing the best s/he can within the parameters of the task.
And you say there have been no breakout successes. Well, I'm not sure how you define that but, sure there have. Danielle Steele's career was BUILT on a tie-in (to a flop movie at that), her cannily marketed novelization of THE PROMISE. Ubiquitous SF writer Alan Dean Foster only became ubiquitous after his STAR TREK LOG series made him the SF novelization king for a time (and many of the film titles stayed in print for YEARS on the strength of his by-line, long after the films vanished -- some are STILL available). A.C. Crispin became a SF writer of note on the strength of her TREK books, as did several others. And some writers became breakout (or maybe break-in) successes WITHIN the tie-in genre: look at the career of Peter David. And of course a brand-name by-line can flummox any expectation: HOW THE WEST WAS WON by Louis L'Amour is still in print; so's FANTASTIC VOYAGE by Isaac Asimov. And there are cultural phenomena -- Various publishers have continued to reprint the three late 60s THE PRISONER novels by Thomas M. Disch, David McDaniel and Hank Stine (the first especially). And a new edition of Peter George's DOCTOR STRANGELOVE emerged not long ago. Again, there are no clear generalizations, nor any clean way to make the case for the prosecution -- OR the defense for that matter, if you want to use things like shelf-life and marketplace trends or "well, most of them are sub-par" as your barometer. Because all those things are true and not true, provable and disprovable.
The only case I'm making is ... even within the "confines" of a commission ... even within the mercenary objectives of franchise merchandising ... quality is VERY possible. And is as likely as not to make its own case for existence and continued shelf-life. It all depends upon the suitability and enthusiasm of the lonely scribe who gets the gig. And that, for me at least, is enough reason to explore new TINTIN tales. And even to suffer a few that may well be sub-par while the series gets its sea legs. And with Spielberg about to thrust Tintin into (please, we hope) higher prominence with (please, we hope) decent films, it's not a bad time to examine the potential ...