Aug 6, 2014

A Brief History of Reinventing the Wheel

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an actor out of a job must be in need of an audience; so the budding solopreneur Matthew de Bont, a young man with nothing to lose but a name not worth the keeping, decided to stage a production of Hamlet for dogs.

For this dog, specifically.

Or not.

The wheel was invented by Shakespeare -- you know, Jane Austen's uncle -- and yeah, I cribbed this prompt almost wholesale from Pride and Prejudice. 

Or was it Sense and Sensibility? I can never get the plot of those two completely different books straight in my head, though I believe one involves sea monsters, and the other one zombies. At least the reboots do.

Speaking of reboots, why do we think it's acceptable to remake a movie, while the idea of rewriting a book would make us gasp in horror? Although I must add, for clarity, that I don't think literary mashups like Android Karenina belong in the "reboot" category. Allow me to elaborate.

Put your imaginative muscles to work. You are a successful author, though not successful enough by your publisher's reckoning. You've been working on a series you're proud of, which you saw fit to call The Motherlander Wars -- or something in that vein.

The Motherlander Wars, Book II: The Sequel: Revenge of the Sovietskis: Tactical Tank Driving Manual I

Yet your publisher, Victor-Werner-Foxhill (just made that up, don't bother to google it), unilaterally decides to take your series away from you, give it to a more successful writer and tell them, "Why don't you go ahead and rewrite the entire saga from book one."

"But, uh, those books have already been written," says the successful writer. At this point the writer still has something that resembles a conscience, mind you.

"They're not good enough," says the publisher.

"That's not really an answer," the writer says.

"They're not good enough for this generation of readers," says the publisher.

"So you want me to... what? Dumb down the books?" the writer asks.

"Oh, nonono," says the publisher, which at this point I will have to anthropomorphize in some way, lest you think the writer has been conversing with an abstraction. So by "the publisher" I mean a guy who speaks for the company. I could flesh him out more but I'm hardly in the mood.

The publisher continues.
"Kids these days want more. You know? They want more out of their books."

"What do you mean, more?" the writer asks. Writers ask lots of questions. This is a truth universally acknowledged. "More dialog? More in-depth psychological characterization? More complex moral dilemmas?"

"Pfaugh," says the publisher, "and here I thought you understood the business. Who has time for those things in our day and age?" The publisher snorts a pinch of snuff with evident gusto. "No, I mean more explosions, more romance, adventure!" The publisher leaps to his feet. "Good vs. evil, explosions -- have I mentioned explosions? -- heroism, the triumph of human will!" The publisher's wooden teeth fall out. They rest on the publisher's desk like a dead, wet dog grinning at the Grim Reaper.


So, seriously, what is it with reboots? There's just too much of that going on, Hollywood. And NO, I'm not one of those people who complain about it all the time but then pay to watch the movies they complain about.

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