Thursday, September 18, 2008

Neverending Stories: Sequels, Prequels, & Spin-offs

Is it impossible to leave good enough alone? In Hollywood, classic films are often being remade with disastrous results or getting franchised with unnecessary sequels. While I suppose it’s nothing new, this trend seems to be more prevalent in the publishing industry these days as well.

“Rhett Butler’s People” by Donald McCaig was the much touted authorized novel based on Margaret Mitchell’s classic “Gone with the Wind” released in late 2007. This is told through the eyes of the hero hoping to complement- or complete?- the original.

As much as readers would wish to find out more about the characters they’ve come to care about but unfortunately the pages have run out, a continuation of the story might actually ruin their experiences if the new stories are not written properly or for the right reason. Of course, no one is forced to read the recent incarnations but wouldn’t you want to know what happens next? Or even before?

To celebrate the centennial anniversary of L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables”, her heirs thought it would be fun to release a prequel hence the publication of “Before Green Gables” by Budge Wilson earlier this year. It looks at Anne Shirley’s life before she was adopted by the Cuthberts.

I was browsing through the children’s section of a bookstore- I forget which one- when I came across “The Diamond of Darkhold” by Jeanne Duprau. Just recently released, it’s supposedly the fourth and final title in her Books of Ember series. Then again, I thought the first three books were it so this came as a surprise. However, I guess this was inevitable since “The City of Ember” movie comes to theaters next month. I don’t know what the author’s original plan was- if this book was a natural progression to the story or not. Unlike “The Prophet of Yonwood” which was a prequel, “The Diamond of Darkhold” is a direct continuation of “The City of Ember” and “The People of Sparks”.

I also saw a display for Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” and related merchandise like journals and calendars. Not that it needed more publicity considering its success on the bestseller lists and as a Tony award-winning Broadway musical. I didn’t realize that a third volume was coming out next month. “A Lion Among Men” would be a return to his reimagined Oz after “Son of a Witch” and focuses on Brrr, the Cowardly Lion. Of course, this trio of tales were based on L. Frank Baum’s original Oz series. This is a release I’m actually excited about.

On the other hand when I found out there would be more releases from J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, my first thoughts were, “Enough already! I get it. Your books are popular and you guys are super rich!” Even though not a continuation of the Harry Potter series per se, Rowling’s upcoming December release of “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”, it’s still a part of that world.

Maybe I’m still reeling from all the hype and hoopla that came with the release of Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” and the overwhelming disappointment on how the Twilight saga “ended” but I was not happy to learn she planned on continuing it by retelling the series through the vampire’s perspective with “Midnight Sun”. And I only found out because of the news that someone had leaked a partial copy of an early draft online without her permission. Despite her claims, this seemed like a publicity stunt- not that she or her books need it. I would go so far as to compare her to the cast of MTV’s “reality” TV show “The Hills” as just another fame whore. Of course, I could just be jealous of her success.

There’s apparently also going to be a “Sex and the City” for teens. Or, at least, its author Candace Bushnell has just signed a deal with HarperCollins to publish at least two books targeted for a younger audience. The first will be about main character Carrie Bradshaw’s life in high school. “The Carrie Diaries” has a publication date for fall 2010.

Characters are not the only things that can be carried over. Ann Brashares is using the school in which the characters of her popular “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” attended as the premise of her new trilogy. “3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows” will be available January 2009.

The biggest news and shock for me was learning that Douglas Adam’s widow has approved a sixth installment in her late husband’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series. Entitled “And Another Thing…” (due out next October) will be written by Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame.

Whether most of these sequels, prequels, and spin-offs can live up to the quality of their original counterparts is still left to be seen. But sometimes I think it’s best to leave the characters to their happily-ever-after.

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