This history of sci-fi tie-in novels by Charlie Jane Anders at io9 is pretty awe-inspiring, especially if you’re like me and never really got over the closing of the store where you furtively browsed through Tales from Jabba’s Palace. With, of course, a typically thoughtful conclusion:
And that leads to the other big development of the past decade or so — bigger authors turning to tie-in novels to try and make some extra cash or win new fans, or just have fun with a beloved icon. Greg Bear surprised some fans by announcing he was working on a Halo novel, a sequel to Fall Of Reach. Tobias Buckell also wrote a Halo novel, 2008’s The Cole Protocol. Jeff VanderMeer wrote a Predator novel, South China Sea, also published in 2008. And of course, Michael Moorcock surprised everybody by announcing he was doing a Doctor Who novel.Some professional writers are alarmed at the growth of sharecropping novels, where authors dabble in characters they didn’t create for media conglomerates that keep most of the profits. But they’re a growing slice of the publishing world — and at this point, you can’t claim it’s impossible to create meaningful, groundbreaking work in the tie-in novel world. As a whole, tie-in books may look like a shower of drek — but they’ve helped expand our understanding of some of science fiction’s most iconic characters, and — perhaps — helped those big media properties become more interesting and thoughtful along the way.
I think doing something like this would be fun, and actually extremely challenging. In fandoms, we’ve all got our particular interpretations of our characters that it’s very hard to shake. Working within existing constraints to both express and bound those interpretations would be a fun project to take on, especially if you’re getting paid actual money to do it and not just typing it on your parents’ computer, printing it out, and sending it in the mail to friends. I am less dorky than I was when I did things like that. But only marginally.