Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Eoin Colfer taint Douglas Adams' masterpiece?

Eoin Colfer (pic) has been asked to write the sixth part of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy 'trilogy', and some people are expressing concern.

I'm linking to the repost on as well as the original Guardian article, because the comments at highlight a common concern raised whenever some piece of literature is 'continued', or a classic film is remade.

People seem to be worried that an inferior sequel or continuation somehow taints the original work. It doesn't. The original work is still there. Look at modernisations of Shakespeare. You may like them or loathe them, but the original plays are still available, entirely unaltered by any reinterpretation. My great uncle, Herbert M. Jenkins, was adamant that Shakespeare should be played in one of only two ways: Elizabethan dress, or the dress of the period the play was portraying. (He had a point - there's a passage in Julius Caesar where Caesar is described by an onlooker as "throwing open his doublet". No mention of him wearing a toga, which seems more likely attire for ancient Rome.)

I think Uncle Bertie was wrong. Authors, dramatists, film-makers, indeed creators of any kind are free to draw on any sources for their inspiration, copyright permitting. They may or may not do a good job (though that's often a matter of opinion or artistic judgement). But whatever they do, they will not extinguish the original work, which is available for anyone to experience in its pristine original form.

Or even to make yet another adaptation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harlan Ellison: "Pay the Writer" - an outdated concept?

Harlan Ellison is well known for being . . . forthright.

(via WritersWeekly)

His point of view is a valid one, but it's also a little dated in this age of new media. For all his maverick bluster Ellison is an established writer who got where he is today by traditional methods. Those methods have become less appropriate now that so much free stuff is available.

New writers ('underpublished' writers, as Evo Terra of calls them) would do well to explore the alternatives. Slavishly insisting that every word carries a price-tag can be counterproductive. In essence Ellison is right, but it's worth remembering that writers can receive 'value' for their work in other than money.