Science Fiction Tie-in books

Rodders

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I've seen a couple of threads on Star Wars and Star Trek books and i wondered what your opinions were on the tie in novelisation.

My relationship with them started with Splinter in the Minds Eye and the Han Solo trilogy in the 80's as a kid and movie novelisations (particularly Alan Dean Foster) were my gateway to "proper" science fiction. In the early 90's, Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire reignited my passion for Star Wars, (in fact, if it weren't for those books, i doubt i'd even be into Star Wars now). I also went through a huge phase of reading the Star Trek books, a time that i enjoyed a lot. I'm currently finishing off Dan Abnett's Gaunts Ghosts series which i think is top drawer Military SF and i intend to go back for a re-read.

Recently I've noticed what i'd consider to be some heavy hitters releasing titles. Most notably is Doctor Who with authors such as Alistair Reynolds, Douglas Adams, Michael Moorcock and Stephen Baxter all penning novels for the Franchise. I've also just bought a Warhammer 40k book written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, an author i like and respect a lot.

So... why do i consider them something of a guilty pleasure? Do we look down on this type of literature?
 

Toby Frost

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I once read that Zahn's books did a lot to keep Star Wars going as a franchise at all, although I'm not sure if this is true. Anyhow, I think people do look down at these kind of books because:

1) they're written as part of a bigger franchise - ie they're not entirely the author's creation, and the author doesn't have final creative say over the content
2) they're often based on games and franchises that are looked down as for nerds or children and may themselves be derivative of classic SF
3) they're often adventure stories with a very high action content and not a lot of philosophical contemplation.

As someone who has written several short stories and a novel for Games Workshop, I think these comments are partly fair - but then someone looking for high art in a Star Wars spin-off novel is probably going to be disappointed. There's nothing wrong with good quality fast-paced adventure if that's what you want. One bonus of franchise stories is that the content is at least somewhat curated, and you're not going to get a story that promises action and doesn't deliver or inserts a load of authorial lectures instead (naming no names, Starship Troopers!).
 

tachyon

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I've never been much interested in tie-in books but I try not to be shitty about them because I know other people enjoy them. Even when they're written by authors I know and like I just don't find myself drawn to these books.

Reflecting on this, I think I'm drawn to novelty and inventive worldbuilding, new universes. These books may offer new characters and further worldbuilding, but it's the same universe, the same continuity. Comfort vs exploration perhaps.
 

BAYLOR

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At one time, I liked Tie in books but, not anymore.
 

Rodders

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I still enjoy them and i'd like to get back into some of the better Star Trek ones.
 

paranoid marvin

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I've not read any ST or SW novels, but the Doctor Who novels were very good (helped by the fact that they were written by some very good authors).

HHGTTG is probably the best, as this started as a radio series, and so the novelisation came later. They are very funny books that help to expand upon the radio and tv series (although I never liked the movie).

Having read some of the Red Dwarf books some years ago, I remember them being very funny as well.
 

Rodders

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Yeah, I enjoyed the Red Dwarf books too. I’ve never considered HHGTTG as a tie in book.

Star Trek books are surprisingly good. Well, the early ones were, anyway. I‘ve probably read about 200 and I thought the quality ranged from average to excellent. I’ve not read any of the newer ones. SW were okay, but there are only a few genuinely good ones.
 

Dave

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My relationship with them started with... movie novelisations (particularly Alan Dean Foster)
There was a time, long ago, when films were released in the USA, but not for several months more in the UK. The Alan Dean Foster novelisations were a way to read the story long before the film was shown. I think I read Return of the Jedi that way.
the Doctor Who novels were very good (helped by the fact that they were written by some very good authors).
I read and collected many of those TARGET Doctor Who novelisations. Again, TV shows were shown once and never again. No VHS recordings or DVDs. If you wanted more Doctor Who then you had to read it. I've never read any since childhood though.
Star Trek books are surprisingly good.
I tried some of those (in that long period between the original series and Star Trek TNG) but that wasn't my experience. I was put off by that and didn't really read any more. I'm sure they have improved since then as the quantity and variety of titles is huge. Two writers that took over writing for Star Trek: Enterprise began their careers writing tie-in books first. I did read a Deep Space Nine book I was given and I didn't think much of that either, as the plot was very similar to an existing episode. However, I could have just been unfortunate and only read all the bad examples.
HHGTTG is probably the best, as this started as a radio series, and so the novelisation came later.
I think the radio series is still the best, but again, that was only repeated a few times, and at odd times. The books were much more widely available, and they edited out some parts that didn't work so well, which also improved the narrative.

I didn't think I had read any other tie-in novels, however, it seems that you are also talking about authors allowing other authors to write their universe. I think the Man-Kzin War series is probably the best example of that, where Larry Niven allowed other authors into his Known Space universe. I've read all of those and while they are a little hit and miss, some of the stories are quite outstanding.
1) they're written as part of a bigger franchise - ie they're not entirely the author's creation, and the author doesn't have final creative say over the content
You make three good points there why such tie-ins are dismissed, but regarding this point 1) and the Man-Kzin Wars series, I would say that there probably wasn't enough limitation placed on the authors, as several stories conflicted with the existing canon. That is also likely to happen in big franchises. Star Trek can't even get TV episodes and film to follow canon, so there's no hope for tie-in novels to do so.

The Firefly graphic novels are very good. They give closure and they tell the stories that never got to be shown in the TV episodes and the film.
 

Toby Frost

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That's interesting, Dave. One thing I realised quickly when writing for GW is that, unless you're a big name (Dan Abnett, for example) your job is to reinforce canon instead of breaking it. If someone out there is going to write about a cowardly space ork or a flatulent space elf, it's going to be a big and unusual thing, and it's pretty definitely not going to be you.
 

Parson

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I read only a few tie in books, and watched only a few movies which derived from SF books. I tend to be like to keep things in their lanes and so always felt "Why would you mess with something that's already good." --- My experience when I did read or watch was that generally they were "okay." Contemplating on this now, I think maybe it's because I'm not a "fan" of a franchise to the degree that I go in for add-ons. I never had any action figures. I never bought any videos or dvds of the shows. (I was given the original Star Wars vhs tapes.) So, I was always looking for something original or different.
 

Rodders

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At one time, I liked Tie in books but, not anymore.
What changed your opinion, Baylor?

Something i enjoyed about the Star Trek books was the amount of female writers that wrote them. Far more than the average SF, i think. (Although i have no numbers to actually substantiate that claim.)
 
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Bick

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I read a fair few Star Wars tie-ins about 12 years ago. I found them really enjoyable to be fair, especially the ones that fell between the prequel trilogy films. James Luceno wrote a few, and Greg Bear wrote one I recall. They were better in some ways than the movies. I keep threatening to read some David Mack Star Trek books, but other things keep cropping up. Soon, perhaps.

For those who are after a tie-in, but would prefer an original story rather than a novelization, this one written recently by Alan Dean Foster looks like it might be good:

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KGeo777

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There was a time, long ago, when films were released in the USA, but not for several months more in the UK. The Alan Dean Foster novelisations were a way to read the story long before the film was shown. I think I read Return of the Jedi that way.
I think in the case of ROTJ, the novel and comic book were out in North America before the movie. I know with some of those films, the tie-ins came out first as a way of drumming up support for the movie premiere.
 

Rodders

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Has anyone read the Babylon 5 books? I’m led to believe that they’re all sanctioned by JMS and the stories are all canon.
 

KGeo777

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I was tempted by Babylon 5--I was curious about the David and parasite control storyline which was hinted at in the show.
 

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