First things first: Happy birthday, Mom!
Now: Not terribly long ago, it was announced that the Disney Company, which in addition to owning most of Florida and California had now bought the STAR WARS franchise from George Lucas (because apparently he didn't have enough money yet), had decided on a director for its first continuation of that series. And it was announced that said director was JJ Abrams.
My son Josh, who at 23 is angling to become the king of all sci-fi geeks, was appalled. Scandalized. Horrified. Apoplectic.
He wasn't happy, is what I'm saying.
Abrams, who seems like a nice enough guy when he's being interviewed, was the mastermind behind LOST, one of the most audience-frustrating television series in history. He directed an installment of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film series (in which Tom Cruise was apparently tall enough to be an action hero) and in 2009 gave us the latest--so far--film in the STAR TREK series.
And that's when he crossed the line for Josh.
A graduate of the Old School (and Drexel University, with a degree in film and video, if you're hiring), Josh was weaned on the first (and, for those of us who care, only) STAR TREK TV series, and saw a number of the films with Shatner and Company when he was growing up (Josh, not Shatner). So he was well aware of the "mythology" of the series, the interaction of the characters, and many of the better episodes. (I did not subject him to Frank Gorshin as the guy who's black on one side and white on the other.)
So when Mr. Abrams and his screenwriters (LOST alumni) decided that in order to "reboot the franchise"--that is, to make it appealing to people younger than, say, me, by using a time-loop storyline to essentially negate pretty much everything that had come before it, there were those of us among the long-time fans who were less than pleased (I will have to be persuaded very strongly to attend the upcoming STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, and not just because that might be the worst title in history). But Josh, being a guy with a strong sense of story and a devotion to character, might have been more annoyed than I was.
The news that Abrams is now in charge of both STAR WARS and STAR TREK for the big screen did not go down well with him.
Those of you who are not invested in such things might be wondering at this point--assuming you've hung in there this long--what the heck this has to do with crime fiction publishing. Very good question.
Storytelling is storytelling no matter what the genre and no matter what the medium. And a series is something else again--it's a contract with the "consumers" (one pictures people eating books) that if they are pleased with the type of material they find in the first book, they will not be reading something entirely different by Book #3. Or book #33.
A series makes promises. If you don't care for the overall premise of one, you should not merely assume that it will change drastically as the series progresses. Yes, there should be growth and there can be change, but a massive overhaul of the core storyline or the continuing characters should not be on the menu.
With the publication of CHANCE OF A GHOST a couple of weeks ago (you were wondering how long it would take me to plug the new book? 530 words), I reached uncharted territory in my publishing career. This is the first time I've had a series go longer than three books.
CHANCE is the fourth Haunted Guesthouse mystery--for you sticklers, by E.J. Copperman--and there will be, contractually, at least three more. I'm very pleased to give you that information. I'm also promising that I will not, whenever the final book is contracted, inform loyal readers that it was all a dream, that the main character is insane and it was a long hallucination, or that the ghosts were just a couple of pranksters who like to hang around the Jersey shore and thought they could get free lodging with a few cheap theatrical tricks. None of that will ever happen.
As an author, I have the advantage of characters who will not age beyond the number I assign to them. Special effects in books will not progress past the style I write today. I don't have to care if the books hit a younger demographic, because younger people can start reading them today and either like them or not.
But I see the point Josh is making about STAR TREK. The last movie wasn't just a slight change for me--I could certainly handle seeing other actors play those roles, and in most cases play them very well. But the storyline took me to a place that made me feel the filmmakers were telling me I was no longer relevant. They wanted the younger person's money, and not mine.
Which is fair. I don't have to give them the price of a ticket if I don't want to go. It was the way they did it, with the idea that all those shows and films you loved? Remember them? They never happened. We decide what happens now, and it's going to be all different. They couldn't just tell the stories that came between the ones I knew; they had to erase the ones I knew. That broke the contract with me, and with Josh.
And now, he's worried about STAR WARS. I'm not. I stopped caring about that story when they blew up the Death Star AGAIN.