Editor: Lee Goldberg & Members of The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers

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This collection of essays written by members of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is designed for a very specific readership. As the group was organized by and for current and potential authors of books based on films, television series, and other media, one clear purpose of this collection is to present an exchange of ideas on how it’s all done. A wider audience would include readers of these books curious about how it’s all done as well, and no doubt fans of specific writers or the projects on which these books are built might enjoy the scattered bits of trivia throughout this publication.

 Potential writers get some rules of the road from experienced authors like Tod Goldberg, Elizabeth Massie, and Max Allan Collins who repeatedly advise anyone interested in this field to remember ownership and creative direction for any media tie-in project belongs to the rights holders and not the author. How does one craft an acceptable manuscript when perhaps several sets of editors might have conflicting ideas, when scripts are changing while the writer is working on a novelization, when writers must work within certain perimeters with a host of restrictions, and when they must do all this in normally very short windows of time? How do you describe a character you’ve never seen or provide back-stories when the original creators didn’t take time to provide clues? Is the process worthwhile beyond the paycheck and are tie-ins merely hack-work?

The answers are as varied as the projects these writers have worked on from Burn Notice to The Road to Perdition to The Tudors to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The quality and purpose of the essays is varied as well from Jeff Ayers simply telling how he got the gig to do a compendium on Star Trek books to Donald Bain sharing how tie-in novels allowed him to expand Jessica Fletcher’s horizons in his Murder, She Wrote books. Especially insightful discussions include Burl Barer sharing a detailed analysis on how he expands character development and fills in plot holes in his work, attempting to make reading tie-in novels a different experience from simply retelling a story fleshed out in movie theatres.

 While television is the dominant medium discussed, Greg Cox focuses on movie tie-ins,

Paul Kupperberg writes on comics and comic books, William C. Dietz covers games and, for me, the surprising life after death for soap operas on the internet as discussed by Alina Adams. I shouldn’t be so surprised—in the modern age, Another World and General Hospital might leave one small screen only to be embraced by Twitter.

Other items should appeal to readers who enjoyed media tie-in stories of the past as with an interview with James Bond continuation novelist, Raymond Benson. In this case, Benson fans will learn nothing new as this interview has long been available at the CommanderBond.net website. Similarly, the historical overviews are a mixed-bag as with Robert Greenberger on the tie-in connections with pulp novels and David Spencer’s overview of tie-in novels of the ‘50s through the ‘70s. In Spencer’s case, the first half of his essay is a serviceable overview of books and writers from this period, at least for those not already familiar with the numerous paperbacks generated during this period. The second half might puzzle readers familiar with the books of Walter Wager A.K.A. John Tiger who wrote tie-ins for I Spy and Mission: Impossible. Spencer claims Wager was the best of the best and presents long passages from these novels to make his points. However, some examples don’t exactly illustrate the claims Spencer makes. I admit my own bias here. I’ve read most if not all the same novels and would not nominate Wager as the King of the Hill. I also admit such choices depend on how much readers are willing to accept the “alternate universes” tie-ins often become, that is full of descriptions and actions far different from the characters and lore of what viewers see in a TV series or film. 

Then again, as William Rabkin sagely and wryly tells us in “Psych and the Delightful Lightness of Tie-Ins,” such books should not be taken all that seriously. For him, tie-in books should be “Pop Culture” like it used to be—disposable and fast-paced, not the merchandising staples that came after Star Wars. All the other pieces in this collection add up to the how, when, why and hows of the craft—Rabkin reminds us that it’s all for fun, for the enjoyment of writer and fans alike. This isn’t a comprehensive guide to tie-in novels—there are many such both in print and on the net--but rather a series of personal windows into the books most of us buy because of the photos on the cover. Consider this a valuable writer’s conference in print you can read at your leisure.

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