Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My shameful literary past

I’ve got a confession to make.

I used to read movie novelizations. Lots of them.

Before you condemn me, I would like to explain myself. As a kid, I was always into comic books. I was also very into sci-fi/horror movies from a very young age, kicked off by television viewings of stuff like “Planet of the Apes” and “King Kong”, then followed by old Universal horror movies, etc. Then, around 1977 or so, I became straight-up obsessed with movies, probably due to “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters”. I initially gravitated towards genre films, but then as I went through middle school and early high school (1978-1982) it became a matter of wanting to see pretty much every movie released, with the exception of “On Golden Pond”, “Ice Castles” and “One on One” (I guess I wasn’t a big Robby Benson fan).

I started favoring directors, read “Starlog” magazine to find background info on upcoming productions, and my friends and I went to movies constantly. But this wasn’t enough. I needed more. Enter the movie novelization.

I knew they were trashy and poorly written. I didn’t care. It was a way to see the movie again (remember, this was before the advent of home video) and even gain additional background info, as most of the books were padded with stuff that wasn’t in the movie in order to make it ‘book-length’. Even better, some of them were written by the directors! The “Star Wars” novelization? Written by George Lucas! “Close Encounters”? Written by Spielberg! “Dawn of The Dead”? Written by George A. Romero! “Animal House”? Written By Doug Kenney and Chris Miller, with cool art by National Lampoon artists to boot!

The king of the movie novelization genre was a chap named Alan Dean Foster. He wrote the lions share of the horror/sci-fi ones, and even wrote the “sequel” to “Star Wars” titled “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’, which was released before “The Empire Strikes Back.” I guess he could generously be called a hack, although I must say that I re-read my dog-eared copy of “The Thing” novelization this past summer and thought it was not bad at all.

Here is a fairy complete list of the movie novelizations I read as a young lad, in chronological order. An asterix denotes titles written by Alan Dean Foster. Keep in mind as you hurl derision upon me is that I did read plenty of “real” books at this time as well:

Star Wars
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Saturday Night Fever (!?!)
*Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye
Dawn of The Dead
National Lampoon’s Animal House
Heaven Can Wait
Murder By Decree
Fade To Black
The Howling
Escape From New York
*The Thing

Alas, “Tron” was the end of the movie novelization line for me. First of all, it was a really bad book (shocking, I know). Let’s just say that the movie’s computer world imagery did not exactly lend itself to the prose format. Secondly, I was a freshman in high school by this time, and I quickly discovered that explaining to girls what “Tron” was about wasn’t exactly going to result in me getting to “first base” (sadly, it didn’t occur to me until later that them passing around a copy of “Flowers In The Attic” was no better.). I'd also like to think that my tastes had become more discriminating at this point, although that's certainly up for debate.

Whew. I feel much better now that I’ve unburdened myself.


Aim said...

We're a match made in geek heaven..I read all of Alan Dean Fosters Star Trek novelizations..series and movies.

Will Dinski said...


What was "Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye" about? Was it just "The Empire Strikes Back"?

BlogFoot said...

It was set after "Star Wars" but before "Empire." Wikipedia has a pretty thorough encapsulation of it.
It was fairly dull...just Luke and Leia, no Han, no Chewbacca.

blogfoot bro said...

Could it be there is a connection between, "who reads this crap" and "Who wrote this crap" ?

Armando said...

I used to read a lot of novelizations in that same time period - late 70's, early 80's. Real books, too.

I think Star Wars and Splinter of the Mind's Eye are the only books by Foster that I've read, but I've read some of the reviews for his recent, original books and he seems to be a decent writer by their standards, not a hack.

I was a Starlog reader, too, and gave that up and novelizations about the same time as you did in high school, though I read the occasional one like the Rambo sequels, which were actually written by David Morrell, the guy who wrote First Blood, one of my favorite books.

I haven't read a novelization since then, but I've been thinking about it for a while now. I almost bought Superman last year before the movie came out, and even just last week I thought about getting Spiderman 3. I decided not to, but sooner or later, who knows.

BlogFoot said...

I guess to someone with a Uecker-sized* brain there could be.

*stegasaurus, squirrel, etc.

BlogFoot said...

Just to be clear, my above rejoinder was directed at blogfoot bro, not Armando.

Armando, you may have a point about Alan Dean Foster. Maybe not. I know he's written plenty of original material, but I think there is a strong bias in the literary community against those who churn out novelizations as opposed to original material. But perhaps he simply viewed novelizations as the chance to hone his craft (like a sketch pad of sorts), expand his audience and make a decent buck.

Jamie Baker said...

Hah hah, this brought back some memories!

Alan Dean Foster must have used the phrase "gauges whining in protest" in every Star Wars novelisation... sometimes more than once..

I read a lot of Novelisations of Movies as well, in the same period that you did. And I also read some spin-off novels like Splinter of the minds eye". Did you read "han solo at stars end"?

BlogFoot said...

I did not read the Han Solo book. I remember the title though.

Kudos on the "gauges whining in protest" quote. Good stuff!

blogfoot bro said...

It only seems Uecker like since you only see the business end of my Rapier like wit

L*U*K*E said...

Amazon gives 690 results in books when you search for Alan Dean Foster. he's like Picasso.