Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Only Thing Constant

Okay, I know you shouldn't beat a dead horse, but is it all right if I poke it with a long stick?  I'm referring to George Lucas's decision to once again alter the Star Wars Saga in the new Blue Ray releases.

Some people are fine and like the changes; some are, well, less than happy.

This got me thinking about stories and their creator's right to alter them after they have been released, especially in this digital/e-book era.  Now, I didn't have a huge problem when Lucas released the Special Edition.  I understood his thinking.  The technology finally caught up with the vision in his head.  Fine.  Whatever.

Then came the prequels.  Lucas then made more changes to Episode VI by replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen.  Uhm, okay.  And now come the Blue Rays, complete with a more vocal Vader and blinking ewoks.

Now let's talk about books.  When J.R.R. Tolkien released The Lord of the Rings he went back and altered parts of The Hobbit.  Stephen King did something very similar with his Dark Tower Series.

With Tolkien his changes were to fix a major plot hole--i.e. Gandalf knowing in The Hobbit that Bilbo had a magic ring.  He changed the story so that Bilbo hid the ring from Gandalf until Fellowship of the Ring.

With King the Dark Tower books were written over such a long period of time that some changes were necessary in the earlier books to make the whole story more cohesive.  King explains this by reminding us that writers, when finished with a story, go back and work out the kinks and plot-holes in the second (or more) draft.

So what's the difference between what Lucas is doing and what King and Tolkien did?

In my opinion it's all about the motivation behind the changes.

Tolkien and King had the readers in mind.  They made the changes to make the story better.  They weren't frilly, non necessities like dialog that doesn't advance the story or changing someone's appearance.  With Lucas he makes changes that no one cares about.  So what if the original ewoks didn't blink?  Did that stop people from loving Return of the Jedi?  Did anyone walk out of the theater saying, "Yeah, it was all right, but am I supposed to believe those furry dudes don't get dry eyes?"  Did it stop anyone from buying the gazillion pieces of merchandise spawned from the franchise?

No, no, no and no.

Frivolous changes tend to irritate the readers/spectators.  As the genesis writers of the e-book world we must resist the temptation to change our published works every time we think the hero's eyes should be blue instead of green, or that the villain's name should be Smarmy Joe instead of Slimy John.

I think it is great that we live in a time when a writer can so easily update his/her creations.  I just think we need to remember what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker.

No comments: