MIND MELD: If You Could Reboot a Book Series, Which One Would It Be?
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Please let us know!]
Reboots of old material are all the rage. There is something primal in bringing something beloved in the past back to life. It’s certainly common enough in movies, but what if books were given the same treatment? Are there book series that might flourish if they were rebooted?
Our question for this week’s fearless panelists:
Here’s what they said…
By and large, I don’t wish so much for reboots or resurrections–I have lovely memories of many series (and not-so-fond memories of others which started off well, and dragged on for far too long), and I’m always happy to revisit familiar haunts; but my personal preference is geared more towards new ideas and new series.
That said… I confess I’ve always wanted some tinkering to happen with Zelazny’s Amber series, which is a particular favorite of mine. I love the idea of Earth as a shadow cast by the true worlds, and the weaving of Celtic and Arthurian myths that Zelazny pulled off–but as someone who doesn’t live in America, I’ve always been slightly put off by the very American focus of the Earth scenes, and the generally Western bent of the series. Those are still great books; but I do find myself wondering if the same base idea couldn’t be re-used in a non-Western setting: specifically, if we had Amber and the Courts of Chaos as expressions of Yin and Yang, and the Amberite royal family incarnating a collection of archetypes from Asian mythology and folklore: for instance, Kongming, China’s finest strategist, could most certainly hold his own against Benedict; and Houyi, the Divine Archer, known for slaughtering various beasts (including nine sun-gods!) would make a fitting counterpart to Julian and his great hunting hounds. Also, an Asian family would come with very different dynamic than the original Amber (a lot of which was focused on a Western family with an absent father).
I’m pretty sure it would all be lots of fun.
I have two initial thoughts: shilling shockers and Sherlock Holmes. There was a tradition in the 1800’s in which Stevenson and Dickens style tales of the macbre were released at Christmastime. It’s not just wanting a dark tale, or desiring it during the holidays, that I’m talking about. But rather that I’d love some smartly written (dark) tales and a fun, predictable tradition like that to look forward to. Then, I’m a Conan Doyle fan. I wouldn’t want pale shadows of Holmes, and certainly don’t want a Downy Jr. reboot. I’d love more of the original, so resurrect, per your question. I grew up watching Basil Rathbone bringing Holmes to life. That’s the stuff!
My favorite book series of all time is Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor series. A couple of the books were weaker than the others, in my opinion, but all of them are some of the finest examples of complex storytelling and worldbuilding I’ve seen outside Tolkien. I adore those stories and the way Silverberg tells them and I always excitedly race to read any new Majipoor story he puts out. I’d love to see books about more Coronels and Pontifexes. He created such a rich world and rich history that I think he could write endless volumes. I fell in love with Lord Valentine’s Castle the first time I read it and it’s one of the few books I’ve bought copies of and given to friends. I’d never do it justice but if I had a dream to reboot a series and see more, Majipoor would most definitely be it. He found an amazing new trilogy after the three Valentine books when he chose Presimion. I’d love to see one about Lord Stiamot and the peacemaking with the shapeshifters, or even origin stories about how the planet came to be settled from the stars. There are so many possibilities. Just thinking about it gets me excited to reread them all over again.
Which would be quite a trick, since the author has been dead for a decade. (No plan is perfect.)
Sarah Caudwell was an English attorney who wrote four delightful mystery novels about a group of young London barristers and their pal Hilary Tamar, an eccentric Oxford don who was the point-of-view narrator of the tales. The books combine puzzling deaths, foreign locales, history and mythology, charmingly eccentric characters, and bizarrely obscure aspects of the legal profession.
I once briefly met Sarah Caudwell, and I decided that anyone so funny was probably worth reading, so I picked up one of her books–and became an instant fan. Since then, I’ve re-read each of her books more times than I can count, always delighted anew by the witty, engaging, elegant world I enter when I open a Caudwell novel.
The fourth and final book in this series was released posthumously, the author having died of cancer several months earlier. At the risk of sounding insensitive, if Caudwell weren’t already dead, I would kill her for writing so few books before she left us. The existing series is open-ended, not a closed story cycle, and I would love to read 20 more Hilary Tamar novels… but only if I could raise Caudwell from the dead to write them. Her unique voice and style were the integral, essential ingredient of these books. No one can take her place.
The unabridged audiobooks of these four novels are wonderful. I see tremendous potential in this series for radio and television adaptations. That’s how I’d love to see Caudwell’s work resurrected, and I am disappointed year after year when it doesn’t happen.
For anyone interested, Sarah Caudwell’s four novels (in order) are: Thus Was Adonis Murdered; The Shortest Way To Hades; The Sirens Sang of Murder; The Sibyl In Her Grave.
I would reinvigorate The Dragonlance books by completely breaking them. First? I would take out all that dungeons and dragons nonsense. Tied to what game now who when why do we care? Second, I would place it a modern urban setting. A huge, mammoth of a city, mapping it out in intricate detail, making it an entire fantasy world on its own. But I wouldn’t make this Urban Fantasy, hells to the no, that’s too simple. That’s just replacing elves with vampires and kender with werewolves.
To hell with that noise. This is going to be completely broken. Taken down, stripped to the bare minimums. We’re going to pour turpentine on this sucker and see what hidden sketches lay underneath it’s crooked old brushstrokes.
Magical Realism. Yeah. Crazy, I know. All the wizards are going to be junkies. Raistlin is practically already there. He wants to be a god? Yeah, he wants to be a rockstar, he wants to be his own false idol. And with his brother, test of the twins becomes more about saving someone from devolving into a junkie rockstar hellbent on self destruction then one trying to be a god or something boring like that.
Tanis? He’s going to become a gay cop. Break down in the city, baby. All the characters would be changed, updated, transfigure. That knight guy who I can’t remember his name? Instead of a fading noble knight he’s going to be an old drag queen reminiscing about his lost youth and his brief stint as a star in the local theater.
All those dragons? Gangs. Street gangs and gang violence and gang wars. The dragonlance? Now it becomes a peace treaty, maybe, who knows? It’s a grail in a quest and it can be just about anything. Nobody cares about the actuality of it, it’s just a token, a piece to be swapped in and out.
So yeah, that’s how I would update Dragonlance.
Before I give my answer, shouldn’t I mention that this is happening already, all the time, in fan fiction? They’re unofficial reboots, but they’re out there for anyone to read. I know someone who writes fanfic about Doc Savage of all things.
I’d like to live long enough to see Lord of the Rings fall into the public domain, if only so I can write (and sell!) an I, THE RANGER novel without filing the serial numbers off.
But the series I’d really like to reboot would be Roger Zelazny’s Amber series. The original five books are rich with ideas, and I would love to go deeper into that setting the way modern fantasies do. I’d especially like to take the revelations in Merlin’s series and make them part of Corwin’s story. (And no, I haven’t read John Betancourt’s Oberon books, and I never will. Nothing against Mr. Betancourt, but I’m just not intrigued).
Unfortunately, reports are the Zelazny himself didn’t want anyone else writing Amber novels, so even if the opportunity presented itself, I’d probably demur. At least until the books become public domain.
Oh, man. I’ve always loved the idea of Red Sonja but hated the execution of the story. Just to be clear: I’m talking about the comics, not the Red Sonya of the Robert E. Howard short story. There’s a big difference between the two, and I’d love to write a graphic novel version of Red Sonja but not as a coquettish sex vixen in a brass bikini.
I’ve always hated the way rape is the center of Sonja’s tale. You know the story: Sonja is raped, then she makes a pact with a goddess, who gives her supernatural fighting skills with the caveat that she never have sex. That is essentially saying that in order to be a fighter, a woman must first be traumatized to the point that she wants to fight, then if she does become a warrior, she should lose her ability to be tender with someone. It’s like eternal chastity is the punishment for stepping outside the expected paradigm.
I would love to re-imagine Red Sonja as a total badass from birth onward. I would see her as being raised in a society that values its female warriors like the Vikings did (see this post). She has a warrior’s heart, so she would dress like a warrior, think like a warrior, and do battle like a warrior. She learned to fight as a youngster, not as some supernatural boon for having survived a violent act. My Red Sonja has more testicle fortitude than the men in her tribe; she doesn’t need a reason to be tough other than it is her nature. She is destined to be a queen that will one day be a rival to Conan as king. That would be my Red Sonja. If I could.
I’m a big fan of long, sprawling fantasy. I loved the Ray Feist Riftwar stuff from early on and I’ll stick with a series forever as long as the writing remains fresh and the world interesting. But sometimes series end before I’m ready. I like this question because it let’s me think about the stories where I kept thinking about the characters and world beyond the ending of the books.
First, I want to note that one of my favorites — the PC Hodgell GodStalker books — was reinvigorated and rebooted and restarted after I thought it was done. So that makes me very very happy indeed.
But for series that I would have liked to see go on…One would be Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorry, Thorn series. They were rich and engaging and I would gladly have read more about the characters and world. Another would be Andre Norton’s Witch World books. There were several that I felt I had no problem leaving, but some I just wanted more of. One of those was The Key of the Keplian, written with Lyn McConchie.
I always loved Midori Snyder’s Queen’s Quarter/Oran Trilogy and would have loved to see more of that. Such great writing, complex characters and world. The same with Patricia Wrede’s Lyra novels. I could have rolled around in them for many more years to come. And I can add Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster of Hed series. Definitely I could use more of those.
It’s funny how just mentioning these books makes me want to go back and read them all again. And I know that when I do, I will have the same longing for MORE. But the one I feel most strongly about is Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. Now that book is AMAZING, one of those I wish I could have written. I have always wished she had more stories to tell in that world and with those characters. She opened up so many original possibilities and had such wonderful writing and worldbuilding, that I can’t help but return to the book at least once a year and every time I wish for more and more.
I would resurrect the Thieves’ World series. This series was a real eye-opener for me. It was my first introduction to the more gritty style of writing and setting that I eventually grew to love. I would later glom on to others like Glen Cook’s Black Company series and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but for me it all started with Thieves’ World.
Man, I read them forever ago, but I still recall some of those scenes in the Vulgar Unicorn. And remember when Tempus was nearly killed, but Hanse saved him and watched him regrow his limbs? And then he threw up after he saw Tempus fully healed, none the worse for the wear?
As I think back, I’m struck by the host of heroes we were treated to. (I use the term “hero” loosely, of course. There were plenty of heroes in Sanctuary that were some pretty dark shades of grey.) In some novels, you have a handful of larger-than-life characters, but in Thieves’ World, there were dozens, all with their unique spheres of influence, their sources of power, and their weaknesses.
I didn’t just love the legendary characters. I loved One-Thumb, the bartender of the Vulgar Unicorn, and Cappen Vara the minstrel, and Lythande the blue star wizard, and Enas Yorl the shapechanger. One of my favorite characters of all was Hakiem, the storyteller and rumor monger. Some characters I remember vividly, others I can only recall the feelings I had when I read them, not the individual details, but they were all wonderfully memorable, and as I think back over the stories collected, I’m in awe of not only how striking the characters were, not just how well told each story was, but how well the overall arc of each book and the series as a whole held up.
But the characters were only half the reason I loved these books. Sanctuary itself was such a wondrous place. It sat at the edge of the crumbling Rankan empire, with the nearby Beysib nipping at their heels, looking for a foothold on the continent. There was mystery in Sanctuary, and intrigue and war and love. There was betrayal and, yes, thieving. It was such a wonderful setting–mixed with a constant need to survive in a place that would devour you given half the chance–that gave birth to these stories.
It’s a series I remember with fondness, and I’d love to see it return, but only if it can live up to what it once was.
If it can’t, I’d rather it just remain as it is now. Cherished.
Okay, it might seen ridiculous to want to reboot Asimov’s Foundation, given he developed the idea across 15 novels of his own, plus several short stories; and his creation was revisited by Harry Turtledove and Orson Scott Card for Foundation’s Friends (1989); and Asimov’s estate turned the world of Foundation over to Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin for a novel each in the 1990s. But riffing off Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall to create a galactic equivalent was genius. And the idea of psychohistory is addictive.
Also, I suspect, deeply dangerous in its belief that if the actions of those in the past led to history having an inevitable shape then future history can be shaped by deciding what actions need to happen for history to lead where we desire.
Politicians shouldn’t be let anywhere near that idea. But writers? Oh, yes…
It’s practically crack cocaine for writers who want to knit millennia-spanning conspiracy theories so vast they need the combined actions of every human in the galaxy to come good.
(The fact Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman went into economics because it was the closest thing he could find to psychohistory always impressed the hell out of me. On a far lesser scale, as an adolescent, discovering psychohistory let me make sense of life. Obviously, it didn’t really. But I could convince myself life made sense…)
The kernel of Asimov’s idea contained in the Foundation Trilogy is crying out for a reboot. Not least because – influential though the 1950s originals were (based in part on stories from the 1940s) – they had the flaws of SF from the time. Characterisation? That would be nice. Some strong female parts? Ditto. In fact any real female parts. Dialogue that reads like dialogue? Yep, that would work. Foundation is a novel of idea that’s so brilliant it’s more brilliant idea than novel. Sixty years later, someone else having done the genius bit, it would be good to give it a 21st century twist. In fact get a woman to write it. That should introduce an entirely new dimension.
I’ll give you three answers for the price of one … and I’m afraid they’re all going to out my not-so-secret hard SF addiction. Not that it’s the only thing I’d like to see more of (I could go on at length about the world’s profound need for more Diana Wynn Jones novels). But hard SF seems to have been particularly hard hit by the current publishing crunch, so I’ll make this a hard SF wish list.
First, Vernor Vinge has stolen my thunder by wantonly and gratuitously writing a long-awaited sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep. I will be reading it the second I can beg, borrow, or steal a copy.
Second, I’d like to order up another thousand pages or so of Xelee books from Stephen Baxter. I’m getting worrisomely close to having Vacuum Diagrams memorized, at which point I’ll have to start saving up for that little operation I’ve heard about where amazon deletes books from your brain when you delete them from your Kindle library.
And last but very far from least … I’d like to reboot Linda Nagata. Nagata does brain-bending galaxy-spanning hard SF like few other writers in the business, and her Nanotech Succession was one of the under-appreciated high points of science fiction in the 1990s. The Bohr Maker introduced a vividly-drawn medium-term future that meaningfully incorporated third world issues in ways I sometimes think the rest of the genre is still catching up with. Deception Well is a challenging and deeply ambitious book that demands a lot from readers but is a treasure trove of brilliant ideas for serious hard SF fans. And Vast, the last book in the Nanotech Succession, is quite simply some of best hard SF ever written.
So what do I want to resurrect, reboot and reinvigorate my inner geek? More Beyond, more Xelee … and a brand spankin’ new hard SF series from Linda Nagata!
Boy, this was a tough call for me between Barbara Hambly’s Windrose Chronicles and Joan Vinge’s Cat novels, both series that if resurrected would have me stampeding to the bookstore. But since Hambly has written at least one short story in recent years featuring Antryg and Joanna from the Windrose books (and is apparently working on a new one), while Joan Vinge’s last Cat book was published way back in 1996 – I’ll give the edge to Vinge.
Though she’s better known for her equally excellent Snow Queen cycle books (Snow Queen, World’s End, Summer Queen, Tangled in Blue), it’s her Cat novels – which feature a half-breed telepath struggling to survive in a gritty, dystopian future – that I like best. I read the first book, Psion, as a teen, and promptly fell in love with Cat’s snarky, cynical first person narration and the bittersweet ending. The second novel, Catspaw, was even more awesome, delving into the realm of cyberpunk along with a nicely twisty plot and some really interesting secondary characters. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed by the third novel, Dreamfall, primarily because of a romance that didn’t work for me -but my disappointment was only in comparison to a book as wonderful as Catspaw. When I finished Dreamfall, I was dying to read more of Cat’s adventures.
But then Vinge suffered a devastating car accident, and took a long hiatus from writing as she struggled to recover. Her first novel in ten years comes out Aug 2: the novelization of the movie Cowboys & Aliens. I almost never buy tie-in novels, but hey: it’s JOAN VINGE. I’m there, man. And I can’t help but feel a teeny, tiny spark of hope that maybe now she’s writing again, I’ll get to find out what comes next for Cat.
There are some who would crucify me for saying this, but I’d love to tackle Middle-earth, the setting of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I wouldn’t want to touch J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful stories directly, but he did such a fantastic job with the construction of his world that it seems like there are countless more stories to be told there, from the epic to the comic.
His son Christopher has done a fantastic job compiling his father’s notes into publishable form and even released some additional tales, but none of those have the compelling drive of Tolkien’s own narratives. I’d leap at the chance to breath life into some of those other characters and delve into the myriad tales left untold.
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