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Did James Cameron Just Slam Media Tie-In Novelists?

MTV has posted an interview snippet with Avatar director James Cameron who says he will personally be writing the novelization of the film. “WTF?” you may ask? Sure, it’s a little late to ride the wave of Avatar hype and (worse for some) will probably delay the Avatar sequels, but is Cameron trying to say something by writing it himself instead of going the more conventional route of handing it off to a publisher/author?

Check out this juicy quote:

“I never had a chance to get the novel done while we were making the movie, and I always intended to. I didn’t want to do a cheesy novelization, where some hack comes in and kind of makes s–t up. I wanted to do something that was a legitimate novel that was inside the characters’ heads and didn’t have the wrong culture stuff, the wrong language stuff, all that.”

Ouch! Sounds like he had a bad experience. I haven’t the heart to go back and look at who wrote the novelizations for his previous films.

[via Blastr]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

7 Comments on Did James Cameron Just Slam Media Tie-In Novelists?

  1. Well, I think maybe the most positive experience he’s had with novelizations was when he hired Orson Scott Card to do The Abyss.

    From IMDb Trivia

    Director James Cameron contacted Orson Scott Card before filming began with the possibility of producing a book based on the film. Card initially told his agent that he doesn’t do “novelizations”, but when she told him that the director was James Cameron, he agreed to consider it. The script arrived, and Card signed on after receiving assurances from Cameron that he would be free to develop his “novel” the way he wanted to. After a meeting with Cameron, Card immediately wrote the first three chapters, which dealt with events concerning Bud and Lindsay Brigman that occurred before the events in the film. Cameron gave these chapters to Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who used it to develop their characters. 

  2. True, Card did write the novelization for The Abyss, and frankly, I think that both the novel and the film were excellent.  There were some differences between the novelization and the movie, namely in terms of the underwater aliens, which Card developed much more than they were presented in the film.  Cameron may have been bugged by that, perhaps.  We’ll never know for sure unless he clarifies, though.

  3. Never liked novelizations although I’ve read a few in the past. I think everything I need to know about a film should be on the screen — if I have to read some author’s interpretation of a movie script (not even the finished version) to get info, the movie did a bad job. Of course then I have to sit and listen to fans argue about whether the novelization and all the things within it are “canon” or not.

  4. Shouldnt he just find out whoever wrote the novelizations to Ferngully/Pocahontas/Dances with Wolves and pay them to do some “cut and paste”ing?



  5. Oh boy. 

    Yeah, I’m *sure* Cameron’s novel will be unprecedentedly *awesome*– so much better than the novels written by those *hack* (or, as grown-ups call them, *professional*) novelists.  I mean, it’s *just* like writing a screeplay, right? You can have paper-thin characterization and ripped-off premises and preposterous plot twists and if it’s IN NEW! IMPROVED! 3-D SMURFOVISION! no one will care, right?

    …Oh wait.  That’s right.  There’s no NEW! IMPROVED! 3-D SMURFOVISION! in novels.  Guess you’re screwed, Cameron.


  6. Personally I enjoy a well written novelisation of a movie, they can even turn lame movies into good books e.g. Terry Brooks’ novelisation of the Phantom Menace where he was able to paper over the cracks in the movie that just sucked by giving extra depth and characterisation to the cast of the movie turning them from 2D cardboard cutouts into actual characters I could relate to.

    I can only think that the reason why Cameron is affriad to let a hack (or as Saladin correctly termed them professional) writer at Avatar is that he doesn’t want them to paper over the huge logic flaws in his movie or to give the 2D cardboard cutout personalities into actual characters with plausible motivation and actual morals and ethics that are then reflected in their actions as the story unfolds.

    One of the great things about novels is that its actually possible to give far more detail and for more nuanced performances than it is in movies, particularly where the prime goal is to provide on screen spectacular images as was the case with Avatar.

  7. I can understand where he’s coming from, both as a tie-in writer and a creator myself of original material that I might not want someone else tinkering with. The most offensive thing about his quote, though, is the unspoken distinction he makes between screenwriting and adaptation–because, you know, one’s REAL writing and the other isn’t. Making s–t up is what everyone does in this line of business. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t No help to anyone damning an entire genre of writing because you’ve had a bad experience or two.

    The other thing I think Cameron has forgotten is that adaptation is collaboration, so you get what you pay for. Fail to provide tie-in writers with the material they need to flesh out the script, and of course they’ll make things up. They’ll have to. You can help them or not, but don’t blame them for doing your job for you, or for failing when you let them (and your audience) down.

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