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Reboots, Remakes…Rewrites?

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There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt. – Audre Lorde

I beat up on Hollywood a lot (as do many, many others) because of the movie industry’s tendency to stick with formula, to lean toward the tried-and-true, to leech every ounce of lifeblood from any trend that shows a hint of popularity with the mainstream. Take a sampling of what’s in theaters now: a remake of Total Recall; a reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise, coming to us before the corpse of the Sam Raimi trilogy has had time to get cold; and there’s already talk of what direction a reboot of the Batman franchise should take while Christopher Nolan’s concluding chapter, The Dark Knight Rises, is barely two weeks old.

The horror genre is no stranger to this mentality, and may in fact be its greatest practitioner. Consider that the “Big Four” of movie slashers – Leatherface, Michael, Freddy and Jason – have all been rebooted within the last ten years. There’s a new Godzilla coming. And it wasn’t that long ago that the Japanese studios couldn’t make a horror film that wasn’t remade here in America almost immediately after. 

What you don’t see a lot of is rewritten books. I can only speculate as to why this is uncommon in an age where re-doing something that worked before is such a lucrative business. Maybe it’s because a book is almost always the result of a single vision, and most writers prefer to move forward rather than constantly revisit old material. Maybe rewriting a book – especially if you want it redone by someone other than the original author – is a far thornier legal issue than remaking a movie or rebooting a cinematic character. 

I have no desire to get bogged down in that part of the discussion. What I’m looking to do here is talk about the books that we might like to see an author take another crack at.

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of books I’d want to see done over. I tend to love a book “warts and all.” To me, discussing the things that I might have done differently is part of the fun of loving a book. For the most part I have too much respect for what it takes to write a book to wish for a different take on it just to satisfy a few quibbles.

That being said, there is at least one book with a component that I just can’t get behind, a part that significantly reduces my appreciation of a book I otherwise thoroughly enjoy. That book is It by Stephen King. (The book I’m talking about here is 26 years old and, I would imagine, has been read by the large majority of FEARnet’s readership, but…just in case: SPOILER ALERT!) It’s the part when the “Losers Club” of kids confronts the cosmic source of evil that is haunting Derry. In order to ensure that their bond has the strength to defeat “It,” the boys (all six of them) have sex with the girl (yep, just one of her). Even as a teenager reading the book for the first time, it seemed a little icky to me – not necessarily that they did it, but that this guy King had made it such an integral part of the story. Years later I can see King’s intent, but it still just feels off to me, somehow.

Would I love to see King take an alternate approach, maybe come up with something else to bond the group? Yeah, I guess I would, but if I’m totally honest, I don’t think I’d ever be able to view it as the “real” It. In the “real” It those kids had sex, and that’s that. 

King has rewritten at least one of his previously published books, the first Dark Tower book. He did it in 2003 to bring it more in line with the last three books of the series, and has since stated that he views the entire series as a “first draft” and that he might one day rewrite the whole thing.  (There are quite a few people who would like him to come up with another ending to the series altogether, but I’m not among them – I personally think his ending was the perfect one.)

Those rewrites may never happen, but this year William Peter Blatty is releasing (through Lonely Road Books) a heavily revised 40th anniversary edition of his classic novel The Exorcist. Apparently Blatty had to forego his typical rewrite and polish approach when it came time to publish the book the first time, so he’s now gone back and done some heavy lifting. It will be interesting to see how his growth as a writer in the past 40 years changes the work for which he’s most well known.

So, how about you? Do you view a published work as sacred text that’s not to be touched once it’s been released and read? Do you have books that you’d like to see authors take another shot it, whether it’s to fix a few small inconsistencies or to overhaul whole sections?  Would you like to see books rewritten or characters rebooted by different authors? The comments section is open, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand. 

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