I’m a big series fan. I always have been, since way back in my Babysitter’s Club days. Books, tv, movies, comics; I’m not particular about format, I just love to get to know a group of characters and then follow them through their ups and downs. Whether that means high-stakes urban fantasy, or an emotionally-gripping mirror of the landscape we’re all navigating out here in the real world, I want to get invested. I want to laugh at jokes that are only funny to insiders, and cry at slights that hit deep because they’re drawing on the hundred interactions that led up to them. When I become attached to any imagined world, and all of that world’s quirks and characters, whether as a reader, listener, or viewer (or, for many people, though admittedly not me, gamer), I just want more; any medium will do, just let me stay immersed in that delightful world a little longer.
Fan-based contributions can help to fill the void while we’re waiting impatiently for a next installment, and certainly shared work from fans can create a wonderful sense of community, but I’ll be honest – I generally want more of the world’s creator’s vision. I want canon storytelling.
Media crossovers are often how I can get more, and they can take the storytelling into the expansive new territory a format switch offers. The tv-to-book direction is a popular (and production-budget-friendly) one for series with dedicated fanbases, as it offers a much cheaper way to get more stories out there (think: Dr. Who novels and their audiobooks, especially, ahem, the David Tennant-narrated ones, the recent Veronica Mars novels headed by show creator Rob Thomas , the Buffy and Firefly comic continuations, which brought back writers from the tv staffs). There’s no denying some of the paranormal happenings allowed for in print (illustrated or not) can eclipse what’s possible to film convincingly with a tv (or even movie) budget and human actors, and when these print projects are headed by folks who worked on the original series, it can be a magical opportunity for more – more of the tone fans are after, more of seeing what happens to beloved characters, more Official Plot Progression.
My favorite example of this happening right now is Welcome to Night Vale. I’m a big fan (and, full disclosure, one of the authors is a friend, so I’m not exactly an unbiased observer). The book came out (finally!) last week, but the world originated as a bi-monthly podcast, itself fashioned as a old-school community radio bulletin, and then expanded into touring, live theater performances. There’s also an active Twitter account, @NightValeRadio, which manages to serve up both practical updates bulletin for the real world and continued snippets of wisdom/terror from Night Vale itself. That’s a lot of entry points, and a lot of ways to attract fans across formats, but I think the reason they’re all working is that the tone is pitch-perfect across them all; every format is simply more, in a different container.
Kind of like Maggie Stiefvater’s (labor-intensive!) Raven Cycle tarot set, which isn’t propelling the plot forward in Henrietta, but is giving fans a tactile, hyper-visual new way to interact with what’s going with the raven crew while we wait (impatiently) for the fourth and final volume (March!).
The book adapted to movie or television pipeline is obviously a tried-and-true system for expanding the audience for a world and interpreting it in new ways. But I’m excited by these other options; new formats, and creative interpretations of how to communicate the tone of a beloved series in different spaces, especially when it remains entirely in the creative control of the original artist(s). I also see how strongly the teens I serve respond to the opportunity to interact with a world that speaks to them across multiple platforms. They want to follow a Tumblr for their favorite character and download the playlist an author built to demonstrate the atmosphere of an upcoming novel. As fans, we all just want to discover more about the fictional worlds we’ve fallen in love with. In whatever format it’s offered up in.
What media crossovers are causing a stir in your library? Please share in the comments!
-Carly Pansulla, currently re-reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
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