One of the things that irritate me about Hollywood these days is its lack of imagination. Everything seems to be a prequel, sequel or remake and, if it’s not one of those then it’s something based on a video game such as Resident Evil or Max Payne. Or a successful film will become a video game; there is a certain amount of cross-marketing here.
Of course it can work the other way too and books have been turned into video games. People have suggested to me over the years that some of my books would make good video games and in fact enquiries were made about Necessary Evil when it first came out by one games company. Needless to say nothing ever came of that. Of course I’d be delighted if someone wanted to turn any of my books into games for a console. I’d be delighted if anyone wanted to adapt any novel into anything. But adaptations have to be viewed as something separate from the source material when you’re looking at them from an author’s point of view. If, as an author, you sell the rights to any of your books to any kind of media then don’t expect what emerges at the end to owe much to your original novel. I had that experience with Slugs which was filmed back in the 80s. I remember being invited to a big horror festival in London where a print of the film had been flown in especially from America and then sitting there seeing what had been done to my book and feeling like a bloke watching his sister get gang raped!
Your rights end here
But in the end who cares? When you sell the rights you give up any right to complain. I remember Tom Clancy moaning because the film of his novel Patriot Games wasn’t like the book and thinking “you got three million for the rights, just shut up and enjoy the money.” If a film adaptation is bad everyone knows it’s because the film company fucked it up.
It’s a no lose situation as far as I’m concerned. If Slugs had been a masterpiece I would have said “of course, it was based on my book.” As it was if someone said it was shit I replied with the stock answer “Of course it was, I had nothing to do with it.” See what I mean? You can’t lose. If a film company rang me tomorrow and told me that they wanted to turn all of my books into musicals starring Zac Efron and Selena Gomez but were willing to pay me millions for the privilege I would hand over the rights with delight! Yes, I am a mercenary but I’m also not stupid enough to think that the public and those who’d read the books would blame me for the abortions that turned up on screen (unless I’d written the scripts of course but even then I’d blame the director if people hated them!). What works in print doesn’t necessarily work on screen or on a games console but who cares in the end?
After all not many adaptations of Stephen King novels have been particularly brilliant (Carrie, The Shining and the TV version of Salem’s Lot aside) but they’ve hardly damaged his sales or his reputation have they? The sale of books to video game companies would be the same. If the game turned out to be crap it wouldn’t be because the book it was based on was bad it would be the fault of the company developing it.
Having moaned about the dearth of imagination in the film business I must just say that one video game I always thought cried out to be filmed was Manhunt. I think someone somewhere tried to ban it a few years back because a guy had supposedly killed his friend after playing it for eighteen hours straight and the sequel release was delayed for Christ knows how long because of this but it was a superb game in my humble opinion and one of the few I’ve ever completed. I wrote a novel called Body Count a few years back that was likened to Manhunt and I took this as a compliment because it was a great game.
Stop worrying, start writing
As a writer the most important thing to remember is that what you create when you write a novel or short story is yours and that if someone wants to give you money to adapt it into something then let them and go about your business. Don’t keep worrying how it’s going to turn out. Just enjoy the money and carry on writing. If you’re lucky they’ll ask you to get involved but then you’ll have people leaning over your shoulder every five minutes wanting you to change this word or that word and this character or that scene so if you can stand that then fine but otherwise enjoy the freedom that writing novels gives you. You are responsible to no one but yourself. That’s not the case when you get involved with other branches of the media.
So, any game companies reading this please feel free to adapt my novels into whatever you like and if you want to pay me a fortune to do it then thanks. I look forward to seeing what Super Mario looks like equipped with a Chainsaw or how Sonic the Hedgehog would survive an attack by a power drill. Over to you Mr. Programmer.
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