Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If an author retrofits a story in the woods and nobody reads it, did he still ruin it?

I've been thinking about it, and I'm convinced that good stories need to be protected from successful authors.

I was recently re-re-re-re-re-rereading Stephen King's The Gunslinger - well, to be fair, I was listening to it on audiobook - and it just kills me the way he went back in 2003 and pulled a George Lucas retrofit to make it match up with the later books in the series. Sadly, after thirty years, King had completely lost the feel for what he'd originally written, and - as Lucas did with Star Wars - smeared copious portions of steaming poo all over what was easily his best work.

To top it all off, the lesser novel had to be re-recorded for the audio market. George Guidall - who did the reading - is a great reader, and his versions of the final three Dark Tower books are the best I could hope for, all things considered; but the man just isn't Frank Muller. Muller's version of The Gunslinger is easily my favorite audiobook of all time, and now Muller is dead and it is lost to me. I can't find it on CD, and I don't own a working cassette player. I don't even know where to find a working cassette player! Every time I hear the words, "Read by George Guidall" at the beginning of that recording, I want to cry.

Why do authors do this? Why can they not just sit back and let a work stand? Sure, maybe it's not everything they thought it could be; sure, it may be inconsistent with later versions of the mythology; sure, you may have the publishing juice to do whatever the hell you want to, but just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done! I'm a writer. I understand the relentless desire to make a work perfect, but there needs to come a point at which you say, "I'm not going to let myself change this anymore. It would be meddling on my part to do so."

I don't even know why I'm writing this. I might as well go protest on Wall Street, for all the good this will do. Someone once said there is nothing more dangerous than an executive with delusions of creativity. Maybe. Or maybe the only thing more dangerous is a creative person with delusions of executive ability.