Thursday, November 22, 2018

The (Tie-In) Wish List

One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do during my writing career is work in fictional universes that have given me a lot of enjoyment over the years; in the industry we call this “tie-in writing”, and it basically means creating new stories in existing worlds based on intellectual properties (IPs) from television, film, games and so on.

A while back, m’colleague Dayton Ward – himself the author of several nifty works of tie-in fiction – posted up a blog where he talked about the other IPs he’d love to take a crack at; you can read it right Here.

Looking at Dayton’s wish-list got me thinking about the question posed to him that I am also often asked - “Given the opportunity, what fictional worlds would you want to write for?” So here’s my take.

I’ve been lucky enough to write for several different flavours of Star Trek from “classic” to Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Discovery. If you know the Trek saga, you’ll notice there’s a couple of iterations missing from that list. I can’t deny I have an urge to write both for Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise, and for the Kelvin timeline iteration of Kirk and company, just so I can “collect the set”! 

But it’s more than that; I liked the frontier, first-steps feel of Enterprise and I think it would be fun to tell a Right Stuff-style story of space exploration with that crew. As for the Kelvin-verse, I think playing around with the parallel versions of those well-established characters would be a lot of fun.

Elsewhere in the realm of TV IPs, I’d leap at the chance to write a gorram Firefly novel – and in fact, I did! Back in 2005 I was one of several authors writing for Pocket Books who pitched novels for a post-Serenity series. Sadly, that option lapsed when Mutant Enemy productions showed no interest in carrying on the franchise in prose. But, Firefly is returning in novel from later this year from Titan Books, so you never know... 

The other TV show I always coveted a chance to write is a little-known Brit SF/cop series from the 80’s called Star Cops. It only lasted one season, but I loved the acerbic and spiky characters, the moondust grit in the narratives and the near-future setting. And like Firefly, Star Cops has also come back from the black, in the form of a new audio drama series from the folks at Big Finish. I wasted no time in hitting them up for potential story pitches...

And I reckon I can squeeze some anime into this category as well, even if it isn’t strictly “TV”; writing something in the cyberpunk sagas of Bubblegum Crisis, Appleseed or the mecha-dominated worlds of Robotech and Captain Harlock would be pretty sweet.

But when I think of all the fictional worlds I’d most want to visit, there are three right at the top of the list; the first one is the Marvel Universe.

Cards on the table here, I’ve been a Marvel fan since the early 1970s, when I first encountered copies of Ghost Rider and Daredevil. But it was Iron Man that I first connected with and bought regularly (and still do!). Tony Stark remains my favourite Marvel hero, with Clint Barton’s Hawkeye a close second, and I would quite happily eat an Infinity Stone to write for them... Or any other Marvel property, to be honest! Marvel’s been a part of my nerd landscape forever, and to give something back to that world would be very cool. 

The second is Star Wars, which should come as no surprise to anybody. I’m a child of the SW generation, from an era when there was just one movie and not an entire galaxy of far far away stories to enjoy. Like Marvel comics, I grew up alongside the Star Wars saga and I’ve always felt connected to it. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to write for Clone Wars and Rebels characters in my video game work, but a Star Wars novel is the thing that I’d love to take a crack at. I’ve made a few approaches over the last decade and never quite connected, but maybe when the time is right I’ll give it another try...

And the third? Bond. James Bond.
Bond movies were a bonding (ahem) experience that my whole family shared over the years and they’re woven into my film-loving, action-thriller fan soul. I love the spy-fi genre enough that I’ve created my own take on it with my Marc Dane series of original novels – but to be able to write a story about 007 himself... That would be an incredible opportunity. I think if the chance ever came my way, as much as the “classic” novels and the recent stuff by Faulks, Boyd and Horowitz are great, I’d follow the route of the older post-Fleming books by Gardener, Benson and Deaver, and write a modern era Bond. 

On the subject of movie-based IPs, when I look back over my favourite flicks, I can’t help but think it would be great to spin out more stories about those worlds and characters.

Diving back to my youth and other films that were formative for me as a fan and a writer, I’d love to tell a story about Indiana Jones (who spurred my interest in history and pulp adventures) or revisit the world of Tron (my Atari-era gamer’s Narnia analogue). Writing about Escape from New York’s Snake Plissken or Big Trouble in Little China’s Jack Burton would be a blast...

And if I could get my inky hands on Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers, I’d die happy. To pick something more current, I would absolutely pay off the joke I made recently about writing a sequel to Battleship, or maybe a tie-in to The Fast & The Furious franchise. Vin? Let’s do lunch, buddy. 

There’s one other place past TV, movies, books and comics that also calls out to me as a space for more great stories – and that is games. As a fan of the Tom Clancy-verse series, I reckon there’s a lot of opportunity to tackle tales based on the lone wolf covert ops of Splinter Cell, the tactical action of Ghost Recon and the survival drama of The Division

Elsewhere, I think Bungie’s Destiny gameworld is absolutely crying out for long-form fiction. There’s a few webcomics, but the rich lore glimpsed in the game begs to be explored and expanded upon.

Beyond this – well, who knows? I’ve written for Star Trek; six different Doctor Whos; Stargates SG-1, Atlantis and Universe; 24’s Jack Bauer; the rebel crew of Blake’s 7; the grimdark future of Warhammer 40,000 and the Horus Heresy; 2000AD’s iconic Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper; British space hero Dan Dare; and gameworlds as diverse as Deus Ex, Dark Future, Battletech, Kaiju Rising, Tannhauser, Halo, Space 1889 and No Man’s Sky.

Although my own original fiction is now a core part of my writing, I don’t think I’m ever going to turn my back on the world of tie-ins... There’s just too much cool stuff, just too much opportunity to visit amazing worlds and tell stories there.

I’ll finish this off by posing the same question Dayton did - For those of you who read my stuff and/or read these types of books, which property would you like to see me take a crack at? Drop me a line here at the blog or message me in Twitter...

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