Better Things

Well, it’s late September, and another summer has come and gone. The West Coast baked under record temperatures, and those of us on the Eastern Seaboard dubbed it the Wet Coast. I spent much of the summer working with Little Engine on our TV series adaptation of my Mixtape comic series, and are now in the process of taking it out to market.

To answer THAT question first: no, I don’t know when Mixtape the series will become a reality. I don’t know if it will become a reality. But come what may I am intensely proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do on it. There are a total of five completely new Mixtape stories in the world right now (sort of) and one way or another we’ll get them out there. For now though we just have to hold tight.


So that was my Summer 2021. In part … because the other notable thing that happened was my unplanned deep-dive into a decades old comic strip you may have heard of.

If you’re a person of a certain age, FBoFW was probably better known as “your mom’s favorite comic strip” because Lynn Johnston’s talent was finding familiar in the familiar everyday of middle-class life. Family vacations, making friends and losing them, grocery shopping, Halloween and Christmas, first jobs, first loves, starting college, finding true loves, true purpose. Stories also abounded about child abuse, workplace harassments, the death of parents and pets. All told with humor, grace, and honesty. 

FBoFW wasn’t afraid to be unabashedly Canadian either. The Patterson’s were a Canadian family. They celebrated Canada Day, the kids played hockey, mail came through Canada Post. School choir trips were to Ottawa, eldest son Michael attended Western University in London, Ontario. Family visits to Winnipeg and Vancouver occurred multiple times over the series. They bought their milk in plastic bags. That was at the insistence of Johnston, by the way, despite the urging of her syndicate who did press her on many occasions to “dial back” the Canadian stuff because apparently American readers only want to read about America. This is something that I, a writer who cut his professional teeth in Canada found imposed upon him more times that not. The hero of my next novel happens to be Canadian and that will not change.  

Yes, Canadian milk comes in bags. From Becker’s.


I spent the latter half of June and most of July rereading the strip, all collected in five columns (and counting) of IDW’s hardcover The Complete For better or For Worse. I actually read the five on Hoopla, the free digital comics app available through many public library systems in the US (not sure about Canada though). Reading (and in some cases re-reading) strips I was first exposed to in the daily and weekend newspaper (or clipped from said newspapers and adorning our refrigerator at home) was an experience not unlike time travel. Because FBoFW was identifiable for its time, 1979 is very much 1979, and 1995 (where the reprints are currently up to) very much feels like a mid-90s setting. FBoFW depicts the pre-internet, pre-millennial, pre-social-media era of the last two decades of the 20th century better than any movie or TV show I know of. Reading FBoFW as a parent now has been an even bigger eye-opener, seeing the behaviors of my now six year-old mirrored in the antics of a comic strip family that first occurred nearly forty years ago. 

It was that aspect, more than any other, that really brought home why I think FBoFW was a success, and still endures. FBoFW is a story that at its most basic is a story about the general decency and the inherent goodness of people. The conflicts are gentle ones, the aggrieved parties down to misunderstandings or an “off” day. Lynn did tackle bigger issues – and was in fact nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a story about a teenager’s coming out – I think it’s helpful to remember that decency and kindness rules the way. It’s good to divorce yourself from online chatter, outrage, comments, social media, algorithms designed to keep you engaged by keeping you in a state of anger against someone else. Not to say those forces aren’t out there, but in the end what do we as human beings want? To be loved. To be happy. To get through life.


FBoFW still runs in papers. When Johnston “retired” the strip in 2008 she opted to go back to the beginning and run the series from the beginning, all over again, updating it for more modern times. But the aesthetic is still there; that honesty, that gentleness of living your life. Some might complain that the world of FBoFW is too gentle, too nice, too “Canadian white middle-class” that doesn’t tackle Real Issues about Modern Life.*

But that’s … kind of the point. That’s what makes a story timeless, not tethered to a place in time. If FBoFW had gone all-in on criticism of Mulroney and Reagan, of the Free Trade Accords and Meech Lake, it wouldn’t have been as successful, as beloved as it is now. Part of the problem with the current wired social media don’t read the comments world of ours is it’s convinced those holders of minority opinions that theirs is, in fact, the majority. 

*A criticism that’s quite off base too. Johnston’s Pulitzer-nominated coming out of Michael’s friend Lawrence led to cancellations and angry letters, but given the choice Johnston said she would do it all over again. A late-run story with daughter Elizabeth teaching school in a First Nations community enlisted the aid of Anishinabek Nation elders to make sure she got the details just right. These efforts, I might add, at a time when it was not fashionable to tell stories of LGBTQ acceptance (the aformentioned coming-out story was inspired in part by the murder of one of Johnston’s close gay friends), or address the severely underfunded and neglected northern communities of Canada. And while the focus was on the typically white Canadian Pattersons, their world was occupied by beloved friends, family, teachers, and neighbors of all ethnic and minority status (not to mention featuring one of the first disabled recurring characters in any comic strip).


It’s fitting that I found myself rediscovering FBoFW while up to my neck in Mixtape again, which was the other pleasant part of the summer that was. Mixtape shares some similarity in FboFW; that fly-on-the-wall real-time progression. Rediscovering a world I first created in 2010 but hadn’t visited in some time, it was nice to get back to that familiarity, to see some old friends and rediscover some new ones. Mixtape TV is a much more expansive project than the comic, will our five mains of Jim, Siobhan, Lorelei, Terry, and Noel joined by a collection of new faces, new characters. I hope you all will get to meet Benny and Marco, Beth and Jenny, Steve and the many more populating that world. 

Living where we do, my family and I, I see a lot of ourselves in FBoFW. Our concerns, while vast and indeed global, still take a back-seat to the daily grind of making sure we’re fed and housed, that our child is cared for and knows above all he is loved by his mom and dad. That we can make a greater difference in our community, our few square blocks of suburbia, than anywhere else. They say think globally and act locally, and I think FBoFW was able to do both. By focusing on the trials, travails, joys, and sorrows of a typical family we were all able to see a little bit of ourselves and feel just a little less alone in this mad world. 

I’m finding as I get older that memories do fade over time, but more specifically memories of memories fade faster. Things that were much easier to recall ten years ago aren’t so much now. I’ve been finding this especially regarding Mixtape. When I began the comic series the events portrayed in it were barely twenty years old. Now they’re closer to thirty. And while I could mourn that loss of memory and passage of time I realize that you don’t so much lose memories as you fill that space with new ones. New experiences, new joys; fatherhood in particular has occupied space once taken up by memories of parties and dating, high school, college, the years that followed. I know in years to come those memories will fade, but hopefully what they’ll be replaced with will be even better. And if not, well, life is to be lived for better, for worse, and all between.

Together In Electric Dreams*

I got my first email address in 1995.

It was one assigned to every student at my college. We were told about these newfangled “emails” during orientation, and encouraged to use them because “the internet” was “the wayof the future”.

As foretold to us by Perry and Aniston …

I don’t recall ever using my college email. I’m sure few of us college age kids nearing graduation gave email or the internet much thought. We were children of the 70s and 80s and in some cases the 60s. We’d grown up without an internet and that analog life was our life.

We lined up at Ticketmaster for concert tickets, we drove, walked, or subwayed to the record store on new release day of our favorite band’s new album. We listened to the radio.

We stood in line at the movies. TV was whatever was on the dial. TVs had dials, before graduating to huge bulky converter boxes, and from there to sleek handheld remotes.

We had VCRs to record the shows we didn’t want to miss, and loaned out tapes to friends. We had tapes dedicated to full series runsof The Simpsons, The Kids In The Hall, Saturday Night Live, Twin Peaks. Commercials and all.

Whenever a favorite band was dropping a new music video, we had to watch MTV or Much Music at the appointed time for the premiere.

We made mixtapes to compile our favorite songs, for road-trips, for cruising, for our walkmans. For friends.

We learned the value of being bored. Of not having the world at our fingertips. That boredom forced us to go out and seek adventure rather than expecting it to be delivered to us.

When we graduated from high school, from college, we truly lost touch with old friends, old enemies. Our lives intersected then moved quickly away from one another.

And all the while The Internet was lurking. Waiting to change our lives.

As pictured …

Much has been written about the negative effects of the internet as it has entwined its coils around our daily lives. And entwine it has. When was the last time you went completely internet-free? For how long? Every hotel, restaurant, museum has free public wi-fi. You’re never really internet-free or free of the internet.

Walk through any museum, gallery, aquarium and more often than not you’ll find people hyper-focused on their phones while Degas, the Mysteries of Egypt, and giant sea turtles linger in the background of our digital lives. I gave up my cell-phone when the pandemic began. I didn’t need to be in constant contact for one, but also because I wanted to be more available, more present in my life and my family’s life. I still feel like I’m the only parent at the playground not scrolling through their phone while their child plays.

The internet is here and it’s not going away. From QR codes to text messaging, it’s a part of our lives, good and bad.

But the internet hasn’t all been bad, and this is NOT a “boo internet bad Hulk smash” post.

No, this is:

FIVE THINGS THE INTERNET HAS BEEN GOOD FOR (PLUS ONE BONUS THING)

Spotify has been a good thing. No, a great thing. Possibly my favorite thing. Music journalist/friend of Mixtape Alan Cross had long pontificated on the concept of “The Celestial Jukebox”; a wondrous device that contains every song ever recorded, there at your fingertips. Basically, Spotify which, while falling short of every song ever recorded, has been a godsend to music fans such as myself. Especially duringthe writing of Mixtape, Spotify has allowed me to plunge down the rabbit hole of music, deep diving myself into the back catalogues of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, the Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Disco, Punk, Pop, Rockabilly … on and on and on. Thanks to Spotify I’ve discovered newer artists and songs I never even knew existed.

Oh, and thanks to Spotify I actually have been spending more money on music, putting to bed the lie – to me anyway – that Spotify is killing music sales. I would never have delved into the extrordinary back cataloge of current favorite classic rock band The Kinks had Spotify not been there. have killed for something like Spotify when I was a teenager, back when it was easier to hear about a band or a song then to actually hear it.

Wait for it …

Yes, YouTube. I know the horror stories; the out-of-control algorithms, the fascist reich-wing content pushed on unsuspecting child viewers, the horrible, horrible comment sections*.

[*ProTip: all comment sections, be they on Youtube, your local newspaper’s website, or social media are all terrible in their own ways. The concept of comment sections are terrible too, because who really wants to be subjected to the brain-farts of random blowhards on the world wide web? Internet comenting and social media have killed boredom; they’ve required our cups to constantly be filled. Comments are why I have comment blockers installed on my web browsers – I recommend the “Shut Up” browser extension.]

With YouTube the experience is what you make of it. Keep clicking on political content, on controversy and outrage, don’t be surprised when political content you disagree with gets shoved into your timeline (and certainly don’t complain about it either because you did this to yourself). My YouTube experience is dominated largely by film criticism; long-form videos analyzing a film a TV show, a movie trailer. there’s a lot of excellent film criticism on YouTube; much more so than inmainstream media, where the emphasis is on money and how much of it a movie is making or losing. But there’s a lot more on YouTube I gravitate towards. Old Rankin-Bass cartoons, old toy commercials, original broadcasts of Top of the Pops. All the weird pop-cultural epehemera from the 70s and 80s. The obscure TV and movies and more that seem to fallen through the mainstream cracks have found a safe home on YouTube. Even watching a video of 80s mall culture has been extremely beneficial for a book I’m working on. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of them but to go down my YouTube rabbit hole, give Lindsay Ellis, Patrick Willems, Layron Eversaul, Matt Draper, Like Stories of Old, Lady Knight The Brave and Oliver Harper a whirl.

If you buy my book, buy it from Bookshop

One of the great challenges of 21st century publishing is the dominanze of a company whose name begins with A and ends with N. Amazon has dominated shopping and retail for the last decade plus, more so since the pandemic started. Amazon has torn a swatch through the retail experience, and the publishing world. Your success or failure as an author depends on the first week’s numbers on Amazon. You’re encouraged to bludgeon readers to pre-order your book on Amazon, to leave reviews on Amazon, to create an Amazon Author Page, to surrender, Dorothy, to AZ the Great and Powerful. Short version: Amazon has become too big, too powerful, and the publishers have basically climbed into bed with an entity determined to destroy them. Amazon is the toxic boyfriend/girlfriend you know is bad for you but can’t quite escape. They own everything and are trying to own everything else. Publishers affixing themselves to the Amazon train will ride it for a while, but over time will discover the landscape they travel through has become more barren, more lifeless as Amazon consumes everything, even those same publishers I’m sure.

Why am I ranting against Amazon? Because for books, there’s a much better option if you must shop online but don’t want to contribute to the fall of culture and civilization by shopping at Amazon.

Bookshop.org is an online book-seller, competitive enough with Amazon, that you’re paying close to the same price for books, by a website that kicks up to 30% of its sales to a local bookstore of your choice. During the pandemic I ordered a lot of books through Bookshop.org because my local bookseller had been forced to shutter temporarily while still needing to pay rent and suppliers and electricity and so on. Even now, I still order my books through Bookshop because I know every doller they send to my local bookshop is a dollar Amazon doesn’t get their mitts on. Choosing Bookshop over Amazon might not win the war, but it will show you’re not ready to capitulate to the big guys just yet. And maybe you’ll do some good for your local bookshop and local community. After all, if you’re an author you need to hold those events and signings somewhere, right?

Streaming Video (in general). Kind of connected to YouTube, but I feel like 2020-2021 became the year when streaming video finally became what it was meant to be. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Disney +, yes … but also Kanopy, Shudder, Mubi, Criterion. Like Alan Cross’s Celestial Jukebox, we have a Celestial Idiot Box. We have more TV and movies and documentaries and docuseries than we can shake a remote at. We also have PBS.org, PBS Kids (my son’s favorite) and a slew of other options. With a click of a button I can watch The Mandalorian, Wild Strawberries, The Haunting of Hill House, What We Do In The Shadows (movie and series), Seven Samurai, Piranha, the complete runs of The Kids In The Hall, Twin Peaks, Cheers, Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero … endless and onward.

I still buy physical media – I’ve invested too much money in my DVD and Blu-Ray collection to stop – but I do rely on streaming more than I used to. Streaming isn’t perfect – selections vary, titles disappear without notice, picture and sound quality are terrible compared to a high-def video disc, but the sheer volume of content out there is legion. And perhaps the best thing about streaming video is you’re not fixed to a set day and time to watch. Any show at any time? The future has arrived.

This Website. Yes you read that right; www.bradabraham.com is a reason the internet isn’t all bad. For one, the fact you’re reading this proves that there’s something compelling enough about my website and me to keep you coming back. There are millions of web pages like mine out there. Whatever your interest, whatever your want, it’s waiting to be discovered and bookmarked and re-visited. For me, my website fulfils what social media never has; furnished me a small corner of the world wide interwebz that’s mine and mine alone.

It’s not ruled by an algorithm, it’s not dependent on Search Engine Optimization – though to be honest when you Google my name, this wbsite is the first thing to pop up in the search results, take THAT Facebook! It’s not a top site, and it reaches a limited number of visitors, but it’s a consistent number, not the fluctuating one you get when using Twitter or Instagram or facebook to get word out about yourself. In those cases you’re always going to be a Minnow in the Pacific unless you’re prepared to devote huge swaths of your day-to-day being Very Online and Feeding The Machine.

When I started this website eleven years ago I had no real idea what I was going to use it for. back then I was just a semi-successful still-struggling screenwriter. Since then I’ve become an acclaimed comic book writer and novelist, I’ve had two movies and one webseries produced, and I’ve worked on multiple TV series. I’ve moved, grown, changed, aged. Looking back through the archive of posts here (a decade’s worth) I’m amazed not only by the volume of content but by the fact I kept at it, even at times when I really didn’t want to. I still have times when I feel like giving it up, or at least putting it on the backburner. I’m too bored, tired, distracted by real-life stuff that some months I just don’t feel like blogging anything anymore.

And yet, here I am, still doing it. While it does seem like the world and the people in it – friends current and former – are off in FB and Twitter land, I’m here and much happier for it.

For me writing and creating has never been about getting big views, big sales numbers. It’s never been about being a Bestseller, an Award-Winner. I’ve never wanted to be “a writer of note” – I just want to write. After 22 years “writing” remains the best part of being a writer and probably the only part of being a writer that I still enjoy. And this website is a part of it.

Back in the Long Ago and Far Away (i.e. “High School”), a 1500-2000 word essay was a major part of your History or English grade. It was a major achievement, all those words and thoughts organized and footnoted and sourced. This post, which I banged out over a couple hours one morning in early November is over 2000 words. What used to be a challenge and a major undertaking, I can now do before my coffee turns cold. And while a lot of that is on me, a lot of it is thanks to the internet and this web-page that, like a garden, requires fresh water, attention, and care.

So as I say goodbye to 2021, I leave you with this:

Thanks to the internet, everything is eternal. Even Emu’s Pink Windmill Kids.

(You thought I forgot the BONUS THING didn’t you? Well I didn’t.)

Bonus Thing: Online Banking

Specifically Online Check Deposits. Seems mundane, right? Well, as a writer your sporadic pay generally comes more likely than not through a good old-fashioned paper check. Royalties from books, royalties from movies and TV, checks from your agency with their 10-15% fee deducted. So when a check arrives I have two choices;

  1. Go to my bank to deposit direct through the ATM or front counter, which involves me hopping in my car and driving 15 minutes there, and 15 minutes back, or;
  2. Open the banking app on my tablet, take a photo of the front and back of the check, and deposit it digitally. Total time; less than it takes me to put on shoes, grab the keys, grab my coat.

Not terribly exciting, huh? Well, that depends on who the check is made out to 😉

  • This post was going to run last month but I decided to do the Christmas story instead. Did you read it? If not you should; I really like this one. You’ll find it here.

Reading Pictures

Boooooks!

Novelizations. We’ve all seen them. We may have even read some of them. I myself have a bookshelf-full of them (pictured above); a combination of ones I’ve had since childhood and ones I picked up at visits to used bookstores over the last several years. These are part of my “comfort reads” – the books, magazines, and comics that I’ve read and re-read multiple times, whose familiarity is the entire point. Those stories where, unlike the current global crisis, we know how it all ends. That’s what a Novelization is; a story you likely already know, told in a different way.

More boooooks!

First we need to clarify the difference between a “novelization” and a movie based on a novel. In the latter case, someone wrote a book; call it Jaws or the Silence of the Lambs or The Hunger Games. That novel, that source material, existed before the movie version did. Novelizations, by comparison, are the books based off a film or more specifically that film’s screenplay. The books that exist only because some screenwriter wrote a screenplay that was turned into a major motion picture, and the studio sold the rights to a publisher to assign an author to turn out a book based on the film to sell in stores as a nice little bit of promotion.  

Novelizations are frequently rudimentary in prose; “workmanlike” is the best descriptor, as though there’s something wrong with that. Frankly, I’ll take “workmanlike” over “MFA trying to impress me with their three-page treatise on the texture of a raindrop” any day. They’re serviceable; the perfect beach or pool-side reading. The types of books you can read with one eye while keeping the other on your child, to ensure they don’t drown or get munched by a roving Great White Shark.


Novel, not Novelization (though the prose is about the same)

Novelizations aren’t concerned with great turns of phrase. The exist to tell a story; or re-tell it, if you will. And to be fair, some novelizations are actually well-written, but you aren’t going to impress the teacher with your book report on the novelization of Rambo: First Blood Part II or Starman. Novelizations are the bastard stepchild of the literary world. They are books, and they are readable, but wouldn’t you be better off reading something more substantial?

Yes. To all of the above. Every criticism thrown the way of the novelization is valid. However the first “adult” books I read were novelizations. They were my gateway, from books geared to my age group; “Middle Grade” or “Young Adult” before those terms even existed. While I rack my brain trying to remember which novelization was my first, I have to assume it was one of these:

The Holy Trilogy

I was a child of the 1970s, and if you are an adult of a certain age it’s likely the years 1977-1983 were dominated by a trilogy set in galaxy long ago and far, far away. I can’t exactly remember what year I read Star Wars by “George Lucas” (actually sci-fi author and novelization mainstay Alan Dean Foster), but I want to say it was the early 80s, probably 1982. We would have been visiting family and I think a cousin had the paperback novelization and gave it to me. I read it over a weekend, and was, of course, hooked. Even knowing the story, there were surprises to be found within its pages. What made reading Star Wars interesting was the context it provided. Here was the first inkling of a galactic history, opening with an excerpt of “The Journal of the Whills” laying down the backstory for the Republic, the Jedi, and the rise of a bureaucrat named Palpatine.

The Prequels, only with less Jar-Jar.

It also gave you a taste of scenes left on the cutting room floor. Casual Star Wars fans might not know that originally we were meant to spend a lot of time on Tatooine with Luke Skywalker before encountering R2-D2 and C-3PO. We met his friends Fixer and Cammie, and his good friend Biggs Darklighter.

If you wanted to see what an “earlier version” of a beloved movie may have been like, you picked up the novelization. Given these books were written to coincide with the release of the film, they were most often based on a version of the screenplay that became a much different movie. An example of this would be Orson Scott Card’s novelization of James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi adventure The Abyss, which prominently featured a Tidal Wave sequence and various subplots that wouldn’t see light of day until three years later with the release of The Abyss Special Edition.

Life’s Abyss … and then you dive

Novelizations told a story you already knew the outcome of. But they did it in a way that put you in the head-space of the characters you only previously witnessed onscreen. Here you were in the cockpit of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing as it raced down the Death Star trench. You were with the Goonies as they hunted for One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. You were Short Round as he occupied himself throughout Shanghai in the day leading up to the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Novelizations gave you backstory and character histories, it filled in the blanks on little mysteries lurking in the corners. It gave you more, at a time when you wanted more. You didn’t read novelizations for something new; you read them to re-experience the story you’d already fallen in love with. This was especially crucial in an era where home video was still in its infancy. Where you had to wait years to see a movie again. This was the age of the re-release. Star Wars, released in theaters in 1977 didn’t arrive on video until 1982. Return of the Jedi, released in 1983, didn’t show up until 1986.

We waited THREE YEARS for this.

The heyday of the novelization, for me, spanned roughly 1977 to 1989. Star Wars to Batman; famously one of the first films released on home video for purchase within six months of its theatrical debut. Once that six months threshold was broken, it became more common. By 1995 I was clerking at a video store, and it was pretty much a given that that summer’s theatrical releases would be available to rent by Christmas. As a result, novelizations became a lot less essential than they used to be. I look at my collection of novelizations and they really do begin in 1977 and end around 1989. Some are okay, none are truly terrible, and if you want ones that are a cut above the norm, look for names like Wayland Drew (Dragonslayer, Willow), George Gipe (Back to the Future, Gremlins, Explorers), and the Big Kahuna, Alan Dean Foster (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Krull, The Thing, The Black Hole, The Force Awakens, and a host of others).

The late George Gipe wrote three of the best …

Novelizations still exist, though in some notable cases, they’re released after the theatrical release, to keep spoilers at a minimum. All of the Disney Star Wars movies had novelizations released several months after the theatrical release; quite a contrast to Terry Brooks’ novelization of Star Wars: Episode One back in 1999, which arrived in stores nearly a month before the movie hit the silver screen. Overall these newer books are quite well-written, employing acclaimed, well-known sci-fi-fantasy authors to draft prose based on screenplay format. Yet with the theatrical-to-video window now averaging three months if that, you don’t really need the novelization to keep you engaged in that world and its characters; all you have to do is watch clips on YouTube, and wait for the digital version or Blu-Ray to become available.   

Yet I believe what has in some way made movies a little less essential than they used to be has been in part because of the shrinking of that theatrical-to-video window and death of the novelization. They used to be part of the package, alongside the comic book adaptation and the Making Of book and TV specials. They made those movies feel a piece of a much bigger whole. They made them events, rather than mere entertainment.

The novelization was also very important to me as a developing reader. They were the bridge from books geared to people my age, to ones that skewed older. I might have been immersed in novelizations in 1984-1985, but by 1986 I was moving deeper into the adult world. In fact it would have been this book (no a novelization) and this movie that had the biggest impact:

Not a Novelization, but even more important.

Stand By Me, the movie, led me to Different Seasons, the collection of four Novellas by Stephen King (the other three being the little known The Breathing Method, as well as Apt Pupil, released in 1998 and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, released as The Shawshank Redemption in 1994). Different Seasons led me to The Stand, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cujo, It … the list goes on. By 1987 I was reading Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and a host of other horror and suspense authors and I never really looked back. And while I was aware of Stephen King, it wasn’t until seeing Stand By Me that I wanted to know more, and more importantly read more.

Admittedly, my novelization shelf is more of a show-piece than a practicality. They’re a conversation starter for house guests. Yet occasionally, usually when between projects, I’ll pull out one of my old novelizations and take a trek down memory lane.

Speaking of Treks …

When talking about novelizations it helps to remind one’s self that yesterday’s trash is tomorrow’s treasure. It wasn’t so long ago that comic books were considered Low Art; now they’re winning Pulitzers and Hugos. There have been many scholarly looks at the Pulp Magazines of the 1930s, cheap, simple, and exploitative, which are now regarded as the cornerstone of modern genre fiction. The internet has changed the world, and even those ephemeral things that didn’t even exist ten years ago like Podcasts and YouTube are regarded as essential, even ground-breaking media.

I love movie novelizations. They were a gateway to more adult fiction; they were what spurred my interest in movies and the making of them. They’re what made me want to tell stories of my own. But mostly, they’re a simple, analog comfort to help us get through an uncertain world.

On that note: remember to wash your hands.

Brad’s Top Ten Novelizations

The Abyss – Orson Scott Card’s adaptation of James Cameron’s sci-fi thriller was granted unprecedented access to the film and unsurprisingly the novelization reads as top-level sci-fi. The book begins with three POV chapters each about its three leads – Bud, Lindsay, Coffey – in their younger days, and impressed James Cameron so much he gave the chapters to his actors and told them “this is canon”. One of the few novelizations that works as a stand-alone book.

Back to the Future – George Gipe’s adaptation of the beloved blockbuster puts particular emphasis on Marty’s friendship with Doc, and him getting to know the his own father before life crushed those same dreams now threatening to crush Marty’s. Gipe sadly passed away in 1986, but if you see his name on the cover it’s well worth your read.

Dragonslayer – acclaimed Canadian fantasy author Weyland Drew takes a middling Disney fantasy movie into a fine little piece of almost Tolkien-esque prose, focusing more on the threat the rise Christianity represents to an untamed world than the dragon hunting its people. The first of Drew’s two novelizations on this list.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. There was no way the novelization was ever going to recapture the wonder, the emotion, the soaring spectacle of Spielberg’s masterpiece. But what the E.T. novelization does do is expand the roles of Elliot’s mom Mary, and government investigator Keys, and gives Elliott and his siblings a foil in a nosy neighborhood kid who suspects something is up at their house. This kid never appears in the movie, which makes me wonder if he was an invention of author William Kotzwinkle, or a character and subplot excised from the screenplay before the filming commenced.

Explorers – George Gipe corrects the biggest problems with this Spielberg-Dante misfire by relegating the stuff that doesn’t work (i.e. the moment the aliens show up) to the last 30 pages, choosing to focus his retelling of the story on exploring the bonds of friendship between the titular Explorers.

The Goonies – I’m not a particular fan of 1985’s the Goonies, but the novelization is an interesting read, as it’s told almost exclusively through Mikey’s eyes, relating what happened to the Goonies gang after the events of the movie have passed. It also gives us a post-script to the story, telling readers and Goonies fans what happened to their gang of misfits after the end credits rolled.

The Last Starfighter – This mostly forgotten cult film about a young man stuck in his trailer park community only to be enlisted in an interplanetary war (don’t ask) is almost meta-textual in its portrayal of life as an 80s teen; a world of video games, dead-end jobs, and, yes, novelizations. It’s another Alan Dean Foster joint. He pops up a lot when you talk about novelizations.

Poltergeist – On paper, the story of Poltergeist is a little thin. But here author James Kahn expands on the trials of the Freeling clan, by giving almost equal footing to the paranormal investigators stories, particularly psychic Tangina Barron, whose detailed visits to the spectral plane actually precede the kidnapping of Carol-Anne, and sends her and her team on the hunt for the Freelings before the Freelings even know their daughter is in danger.

Star Wars – the George Lucas/Alan Dean Foster adaptation that kicked off the Golden Age of Movie Novelizations. Released in December 1976 (the original release date for Star Wars), it sat on shelves nearly six months before the film eventually was released to stun the world. A pretty engrossing read, but for a couple of anachronistic references to dogs and ducks (which I suppose now makes them canon in the Star Wars universe).

Willow – Wayland Drew returns with his adaptation of George Lucas’s and Ron Howard’s mushy fantasy would-be epic, applying his own high fantasy skills to the boilerplate plot, spinning off tales within tales, backstories, and histories into something that comes very close to being a classic High Fantasy.

ADDENDUM: there’s an excellent podcast called “I Read Movies” from Paxton Holley, in which he reads and compares movie novelizations to the filmed versions. Paxton really knows his stuff, is an engaging host, and an always entertaining listen. Here’s a link to his show page:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/i-read-movies-podcast/id1276623435

And, for more information on Novelizations, including a massive, comprehensive index of pretty much every one ever written, https://www.movienovelizations.com/ has your back covered.