In an interview for SF Signal (hey guys!), Michael A. Stackpole mentioned a little snippet on the upcoming novelization:
MS: I’m just finishing up my latest tie-in project, the novelization for the Conan the Barbarian movie which will be out in August, 2011. I’m talking with a number of other companies about doing work in their universes. The two factors I look at when picking projects are 1) how much the property interests me and 2) whether or not it has an audience/market share which I can tap to buy my other books. Because of the digital revolution, I have a choice: either I work for someone else at a tiny percentage, or I work for myself, turning out independent books like my In Hero Years…I’m Dead. Since the payoff for the latter is much better, and the process is quicker; any tie-in properties will have to be things I really love with a huge audience. (Hence my working in the Conan universe. )
Yes, he really used a smiley there. In addition, SF Signal provided an image of the book cover, from Amazon.com:
Holy smokes, my humourous mockup from last July wasn’t that far off!
I’m presuming the photos described will include a few publicity stills, as with other novelizations, as a preview of the film. Obviously Harry Turtledove wasn’t contacted (thank Mitra) but I’m somewhat perplexed they went with that underwhelming still over the much better poster image. I also note that Robert E. Howard’s name is nowhere to be seen. But then, I’m not in marketing: this could just be a placeholder for the final cover, after all.
Stackpole also discusses Robert E. Howard in this interview, but since it doesn’t specifically pertain to the film, I figure it’s better to discuss it in an editorial.
I’m not the first author to notice that this is the arrival of a golden era for writers. We can explore our worlds and characters in ways, as you suggest in your question, that haven’t been open to us since the days of the pulp magazines. Because of some projects, and as research into ways we can approach fiction, I’ve been dipping back into the stories from the 1890s up through the 1950s. If Robert E. Howard were writing today, we’d never have heard of Conan because he only wrote one Conan novel in his life, and that was a paltry 75,000 words long. Right now traditional publishing doesn’t have a use for anything that doesn’t fit into the 100,000 word long novel box; but readers have a voracious appetite for it. Shorter and medium-length works will be coming back with a vengeance.
Being something of a rabid pedant (shocking, I know) I don’t like playing this sort of game. If Robert E. Howard was alive today, how do we know he’d be writing short fiction, as opposed to the exact stuff that sells? Stephen King did short fiction, but he adapted, and started writing the doorstoppers people seem to crave nowadays. Why shouldn’t Howard attempt the same when that’s where the money is? Then again, how do we know Howard would be an author in today’s environment at all? Too many variables were involved in Howard writing the way he wrote: he listened to the stories of people who experienced Indian raids and the Civil War firsthand, black people who grew up in slavery, friends and family who come from a world utterly different from nowadays that are impossible to replicate. And what about his family situation: since tuberculosis is readily treated in the western world, and Cross Plains is not the same as it was at the turn of the 20th Century, who’s to say his life would be anything like how it was in the 1930s boom town? Indeed, considering Howard did write Conan, how do we know what western fantasy would be like without his influence – would his modern Conan be influenced by The Lord of the Rings or The Broken Sword? (You see what I mean by being a rabid pedant?)
In any case, Stackpole makes an interesting observation on the difference the Internet has made to authors:
More importantly, writers get to return to being what we have always been: entertainers. Sure, stories can deal with lofty themes that illuminate the human condition; but they can do that in short forms as well as massive novels. Readers get to vote directly with dollars and with their opinions because of the net. Every author’s website becomes his living room, and readers can interact with him there, asking questions, letting him know what they’d like to see more of. And the digital age makes it so much easier to interact with other authors, sharing things back and forth.
And my remark about the living room is never more true than when you look at being able to do a Twitter #hashtag chat in real time; or when you use something like Second Life where folks can come and actually hear an author doing a reading. I hold weekly office hours in Second Life, where readers and writers can come into one location, as questions about stories and their writing, hear about what’s going on in the industry and all. And I do readings there, affording folks a chance that they only get if I come to a convention near them.
Contrast that with Robert E. Howard living in the middle of nowhere in Texas and only being able to interact with his fans and peers by snail-mail or when someone like E. Hoffman Price decided to drive to Cross Plains to meet him. Heck, I’ve had conversations in Second Life about some of my books with people who’ve read them in translations I didn’t even know had been made.
It is an incredible time to be a writer, and is only going to get better.