Update The Book

Book Shelf And More

Following on my previous writing on legitimate remakes, I want to share an odd suggestion with our readership who are current or future writers of fiction. It’s a bit of a strange one, so let me get to the thesis.

What if we updated fiction sort like we do software?

Now I’m not talking the Greedo-shot-first update of Star Wars or the pointless visuals that came with the revised Greedo ballistic action. I’m talking when you find “bugs” in a fictional work, what if people patched them? Or what if you upgraded works?

  • Perhaps a release of a new book noting the version number and what’s included (patch notes)
  • Including free “updates” on the author website to clarify certain things.
  • Release of a free (or cheap) side story to clarify some things. Thought that might encourage deliberate bugs . . .
  • Letting the book stand on its own, but in later versions including the clarifications in the back.

If we can update our software and our other information tools, why not our fiction?

Now I can think of many reasons not to do this. Works are photographs of history and to change them looses something. You can create new “bugs.” It can seem sleazy and exploitative. You have better things to do.

But also I confess the idea has me curious for a few reasons:

  • Sometimes you have to finish a book to learn from it. Maybe a few years pass before you really get what you, yourself wrote.
  • Readers can provide feedback and help you see things you didn’t see – and an update can make things more pleasurable and informative to them.
  • It could revive or improve a book.
  • Some seemingly terrible works, revisited, might be far better than we thought.
  • Authors frankly improve, so why not use those skills?
  • Simply, the idea fascinates me so I wonder what would happen.

So, no I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea, but I wonder. In fact, let me add some more thoughts.

Book Updates

Remember those major operating system updates where everything changed and sometime it as for the better (hey, I appreciated Windows 95)? What if now and then you completely revised a book or series after a certain time?

I first encountered this idea many years ago when Valiant comics was completely rebooted in the 90’s – and we’re not talking Crisis on Infinite Earths here. It was basically started over (admittedly, with an eye towards making it for game properties) – and later went through a number of rebootings as legal proceedings and corporate reorganizations went on. But somewhere in that first relaunch was an interesting idea.

A friend I worked with in a writer’s group put it best by asking the question “what if you restarted a comic universe every five years?”

That idea has always stuck with me. I wondered what it would be like to deliberately reboot a property every so often or do a massive update. Not as an exploitative measure (though it certainly could be an effective one) but an artistic one. Think of the possibilities:

  • Each time you could have a different author write their take on the story/whatever.
  • Each time you could tell a story from another point of view. (though this might be fascinating to explore anyway, revealing more of a complex plot each time).
  • Each time you could incorporate suggestions from people on what to do better or different.
  • You could update different themes and move with the times.
  • You could deliberately do it in a different media or style.
  • A combination of the above.

Now again this could be done wrong or in a pandering manner. But the idea is intriguing to me much the same as any re-interpretation is – you see things anew and think them anew. Doing it as a conscious effort, as an honest effort, causes us to think of an appropriate and ethical framework to do this within. Well hopefully on the ethical part.

And with that framework, we may get some very interesting artistic exploration . . . as opposed to that occurring through marketing and corporate reorgs.

Moving Onward . . .

So what do you think? Can we “patch” works and how – and what if we just decided some works needed new versions as pat of a planned “release plan?”

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.