The Secret History of Twin Peaks

secrethistoryFor those of us who love Twin Peaks down to our bones, the arrival of new material set in its singular realm is monumental. The forthcoming premiere of the first new episode of the show in 26 years is the main event, but co-creator Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, has snuck in ahead to be the first to bring this world back to life.

New Twin Peaks material is significant compared to other cult properties because Frost and David Lynch have wisely restricted what has been produced. Apart from 30 episodes and feature film Fire Walk with Me, only three approved tie-in books and an audiobook exist to date. No new Twin Peaks material has emerged since 1992 except for Lynch-produced Log Lady episode introductions and the 2014 release of deleted scenes from Fire Walk with Me.

This is because, unusually, Lynch and Frost own the property themselves. Given the gradual rediscovery of the show over the last decade and Hollywood’s eagerness to strip-mine established properties, a studio that owned Twin Peaks would presumably have returned to the well already, with or without its creators.

But the resulting drought in new material and Lynch and Frost’s apparent lack of interest in returning to Twin Peaks left us convinced that what we had was all there would ever be. Twin Peaks was a finite creative work, its afterlife offering only ongoing analysis and rediscovery through the eyes of family and friends. We would while away the years interpreting this elliptical and confounding text, certain its creators would never fill in the gaps or provide a resolution to one of the cruelest unresolved cliffhangers in all of television.
Continue reading

Star Trek Fiction – More than Mere Tie-Ins

stdestinyI like to consider myself the kind of fan who isn’t slavishly faithful. I don’t think it’s healthy fandom when the object of your ardour can do no wrong. If nothing else, it prevents you from demanding the best, not to mention the fact that you may end up spending far too much time thinking about it.

Tie-in novels have a reputation among more casual geeks as being extreme fodder targeted at such all-encompassing fans, wherein the large backlog of episodes still isn’t enough. When the corporate owners of the show don’t see any creative value in these extensions of the franchise and are keen to just make a quick buck, then it’s sad to see mediocre and inconsequential tie-in novels get gobbled up by the fanbase without discernment (and don’t get me started on novelisations…). To make matters worse, the tie-ins inherently can’t contribute anything substantial to the narrative of their series or franchise as they are tightly constrained by being unable to contradict what may come. While the shows are running, the novels occupy a fairly pointless limbo where they can only ever hope to be a standalone episode free of budgetary constraints.

But to tar all tie-in novels with this brush is to generalise and ignore their potential. I read some Star Trek novels in my teens and a couple were hugely exciting, written so creatively that the stakes were huge without contravening the series they were based on. Peter David’s Q-Squared was a terrific read in this vein, but I soon came to feel that most of the novels I was encountering were entertaining but inconsequential Trek yarns. There were still plenty of TV episodes I’d yet to see that served that purpose, so I moved on. As the years passed I would spot the latest novels in the bookstore and cringe a little that they were still going, even after the TV and movie franchises had gone to dust.

I’ve since learned that this was far too reductive an assessment. Out of curiosity, I read up on the current state of Trek fiction and was surprised to discover that its ambition has skyrocketed. Free from the constraints of conforming to series in production and movies in development, the books can now be as adventurous as the authors can imagine – anything can happen. The shows have essentially continued in prose form, but with the added bonus of becoming increasingly intermingled in mostly plausible ways, taking care to avoid what’s been termed ‘small universe syndrome’. The fallout from the Dominion War now affects Voyager and The Next Generation rather than being contained to the Deep Space Nine books, and the political and cultural complexity of that show is now one of the book line’s calling cards. Continue reading

The Wheel of Time – When Enough is Enough

crossroadsI come before you to recant. I have realised the error of my ways, and the folly of placing a desire for closure over the common sense of reading things I enjoy.

I tried to finish The Wheel of Time.

I should say straight up that this is not a post I’m entirely comfortable making. The saga’s author, Robert Jordan, died only a few years ago, tragically one book away from completing his fantasy series. I certainly don’t want to be disrespectful, but art is there to be critiqued, regardless of the nature or status of the person involved. More importantly, I feel that Jordan’s misogyny, which I’m finally coming to grips with, makes criticism of his series justified, even at this point in time.

Continue reading