Last night my wife and I went to see “Les Miserables” at the Fox Theatre. I have seen the musical twice before. Once at the Atlanta Civic Center and once on Broadway. Naturally, the Broadway cast set the bar for every future cast. And that’s a high bar.
But, I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of each character (though believe me, I could, and in great detail). Instead, I want to talk about adding new material to old work. Specifically, after its release.
See, this tour of Les Miserables added in some new music. From what I could tell, it was there to help “clear up” confusion in the plot. However, they only succeeded in making some hamfisted entries that felt incongruous to the rest of the music/score. Though, to my wife who had never seen it, she couldn’t tell otherwise.
Another way to put it is this. Say someone took the original “Star Wars” franchise and added in new musical scenes with crappy CGI. It breaks the original flow and doesn’t support the original tone. I’m glad no one has done that….
This got me to thinking about different mediums of entertainment, and how they approach adding new material. For movies, we get this in director’s cuts. Plays will often shift things around and play with settings and how they are presented. This happens a lot with Shakespearian plays. “Ooo, let’s set Hamlet in the African plains and make them all animals!”
But how does this work with books? I’ve heard mention that Orson Scott Card has gone back and edited Ender’s Game a few times. Cutting and adding (I wish I knew the details. I suppose I could look it up, but I’m being lazy).
However, on the whole I can’t think of many authors that do this. It seems like, for the most part, books are left alone. We, the author, don’t go back and twiddle with something that’s already been published. We just let it stand on its own merits. Is there something about print that makes us feel it is immutable?
For my digital short story, “Slip Drive” I did several edits after its release. There were several issues that I and others had overlooked so I wanted to be sure to address those. And Amazon makes uploading a new version very easy. Which I think is a blessing and a curse to the self-publishing industry.
The feeling of the immutable printed book, I feel, drives us to be more meticulous with our presentation. Where as digital distribution (for some people) gives the publisher a license to “get it out quick.” We can always worry about the minor details later, right?
I suppose, for the most part, I’m rambling. But for fun, let’s calling it musing over the concept of tinkering with already published work. And why some mediums are more likely to keep tinkering, while others just let it go.
That makes it sound more important, right? Write.