- October 18th, 2012
I've been re-reading the BoTC books, inspired in part, I'll admit, by Richard asking a while back why people turned in books (specifically the BotC ones) to used bookstores.
My own thoughts about why have developed during the re-reading so far(still on the first book), and I think it's hinted at during the introduction. Richard says,
"So, one day, about two years ago, Wendy and I were wondering how we might fulfill the readers' wishes for more information on the ten chiefs, and we came up with the idea of a storybook: ten stories, ten vignettes from each life. We'd write the stories ourselves, and perhaps even publish the book ourselves. We mentioned this to Bob and Lynn, who grinned impishly, and suggested, "Why not do it as a continuing anthology, like Thieves' World, just to pick an example from thin air. We'll even help with the authors and the editing.
I said, 'That's a great idea!' Heavyweight writers, I exulted. A major publisher. Respectability."
On its own, not a bad idea per se. In execution, though?
It didn't quite work.
Overall, the books read, as a former club member put it, as "a holt for pros." It behaves like one as well. Canon (the source material) gets overshadowed by fanon (fannish changes, additions, subtractions). As an obvious example, the word "ravvit". Yes, we all know it supposed to be a rabbit. So why spell it differently? Same with "punkins". I can see someone arguing "Well, it's a different world," etc. However, in the comics it was "rabbit". In the first novel, it's "rabbit" (bush-rabbits, to be exact). Why change it?
I've been told -- I haven't read him in decades, and don't remember -- that swapping out a letter in a common word to make a 'new' one is a habit of Piers Anthony.
I may be wrong, but I have the feeling of NNF (No Name Fan) acceding to the "just because" desires of a BNF (Big Name Fan).
We're also given little bits of history in the mini-intros to each story in the first anthology. In the one to Rahnee's story, Longreach (later Longbranch) tells Nightfall, "The high ones' blood runs strong in you, child. Your mother's mother had almost no wolf-blood in her. But Timmorn's blood runs strong in you, too; you get that from your father who would have been chief if Mantricker had died before Bearclaw found his name. ..."
Later in the comics series, it's revealed Longbranch and Brownberry were Recognized and Nightfall is their daughter. Okay. That contradicts what was presented as canon in the BotC series, however. And we were told that the BotC series was canon.
As it turns out, they were canon until something better came along.
It's not easy to juggle a universe of facts and trivia, god knows. A fan once approached Anne McCaffrey with a list of plot holes and whiplashing characterizations, and McCaffrey patted her on the hand and said, "Don't worry, dear, it's just a story." Marion Zimmer Bradley said in one her Darkover anthologies that she, in the beginning at least, would make up distances from point A to point B that readers later pointed out. She also said she killed off a secondary character to hook up a female character with whom a friend identified to the book's hero, and regretted the decision ever since. She didn't change it in the rewrite (Sharra's Exile), however.
I don't want fanfiction from Wendy and Richard. I don't want fanfiction from the people they authorize to create in their universe. I want canon -- not something that's added (or subtracted) because someone else thinks they can do it better, or cooler, or whatever.
On their own, a few of stories in the Blood anthologies are excellent. Some are very good. Some aren't. What they all do, however, is give the impression that they're not quite 'really' Elfquest.That's the core reason I think the BotC anthologies wind up in used book stores.