It was recently made aware that Paul S. Kemp wrote a post pertaining to my reviews of the first two volumes of the Erevis Cale Trilogy. This is in no way meant to be a response to his comments concerning my reviews. But the author did address an issue which could generate a number of interesting discussions:
I do wish, however, that reviewers would never, ever, feel the need to apologize/qualify/squirm about reviewing tie-in fiction (to Pat's credit, he does so only in the TF review). It continues to feed the unfortunate (and wrong) perception that tie-in speculative fiction is, by definition, qualitatively inferior to non-tie-in fiction, and you all know my position on that. It's the same nonsense and need for hierarchy that causes writers of "literary" fiction to dismiss genre fiction in its entirety (it is amusing that many non tie-in speculative fiction writers hate this sentiment when it comes from "literary" writers, yet those same non tie-in specfic writers have no problem turning around and directing the same thing at tie-in writers; it's a strange disconnect that I've never understood).
By the way, for an excellent essay on the subject of writing tie-in fiction v. non-tie-in fiction, see Karen Traviss' comments at Emerald City.
You can read the essay here. While I don't agree with everything this writer says, there is a lot of truths in her essay. Read it, and let's see what everyone thinks about her observations. . .
I don't think I have to elaborate on the literary fiction vs genre fiction rivalry. As I mentioned countless times, there has never been this many talented and incredible authors comprising what we call speculative fiction. Sooner or later, those "literary" types will have to give them the respect they deserve.
However, I don't believe the same can be said about tie-in fiction. And it's the reader in me that makes that claim, not the reviewer. Now, Star Wars is a special case, as it did attract a couple of very good authors. Few writers would turn back on the possibility of getting that much exposure. And yet, fans and non-fans alike will tell you that the quality of Star Wars novels can range from excellent to dubious.
In my review of Twilight Falling, I did mention the apparent low quality of some TSR/Wizards of the Coast offerings, while praising works by other authors. I never meant to imply that readers could not enjoy Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels. Far from it. As a guy who fell in love with the fantasy genre reading those books during the 80s, how could I possibly do that? Still, as you discover what's out there, it becomes increasingly difficult to truly enjoy such novels to the level that one will appreciate works by authors such as Tad Williams, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Hal Duncan, Scott Lynch, and a multitude of others. Wizards of the Coast has never elected to produce the sort of ambitious story arc that would bring the aficionados back to the novels they enjoyed at a younger age.
Which, in my opinion, is why that sort of tie-in fiction offerings will always be considered as something akin to the minor leagues or the Canadian Football League. In and of themselves, they are fun and entertaining. No doubt about that! But they don't compare to the Major Leagues or the National Football League.
I'll post a link to that essay on a couple of message boards, just to see what sort of debate we will end up with. . .