Originally posted 7-29-2012
Over the last fifteen years of so, George Lucas has come under increasing and increasingly vitriolic fire from people claiming to be “fans” of his work. Let me admit up front that I found Star Wars Episodes I-III to be inferior to the original trilogy in raw storytelling terms. Much of those weaknesses could have been avoided with more focus on character development and less on visual effects. Did those scripts need another pass or three? Absolutely. Have the various changes and amendments to the original trilogy made it worse? It’s debatable, but that’s not really the point. What the question all really boils down to is whether or not a creator can or should retain creative control over properties once those properties become available to the public at large. I say, yes, the creator can and should retain creative control over the work. Here is why. I’m about to do the same thing.
I self-published a novel a few years ago and I’m presently closing in on the finish line for the sequel to it. The people that read and loved that original novel have my eternal gratitude. It’s been their persistent and heartfelt interest in those characters that has kept me going back to the keyboard to chip away on the new novel. That gratitude does not, however, extend to leaving that original novel in its original form. Since I wrote that novel, I have consumed millions of words of writing. I’ve read close to a dozen books on the craft of writing. Finally, I’ve set down hundreds of thousands of words of my own writing in the form of blogs posts, articles, reviews, and a new novel. The point is that, while creative works often remain static, our understanding and abilities as creators in our chosen fields do not remains static. I am a far, far better writer now than I when I wrote that first novel. I can understand its flaws, and why they exist, well enough to make a serious effort at repairing them.
More important to me, as the author, is that I feel a responsibility to that book and its characters. I honed it and shaped it as well as I could at the time, but I can see where I took shortcuts and where I shortchanged the character development in favor of skipping ahead to the big drama scenes. I did the kinds of things inexperienced writers do on their early works. Would that book have benefited from another pass or three before I made it available? Absolutely. Should I not take that pass or three now because people have read the original? I can’t think of a single good reason why I should refrain from taking another pass at it.
I’ll grant you, I’m not George Lucas. My fan base is small. I haven’t sold millions of copies of one version of my book just to say, “Wait, no, this new one is going to be the definitive version.” I can see how that would aggravate fans. On the flip side, though, I’d like to believe that George Lucas has enough integrity as an artist that he at least believes he’s bringing his creative works closer to what he meant them to be in the first place. It’s not a question of whether or not he’s succeeding. It never was. It’s a question of whether he remains the controlling creative voice in his properties. I say that he is and that he is doing nothing more than exercising his due rights. If you don’t like it, that is your prerogative, but express it by not buying his movies. Stop burning the man in effigy. Stop browbeating him in forums, columns and blogs. In short, cut George Lucas some slack.