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Live in the Now, man!

4 April 2013

Note: While it’ll look a lot like this is another Star Trek post, it’s not really. Bear with me. There’s a point in here somewhere.

One of the first episodes of the original Star Trek I saw was The Doomsday Machine, which, as you can guess from the title, was about a machine that went around destroying everything. When I watched it in 1990 or so, I remember the effects looking pretty 1960s, like they all did on the original series. When I rewatched it on Netflix recently, it was… a little different.

The original I remember:


The version on Netflix:


Apparently, someone decided to go through and do an HD remaster of the show years ago, an event that wouldn’t have slipped by me in my youth. It reminded me of George Lucas re-releasing the original Star Wars trilogy in the late 90s with “updated effects.” Lucas’s updates bothered me, but I celebrated the Star Trek remasters. Why?

I was thinking about it today (which is why you’re reading about it now), and it all comes down to revision. The Star Trek remaster doesn’t add things that aren’t there. It doesn’t change the tone or the flavor of the episodes — there’s simply an attempt to make the shows look less horribly dated. Lucas’s Star Wars updates dropped in new characters, sight gags, a burping Sarlaac… it was an attempt to change the original films. The tone changed, an I wasn’t a huge fan of that.

We live in a time now when creators can update their work whenever they like. If I wrote an ebook and decided to change my ending after it’d been out six months, no problem. I just write the new ending, reupload the file, and boom — instant Special Edition.

I’m not going to do that.

There’s a saying that art is never finished, it’s merely abandoned. I agree with that sentiment, in a way. First, calling what I do art is a stretch. But second, I abandon each story in a specific place. When I kick Supercritical out of the car in Portland, I don’t ever plan to go back and give it a ride to Los Angeles. When it’s out, it’s done for me.

But I’ve seen it work before. I’ve seen people put out a new edition of their work and make it better. My pal Christopher Gronlund put out a copy of his novel Hell Comes With Wood Paneled Doors with a new cover and added short stories by fans; that worked. I’m just not planning to do anything similar.

Have you seen someone go back and change existing art? Which changes worked? Which didn’t?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 April 2013 1055

    With Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors (HCWWPD), the story is the same. I just…looked at a special edition of Larry Doyle’s I Love You, Beth Cooper and thought, “I have interviews about the story, now, and some essays from readers could be cool.” So, since I never really had a launch for the book, that’s what I did. I wasn’t about to change the story, though. You said it best about abandoning each story at a specific place. If someone pointed out a typo in HCWWPD, I’d update that, but I stand at your side when it comes to leaving well enough alone and keeping all movement forward, on new projects.

    • 4 April 2013 1224

      That’s why it worked — you didn’t change the story. You provided more content, sure, but the story was still the same.

      Typos are one thing. Burping Saarlac — whole other animal.

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