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It's pretty common for science fiction TV shows to be "rebooted" (I would guess more common than other genre because of the way that the science elements date). For example, Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, and the Bionic Woman.

(Note that I'm distinguishing between resuming an old story, like Star Trek 2009 or the 'new' Doctor Who, from going back and re-creating the original story with differences).

I don't know of any examples of this in print fiction. Why is this?

If I'm wrong and there are examples, that's a valid answer, but one or two examples will suffice - I'm not asking for a list.

Please exclude TV-tie-ins (i.e. obviously there could be original-BSG books and new-BSG books) and comics (which are rebooted all the time).

closed as too broad by Valorum, Jenayah, Mat Cauthon, Sava, FuzzyBoots Dec 13 '18 at 2:11

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  • 3
    I'd heard the term “reboot” in connection with comic book franchises before. I think it's the same concept: start a new universe, reusing the ideas from the old one but not the continuity. Do you include single works? The wikipedia article suggests “remake” instead, but I don't know if everyone uses the same terminology. Remakes have existed since the dawn in time, in written and before that oral fiction (Frankenstein (Prometheus), Aesop's fables, …). – user56 Jan 23 '11 at 0:31
  • Indeed restarting sans continuity. Single works would be fine, yes. I hadn't thought of old works, but that would be a valid answer. I think there need to be specifics included (e.g. characters, or a specific setting) rather than just ideas, though (otherwise everything's a reboot). – Tony Meyer Jan 23 '11 at 0:37
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    The 2009 Star Trek movie is a reboot for all practical purposes. – Izkata Nov 11 '11 at 13:52
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    Books good enough to warrant redoing them are not crappy enough to make it necessary. Books don't lose value over time (as opposed to visual media). Also, redoing a book is probably harder than redoing a series, as you need one brilliant writer willing to rewrite another's story. – Raphael Aug 19 '12 at 13:40
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    If you reboot a novel, it might become a fanfiction. Because it will include rewriters new ideas and etc and loses its original plot in some sense. Though I wish there were reboots of some books. – apollo Feb 16 '16 at 15:01

12 Answers 12

54

I think it's primarily because books belongs to an author, and usually authors don't want to just re-write a new version of an old book (outside of Orson Scott Card, who's done it a lot).

For film and television, however, studios often own the rights—so the BBC can authorize a new Doctor Who and Paramount can license new Star Trek films. Similarly, comics often get rebooted because the rights are owned by a corporation. When companies own the rights to a product, it makes sense for them to try to maximize their profits.

There have been reboots of novels by authors other than the original, though, so it's not entirely unknown. For instance, John Scalzi (author of Old Man's War, among other SF books) is doing a reboot of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy: Fuzzy Nation (Tor, 2011). In order to do that, he had to both get the rights from Piper's estate, and, separately, find a publisher. He wrote about this process in The Super Secret Thing That I Cannot Tell You About, Revealed: Introducing Fuzzy Nation.

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    Could the downvoter please explain why this answer wasn't useful? – Dori Jan 23 '11 at 2:46
  • That post about the process is very interesting - thanks! In it he notes that a motivation was that he didn't think anyone had done this in scifi before (it's dated April 2010), so presumably it's not very common. – Tony Meyer Jan 23 '11 at 3:49
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    @Dori: Don't worry about downvotes… You will sometimes get them, even for good answers. – Paul Wagland Jan 25 '11 at 4:13
  • @Paul - at the time I asked that, this answer had one downvote & no upvotes. I thought it was a pretty decent answer, so I was curious about the downvote. One accept and double-digit upvotes later, though, I'm fine with the result. – Dori Jan 25 '11 at 21:51
  • Actually since Little Fuzzy (though it's sequels are not) is in the public domain, John Scalzi was most likely not legally obligated to get permission from the Piper estate. However as he wanted the book to be (at least in part) a tribute to the original, he had his agent work with the Piper estate to obtain their permission. – Manzabar Apr 27 '11 at 15:28
22

In addition to the already given reasons, there are some additional very good reason for this. Book technology is the same that it was 400 years ago, and it's not really going to change. However, special effects have seriously been changing in the last few years. It's now possible for things to actually appear realistic that 20 years ago, well, just weren't.

  • There is also a second very good reason for this - Do you mind making this answer independent from another, or at least give a link to what you are referring to, something like In addition to what @user said, book technology... – Tshepang Jan 23 '11 at 8:30
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    Comic technology hasn't changed a lot, and they get reboots all the time. Also why not just improve the special effects (note spelling) while keeping the same backstory? – DJClayworth Apr 26 '11 at 14:35
  • @DJClayworth: sure, but: 1. Comics are (typically) serialised and produced every month, so they fairly quickly build up incomprehensible continuities that (so it’s thought) can be confusing and off-putting to new readers. And nothing encourages sales like a publisher-wide “special event” that rocks a comic universe TO ITS VERY CORE (i.e. reboots it, yet again). 2. A fairly large part of the comic audience is kids, who I think tend to view anything from a few years before they were born as old and busted. Reboots are required to keep up with the birth rate. – Paul D. Waite Mar 26 '14 at 19:43
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    I'm just going to throw this out there, but for sci-fi especially the technology aspects really DO change. According to Robert Heinlein, we colonize the moon well before we have cell phones, for example. I could see merit in re-writing books like that, whose core ideas have a lot of merit, but where the technology described in the book is just hopelessly dated. – Paul Jul 5 '14 at 15:59
13

Actually, it's not unheard of for something to be written as a short story or novella, and later expanded into a full fledged novel.

Two prominent examples include Arthur C. Clarke rewriting The Sentinel into 2001, and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

I also see various stories in Asimov's that that get turned into novels. Alan Steele's Coyote books for example. Sometimes this is just stringing together stories, but sometimes it involves rewriting.

But I agree, the financial incentives are very different for a movie and a book.

  • Also Greg Egan's short story Dust became the novel Permutation City. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permutation_City – Steve Melnikoff Jan 23 '11 at 20:11
  • Don't forget Ender's Game! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 4 '11 at 6:21
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    Clarke did it again with Against the Fall of Night -> The City and the Stars. – Peter Aug 19 '12 at 13:33
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    I don't think expanding a short story into a novel counts as "rebooting". Rebooting is essentially taking a work of fiction, then rewriting it in the same format, overriding the previous version (and its characters, plot details, etc), as if it didn't exist. Rebooting is what they do to comics or movie/TV series when the copyright owners think they simply won't work for modern audiences. – Andres F. Aug 19 '12 at 22:17
9

There's actually a practical explanation for this. It is common when a tv show or movie is developed that the production company or studio buys "all rights" to the material. That means they own it and any derivative works that could come from it. So, that being said --- there's a lot of financial incentive to reboot and old series or movie franchise. It creates a new revenue stream on a product that's already been purchased.

On the other hand, book authors usually license their rights or only sale first english, or first world rights to a publisher. The publisher, the one with the incentive to reboot, doesn't actually hold those rights like a movie studio might for the same material. The writer could theoretically reboot their own work, but very few publishing companies buy reboots of material from writers because then, only "second rights" are available because the "first rights" were sold and exercised to another company.

That being said, it's my understanding that comic books are frequently rebooted, but I think the rights situation are similar to the film and tv industries.

  • So a shared universe series would be more likely to be rebooted then? (TBH, I'm struggling to think of non-anthology scifi shared universes, rather than fantasy ones). – Tony Meyer Jan 23 '11 at 0:08
  • Well, if you include alternate history, the 1632 series is pretty clearly a shared universe. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1632_series) – Martha F. Jan 23 '11 at 0:11
  • @tony, yeah I really think it's all highly dependent on how the original rights were obtained – Slick23 Jan 23 '11 at 0:24
4

I can think of one notable reboot in print fiction. Although not usually characterized as Science Fiction, Steven King's The Stand, has gone through at least two incarnations.

This may not technically be a reboot, but I believe the works are different enough to fall into this category.

  • 1
    That more akin to a "director's cut" - publishing an the complete manuscript, after it was heavily edited in the first edition; like some of Heinlein's books - "Stranger in a strange land" and "red planet" from the top of my head – A.D Jun 8 '12 at 19:39
  • Yes, he did a revised edition of The Gunslinger too, but it's not a reboot. – Peter Aug 19 '12 at 13:31
  • A director's cut is not a reboot. A reboot means considerably changing the earlier version, possibly rewriting or removing its most dated characters or plot situations, and pretending it never happened. – Andres F. Aug 19 '12 at 22:21
3

TV shows consume an enormous amount of story. The Star Trek universe for example has accumulated nearly a thousand hours of story with various shows and films, and that's not including spinoff novels. It's very hard to create new exciting stories while staying within the restrictions of that much story, and that's why they get rebooted a lot.

Comics consume at least as much story, and have the same problems, and they get rebooted even more (along with reboot-like devices of parallel universes and alternate timelines). That's why film adaptions of comics tend to be effectively reboots, in that they either ignore all the comic backstory or set themselves at the start of the story and change whatever they want.

  • I'm not sure I buy the argument that a TV series necessarily has more story than a series of novels. There are many series of novels that would take more than 1000 hours of TV to tell. – Tony Meyer Apr 26 '11 at 23:13
  • @TonyMeyer A book typically converts to 2-4 hours of screen time. So 1000 hours would correspond to a series of 250 books! – DJClayworth Aug 21 '12 at 14:30
  • A GoT book converts to ~10 hours, and a lot is left out. The Hobbit (a mere 320 pages) will convert to ~8 hours. LotR is ~12 hours, and a huge amount is left out. The Sword of Truth books loosely converted to ~20 hours. The Sookie Stackhouse books loosely convert to ~20 hours. Dexter Dreaming Darkly converted to ~10 hours. In TV, a book is commonly a season (with bits left out), not a few episodes. – Tony Meyer Aug 23 '12 at 9:46
2

Some sci-fi and Fantasy universes are rebooted, Mechwarrior became Mechwarrior Dark ages for instance.

  • While there are books for the universe, this was primarily a tabletop gaming universe that was run into the ground and the rights then bought by some of the original creators and made different. – Robert Brim Feb 23 '11 at 14:37
  • Hey, I'm not saying it was a good reboot. – Mark Rogers Feb 23 '11 at 15:07
  • Like @RobertBrim says, Mechwarrior is primarily a gaming universe. I know this is arbitrary, but I don't count it or similar rewrites (e.g. changes in World of Darkness books, such as Vampire: The Masquerade --> The Requiem) as "reboots". Technically they are reboots, true, but it's more of a rules / settings change for games... – Andres F. Aug 19 '12 at 22:24
  • @AndresF. - Mechwarrior dark ages came with a series of novels. That seems like a reboot to me, but this is just arbitrary semantics at this point. I don't think rebooting and rules/setting changes are mutually exclusive, a universe could have both. – Mark Rogers Aug 19 '12 at 23:04
  • @MarkRogers Sure, I agree it's technically a reboot. But Mechwarrior's universe, and World of Darkness in my example, are mainly a gaming universes (yes, even though their merchandise does include novels). Somehow, I don't think that's what the OP had in mind. Gaming-related book universes have more in common with TV series than with actual novels -- but alas! my prejudice is starting to show :P (edit: actually, prejudice aside, this seems like a key point: gaming universes are more like TV series than novels!) – Andres F. Aug 20 '12 at 1:15
2

Another example of a reboot in print media:

The long-running (since 1961) science fiction pulp Perry Rhodan was rebooted as "Perry Rhodan Neo", starting 2011.

It retells the story in a more modern fashion, using elements from the original series but remixing it into something new.

Both series are still running as of now. Also, before dismissed as Perry Rhodan not being novels: The series is also edited into a book series.

1

I'd say that there probably are reboots in multi-author series. That is when the subsequent author decides to just ignore continuity and cannon. A reboot is just a conscious, on purpose decision to do so.

Some of the novels that were published right after the very first Star Wars movie broke continuity and canon, and it was only later that the franchise made an effort to keep the various comics, novels and movies from overlapping and contradicting each other.

1

John Varley wanted to write another Eight Worlds story, but didn't want to have to maintain continuity, so Steel Beach might be considered a reboot.

  • Then he wrote The Golden Globe which fits with Steel Beach, but obviously not with the rest of the Eight Worlds codex. – dmckee Jan 12 '12 at 1:19
0

Along all the other insights, books have usually a well defined set of authors. You will note that tvshows are owned by studios an that the comics which get rebooted are usually not the work of a single "vision". So you have xmen reboots, not calvin and hobbes reboots and a Maus reboot is unthinkable. A studio is a (legal) entity which employs a lot of different artists, with different sensibilities and intetrests. A novel reflects the inner world of a single person (or of a restricted number of authors ...) And doesn't naturally lend to what amounts essentially to a rewrite from scratch.

-2

Your premise is not entirely correct. It doesn't happen often, but it does occur every now and then.

Some books do get rebooted, for example the "zombie" Pride and Predjudice

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    Isn't that series more parody than reboot? (I haven't read them myself, so I'm only going by what I've heard). – Tony Meyer Feb 25 '11 at 22:09
  • A parody, by modern definition, implies that there is an intent to mock the original. Unfortunately, that's not the case here and they actually took their work seriously. I'd classify it as a reboot or a recreation of the original work. – Brandon Black Mar 21 '11 at 21:19
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    In either case, it's not really a reboot. Anyway, the questioner didn't say it NEVER happened. – DJClayworth Apr 26 '11 at 14:46
  • is it then a crossover? – A.D Aug 19 '12 at 15:59
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    Not a reboot at all. This book is simply a parody of the original. With zombies. – Andres F. Aug 19 '12 at 22:25

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