Saturday, October 1, 2011


When I say "remix," I don't mean it in the Gwen-Stefani-Meets-Eminem, skull-thumping-techno-infused remixes you hear in the club; I mean in the literary sense. 

Say what? 

I was watching this interview with China Mieville the other night when when mentioned the idea as it related to his own work. He said that he has always been suspicious of Director's Cut versions of films and books (he cited Stephen King as a literary example, and his knack for rereleasing a book 20 years later with 20 thousand additional words), but also that he is intrigued with the idea of rewriting his own work ten, twenty years later, just to see how it comes out. In other words, a literary remix. 

I was dumbstruck. Honestly, the idea of rewriting one's own work years later has never even occurred to me as something people might do...which is strange, I suppose, since one of the things writers spend most of their time doing is rewriting and retooling their stories. I guess the reason it's so odd to me is because China wasn't talking about rewriting broken stories; he was talking about rewriting good stories, ones that he'd finished and sold and had published and collected massive royalties on. He's talking about rewriting "Perdido Street Station," for example, as an experiment just to see what would come out. 

I find the premise fascinating, to the point where I wish I had stories old enough (and successful enough, for that matter) to remix. What about you? Do you guys ever do this? Have you ever wanted to? Do you have stories old enough or at the very least distant enough from you now that a completely blind rewrite would interest you? 

I'm curious how those would come out, even if just as an experiment.


  1. I certainly understand the urge, but I try to ignore it! I can't help tweaking a little every time I read something old but I've too much new stuff to write without getting bogged down in old stuff.

    To some extent, an old story is what it is; a product of me then. I'd write it differently now, maybe, but it stands as a record of the old me. Does that make sense?

  2. I think we can tweak our work to death -- and never be content. At the same time, however, I do revise my work before subbing it out as a reprint. I can always make it better.

    Regarding Mr. King's The Stand, I found his extended edition to be an arduous read. Tighter is often better, I've found. I really cringe at some of my earlier wordier work!

  3. @Simon: I totally understand. I think that's probably the healthiest way to look at it, and keeps neurotic messes like me from "fixing" stories every time they come back from a market.

    But I honestly don't think tweaking is necessarily what I'm talking about here. I'm talking a total rewrite independent from the original manuscript, as if I said to you, "Okay Simon, sit down and write 'Museum Beetles' from scratch."

    @Milo: I know what you mean, and I don't think you're alone in that. Especially in genre fiction, whenever I read a reprint anthology, it seems (this may not always be the case) that there's at least one story in it that is an expanded/improved/changed-in-some-way version of the story that appeared in the original market.

    And yeah, I'm averse to indulgence in literature as well. There's something noble about cutting your work down to its barest form. Not for its own sake, of course, but because tighter is just better. When a writer decides to add to a story--unless expanding it to a novel or something, which I think is a different form entirely--it's inevitable that they're going to lose what made their story work in the first place. Subtraction by addition, I guess.

    But I guess it isn't ALWAYS true. Just mostly true.

  4. I think this could be good. I'm often more enamoured of the idea than the execution.

  5. Look at me, Joe. I'm posting! Posting, I tells ya. All thanks to you.

  6. Deb! Awesome! Glad I could help!