[ETA: Greetings to our visitors from Slate! Everything discussed in this 2011 post has come to pass; the widget in the right-hand column (scroll down a bit, you’ll see it) offers you the 9-volume device-tailored “box set” of the YW New Millennium Editions.]
First of all, thanks to those of you who’ve dropped by the new Ebooks Direct store to check things out since we opened it.
One of the first things that went up at the new store site was the basic info page about the upcoming New Millennium editions of the first four Young Wizards books. In the wake of that page-posting I’ve had a few notes from concerned readers, including this Tweet this morning from @disafan :
It’s an entirely fair question.
Let me start by saying that, regardless of how many adult readers love these books (and don’t think I don’t appreciate that!), my main duty in this series is to the younger readers. And in recent months and years, my younger readers have been complaining.
I get a lot of mail from them demanding to know why, in the early books, Kit and Nita are so old-fashioned. Why don’t they have phones? Why is the computer stuff in the second and third books, especially in High Wizardry, so ancient? Why is the online “otherworld” which today’s teens and tweens are so familiar with, so completely missing? This disconnect with the basics of the background of modern life is putting them off the books at exactly the point I should be getting them hooked.
And the sales figures have to some extent been reflecting this problem. So You Want to Be a Wizard continues to sell steadily, as it has for decades. But immediately after SYWTBAW, the figures drop off enough for me to notice a difference. And then they pick up again with The Wizard’s Dilemma, a much more recently written (and more modernly backgrounded) book, and continue to strengthen through the most recent ones. This sends me a fairly straightforward message: the first four books need to be updated for this millennium’s audience.
Before ebooks started taking off, before easy POD, there wasn’t a lot I could do about this. Naturally I spoke to the US Young Wizards publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the answer came back, “When we reprint the whole series and put them all in new covers — most likely around the time you turn in the tenth book — you can do revisions then.” And at the time, that was fair enough.
But now I don’t have to wait. Now I can scratch this itch, which has been itching me for a really long while now, and get some relief at last.
The revisions are going to be grounded in three basic areas:
Straightforward quality-of-writing issues. So You Want to Be a Wizard was only my second book, after all, and I was still feeling my way along, especially as regards writing for younger readers – it was the first time I’d done that. But now I’m past my fiftieth novel, and believe me, from my present point of view the book really needs polishing. Nothing very violent – its bones are sound. But there are places where more clarity in description is needed, and there are assorted other editing issues that, handled all together, will make this a smoother, more effortless read, generally a better book but specifically a more suitable book as the springboard of a series. I also intend to add some material (and to the others as well, again as required for purposes of clarity).
Background stuff, including technology, lifestyle, and other modernization issues: This is, of course, a balancing act. Hanging in front of me all through this project has been, and will be, the writer’s version of the Primum non nocere principle: DON’T FIX WHAT’S NOT BROKEN. So trust me not to inject tech where it’s not needed, or just for the sake of the change. In fact, in the case of SYWTBAW, previous readers may wonder whether I’ve changed enough stuff — and maybe that will be a sign that I’ve gotten it right. Deep Wizardry will show the updating a little more clearly, and High Wizardry probably most clearly of the four. But at no point do I intend to let it become intrusive. The whole point is for the new material to blend in, not stand out.
As regards changes not having to do specifically with tech: Tween and teen life of the 1980s and 1990s was significantly different from teen and tween life now. Kids are living with greatly changed sets of expectations, limitations and pressures. The New Millennium editions will deal with these as well.
And finally, Timeline issues: The writing of the YW series now spans three decades (2013 was the thirtieth anniversary of SYW). While the series has never been out of print during that period, there have been a number of changes in publishers, and this has sometimes meant longish periods elapsing between books. So each of these after-a-long-gap books became a sort of mini-reboot, and now all those inadvertent reboots have to be reconciled. Some very remarkable brains have spent an amazing amount of time on these issues. (The wonderful Peter Murray, one of our admins at the Young Wizards discussion forums, spent truly astonishing time and effort right up to his untimely death trying to pull together a timeline that took the “classic” versions of the series and made sense of the flow of events, including problems with character ages.) So now I get to get to grips with this issue once and for all. I’ll be establishing a “go date” for the events of So You Want to Be a Wizard and then tweaking other series timings so that they flow from that, using it to resolve chronology and age problems that crop up in later books.
…That just about sums up what I’ll be doing. Around June 21st, people will be able to get the ebook version of the New Millennium Edition of So You Want to Be a Wizard from the Ebooks Direct store, and judge the results.
The economy being what it is at the moment, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt cannot presently commit to reprinting the revised series as a whole. But when they’re ready to go back to press, I will have a complete set of revised texts from which the series can be reset. And for those who still prefer the “classic” editions, I’ll make sure that they can still be obtained in both POD and ebook versions. But this situation won’t occur for some while yet, so let’s put it to one side for now.
Any questions about the above? Please use the comments.