Young Wizards New Millennium Editions: a little more info

[ETA: Greetings to our visitors from Slate! Everything discussed in this 2011 post has come to pass; the widget below 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 and lame? 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 may also 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 almost three decades (2013 is 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.

Thanks!

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Diane Duane

  • New covers on the print versions? You’ll pry my Cliff Nielsen covers from my cold dead hands! 😉

    I guess my only question is this: what is your making the “classic” ebooks available to American readers contingent on? HMH releasing the revised editions in print? I’d like to have ebooks of the classic versions too, but given the quality of SYWTBAW I don’t want to buy the rest of the series through them…

    • Anonymous

       Re Cliff Nielsen: Well, I like those covers too. But cover styles have moved on since the late 90’s. By the time we get to re-covering time, I think we’ll be somewhat overdue for a fresh look.

      Meanwhile, re the “classic” edition Harcourt/US ebooks: The correction process has begun: I’ve just finished with SYW. I’m correcting the books directly in the ePub files. Those will then go back to Harcourt, be converted to .mobi for Amazon without any other changes, and will then be republished online. I’ll be doing these about one book per week until we’re done.

      …So once this is handled, there will be clean ebook copies of the classics at all the online sources, and we can finally put this particular problem to bed.

      • We may be overdue, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the old art. (Which is why I took the chance earlier today to grab high-res versions of all the covers – well, all but #2 and #3, they only had the digest covers of those – from Harcourt’s website earlier today…) What I’ve seen of modern YA covers is… not terribly interesting.

        I’m glad to hear about the corrections, and I look forward to picking up the rest of the series. 🙂

  • New covers on the print versions? You’ll pry my Cliff Nielsen covers from my cold dead hands! 😉

    I guess my only question is this: what is your making the “classic” ebooks available to American readers contingent on? HMH releasing the revised editions in print? I’d like to have ebooks of the classic versions too, but given the quality of SYWTBAW I don’t want to buy the rest of the series through them…

    • dianeduane

       Re Cliff Nielsen: Well, I like those covers too. But cover styles have moved on since the late 90’s. By the time we get to re-covering time, I think we’ll be somewhat overdue for a fresh look.

      Meanwhile, re the “classic” edition Harcourt/US ebooks: The correction process has begun: I’ve just finished with SYW. I’m correcting the books directly in the ePub files. Those will then go back to Harcourt, be converted to .mobi for Amazon without any other changes, and will then be republished online. I’ll be doing these about one book per week until we’re done.

      …So once this is handled, there will be clean ebook copies of the classics at all the online sources, and we can finally put this particular problem to bed.

      • We may be overdue, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the old art. (Which is why I took the chance earlier today to grab high-res versions of all the covers – well, all but #2 and #3, they only had the digest covers of those – from Harcourt’s website earlier today…) What I’ve seen of modern YA covers is… not terribly interesting.

        I’m glad to hear about the corrections, and I look forward to picking up the rest of the series. 🙂

  • Heather Ragsdale

    I think the fact that you’re caring enough about the demographics that you’re willing to “modernize” the older books (Which, twenty years after I read them the first time, and I still adore them) to capture todays generation is wonderful. I am kind of curious though.  I remember reading somewhere that you’re releasing an “unabridged” version of Deep Wizardry (which I will unashamedly admit is still my favorite of the series).  Is this part of what you’re referring to?  Or is that something separate?

    Speaking of Deep Wizardry, its been a few months…time to go pick up that old friend again.  ^_^

  • Heather Ragsdale

    I think the fact that you’re caring enough about the demographics that you’re willing to “modernize” the older books (Which, twenty years after I read them the first time, and I still adore them) to capture todays generation is wonderful. I am kind of curious though.  I remember reading somewhere that you’re releasing an “unabridged” version of Deep Wizardry (which I will unashamedly admit is still my favorite of the series).  Is this part of what you’re referring to?  Or is that something separate?

    Speaking of Deep Wizardry, its been a few months…time to go pick up that old friend again.  ^_^

    • Anonymous

      In the “unabridged” department: I was thinking more of So You Wanna… in terms of doing an author’s cut, an expanded version. We’ll see what comes of that, as between the correction of the classic version for the Harcourt ebooks, and the rewrite polish for the New Millennium edition, I may not want to look at the thing again for a while.  🙂

  • Heather Ragsdale

    I think the fact that you’re caring enough about the demographics that you’re willing to “modernize” the older books (Which, twenty years after I read them the first time, and I still adore them) to capture todays generation is wonderful. I am kind of curious though.  I remember reading somewhere that you’re releasing an “unabridged” version of Deep Wizardry (which I will unashamedly admit is still my favorite of the series).  Is this part of what you’re referring to?  Or is that something separate?

    Speaking of Deep Wizardry, its been a few months…time to go pick up that old friend again.  ^_^

  • Heather Ragsdale

    I think the fact that you’re caring enough about the demographics that you’re willing to “modernize” the older books (Which, twenty years after I read them the first time, and I still adore them) to capture todays generation is wonderful. I am kind of curious though.  I remember reading somewhere that you’re releasing an “unabridged” version of Deep Wizardry (which I will unashamedly admit is still my favorite of the series).  Is this part of what you’re referring to?  Or is that something separate?

    Speaking of Deep Wizardry, its been a few months…time to go pick up that old friend again.  ^_^

    • dianeduane

      In the “unabridged” department: I was thinking more of So You Wanna… in terms of doing an author’s cut, an expanded version. We’ll see what comes of that, as between the correction of the classic version for the Harcourt ebooks, and the rewrite polish for the New Millennium edition, I may not want to look at the thing again for a while.  🙂

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  • Grey Patterson

    Being a younger reader myself, I’ve never minded the timeframe issues (which is actually really weird now that I think about it, seeing as I’m a total computer nerd), but I’m taking this as an excuse to replace my copies of a couple of the Young Wizards books which I think were stolen by someone.

    • Anonymous

      🙂 Always good to hear. (That you’re replacing them, I mean. Not that they were stolen…) 

  • Grey Patterson

    Being a younger reader myself, I’ve never minded the timeframe issues (which is actually really weird now that I think about it, seeing as I’m a total computer nerd), but I’m taking this as an excuse to replace my copies of a couple of the Young Wizards books which I think were stolen by someone.

    • dianeduane

      🙂 Always good to hear. (That you’re replacing them, I mean. Not that they were stolen…) 

  • Fascinating. I *just* reread the series about a month ago to ramp up to WoM, and I remember just remarking to my wife about the idiosyncracies between mac-in-a-boxes existing just a year or so ahead of iPods. 😀 

    Well damnit. I guess I have another reason to reread them again after they’re all out and updated. 

    As one of your older readers I’ll happily thank you for updating the text to keep the younger folks interested. The more folk on the Wizardy bus the better, I say.

  • Fascinating. I *just* reread the series about a month ago to ramp up to WoM, and I remember just remarking to my wife about the idiosyncracies between mac-in-a-boxes existing just a year or so ahead of iPods. 😀 

    Well damnit. I guess I have another reason to reread them again after they’re all out and updated. 

    As one of your older readers I’ll happily thank you for updating the text to keep the younger folks interested. The more folk on the Wizardy bus the better, I say.

  • PK

    So… are the new versions going to be basically “now,” or are you going to nudge them back juuuust a few years so the shiny new Mac laptop as of High Wizardry is a Powerbook? 😉

    • Anonymous

      The “go date” for the events of SYW is still a little up in the air. But I haven’t made hard decisions as yet regarding Spot’s (http://www.youngwizards.com/ErrantryWiki/index.php/Spot) new form. The computer in the original HW was an invented construction/hybrid to begin with (cf. the “Apple IIIc” entry at the Concordance: http://www.youngwizards.com/ErrantryWiki/index.php/Apple_IIIc), so I’m not sure I might not invent something again — or do a timejump to something that (in the real world) hadn’t yet been released during the revised year of the HW events. We’ll see…

  • PK

    So… are the new versions going to be basically “now,” or are you going to nudge them back juuuust a few years so the shiny new Mac laptop as of High Wizardry is a Powerbook? 😉

    • dianeduane

      The “go date” for the events of SYW is still a little up in the air. But I haven’t made hard decisions as yet regarding Spot’s (http://www.youngwizards.com/ErrantryWiki/index.php/Spot) new form. The computer in the original HW was an invented construction/hybrid to begin with (cf. the “Apple IIIc” entry at the Concordance: http://www.youngwizards.com/ErrantryWiki/index.php/Apple_IIIc), so I’m not sure I might not invent something again — or do a timejump to something that (in the real world) hadn’t yet been released during the revised year of the HW events. We’ll see…

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  • Heather Corder

    Though I was reading well before I encountered your books, this is one of the first book series I read as a pre-teen (in the early 2000s) and it really struck a chord with me. What concerns me about these new editions is the potential for censorship. Will you be censoring anything in these revised versions? Because I think some of the discussions that Nita and her mom have in Deep Wizardry are really important and honest (like the topic of sex at thirteen- or however old they are at that point). Honestly, the only thing about the series that ever confused me were the ages. Surely Dairine, Nita and Kit don’t stay 11, 14, and 13 respectively the entire series! Especially since Carmela is hitting college age in the last book. Fixing the age problem is the update I am looking forward to most.

  • Cincinnatus80011

    I read the first three books many, many years ago now — in the mid-1990s, when I was myself contemporary in age to Nita and Kit. I’m now introducing them to my ten-year old son, who has read almost all of SYWTBAW in a single day and is eagerly anticipating Deep Wizardry. I have taken this occasion to re-read the series as well, and read the other books that I haven’t read (and was unaware of until just the other day!). I got the e-book bundle and was surprised to see a mention of the “Freedom Tower” at the end of the first book (I’d re-read most of the first book in paperback, but my son spirited it off to school this morning, so I’m reading the revised ebook edition now). I’ll admit to deeply bittersweet sentiments about this. I appreciate your efforts to keep the books updated for a new audience, but this kind of reminds me of Haldeman’s “Forever War”, which remains a wonderful book, but lost a bit of its magic for me in the new edition…

    But with all that said, the truth is that I couldn’t wait to introduce this series to my son, and the fact that I still care more than 20 years after my first encounter with these works says a great deal about just how special these stories are. Thank you for them — revisions and all! They still move me, and I still take the Oath seriously, as I read it aloud once, many, many years ago now, and it remains an important affirmation of life and our role in fostering and protecting it.

  • I just read Interim Wizardry, so I’m late to the game on this, but wow! This is super awesome. Many authors just wouldn’t bother. I was contemplating re-reading the earlier books, and now I think I’ll pick up these newer editions & read those, saving my beat-up omnibus copy of SYWTBAW.