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Coming Soon: Metafilter – The Novelisation, by Alan Dean Foster
March 23, 2009 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Writing, seemingly, a book a day since his birth in 1946, Alan Dean Foster, 2008 Grand Master of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, still finds a great deal of time for travel. Come and share his journeying.

Besides adaptations for three upcoming summer blockbusters (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator: Salvation and Star Trek), and his classic interpretations of the original Alien trilogy, the hard-working Foster is also the creator of Spellsinger, Pip and Flinx and the Humanx Commonwealth.

His first published story? A "a long Lovecraftian letter" purchased by August Derleth, which appeared in The Arkham Collector in 1971.

He belongs to the not-very-secret quasi-Government thinktank The Sigma Group.

Oh, and he's also George Lucas.
posted by turgid dahlia (55 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
For a horrifying second I thought this was an obit thread. I've read far more of Foster's work that I feel entirely comfortable admitting, and I'm pretty sure that his passing will signal the passing of my inner 10-year-old.
posted by lekvar at 4:58 PM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Same here lekvar. Dodged an e-bullet there.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:08 PM on March 23, 2009


I;m just hoping this Sigma Group thing isn't one of those things where if I click around enough I'll find out that someone who was pretty much a childhood heroe of mine is a creepy weird libertarian or neocon or something.
posted by Artw at 5:09 PM on March 23, 2009


Best Alan Dean Foster adaptation moment:

When Ripley shows up in the walking fork lift and utters the immortal line "Get away from her, you!"
posted by mph at 5:10 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also - the Spellsinger series ruled my pre-teen face. As embarrassing as it is to admit, my introduction to the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll came at least partially from the adventures of a stoner wizard and a lecherous otter. If my parents had known what was in those books . . .
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:11 PM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


If it weren't for the book version, queasy me wouldn't know a damn thing about Alien. Also, I bought one a (the first?) Spellsinger book from one of those book-of-the-month scams. Pretty terrible, but the same order brought me Wizard by John Varley, so on average I got a good deal.
posted by DU at 5:12 PM on March 23, 2009


Does Spellsinger count as Furry?

Oh dear god...
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find the trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen being modeled on a Chris Cunningham/Aphex Twin type music video a bit weird?
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on March 23, 2009


I had completely forgotten about the lecherous otter. I better steer clear of the rest of this thread for fear of what other repressed memories resurface.
posted by DU at 5:17 PM on March 23, 2009


Artw: I'm digging the trailer but don't hold high hopes for the actual film being quite so "edgy" and interesting. They have toys to sell to the kids, after all.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:20 PM on March 23, 2009


Count me among the "Spellsinger" readers...

Um, yeah.
posted by dolface at 5:21 PM on March 23, 2009


Oh and Artw, regarding Sigma: here's the member list.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:21 PM on March 23, 2009


someone who was pretty much a childhood heroe of mine is a creepy weird libertarian or neocon

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.

"The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren't going to pay for anything anyway," Niven said.

posted by DU at 5:27 PM on March 23, 2009


The Sigma Group seems more like "work we wish we had" rather than "work we actually have".

I too have a consultancy based around scenario planning for alien invasions and incursions from para-time alternate worlds. And I charge half of what those hacks charge.
posted by GuyZero at 5:28 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Least they could do is hire a proper web developer.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:34 PM on March 23, 2009


I had completely forgotten about the lecherous otter. I better steer clear of the rest of this thread for fear of what other repressed memories resurface.

Doesn't JonTom (oh god, I think that was his name) get all snuggly with a giant tiger?
posted by Artw at 5:37 PM on March 23, 2009


.

oh wait.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:37 PM on March 23, 2009


He's also partly responsible for Star Trek: The Motion Picture
posted by Kirklander at 5:39 PM on March 23, 2009


I think there's some humanoid rabbit than Jon-Tom uh...mates with. And Clothahump! That turtle wizard with the drawers on his shell! And the gneechees!

*wanders off, full of shame*
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2009


My god this man has written some drek. And I've even read some of it. It's like Twinkies, no, Little Debbie's snack cakes in literary form. The cover of the box looks great, the snacks are delicious sugar-fat bombs but in the end you're left feeling unfulfilled and more than a bit unwholesome.

Interestingly I have found an interesting parallel in that - just like after eating an entire box of Oatmeal Creme Pies - that the day after reading a Alan Dean Foster book I'll often exude an oily foam from various holes of my body. Never could figure that one out. I'm just going to assume it has something to do with the Sigma Group and nanotechnology and screw my tinfoil beanie on a little tighter.
posted by loquacious at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Doesn't JonTom (oh god, I think that was his name) get all snuggly with a giant tiger?

OH NO THE MEMORIES...I CAN'T STOP THEM....NNNNRAAAAGHGHGHGHGGH!
posted by DU at 5:42 PM on March 23, 2009


I chose a Hewlitt-Packard because of its fine (for a netbook) keyboard
Ahem. Spel-chek?

(yeah it's snarky but the guy is an author, after all)
posted by stevil at 5:45 PM on March 23, 2009


God dammit, now I bitterly regret bringing any of this up . . . but I'm fairly certain the human main character does not perform any sex acts with (shudder) anthropomorphic animals. As a matter of fact, if I remember right his queasiness at the very thought is interpreted as prudery or worse by the animal people, and is a source of much comedy (if you're twelve).
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:46 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


But yeah who am I kidding the whole thing is pretty much a furry wet dream. Christ. Can we talk about the novelization of Krull or something now?
posted by arcanecrowbar at 5:52 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy shit it exists! I thought you were kidding there.
posted by GuyZero at 6:09 PM on March 23, 2009


Personally I had no idea he'd written anything other than the Humanx Commonwealth series. Every once in a while something reminds me of these books, which I enjoyed as a young teen. I can't say I've been tempted to return to them, though.
posted by Kattullus at 6:25 PM on March 23, 2009


I've been a fan of Alan Dean Foster for a very long time, although I'll admit that my appreciation has undergone a transition from adolescent adoration to adult guilty pleasure.

Splinter of the Mind's Eye was one of the first books to bring me in to the sci-fi fold, when I read it at 8 or 9. Also, discovering whole new Star Wars stories completely outside the films' storyline was pretty mind-blowing at the time.

Man, looking at his bibliography, I've read a lot of his stuff, mostly the one-off original novels. He does a very good job on those, if you're up for some popcorn-escapist fun.
posted by CaseyB at 6:51 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the gneechees!

You know how sometimes when you get a head rush and you see those little "floaters" at the corners of your vision? To this day, I'm still disappointed that there's no way to round them up and make them do some magic.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:55 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, I've read almost every one of Alan Dean Foster's books. No, I'm not ashamed of this fact. Yes, some of his books are not very good and most are formulaic. However, I find myself drawn back to his work over and over again. I think it's probably nostalgia, as his were some of the first Sci-Fi and Fantasy books I discovered at a young age.

I've met him! On a whim, in March of 2003, I was scheduled to visit Sedona, AZ to do some consulting work. I knew ADF lives in Prescott, AZ, not too far away. So I emailed him and asked if he would like to get lunch. I never expected an answer, but he responded the next morning and said, "Sure!"

So I met ADF at the Borders in Prescott and after he saw that I wasn't a crazy loon, we had a really cool afternoon together. We went back to his house and he showed me his writing studio, which is completely filled with 1st editions of books, signed / personalized copies from other authors, and the amazing stuff he brings back from his trips around the world. Some of the stuff he keeps because it was a motivation for a character or a story. I've put some pictures in my Flickr account. He was a very generous and kind host and I really enjoyed seeing his writing studio. He signed a few of my ADF books.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 7:37 PM on March 23, 2009 [44 favorites]


and that people, is how you pwn a thread
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:01 PM on March 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will await the inevitable, hilarious movie starring Seth Rogan as a focused, technically-skilled writer who was not so great he could get his start with an original novel that he turns to film adaptation and then becomes wildly successful. However, after making it big, he realized he could move out of that inevitable one bedroom condo with den and spend all of his income on trips to the same places he loved often. Granted: his ego is a little inflated and he is only just able to field major background problems. But he won't change because the rewards keep coming. It will be like "Casino" but about film novelization and much more likely to make you laugh. Ha ha, laughter.
posted by parmanparman at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2009


Alan Dean foster is the Samuel L. Jackson of writing.
posted by breath at 10:53 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


March 23, 2009 - the day all of Metafilter were outed as furries.
posted by Artw at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We all live in a yellow salmandee.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:23 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's also partly responsible for Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Which was an extended regurgitation of an episode of TOS that he'd written. Leaving the theater, I felt cheated.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:45 AM on March 24, 2009


It's probably been mentioned in one of the other threads, but the Alien novelization has the cocoon scene, which makes it inconsistant with Aliens, but awesome.

The Aliens novelization is, IMHO, the correct version of that story with all other versions being secondary.

Both of them I read long before seeing either movie.
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on March 24, 2009


Leaving the theater, I felt cheated.

And then you saw Wrath of Khan... "Dammit! Again!"
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on March 24, 2009


Actually, I rented that one, so I didn't feel so bad. Did ADF write that, too?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2009


No, but it was basically a continuation of TOS episode with some SFXed up space war nicked from that one with the Romulans...

As far as I can tell ADFs only other screenwriting credit is an awful sounding episode of something called Welcome to Paradox: "A detective investigates an extortion scheme that uses a holographic image of the Holy Madonna."
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on March 24, 2009


Doesn't JonTom (oh god, I think that was his name) get all snuggly with a giant tiger?

As someone else mentioned, he's squicked out by the thought of sex with animals. If I remember correctly, the tiger has the hots for him, and he rebuffs her. As the books progress, he befriends, gets romantic with and eventually marries a human female. In the last book he finds a gateway back to his own world and goes back. But he decides he likes the furry universe better, and comes back with -- seriously -- an exercise bike, some Looney Tunes videotapes and a huge bag of chocolate chip cookies.

There's also a gay unicorn and a Marxist dragon. And a parrot pirate. And I think at one point the otter has sex with a capybara. I read all of these books, many times, until my girlfriend's grandfather stole them from me. Seriously.

If any of you tells anyone about this post I'm coming to kick your ass.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:02 AM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


But he decides he likes the furry universe better, and comes back with -- seriously -- an exercise bike, some Looney Tunes videotapes and a huge bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Wish-fulfillment fantasy novels sure have gone downhill since the days of Heavy Metal.
posted by GuyZero at 11:28 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


IIRC the exercise bike is for the powering of a VCR.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2009


My memories of the Spellsinger books are pretty hazy, but I seem to remember they suffered the same progressive degradation that Piers Anthony's Xanth novels did; the first novel at least tried to pray it straight, but the sequels relied on progressively more puns and gimmicks. Spellsinger, the first book, was actually pretty dark in places.

Of course, it's been a couple decades since I last read it...
posted by lekvar at 12:46 PM on March 24, 2009


Did the first one have cutesy spiders?
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on March 24, 2009


IIRC the exercise bike is for the powering of a VCR.

Yes - on which to watch the Looney Tunes tapes.

Yeah, the first book in the Spellsinger series was fun -- a lot like Army of Darkness, actually, but with funny animals and Nick Andopolis instead of Bruce Campbell. It was essentially about two warring factions in a fantasy world that used magic to pull tech from our world to use in battle. There really wasn't a big furry vibe -- the explicit sex stuff was pretty limited to one character.

As the books wore on, though, they essentially became quest after quest, and the furry quotient rose (probably unintentionally on ADF's part, though).
posted by hifiparasol at 12:57 PM on March 24, 2009


Also, FWIW, Alan Dean Foster did not write the Nomad episode. He did write a pilot for Phase II though, "based on a two-page outline by Roddenberry about a NASA probe returning to Earth, having gained sentience".

I guess Roddenberry hit on the idea of recycling TOS episodes long before TNG.
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on March 24, 2009


I really quite liked the Flinx books. I don't think I could read them now, but at the time they were Grade-A head candy.

My worst experience with going back and re-reading a fantasy book I loved as a kid was with Lyndon Hardy's _Master of the Five Magics_. I hadn't realized that bad prose could actually make your head hurt.
posted by gurple at 3:40 PM on March 24, 2009


I really liked Glory Lane as a kid. The relationship between punk rock kid (Seeth) and his nerdy brother was great; I also liked the idea of the lone punk kid stuck in Albuquerque.

Once they leave Earth, it seemed like there were some interesting ideas, but nothing was described particularly vividly, and I found it frustratingly vague. But it's one of the few scifi books I read at that age that I'd consider re-reading now.
posted by rottytooth at 7:55 PM on March 24, 2009


A book a day? Dude, this guy has nothing on Jacob Neusner.
posted by ori at 8:09 PM on March 24, 2009


I had a short little email exchange with Alan Dean Foster around the year 2000. At the time, the TV show "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda" was going strong, and I was a big fan. He came on to the official message board with a complaint about how they were cribbing some of his ideas, and I emailed him to explain why that wasn't true. A lot of us fans probably emailed him. Anyway, he responded by telling me to "grow up and read a book." It was a small, caustic brush with celebrity, and I loved it. The Internet was a much smaller and cooler place back then.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:56 PM on March 24, 2009


I also loved "Spellsinger" as a kid, and I agree that the first book was pretty dark for a 10 or 12 year old.

I never read much of the Humanx books (maybe a couple of the Pip & Flinx ones?), but I played a neat RPG campaign set in that universe once (was it a GURPS subset at some point?).
posted by Rock Steady at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2009


Everything else is, so probably.
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on March 29, 2009


heh
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, talking of furries, there really is a GURPS version of everything.

(Looking forwards to the Plague Dogs expansion.)
posted by Artw at 3:01 PM on March 30, 2009


Wow, no one's mentioned that ADF did the adaptations of the whole animated Star Trek series? They are pretty good, post-dating only some of the Blish TOS adaptations, and - in a crucial innovation - stringing together three episodes to form, in essence, three-part Trek novels. These date from the mid-to-late seventies, were on Ballantine (not Bantam, which had the Blish adaptations and a smattering of pre-Timescape novels of varying quality), and were run in at least two editions.

I remember realizing partway through reading them that ADF had a) better basic plots to work with than Blish and b) a more fully-realized psychological model of the TOS characters than Blish, probably because Blish had to start with pretty much just the writers' bible for the show and the scripts, while ADF had burgeoning fandom casting all kinds of kooky and inventive spotlites on the TOS caracter set.
posted by mwhybark at 8:37 PM on April 5, 2009


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