Misconceptions

This piece was published in the Tor Newsletter but it answers so many of the emails I get that I want to post it here.


As the movie version of my book, Jumper, approaches, more and more people become aware of it. For the last month there hasn’t been a day when I don’t get an email or phone call saying something like, “Dude! I saw the trailer for Jumper in front of American Gangster,” or “Ohmighod, your movie had a commercial during the Sugar Bowl!”And, as a result, fans of the book have also started emailing me.And while some are excited there are others who are quite unhappy.Before I go any further, let me say, I am incredibly grateful for anyone who likes my writing. Even before money, this is the thing writers crave and work for. So, regardless of your feelings about the movie, if you like any of my books–thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.But. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?) Some of you have some misconceptions about this whole movie thing. I’m not making any of these statements up. They’ve either arrived as emails or been posted in public blogs or forums.

They are ruining the book!

Late in his career, James M. Cain, author of Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, was asked by an interviewer, “How do you feel about what Hollywood has done to your books?” “Hollywood has done nothing to my books,” Cain replied. “They’re right over there on the shelf, exactly as I wrote them.” And I’ll add: because of the movie and the movie publicity, tens of thousands (maybe more!) of people will read the books who would never have read them. This is a good thing.

The movie is diverging from the book!

Well, yes, it is. A quick scan of the official movie website will show you that they’ve changed things and added things. Books are not movies. Books tend to be a bit too long to adapt easily. I can only think of a few faithful yet successful book-to-movie adaptations. Mostly, I can think of adaptations where trying to be too faithful to the book made for a mediocre or bad movie. And Jumper is a first person, mostly interior, novel. I’m not sure how you would adapt it exactly without some sort of moronic voice-over or guy who talks to himself.

You should have exercised more creative control!

Excuse me? What control? Movie studios do not tend to give creative control over their hundred-million dollar projects to persons with no track record in making successful movies. Doug Liman has a that track record. I don’t.

You sold out–you should never have sold the rights without control!

I see. While I live for my readers approval, I also have a mortgage, children who will need to go to college, and a desire to have some form of retirement. Oh, yeah, and have some time to write more books. Before the movie deal I held down a full time job and wasn’t getting much writing done. Do you know how few writers get this opportunity? It’s very much like winning the lottery–you have to publish something to buy a ticket but how many lottery tickets hit?

Long before the movie deal I was in the habit of saying, “I want somebody to make a commercially successful, bad movie from one of my books. That way I’ll get some money and people will say, ‘But the book was so much better!'”

I’ve come to a different place, now. Millions of dollars and hundreds of people are involved in creating a work whose genesis is my writing. This is incredibly cool. Yes, they’re going other places with it but even in the trailers I see lines and scenes right out of the original. Yes, the movie won’t be the book, but there is a good chance that at the end of it people will be saying, “The book is different but the movie was really good, too.”

20 thoughts on “Misconceptions

  1. My answer to anyone who goes “why isn’t the movie like the book?” is that books and movies are very different media to start with. You can take days to read a novel, even though the novel has to have a hook that pulls you in, but the average movie has to move it along in about two hours or they’re screwed.

    just saying.

  2. Just so you know, we all think it is grand that you’ve gotten this opportunity to have your books more widely read. We hope that the movie is a great success so that, not only will more people read your books, but more movies get made based on your books!

    For me, this is an opportunity to go back and re-read the original story – not so I can nitpick that this or that was cut, but so I can enjoy what is there.

    Congratulations!

  3. So I’ve seen it twice, now, and it is definitely growing on me. The first time I was too busy comparing and contrasting but last night I was able to relax enough. It certainly could use more actual, uh, story, but what is there is pretty good.

  4. Millions of dollars and hundreds of people are involved in creating a work whose genesis is my writing. This is incredibly cool.

    That is an awesome way to look at it, and so completely counter to the usual fandom “kneejerk head’splode” that it has my love.

    And congratulations on the movie! I’ve even managed to get my wife interested in going to see it (this is the woman whom I spent five years trying to convince to watch “Red October”).

  5. Oh, it wasn’t that bad. It was pretty good in fact. A fun Saturday night with my lady. And now I, a devoted SF book consumer, will proceed to read all of your works. A net gain, by any measure. Congrats, Mr. Gould!

  6. Hi Steven. =)

    Well I am one of those people, I had never heard of your books nor you (no offense!) I first saw the trailer and perked up because of my love of Hayden Christensen (and all things Star Wars related lol) and forgot about it (I’m a busy sahm to 2 little girls lol) but we got a Wii and I saw the game, and was intrigued and expressed to my husband wanting to get it, and then he came home and took me to see it. I wasn’t sad I saw it, but I felt it lacked…..a critic said it well, “great concept, poorly executed” it just felt like something was missing……it wanted to be good and by far wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t great and I felt it could have been, and then I learned there are books and it made sense, and I thought to myself I must read these books. So I am setting out to get all 3 of your books this week, and I’m betting it’ll take me about 3 days to read them as they seem like my kind of book.

    So your evil plan worked lol! And hey earning some money in the process isn’t all that bad is it? I used to get really angry when a movie “ruined” a book, but now I just try to watch the movie differently…..the only movies I’ve ever seen that stay realistically close to the book is the Harry Potter series, and it even strays.

    Everyone should always read the book, it’s always better. 😉

  7. What an awesome attitude to have!

    >>Long before the movie deal I was in the habit of saying, “I want somebody to make a commercially successful, bad movie from one of my books. That way I’ll get some money and people will say, ‘But the book was so much better!’”>>
    It’s really rare that I laugh with a blog post.

    With the truly awesome sense of knowing more people are curious about your books after the movie’s release, what are your feelings about fan fiction?
    Fanfiction.net is a huge Harry Potter-creation factory. There *are* some Jumper materials there as well. What do you think to the idea of an entire world of fiction spawned from the premise in Jumper (movie or book) that actually doesn’t touch Davy or Millie?

  8. Hi…

    ..I’m currently writing my final essay in American Studies (In Germany, where I come from, this means about 100 pages). One of the three novels and their adaptation into film I’m looking at is Jumper. So, I just wanted to thank you for your insight on the movie, as this is exactly what I’ve been trying to explain to people for about a year now. Now, I can say: Yeah, but the author said so himself!! Cheers for that!

    By the way, having read and reread your novel what feels like a million times for my essay, I’m not fed up with it but still think it’s great. If that doesn’t count for something, I don’t know what does!

  9. Well sorry to say i AM one of those people that feel let down. Mr. Gould, i loved Jumper – so much that i wore out the orginal paperback i had purchased and then went out and bought a hardbound edition just so i could have it last longer to read over and over. Gotta admit i wasnt as crazy about Refelx only becuse once Millie became a teleporter too i felt like the, to borrow a soda jingle, ” I’m a Teliporter, you’re a Teliporter, wouldn’t you like to be a Teliporter too? ” Maybe becuse in the first book, Davey was uniquie and special having an ability no one else had, however now his wife also has it ( is teliporting contageious? ). Everytime i read the book i kept thinking how cool it would be if they made a movie to this awesome book that was orginal and a great story. AND THE BOOK GOD HEARD ME AND DID CREATE A MOVIE, AND THERE WAS MUCH REJOICING ACROSS THE LAND….untill i got to see the movie. i felt robbed , i felt cheated. The chance to see this great piece of work come to life…gone.

    Mr. Gould, hey i think it s great that you “won the lottery” and now thanks to this deal you made you have the chance to retire to easy street. Hey i dont blame you, what person doesnt dream of the chance to not have to work and can just do fun creative projects instead. i know i wouldnt mind.
    However, part of me DOES feel let down, by this whole turn of events with changing the whole fambric of the story is so MANY ways. Yes, movies dont often follow a book 100%, thats a given, but when they depart SO dramtically it dont even feel like iam watching a movie about the same story. In many ways it feels like a con game that they called in the old days “Bait & Switch”, where they lured you in with one thing and then sold you something else entirely.

    In some ways it removed some of the enjoyment out of the book.

    Mr. Gould, while you might get other people to buy your book that you wrote becuse of this movie, i want you to know trhat due to this movie iam some what reluctant to purchase any other book written by you and iam certainly not going to go to any sequals of this movie.

    Yes, artits, musicians, story tellers are doing what they do to make a living, at the same time, you should consider the impact of your work – how hard you had to work to create your work orginally, to not let THAT story get told in the way that YOU invisioned it.To the fans of your work who are amazed by your story and awed by your talent… i wonder when they dangled those big $$$ in fro of you, did you consider those things?

    Your book Jumper still means alot ot me, Mr. Gould…i just wish it did for you too.

  10. Rabbit,

    While it is easy to sympathize with your feelings about the movie, you should also be aware that most writers have no say in the script for a film after selling the rights. And the money is more like enough to feed your kids and keep your house for a year than enough to “retire to easy street.” Maybe enough to allow the writer to finish another novel. Oh, by the way, writing IS work, not just fun creative stuff.

  11. I will read anything you write. You had to hold down a full time job before the movie deal? I had no idea. After reading Jumper I figured you continued writing just because you loved it. I guess when I fell off the turnip truck I hit my head harder than I though.

  12. Hey, Tom — It’s a pretty common perception that writers of multiple novels, much less writers who sell to the movies, have plenty of money and leisure time. In actuality very few writers truly make a living at it. Most have other stuff they must do to survive, up to and including full-time jobs that they may or may not enjoy. And their gambling, alcohol, and drug addictions usually mean that any big chunks of money vanish quickly.

    As you can see here: https://eatourbrains.com/EoB/2007/11/24/112-degrees-f/

    Steve actually lives in a hovel out back of the Big House. He’s allowed to come in and visit his children and wife only after he’s finished the next novel. Kinda sad, really….

  13. Your book Jumper was one of the best SF books I have read in quite sometime, kudos. However, you got hosed by the studio and I wrote them complaining about the way they butchered the story. Had they gone and followed the book to a tee, you would be haveing a whole TV series on the David Rice saga. As is I have to content myself with reading your other books and hopeing that should another movie be in the works, they don’t ruin it like they did Jumper.

  14. Love the jumper books, like the movie and prequel book. Just seems like they move and prequel book are different series that should have different names. Looking forward to more books in both universes!

  15. Let me start off by saying “Phenomenal”. That is how I would describe the books.

    When I first watched the Jumper movie, like so many ignorant people, I had no idea it was based on a book.

    More than a year down the track, I have now enjoyed reading countless books and a friend recommended a book called “Jumper”. I made the link quite instantaneously.

    (Bear with me I am going somewhere with this)

    So I asked my friend whether the movie and the book were linked, and he confirmed that they were. So after reading the marvelously well written novels I decided to compare the “Movie” with the “Book”.

    To my initial disappointment I found that they were quite frankly not similar. Then I noticed that the way the novel is written and the amount of context it contains would make it impossible to condense into a two or even three hour movie.

    So I would have to say in my honest opinion that the author did not sell out, he wrote an excellent novel which consequentially led to the making of a remarkable movie. Which I have no doubt will become a classic along with any movie sequel made.

    All I have to say to you Mr. Steven Gould is thank you for allowing the world to enjoy the brilliance of your writing. I wait perched on the edge of my seat for the latest installment knowing full well it will be every bit an exciting and fulfilling read as the last two novels in the series.

    Best of luck with the novel, make him hunt down that organization with a whole team of jumpers ;).

    Have a very Merry Christmas and I hope the new decade brings you much joy and creativity :).

    =Z=

  16. I watched the jumper movie just after it was released on dvd, and loved it. it was a typical hollywood popcorn flick but it just had something to it.

    then i found out it was based off a book. so this week i read jumper + reflex + they absolutly rocked, way better than the movie. now if i hadnt seen the movie, im sure i would never have picked this book up.

    i’m about to read griffins story, I hope its as good as the others.

    all im waiting for now is the next jumper book.

    keep up the good work steve

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