The Worlds of Power...
...are not a series of novels about fighting Time Barons by somebody named K. Alexander Lexington-Pierce!

No, they are a series of books produced in the early 1990s by a man named Seth Godin who wanted to lure children away from video games and into literature by turning some of the Nintendo Entertainment System's best cartridges into stirring epic narrative.

"Come with me children! Into literature!"

Sure, you've played "Bases Loaded" and "Blaster Master." But have you read the novels?

For each book, Godin would first play the corresponding game and would then arrange a 40-page story bible about the game, cobbling together game vocabulary, story logic, and noting down key narrative events. Then he would turn around and farm out this work to his stable of writers, the most prolific of whom was a man named Peter Lerangis who would only take about four weeks to put together a working draft.

There were 10 Worlds of Power novels:

1. Blaster Master
2. Metal Gear
3. Ninja Gaiden
4. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
5. Wizards & Warriors
6. Bionic Commando
7. Infiltrator
8. Before Shadowgate
9. Bases Loaded
10. Mega Man 2

The books were all published by Scholastic (book clubs! Harry Potter!) under the pseudonym "F.X. Nine," so that they would be next to "Nintendo" on the shelves.

I've only ever read "Metal Gear." All I remember about it is that Solid Snake doesn't smoke or use guns. He collects weapons mainly so that nobody else can use them, like a teacher taking toys away from bad children. The climax is him beating up 60 guys one by one in a dark room.

Here's a bunch of videos of guy reading the entirety of Mega Man 2 (the novel) beside an enchanted fireside.

And here's the audio track of this performance in case you'd rather listen "on the go."

From a pretty good article about the "Worlds of Power" books over at "":

"Adapting these games from the TV screen to the printed page provided several narrative and logistical challenges. These challenges ranged from explaining exactly how an energy capsule replenished the hero's health to dealing with death and violence in games where characters blasted, zapped, or blew up their foes."

"The most challenging title for Lerangis to write was also the first in the series: Blaster Master. Citing the game's lack of a strong middle plot, he had to invent many details to flesh out the story and connect the game's beginning and ending. His work did not pass unnoticed. In the PlayStation sequel Blaster Master: Blasting Again, Lerangis' novel is used for backstory. The character Eve was a creation of the novel and did not appear in the original NES game. This makes Blaster Master the only title in the Worlds of Power series that has been accepted as official canon. (Lerangis only discovered the "canonization" of his work upon being contacted for this feature, but found it to be "quite an honor!")"

The Worlds of Power books were immodestly successful, selling into the millions. Which provokes the question: how come there aren't more novelizations of video games, or novelizations of other aspects of daily life in general? Why are adaptations only vertical, terminating at "film"? Adaptations should be a circle, where everyone has a chance to profit off of some damn idea that people like for no discernible reason.

Novels are much cheaper and easier to produce than films and video games: you would think the market would be flooded with knock-off novelizations of everything from "Mario Party" to "Half-Life" to "a good Snickers bar."

Things to novelize:

1). American Idol and other reality games. There are many opportunities here for narrative structure. People's entire lives could become Horatio Alger stories. Or, instead, the final episode could be turned into a Ulysses-style stream of consciousness jaunt through television, fame, and song. Worlds of Idols?

2). Famous YouTube Videos. Do people own the rights to their own public shame and misfortune? If not, then there are some lucky novelists out there who ought to cash in. You've already got your climax: the three minute clip of whatever-the-fuck. The trick is to build to that climax, and then build PAST it.

3). Coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Just start writing the shit down that people say! And then sell it, later, to the people in that same bar or coffee shop. People want their own lives to be dramatic and important. Add motivation. Add torrid secrets and strange love affairs. Starbucks would love to carry "Starbucks" the novel. The last ten pages could be a job application.

4). The news. People have been adapting this one for years, but not EVERY FOUR WEEKS. That's a really fast fucking turnaround. Wouldn't you want to buy the novel of last month's news -- this month? Isn't that how you would prefer to consume your information about how the world is changing and why?

5). Clothing, hammers, and other dry goods. The best way to sell something is to make it real. The only way to make something real is to give it a story. Do you want to buy the granola that you know literally nothing about, or do you want to buy the granola with its own novel? Don't you want to buy the granola that has suffered and triumphed?

Really, the Worlds of Power books only worked because back then kids weren't allowed to have video games in school, so reading some cheap novel about them was as close as you could get.

Then there were those kids who did their book reports about Worlds of Power books and who then grew up to run companies and draft domestic policy while the rest of us were weeping about poor Charlotte and trying to figure out why God is such an asshole.

Although, if you think about it, "Infinite Jest" is kind of like "Tetris" the novel. And "Charlotte's Web" is very similar to "Metroid." Maybe Charlotte's Web just needs a new cover and a new title. Rebranding, is what they call it.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 16 Mar 2010 18:32:00 -0400 -- permanent link

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