Hollywood movie novelizations are novels based on mainstream films and published about the time these films are released in theaters. The present article explores the ambiguous status of this generally little-esteemed and frequently ignored form of adaptation. On the one hand, novelizations are works of literature that can be enjoyed without knowledge of the film they are based on; on the other, they can be (and often are) seen as mere tools of film advertising. This latter aspect becomes particularly evident when looking at the cover design of a novelization. It invariably features the film’s artwork (the poster image, stills, and/or typography used for promoting the film) and frequently highlights the film’s stars rather than the book’s author. By analyzing a selection of book covers of novelized versions of recent films and comparing the novelization of Terminator Salvation (Foster 2009b) with the film (Terminator Salvation 2009, dir. McG) it is based on, the article traces and examines the frictions between the opposing forces—literature and film marketing—that define the genre.
This article was written as part of the research project Framing Media: The Periphery of Fiction and Film at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and headed by Mario Klarer. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Meir Sternberg and the anonymous referees of Poetics Today for their many priceless suggestions that helped improve this article.