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God Emperor of STFU
May 15, 2008 10:59 AM   Subscribe

7 Reasons Why Scifi Book Series Outstay Their Welcomes
posted by Artw (99 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
1. Profit
2. Profit
3. Profit
4. Profit
5. Profit
6. ?????
7. Profit!
posted by dersins at 11:09 AM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, this was dumb. A bunch of facile observations that in many cases are in no way unique to science fiction or fantasy combined with an utter lack of analysis or self-awareness.

Next up: AIRPLANE FOOD. IS IT BAD OR WHAT?
posted by Justinian at 11:11 AM on May 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think this is referred to in the biz as, "transgressing the cybernetic selachimorph."
posted by Pollomacho at 11:11 AM on May 15, 2008


The first book of Dune outstayed its welcome. I can't even imagine slogging through 153 of them.
posted by DU at 11:12 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


There was a sequel to "Dune"?
posted by Dizzy at 11:13 AM on May 15, 2008


Neuromancer remains, 15 years after reading, my favorite SciFi book and perhaps any genre I've ever read. It's sequels, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive paled in comparison. Yet...still worth the read. If there'd been a fourth/fifth/etc. book in that series though, man would it have been diminishing returns.

a good comment off the page: "Great post until you claimed TV series can go on forever."

exactly.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:15 AM on May 15, 2008


Long series pretty much tend to suck, amirite?
posted by mumkin at 11:15 AM on May 15, 2008


I think this applies to pretty much any genre of fiction and to TV and movies as well. It's great when there's an actual story that needs that long to progress well, but it's agonizing when they just keep stretching it out without any particular need other than to milk it. I always wonder if the money is worth it, knowing that their story kind of sucks now. I guess for some people it must be, or some just don't have a choice financially. Still, though, I would rather start a new story.
posted by Nattie at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2008


OK, this is crazy. This is one of a number of sites that I've seen lately which look like absolute crap in Firefox, both 2 and 3 beta. Not only that, it looks like absolute crap in the exact same way all the others look - a repeated background graphic, a bunch of images left aligned, followed by a bunch of sidebars left aligned, followed by the actual article.

Seriously, how many retarded web "designers" copy each other's inbred designs? You'd hope at least one of them would have a clue and test something other than IE. Makes me want to flag every post linking to such sites as "HTML/Display error", if not "noise", because it sure as hell looks like noise when it loads up.
posted by splice at 11:17 AM on May 15, 2008


I love the concept of io9 but for a site purportedly aimed at scifi fans, the tone of the place is pretty consistently facile. A few weeks ago they saw fit to give us a paragraph-long definition of deus ex machina. Thanks, guy. I don't know if they know who their target audience is. I'd really like to be told some things I don't already know, or at least told about some old things in a new and interesting way. What I don't want is "here is a list of some robots. You like robots, right? They're all futury! Look at them!"

Also, um, am I the only person who kind of loved God Emperor of Dune? Yes? Just me? Sigh.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:19 AM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I quite enjoyed God Emperor Of Dune. The series got really weird at that point, and it was fun.

Can't bring myself to read any Brian Herbert, though.
posted by everichon at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2008


splice - I'm seeing it looking basically the same in IE7/FF2.0 on XP. If the problem looks really bad on your set up you might want to drop them a line with your setup.
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2008


Hey! I liked all five books of the Hitchhiker's Trilogy!
posted by SansPoint at 11:29 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This reminded me of how the Rama books by Arthur C. Clarke progressed. The first one had a spooky rendezvous with a mysterious interstellar alien spacecraft that disappears as suddenly as it came and offers few clues to its purpose or creators. Then another one comes. And another. Then people meet lots of aliens, figure everything, start living on Rama spacecrafts and start genocides. Those kooky humans.
posted by stavrogin at 11:30 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


stavrogin: I think I have identified your problem. You read books with the name "Gentry Lee" on the cover. This is pretty much uniformly a terrible error.
posted by Justinian at 11:31 AM on May 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


This post is not good. Maybe, just maybe it would rise to the standard if you included a meaty "more inside" with descriptions and reviews of many of these late series books - maybe. But SLio9 crap is not the best of the web in my opinion.

MORE TO THE POINT, I read Dune when I was 14 or so, and then later in life read one of the books written by Herbert the Lesser (House Harkonnen, I think) - it was poor, and made me second-guess my appreciation of the original Dune, which I re-read and re-enjoyed.. most times I think it is best for those worlds to die with the original author.
posted by thedaniel at 11:35 AM on May 15, 2008


I despise the Gawker family of blogs. They're like Cracked - you can smell the writer's block and desperation - and so, another list post is defecated onto the server for office workers to semi-read out of the corner of their eye while they're uh huh-ing someone on the phone. The whole enterprise makes me throw up a little in my mouth. "Another century of readers and spirit itself will stink" - Fred Nietzsche
posted by fleetmouse at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


To those who are having trouble displaying in firefox: you are probably using adblock with a ruleset that blocks one of the style sheets for that page. To fix it, go to Adblock > Preferences > Add Filter, and enter the pattern @@http://tags.gawker.com/*/messages.css -- after you reload the page, it should be shown properly.
posted by jepler at 11:37 AM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, io9 is weird. They are obsessed with Lost, Dr Who and Torchwood (multiple posts on each per day, often) and failed utterly to even note the existence of Eureka until like two weeks ago. (Which is not to say Eureka is good, but it IS at least as SciFiy as Lost.)

They multiple things per day where I think "you guys better pace yourselves or you are going to talk about everything there is in the entire world and have nothing left". But then they manage the fill in with space porn or whatever.

Annalee Newitz is consistently good, though. And I don't dislike the rest of the site.
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on May 15, 2008


You know, Ender's Shadow was actually pretty damn good. It's what happened after that book that was the damn shame.
posted by fusinski at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2008


splice: Looks fine to me too. I think something's wrong with ur firefox.

On topic, I'd like to suggest Discworld as the counterexample that proves the rule. It keeps getting longer, and also keeps getting better. On the other hand, Pratchett has been willing to move on when he's run out of things to parody in one area of his world and seek out fresh ground. It was never a story about one set of characters that keeps going after that story is over. So not really quite the same problem.
posted by rusty at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


so the only post we're missing now is an fpp on "The Top 10 Worst Top 10 Lists of 2008."
posted by shmegegge at 11:44 AM on May 15, 2008


I'd like to suggest Discworld is not getting better. It climbed rapidly from Colour of Magic to, say, Small Gods and has been in slow decline ever since.
posted by DU at 11:49 AM on May 15, 2008


I loved God Emperor of Dune, thought it was one of the best in the series. I don't see how you can use it as an example of an over-extended series: I'd say it's a good example of exactly how to do so well.

It's set thousands of years after the first trilogy. It has a strong central character (lack of which was a weakness in the earlier books). It doesn't try to go back to the things the fans loved: sandworms are extinct, the Fremen are gone, Dune isn't a desert planet, the characters are a new crowd. It had a strong self-contained plot and an ending which resolved things. It didn't just tail off for the next volume or have a tedious cliffhanger, which are the usual annoyances of an overlong series.

Also, Dune was not originally a novel: it was a series that ran in Astounding/Analog, which was later divided up into Dune and Dune Messiah. If you don't like it, maybe it's an example of the perils of extending a short story...

This seems to be a pretty lazy article, which fails to say much of interest.

Is it purely the fans fault for buying these books? Or is it also that writers find it hard to keep coming up with new ideas? Or is it easier to market continuing series' to readers? Or is it easier for the publisher's salesmen to push them into bookstores: "volume 8 sold OK, didn't it, so take 9"? Does the move to Internet sales encourage people to read a wider variety of books, or are readers drawn even more to long series'?

It's a potentially interesting subject, but it seems that guy couldn't really be bothered to think about it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:49 AM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


jepler -- let me say thank you. I have been having this problem for awhile and didn't know what to do. I was contemplating using AskMe for it.

On the post itself, I too thought it was not a very good list. I think the author mixed things up. What were listed were mostly outcomes, not reasons. So, in other words, the cause of a series going on too long is that the author knows he/she can make more money exploiting an existing resource than he/she can by creating a new series. The new books being driven more by money than by a creative idea often suffer. The author was presenting some of the ways that they suffer.
posted by bove at 11:53 AM on May 15, 2008


It's a potentially interesting subject, but it seems that guy couldn't really be bothered to think about it.

HI! Welcome to io9, have a cookie!
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2008


Would you have read this if it didn't have a numeral in the title?
posted by ardgedee at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2008


I quite enjoyed God Emperor Of Dune. The series got really weird at that point, and it was fun.

I loved it too. Mostly becuase he brought back Duncan Idaho.
posted by tkchrist at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2008


most times I think it is best for those worlds to die with the original author.

Shhhh... Don't discourage Brian Sanderson. A Memory of Light has to happen, for the sake of the sanity of all of us WoTheads.

And I use the word "sanity" very, very loosely here.
posted by TrinaSelwyn at 11:57 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


8) Because geeks can't let ANYTHING go. If it was good once, it will be good FOREVER and REPEATEDLY. That's why "I want to cast magic missile" and Monty Python quotes are ALWAYS riotously hilarious, why the companion on Doctor Who must NEVER leave, why the TV series must go on ad nauseum, why self-contained movies must always have sequels, and why mainstream superhero comics and fan-fiction just plain exist. It also explains why crap like the Thundercats must ALWAYS be around (and, preferably must exist exactly the same way as they did when the geek in question first encountered them.) Geeks on the whole are utterly incapable of processing the words "The End".
posted by Legomancer at 11:59 AM on May 15, 2008 [23 favorites]


Maybe if the first novel in a series were to end with the words

exit 0
posted by everichon at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2008


DU: I'd like to suggest Discworld is not getting better. It climbed rapidly from Colour of Magic to, say, Small Gods and has been in slow decline ever since.

My favorite is Feet of Clay. Thud! and Going Postal are among my favorites, but the last one, Making Money, was the weakest since Faust Eric. I reread them all recently (a long bout of depression can lead to remarkable feats of procrastination) and I was struck by how uniformly good they are, from about Guards! Guards! onward.
posted by Kattullus at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


During my teens I read Riverworld to the bitter end... even the last novel were nothing happened, repeatedly. That taught me a valuable lesson so I managed to ditch Turtledove's first World War series after the first volume.

There'sthe opposite problem - like with David Brin's Uplife novels that seem have just stopped when he had annoying set up a load of open questions in the latter volumes

(I wish Io9 was better)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


splice et al: I periodically get the same problem on Gawker blogs. For me, it's cause their style sheet gets caught in my ad-blocker. I had to had a few lines of whitelist and fixed itself. If you're not rockin' an ad-blocker, though, I got nothin' for you.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:11 PM on May 15, 2008


Legomancer writes "Because geeks can't let ANYTHING go. If it was good once, it will be good FOREVER and REPEATEDLY."

Yup. Comfort food, or more accurately, comfort candy for kids who don't wanna grow up.
posted by orthogonality at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2008


Io9 is about the 12th blog done by Gawker Media. Maybe they should have taken their advice in terms of the quality of long term series.

As others have said, I want to like Io9.
posted by skynxnex at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2008


Just want to add that I recently bought and finished "Old Man's War" and "Ghost Brigades" by our own jscalzi, and I am itching to get the third book in the series. I've read a few other trilogies/tetrologies that held their own until the end, although I think Brian Herbert should just stop it, please.
posted by bashos_frog at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


fusinski: I also really enjoyed Shadow and felt it added to the original. I'd agree about the sequels though. I enjoyed Speaker and it's sequels... but they were a different thing. The connection to Ender's Game was minimal and the hero could have been anybody, really.
posted by utsutsu at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2008


Charlie Jane Anders, the author of this io9 post, repeatedly churns out this sort of "N reasons why X is Y" stuff. If io9 cut out paint-by-numbers posts, I might read it on something like a regular basis.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dune is the worst example of sci-fi I've ever read. It's definitely one of the worst books. Herbert has no idea how to show rather than tell. It's all "Aha! Since I am cleverer than you, I have totally doomed you with my clever plan." "Ha ha! But since I am cleverest of all, I lulled you into a false sense of making you believe I fell for your plan." Stop pretending your characters all think in full sentences! That is not how brains work!

That, and RPG video games pretty much sated me on the whole "Young Chosen One" concept.
posted by Eideteker at 12:25 PM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was expecting some complaint about Asimov's big series... but I was expecting a smarter complaint. The typical "Why did he try to tie together the Robots and the Foundation novels, except to cash in on both?" would have fit this theme perfectly, I think.

But instead, we get: "One major problem: a slew of new characters,"

This, despite the fact that the very first Foundation book is five novellas each with it's own slew of new characters, the second book is two novellas with all new characters in both, and the third book is two novellas with all new characters in the latter. The later two Foundation Books actually did the exact opposite of what this guy's complaining about: keeping the same pair of protagonists for the unprecedented span of two whole books.

"including one who's introduced right at the end of Foundation And Earth, who might have played a bigger role in a final Foundation book, had Asimov written one."

At least this explains part of the confusion. The character "introduced" right at the end of Foundation And Earth had previously appeared in four of the Robot novels, and later appeared in the two Foundation prequels. By maybe the ignorance displayed here is more persuasive than any facts would have been: clearly Asimov was so bad about dragging out his fiction series that his critics don't even know all the books in it exist.
posted by roystgnr at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2008


I liked God emperor of Dune too, but none after that one ( at least of the two or three I tried to read, since I quit reading them).

I also liked all six CJ Cherryh "Foreigner" books and all four "Fortress" books.
posted by francesca too at 12:30 PM on May 15, 2008


s/By maybe/But maybe/

If I'm going to stay in the habit of writing and revising posts nonlinearly, I probably ought to get better at it...
posted by roystgnr at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2008


I had to wonder if he had actually read all of the series he was talking about. MZB's Darkover series is not fantasy, and it's not one series - it's a world like Discworld, with a couple of running storylines (but the longest I can think of is maybe 5, 6 books, and it didn't get worse, just had some serious continuity problems. The other storylines are shorter, or just one standalone novel).

Now going on and on - the later Pern books do that. But again, many of the earlier ones are not part of a series, but part of a world in which there are different stories. And they work (except for that pesky problem that marriage is fatal to women having an interesting character, it must be something in the water).

Yeah, sometimes geeks do want something to go on too long. And sometimes we just want something to be given enough time to develop out its potential and finish the storyline (I'm glaring at you, Sci-Fi channel - Farscape season 5 would have been so much better than the mini-series, and then it could have ended with me happy). I'm torn right now because I really want Robin Hobb to write a followup to her Tawny Man series (which is itself a powerful sequel to the Farseer trilogy) because I feel like she still hasn't fully told the Fool's story. But that's me selfishly demanding conclusion - and because I love the Fool, I just want him to find the same kind of stability and happiness the other characters do, but it would be completely unrealistic and I wouldn't like it if it were written thus. So it stays in the world of fan fiction never written.

But Foundation? He's crazy. The later Foundation novels (and the prequels) were better than the original. And the tying in of the Robots series took it from epic to truly galaxy-spanning epic. It's brilliant, and it makes sense and all clicks so perfectly it's hard to believe that it wasn't planned that way. So I'm going to pretend it was, and neener-neener to any naysayers.
posted by jb at 12:33 PM on May 15, 2008


I think the problem with Dune is that its less of story and more of a philosophical screed. Now don't get me wrong, I love (the first 6 books of) the Dune series, but as the literary aspects leave much to be desired. The prequels are bad fanfic which lacks the interesting philosophical bits but leaves in the shitty storytelling.
posted by khaibit at 12:34 PM on May 15, 2008


"including one who's introduced right at the end of Foundation And Earth, who might have played a bigger role in a final Foundation book, had Asimov written one."

At least this explains part of the confusion. The character "introduced" right at the end of Foundation And Earth had previously appeared in four of the Robot novels, and later appeared in the two Foundation prequels. By maybe the ignorance displayed here is more persuasive than any facts would have been: clearly Asimov was so bad about dragging out his fiction series that his critics don't even know all the books in it exist.
posted by roystgnr at 3:28 PM on May 15 [+] [!]


Ah, that comment confused me at first. But then again, the minute Daneel appeared, I was all like "Daneel!", and jaw dropping but heart raising and wondering. Because this one universe that had so enwrapped me had suddenly stepped into another and suddenly both were richer.

But yeah, if you are going to write a post complaining about some character showing up apparently randomly, maybe you should wikipedia the character in question.
posted by jb at 12:42 PM on May 15, 2008


I'm sorry, but I will not allow any criticism of Gene Wolfe. This io9 person should STFU.
posted by papercake at 12:48 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've gotta agree with you, papercake. If you are writing for io9 you are probably not smart enough for Gene Wolfe. This is not particularly a criticism; I'm obviously not smart enough for Gene Wolfe because whenever I read his books I spend the whole time marveling at the writing while wondering just what the fuck is going on.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on May 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was deeply sorry that the Dune series was cut off by Herbert's death.
The prequels? Started to read the first one, threw up in my mouth a little and couldn't go on.
posted by signal at 1:11 PM on May 15, 2008


Reading Gene Wolfe is like looking at a painting by Bosch, or some of Breughel's wackier stuff. It is no easy road.

That said, though, I usually avoid series books. I did quite like most of the Lensman stuff, though. Then again, I was a teenager when I read Smith, and less discriminating than I am now.

And maybe the Witch World books were pretty good. Ah, Andre Norton!

And okay, okay, I read all the Tarzan and John Carter books, I admit it.

I am really dating myself here....
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:14 PM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gene Wolfe changed my understanding of time.
posted by Max Power at 1:17 PM on May 15, 2008


What no mention of Julian May? Her whole linked series; The Saga of Pliocene Exile (5 books); Intervention (2 books), and The Galactic Milieu (3 books) only get better with every volume. IMHO of course.

And the article was lame too.
posted by elendil71 at 1:29 PM on May 15, 2008


This is more "7 ways in which Sci-Fi book series outstay their welcome", not "7 reasons why ...". He's describing the phenomenon, not explaining its causes. An explanation might have made for a far more interesting article than this. But I think dersins might have given the reasons in the first comment in the thread.

Other than dersins' reasons, I have my own theory why. I wrote a science fiction novel when I was at university. It was a pretty substandard effort and is safely locked in the bottom drawer. But, having written this 110,000-word, three-year effort, I rather liked the galactic empire I had created, and wanted to return to it, to do more with it, to tell more stories from the possibilities it offered. I even started a second instalment before souring on sci-fi altogether. The thing about sci-fi, which distinguishes it from most other genres, is that it must create a self-contained, disposable, single-use world. A terrific creative effort is poured into this world, and it feels like a waste to use it just the once. Hell, it is a waste. So I can completely see the temptation to revisit the world again and again until it is thoroughly exhausted.

Of course, revisiting the world doesn't mean always recycling the characters, which may be the mistake that some of these authors make. Iain M Banks' Culture novels seem to me to be a Sci-fi "series" that is still going and, after half a dozen books without an overarching plot, is still going pretty well (I haven't read "Matter" yet, so maybe I'm wrong about that.)
posted by WPW at 1:32 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


> There was a sequel to "Dune"?

Oh yes, several. Some by Herbert himself, then some more by his son, then a few by his son's cat. The ones coming out now are being written by Ruth Plumly Thompson from beyond the grave.
posted by jfuller at 1:35 PM on May 15, 2008


Looking more closely, I think the thing is the my problem with overlong series' is when things stay the same and I get bored, but that guy's problem is when things change.

"The random left turn" , "the miraculous save", "the shrinking protagonist", "the need to explain the meaning of everything"... most of his complaints are about a series evolving, characters developing, the story going to another level.

I think he likes repetition while most of us like novelty. That's why his specific analogies seem so weird.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:39 PM on May 15, 2008


And no mention of Gor...! I was devastated when that jumped the shark when the books when from being all blood and guts and light S&M porn and turned into philosophical tracts on 'erotic slavery' and... er.. um... or so I've heard.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't be dissing on Fluffy Herbert's prose. "Dune: Spice Has a Flavor" was one of the best books in the non-series. The part with the lol jabbar gave me chills.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ender's Game: Outstanding.

Every other Ender story: Not Scottish.
posted by tadellin at 1:50 PM on May 15, 2008


I've got to nth the people who are saying that the inclusion of Gene Wolfe in this criticism is odd. There are a lot of people who lose control of series and turn out crap books just to make a buck. Mr. Wolfe is not one of them. Not to be mean, but they probably just don't get them.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:31 PM on May 15, 2008


I will take this opportunity to pimp the Eragon series. Yes, I know it's a teenage novel-series, but I thought it was good. Haven't seen the movie yet though, and waiting for book #3.
posted by stevehnsn at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2008


The sad thing is that A Song Of Ice And Fire, after the third book, appears to have fallen victim to Robert Jordan Syndrome. A series of fantasy novels that, as a narrative, are cumulatively longer than the entire history of our own actual civilization are not something I have the time or inclination to invest myself in. Are they hoping to become Proust For Stupids?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:47 PM on May 15, 2008


[Numerous high concept series and stand-alones] by Arthur C Clarke and Gentry Lee.
posted by autodidact at 3:01 PM on May 15, 2008


Also, is it just me, or did Baby Sitter's Club start to disappoint after Claudia & the Phantom Phone Calls?
posted by everichon at 3:09 PM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to say that Brian Herbert's Dune books are so bad, he couldn't disrespect his father's memory more if he dropped trou over his father's grave and plowed the dirt.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:15 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read the title as 7 Reasons Why Scifi Books Outstay Their Welcomes and was disappointed.
posted by Mocata at 3:23 PM on May 15, 2008


God Emperor of Dune is the second-best Dune book by far.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:36 PM on May 15, 2008


The sad thing is that A Song Of Ice And Fire, after the third book, appears to have fallen victim to Robert Jordan Syndrome.

I disagree with this, actually. "A Feast For Crows" was seriously flawed but not for this reason. Jordan made a deliberate choice to string out the series as long as possible to bring in the big bucks so that he'd have a ton of money for the rest of his life. Which turned out, sadly, to not be as long as he had no doubt anticipated.

On the other hand, Martin by all evidence isn't deliberately stringing out his series; he has simply lost control of the story and doesn't know how to reel it back in. You can tell the difference between this and Jordan's cynical decision by the length of time between novels; Jordan wrote and published what, 11(?) books always 1-2 years apart. Martin by contrast published the first 3 books at less than two year intervals, then lost control and couldn't finish anything for 5 years at which point he shoved out whatever he had on his desk with the promise that the "real" next book would soon be completed.

It's been almost 4 years since that point and we're still waiting and he shows no signs of figuring out what to do. So it's been 9(!) years since Martin actually completed a book he set out to complete. That is is no sense how you maximize your revenue stream.

So, no, Martin hasn't fallen victim to Robert Jordan Syndrome. It's much sadder than that; Martin has more talent in his little finger than Jordan could muster up on his best day. But he can't finish a book while Jordan could churn out extruded fantasy product until the day he died.

Which (again, sadly) was an awful and sad way to die regardless of the literary merit (or lack of it) of his novels.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on May 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


This thread officially has better analytical value than the linked post.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:48 PM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: "The random left turn" , "the miraculous save", "the shrinking protagonist", "the need to explain the meaning of everything"... most of his complaints are about a series evolving, characters developing, the story going to another level.

That's not the problem with those things, most of them are just literary mistakes in general. Miraculous saves are the most obvious one - they're just obvious deus ex machinas. They're a sign of lazy writing or bad planning and they break immersion. Random left turns are bad because they tend to ignore emotional investments in a given character or plotline to concentrate on things no one cares about, which breaks flow. Finish your storylines, at least mostly, because starting another! Explaining everything is bad because it strips the mystery from the universe, and the explanations often suck. I need only speak the word 'midichlorians' to convey what I mean (also, explaining everything frequently leads to inconsistencies.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:51 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This thread officially has better analytical value than the linked post.

Hear, hear!

I read this thread on io9 and tried to remember the series I'd liked, and I could only come up with comic books: Sandman and Transmetropolitan (though I dug Rudy Rucker's 'Ware tetrology). Afraid I never got past Dune and a few scattered Discworld books.
posted by RakDaddy at 5:07 PM on May 15, 2008


It's sequels, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive paled in comparison

Oddly, I read Count Zero first, and enjoyed it a *lot* more than Neuromancer, and re-read it multiple times. Mona Lisa Overdrive was disappointing, though.
posted by and for no one at 5:09 PM on May 15, 2008


Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books are, for me, the glorious exception to the law of diminishing returns. I think LeGuin's world has kept its vitality because she's allowed it to change:

"It's been a joy to me to go back to Earthsea and find it still there, entirely familiar, and yet changed and still changing. What I thought was going to happen isn't what's happening, people aren't who - or what - I thought they were, and I lose my way on islands I thought I knew by heart." [introduction to Tales From Earthsea, 2002]
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:46 PM on May 15, 2008


Justinian: You raise a good point, to which I concede. You're right, it's more of an author losing control of his material than padding that material out. But the end result is the same: thick bleeding slabs of text that don't progress the story at all and, in the case of Martin, the (to my mind) unnecessary introduction of characters to an already mammoth cast.

I agree that Martin is by far the superior writer and storyteller, however. It's just a shame I'll never see how the series ends, since I adored the first three books.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:40 PM on May 15, 2008


You know what's a good fuckthat'sbig series though? Thomas Covenant.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2008


...And that's why I'm excited BSG is ending. (And half-dreading Caprica.) Tell a story and leave the rest to our imaginations.

I give a half-pass to multiple novels set in the same universe but wholly distinct in time and place (aka the Culture novels). That's almost the best of both worlds, comfortable food in the setting but new spices in the characters and developments.

But then again I liked the Algebraist too. Were the complaints about that really that it was a lesser work, or just that it was a new universe?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:33 PM on May 15, 2008


OK, this is crazy. This is one of a number of sites that I've seen lately which look like absolute crap in Firefox, both 2 and 3 beta. Not only that, it looks like absolute crap in the exact same way all the others look - a repeated background graphic, a bunch of images left aligned, followed by a bunch of sidebars left aligned, followed by the actual article.

Turn off ad-block plus for Gawker sites, and use the element selector helper add-on to block individual ads. Gawker sites use a standard (I can't remember if it's a file name or URL) for their css that causes the stylesheet to be blocked by ad-blockers, making them look severely fucked up.

Or better yet, just don't visit Gawker sites.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2008


Can we turn this into a thread on Really Big Series That Hold Up Well? Cause I'm gonna plug Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders if we do.
posted by not that girl at 7:58 PM on May 15, 2008


I quick scrolled this thread hoping to find some good new start of series books. Turns out we are mostly old farts looking back at books we read 20 or more years ago. Funny for a future focused book category.
posted by srboisvert at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really try to avoid series ever since 7th grade in which the first 6 Robotech books consumed my life. Instead, now I try not to pick them up in the first place, and in the rare instances where I do, I don't get past two or three (some day I'll finish you Harry Potter series).

The latest series to lure me with a siren song though has been Flashman, please tell me it stays fun (I'm up to three).
posted by drezdn at 9:02 PM on May 15, 2008


I liked God Emperor of Dune. Its different than the other books, which is the problem. Fans just want more of the same. . Whats even more fun about the Dune sequels is that they get weird. Like make a zensunni warrior blush weird. Reading book two and three is how I would imagine getting stoned with the author would be and just talking about shit in general.

Of course they are much weaker works than the original, but I'm really getting sick of this attitude I see on blogs. This "Well, x is genius and y sucks and if you dont agree youre a moron too." Fiction is a big thing. Some of us appreciate it on different levels. Sometimes I like reading about how our protagonist has turned into a giant worm thing over the course of three thousand years.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gene Wolfe changed my understanding of time.

My time of understanding changed Gene Wolfe
posted by Sparx at 4:41 AM on May 16, 2008


My time of understanding changed Gene Wolfe

My changed understanding gene of wolfe-time
posted by Sparx at 4:44 AM on May 16, 2008


My changed understanding gene of wolfe-time

My time-wolfe gene of understanding changed
posted by Sparx at 4:45 AM on May 16, 2008


My time-wolfe gene of understanding changed

My under-gene time-wolf stands changed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:05 AM on May 16, 2008


Sometimes I like reading about how our protagonist has turned into a giant worm thing over the course of three thousand years.

Until I saw the execrable miniseries Skiffy did and found out that he'd been hot before he became a giant worm. This made me feel a bit squidgy because...hot giant worm. Hot giant worm who kind of wants to do his sister. Man, I love Dune.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 6:17 AM on May 16, 2008


Moronic article.

The extra Urth book:

In the Urth books, Wolfe tries to tie everything from the first series together, while throwing in a lot of mystical ideas, including kabbalah..

Dead wrong. The Urth of the New Sun answers a few questions raised in the previous books but, in the inevitable Wolfe information economy, raises more if you bother to read it closely enough. If you aren't reading closely enough you shouldn't be reading the book anyway, since you probably think The Book of the New Sun is just a far future version of the "worst gap year ever" stories your acquaintances have.

The Dune books, as mentioned above, got really weird. The last two cut back on the self-indulgence as well and had some startlingly effective and emotional scenes - short, concise bits of dialogue that showed how far apart the various factions had evolved, rather than pages of internal monologues telling us so. Herbert is one of the few big name sf authors who got better as a writer as he got more successful.

I was all ready to throw a small fit when I realised that Asimov was tying the robot and foundation series together. Then the reason for it came clear (the Zeroth Law of Robotics) and large chunks of the foundation series fell into a new and hideous light. I was never a fan of his writing but the guy was one of the few golden age sf authors who could see that technical solutions to social problems are often a portal to hell.

Yes, most long lasting series are a waste of baryonic matter (the best part of the Riverworld books is the opening paragraph where Burton dies the first time - read no further). As pointed out above the effort involved in inventing a world is such that often an author will revisit it and all too frequently a beautiful and expansive universe shrinks and becomes dull.

Even IMBanks seems to be doing this - the Culture becomes less interesting the more we see of it. The fact that the last book invoked the classic death rattle of an sf series (the galactic council) does not make me happy. The weird and out of context LotR parody almost made up for it (seriously, WTF was up with that epilogue? It was like a line by line piss-take of the final pages of RotK).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:28 AM on May 16, 2008


Gene Wolfe changed my understanding of time.

My time of understanding changed Gene Wolfe

My changed understanding gene of wolfe-time

My time-wolfe gene of understanding changed

My under-gene time-wolf stands changed.


You're all educated stupid.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:01 AM on May 16, 2008


You're all educated stupid.

ROCK LOBSTER!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2008


As for new series that didn't suck, the first book in R. Scott Baker's Prince of Nothing didn't suck. More philosophical fantasy. I have it on good authority that the Reality Dysfunction series is popular with all of the physicists that I know. I found his level of detail off-putting, but to each their own.
posted by khaibit at 7:22 AM on May 16, 2008


ROCK LOBSTER!

Amiga 500!
posted by Tenuki at 9:37 AM on May 16, 2008


ROCK LOBSTER!

Amiga 500!


Video Toaster!
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2008


ROCK LOBSTER!

Amiga 500!

Video Toaster!


Babylon 5!
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2008


Spiderman!
posted by shmegegge at 10:04 AM on May 16, 2008


I'm sorry.

ROCK LOBSTER!

Amiga 500!

Video Toaster!

Babylon 5!


Spiderman!
posted by shmegegge at 10:04 AM on May 16, 2008


::shakes fist:: mutters something about terry goodkind. ::defeated sigh::
posted by lunit at 11:40 AM on May 16, 2008


ROCK LOBSTER!

Amiga 500!

Video Toaster!

Babylon 5!

Spiderman!


Kenny Rogers Roaster!

Silly little word games that Metafilter brings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:42 AM on May 16, 2008


Consarn these list-based articles. Did someone release an "N-[best|worst|most(adj)]" module for WordPress? It's like, if you have a million monkeys typing away on their million blogs, they'll eventually turn out a complete issue of Cosmo.
Uh, having said that, I didn't bother to RTFA.
posted by $0up at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2008


Since this is the active Mefi thread about science fiction.... Iain M Banks interview on CNN.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked how Asimov tied together the Robots and Foundation - as others have said, it was a bit of a "Whoa - cool" moment.

I have to agree with a couple of the comments in the article - the HHGTTG series gets really weak towards the end, and just seems to do things in order to make the story actually finish. Harry Harrison's Stainless Steet Rat is a great character, but the recent stories (Circus and Hell are the two that spring to mind) are more like Bill the Galactic Hero novels; nonsense situations and a bit boring - but I still had to read them.

The Dune prequels and sequels however... meh. I've got and read Atreides/Harkonnen/Corrino, but IMO they don't feel like they actually do anything to help the series along - just bolt-on history lessons that aren't really needed.
I should have learned a lesson here, but no - I started out on the abomination that is Kevin J. Anderson's "Saga of the Seven Suns" series. The first couple were fun, interesting and clever... but it's just dragging on, getting nowhere, and it's got to the point where I've got to book 5 and I have absolutely no will to carry on - and I've made a mental vow to never buy another book that he's written or co-authored!

The same kind of thing can also be said of the hundreds of books that have been churned out in the Star Wars universe (and probably Star Trek, and all the other shows that people write books within - except I've not read those) - they start off well, building on characters and locations, and eventually they just become... diluted, I suppose, and mostly unpalatable.

The more I get burned, the more I learn though - I don't need to complete an entire series of novels. Must keep saying it to myself...
posted by Chunder at 5:57 AM on May 18, 2008


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