Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long-running fantasy series

I was reading on Pat Rothfuss's blog, and he posted a link to an article that made for an interesting read.  You can read the article here. It is about the pros and cons of long fantasy series.

I used to love the massive epics.  I couldn't get enough of them.  When I read The Wheel of Time for the first time just after high school, I would actually have dreams about the characters, and, quite unintentionally, voice some of their fondest sayings in my speech.  It was weird.  But I loved it.  The immersion that you get in a ten book (back when I started the series... it's up to thirteen now, with a prequel and one more to conclude everything) is simply amazing.  However, during the last ten years I've become "involved" with another series--one that is SO much better than TWOT.  You know which one I'm talking about, right?  It's the fantasy series that has become trendy to read over the past year.  George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.  (I'm a bit bitter it's become as popular as it has... even though Martin deserves all the success in the world for it.  It's just that it was special being one who had read it before everyone knew about it).

Since becoming involved  with Martin's world, (first in the series is A Game of Thrones) I have read the first three books nearly a dozen times.  The fourth, a meager three.  The fifth has only had one go, and it'll be a long time before I give it another read--probably not until book six is finished.  My feelings for the latest volume are mixed.  If you asked me the day after I finished it, I hated it, and wanted to set fire to Martin's house.  A couple of moths later, I still wish it would have been different, but I can appreciate it for what it is.  Because when it comes down to it, GRRM is still the best fantasy writer alive.  (No, NYT he is not better than Tolkien.  Shame on you for even suggesting it).

I have digressed.  Let me get back to the point.  I can't read these big series anymore because of the emotional attachment I get to the world and characters.  I was literally depressed for several days after I finished A Dance with Dragons.  It was ridiculous... ask my wife, she'll tell you, but I couldn't help feeling I had been jerked around in some way by someone.  I had waited six years for Martin's new book.  SIX FREAKIN YEARS.  That's a long time to wait for a volume that wouldn't even finish the series.  I can't ever do that again.  I had built up Dance so much in my own mind, that no matter how well it was crafted, I was bound to be disappointed.  Because of that, I can't do long series anymore.  It isn't worth the grief and insanity.  I'll stick to trilogies--preferably finished ones--from now on.

With the exception of a few I'm already in the middle of.  It's not like I'm not going to buy the next Ice and Fire book Martin writes.  Of course I am!  The Way of Kings too, damn you Sanderson.  But no others!  I am done!


  1. I've had the same problem with bajillion-book epics. I wouldn't have as much a problem if they were completed--I've decided I'll pick up the last few books in WOT once it's done, for example--but in the middle of the publishing schedule it's too hard. I can't spare the emotional investment when I have so many other things going on.

    That's part of why I find it so satisfying when a writer can introduce a whole new world and still tidy up a storyline (and a bunch of subplots) in one book. Good epic standalones are masterpieces, in my mind. So are multi-book epics, but I respect the skill required for brevity, especially given the depth required for a secondary-world fantasy book.

  2. I think I lean to trilogies too. It's just too easy for the author to drag out a series into mindless description (e.g. A Dance with Dragons).

    I'm still enjoying Ken Scholes, Psalms of Isaak series. Book three just came out and he's kept the story moving along without digressing.

    Someday I want to be able to plot like that...