Series Discussions


Jun 3, 2004
I just wondered if anyone would be interested in discussing fantasy series :D
Are you proposing that we discuss some of our favorite (or unfavorite) series books?

Or are you thinking of something more general, like why the trilogy and the series are currently so popular, what the joys and pitfalls are in reading and writing them, whether they really are getting longer and longer, and so on and so forth?
Perhaps fantasists need to take a cue from Poul Anderson, whose many space-and-time-spanning epic tales are nevertheless all resolved within a single volume.

The gazillionology format, ultimately, makes the writer - and the reader - bereft of all sense of proportion and discrimination, leading to situations like Jordan's endless chapters of females bickering about dresses and boys being written and read with no complaint, even though they're dreary, repetitive and add nothing to the story. Maybe the men wear armour and the women are eithe rladies, sorceresses or wenches, but soap is soap, y'know?

Frankly, I'd rather read Robert E Howard's shoddiest tale of swords-and-sorcery than another bloated extruded fantasy product.
I don't often read series for the very reason that you cite, JP. I've read through Donaldson's first two Covenant trilogies, and I'm very fond - as anyone who has been around here knows - of Kage Baker's Company novels. I'm also a huge fan of Tim Powers's sort-of trilogy that is made up of "Last Call", "Expiration Date", and "Earthquake Weather". But except for the Donaldson books, any of those books I've mentioned can be read as a stand-alone. In the case of the Powers books, you don't even really know that it is a trilogy until you get to the third book - unless you've read about them on the internet as I did. I've tried to read George R. R. Martin, and I just can't get through "A Game of Thrones". I've tried more than once. And then there's "Dune" and it's spawn. I liked "Dune" the first time I read it. Couldn't get into the second book, and actually couldn't even re-read "Dune".

Oh. I forgot. There's Orson Scott Card's Ender/Bean series. Even there, the original books - "Ender's Game", "Speaker for the Dead", "Xenocide", and "Children of the Mind" (I think that's the correct order) - can be read each on their own. The Bean branch of the series, although it has its merits, are definitely inferior to the Ender branch.

I think I haven't picked up any of the other series largely because I can't imagine what an author could have to say over so many pages and so many books. That's just me, I suppose. It isn't that I don't like long books. I've read "Gone With The Wind" four or five times, for goodness sake. I couldn't put "The Stand" down, and I read through "It" in something like three or four days. And then there's Clive Barker's "Imagica" - I think it's mostly published in two volumes these days, it's so long. But book after book of 800-plus pages plodding on with the same characters just doesn't really appeal to me.

*shrug* Maybe I'm missing out on something by not reading the popular series, but I just can't bring myself to tackle any of them.
It seems to me that they are two different things: the series and the multipart novel. Maybe where some writers go wrong these days is in trying to write a hybrid of the two -- the multipart novel that continues on and on, book after book, until it rivals in length the longest series.

But a long series works because it is a series of separate stories (even if involving the same characters and setting). It makes sense that a single story can only go so long without reaching a conclusion before it begins to test even the most enthusiastic readers' patience. Although, of course, the moment when patience runs out will be different for different readers. Also how big the story was to begin with, so that the length is justified and it doesn't feel like the story is padded to squeeze out another few volumes.

I do know what it's like to write something and discover that the story is bigger and more complex than originally conceived. Things can grow between the outline and the writing. But things can be discarded, too.
It seems to me that they are two different things: the series and the multipart novel. Maybe where some writers go wrong these days is in trying to write a hybrid of the two -- the multipart novel that continues on and on, book after book, until it rivals in length the longest series.
Excellent point! I think you've articulated something I've been groping towards for a while now.

Things can grow between the outline and the writing. But things can be discarded, too.

Yes. My biggest crib with bloated series is that authors do not seem to be taking the trouble to exercise some sort of discrimination and make those hard decisions to leave out the kitchen sink.

I have no problem with a long story in itself - but not every story needs to be long. By focussing on gazillionologies, many fantasists bypass the whole aspect of figuring out what length and format an individual story needs to be. Often, a slimmer length can deliver just as epic a punch. Consider John Crowley's The Deep, a re-telling of the War of the Roses (in cryptic sfnal terms) much like a particular ongoing series we've discussed here. It's a slim novel, less than 200 pages, but it is utterly searing in its force. Padding it out further may have diluted the scale and intensity of its impact.

On the other hand, something like Pratchett's ongoing series of individually complete stories works for me.

Ultimately, my discomfort with series is because of a perceived failure on the part of the current fantasy writers to deliver on the promise of an absorbing tale that justifies its length. Others may have differing expectations, needs or tolerance levels, of course.
Well, yes, of course it is a great thing to discover that there's more to what your working on than you first realized. As a writer, I know how that can feel. But some of those series look - from the number of books and the number of pages in each book - like they're going to go on forever. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I like stories that have an ending point. Even if there is another one that comes after.

Looking at it as a reader - and as a writer as well, actually - in a novel there's a certain amount of description and character development in scenes that may or may not advance the actual story that is legitimate, but if you've got too many of those, the writer has stepped away from good storytelling and is just playing with his characters. Which, speaking as a writer, can be fun, but it is not necessarily rewarding for the reader.
To me a series can be numerous books or even a trilogy :D

My thoughts - do people want to nominate a fantasy series to discuss and then a thread can be started to discuss that series :)

We have the book club for individual books, and we have some author forums for all of their works, but it's rare to get a thread discussing a series by an author that doesnt have a specific author.

I'm hoping perhaps for a more focused discussion too :) on our favourite series'
HMMMM.. that's a really interesting idea Rune, will try to think of something... :)

Probably would help if we nominate one that several members are familiar with I guess.. :D
So essentially, does anyone wish to discuss a series by an author other than those included in our Authors section?

(BTW, those authors are: Kage Baker, Terry Brooks, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C Clarke, Stephen Donaldson, David Eddings, Kate Elliot, Steven Erikson, Raymond E Feist, David Gemmell, Robert Heinlein, Robin Hobb, Madeline Howard, Robert Jordan, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, HP Lovecraft, Anne MacAffrey, China Mieville, George RR Martin, Michael Moorcock, Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett, Spider Robinson, Mark Robson, JRR Tolkien, Tad Williams and Gene Wolfe)
OK why dont I start -

Guidelines -

Can nominate up to 2 series

Must be Fantasy (if this takes off another project for Sci-Fi series can be started :) )

The series with the most votes wins.

Note - should there just be one series discussion a month?

My Nominations -

Banned and the Bannished - James Clemens
The Last Rune - Mark Anthony
I'd probably go for a new series discussion every fortnight. Perhpas if we get the two most popular ones voted in.. :cool:
I'll vote for The Last Rune series by Anthony, too. Read the first two a couple years ago, and actually just started rereading the first book, Beyond the Pale, again this morning, when I could find nothing to else to take on the train to work...
I haven't finished either of these, but people might like to discuss:

1. The Stone Dance of the Chameleon series by Ricardo Pinto

2. Books of the Rai-Kirah (Transformation/Revelation/Restoration) by Carol Berg
I enjoy the kind of book series where you don't necessarily need to read one book after the other. The stories fit together in the greater scheme of things and have a level of continuation. Feist and Gemmell are the authors who seem to do this with all there work. I often reach for a Gemmell novel when I want a quick yet enjoyable read.

So are the mammoth fantasy series just a money spinner? Depends on the author really. I agree with the Jordan statement - well everybody does. He wrote too much and lost the plot. However, the likes of George RR Martin pull off a series with no issue and interesting plotlines (well so far). I must admit when looking for new fantasy authors I look to see if they have a large series out. I must recondition myself to stop doing this.
I would say Viriconium by M John Harrison, but I doubt many people have read it.
Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar series
Sword of Shadows series by J V Jones
I've read the entire Viriconium cycle, but it has been a while, and I agree the numbers may not be enough.

I'd love to discuss the Lankhmar series - although my set is yet incomplete. Actually, I know that GOllum, Stalker and Leto have all read the books, perhaps we could simply go ahead and discuss them seperately anyhow.
I'll go for:

1. Ricardo Pinto's Dance Of The Chameleon (I suspect this writer has so far been underrated and not that well read as some others, then again could be wrong.. :D )
2. Sword Of Shadows by J V Jones (I think more members may have read this one..... :confused: ).

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