Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Series Interrupted - The Disappointment of Dropped Series

In the last year or two I've become aware of a phenomenon that was recently vaulted into the limelight by the whole Stacey Jay kerfuffle.  I don't plan on weighing in on that. What I'm most interested in is the part of that kerfuffle that dealt with stories that are meant to be told in a series, but which are dropped before they are finished.  I don't know if I am just more aware of this happening because I pay a little more attention to the industry of books nowadays or if it's the way it's always been and I've just been lucky enough to avoid it for the most part.  It's rampant in the TV industry of course, but I hadn't, until recently run into it with books.

First I should say that this is just my sad feelings on this topic.  I have done no in depth research and it isn't meant to be a journalistic expose' of anything. In fact much of it may be based on rumor and innuendo so take it with a grain of salt.  Basically this is just me whining and wailing WHY??? 

One reason I've encountered for the decision not to finish publishing a series is money.  I shouldn't be surprised of course, but I am.  The buzz and audience a book generates often seems to be down to things that have nothing to do with the book's merit and sometimes can be attributed to a well (or poorly) run marketing campaign. After all, as a non-book example, much of the death of Firefly after only 14 episodes on Fox came down to the network's poor management and not because it wasn't an awesome show with a fledgling strong fan base. 

It seems sad to me that books are being judged solely on their financial production even though I know publishing houses are not charities or government entities working solely for the benefit of the citizenry.  They can't continue to publish books fueled only by the warm regards of readers as much as I wish that were so.  But I also think about all the literary titles that get published and make very little money at all.  I'm sure it is a complex financial picture with profits from one book making possible the publication of others benefiting readers as a whole etc... but what it boils down to is it makes me sad particularly when a series is dropped before it's run its full course. It is also making me wary of picking up series before they are completed.  I wish contracts were written for full series rather than just a single book though obviously that's likely unfeasible as well.  Wouldn't authors then be more inclined to pitch series? 

Anyhow here are some of the books that I believe have been or may be unfinished for not being strong enough money makers:

1) Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay:  I haven't read this one and as I say I'm not weighing in on the Kickstarter debacle but my understanding is that the publisher dropped this series because book one didn't sell enough and hence the kickstarter to write the sequel.
2) Veneficas Americanas Series by M.K. Hobson:  Again I am not sure of the details but I do know that M.K. Hobson crowd-source funded and self-pubbed the third book in this series The Warlock's Curse and it looks like she is doing something similar with the fourth.  I love this series and the first book The Native Star was nominated for a Nebula Award for best SFF novel.
3) Shades of Gray Series by Jasper Fforde:  The first book in this series was released in 2009 and the rumors were that book two would be out in 2015.  Then I read a different horrible rumor (hopefully unfounded) that book 2 was scrapped because of poor sales on book one.  It has almost 20,000 ratings on Goodreads so it certainly seems unfounded and I have also heard that writing the first book wasn't the easiest thing for Fforde and he may just be taking his time.  So this is one that's on the fence - may be profits driven may be author driven.
4) The Lovegrove Legacy by Alyxandra Harvey:  This is a fluffy and delightful YA series. I am an unashamed huge fan of Harvey's books which feature fantastic characters and crackin' plots.  The first two books in this series were released in 2014. Book 2 was quite a bit better than book 1 and ended on a huge cliffhanger and now...crickets.  There is no news of a third book and the number of ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are pretty dismal.  I'm wondering if this means this series is done whether it is finished or not.  I originally read these from the library but have since bought them to show my support for the books (and because they may be fun to re-read some day). 

Looking at this list of 4, possibly only 3, makes my whining seem a tad melodramatic and that this phenomenon isn't very common.  Three of these series are some of my favorites however and I can't help but feel really disappointed that they are either struggling to continue or possibly being discontinued.

There are also some series or potential series that don't happen or may not be finished because of the author.  These are a little more difficult to get angry about - do you really want an author writing a book that they are not inspired by?  However they are still disappointing...

1) Territory by Emma Bull:  So I'm actually not sure what happened with this one?  This was an awesome book published in 2007 which very clearly seemed to be the first of some kind of series.  It was a story meant to be leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and I know we hadn't gotten there by the end of this book.  It was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.  And nothing.  I've always assumed Emma Bull was having writer's block issues or something - she hasn't published anything else on her own since this book  - but I guess it could have been lack of support by a publisher.  I did just find this which has no date so no idea when she said this but she writes that she's working on the sequel called Claim.  I will continue to keep hope alive.
2) Sunshine by Robin McKinley:  This has famously been a book that fans have cried out to become a series and the author has said nope, she is done.  Maybe.  Perhaps if the mood strikes her sometime.  But it likely won't.  I'm pretty at peace with this one - while it is left a little open for future books in the world it's not like it was a cliffhanger ending and the book has enough resolution.  I was pretty disappointed in the first year or two after reading it but I've moved on.
3) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin:  It's almost a cliche to complain about the length of time this series is taking between installments and to worry that it may never be finished. But I've been with this series since it first appeared in the mid 1990's so I feel like I've earned the right to worry (it's been almost 20 years...20 YEARS).  The concern is that Martin is no longer inspired by his creation and that he is no longer invested in bringing all the myriad threads to a satisfying ending.  
I think I've whined enough.  Now, I'd like to hear from you!  Please whine away! Or bitch at me for being whiny and demanding! What is your take on the unfinished series issue? Do you think it's more prevalent now than it used to be?  Have you noticed it and changed your reading habits because of it?  Are there any series that you are heartbroken over losing halfway through or before they even got started?    

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