The Book Meme: Day 1

It's summertime AND I'm currently unemployed, so it's the perfect time for me to get back to some hardcore blogging. Not only does it give me a reason to activate a blog that has been sadly dormant on many occasions, but it always helps me loosen up my writing muscles. Since I'm hoping to use those muscles this summer, the whole idea seems like a win-win thing. (Yes, I suppose it's not technically the kind of "morning pages" that Julia Cameron demands in her book The Artist's Way, but I long ago discovered that writing out three pages of longhand every morning just plain hurts my hands.)

So, with that, let's dive into the Q&A, shall we?

Day 1 - A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)

The first thing to do, I suppose, is decide which direction to go with this one. There have certainly been series that have gone on without me, which isn't quite wishing they would just end already. I'm perfectly capable of ending my own participation in a writer's overextension of an idea. Piers Anthony's deeply problematic Xanth series is likely the most prominent of these overextensions. After picking up the first two books (A Spell for Chameleon and The Source of Magic) at the Little Professor Bookshop in University Square, I was diverted by the puns and absurdity of Anthony's magical world, but even in my teens, I sensed some as-yet-unnameable issues with the characters' behavior. The women were barely there, except to produce reactions from the men, but I wasn't quite ready to deal with the concept of systemic misogyny. What I mainly noticed was that the heroes were always reflexively obedient to any law or rule--what D&D players would call Lawful Good--and that they were unfailingly rewarded for that obedience. It's a worldview, I suppose, but the lesson that sticking to the rules will never cause you pain seemed, even then, both simplistic and inaccurate. (I mean, I was young, but I'd read "On Civil Disobedience.") After finishing the fourth book in the series, or possibly after beginning the fifth book, I set Xanth aside.

By contrast, I was happy to follow Terry Pratchett's Discworld books indefinitely. That rare series where the books got better after the first few, Discworld had the same kind of absurd world-building and pun-filled names that Xanth did, but Pratchett was both a far deeper thinker and a far funnier writer than Anthony. It's perhaps telling that the latter says of his Xanth books that they're all publishers want from him, while in the last decade of Pratchett's life, he often left the Disc behind and went in all kinds of directions--the brilliant alternate history Nation, the parallel-worlds collaboration The Long Earth with Stephen Baxter, the Dickens-based Victorian adventure Dodger, among others. Still, as of this writing, both Xanth and Discworld number exactly 41 books. I have read all 41 of the latter, and I'm sad that there will be no more. At the same time, I don't feel the series is incomplete--it doesn't need to go on longer.

I think, if we get down to the root, that this question is about frustration, and there are many series that have frustrated me for varying reasons. Kage Baker's wonderful Novels of the Company sprawled across multiple formats and publishers and it has never been assembled in a coherent sequence by a single editor, which is one reason it took me so long to finish reading. Octavia Butler's planned trilogy of Parable books ended with her death, and only two volumes were completed--a huge loss. A collaboration whose potential was barely scratched was that of writer Alan Moore and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, whose comic Big Numbers ended after only two issues, leaving fans of both creators baffled and frustrated.

But I think if I had to point to one frustration above all others, I'd point to a series that spiraled out of control in a way I can't quite fathom: Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld books. The concept was brilliant and audacious: on a world where a giant river flows over the entire surface, every single human being who has ever lived is suddenly resurrected. Not only were there burning and obvious questions--How did the resurrection occur? Who did it, and why?--but the planet was a historical playground, where anyone from history could meet anyone else. Sir Richard Francis Burton could fall in love with the woman who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland; Mark Twain could hire Mozart, and later fire him; Tom Mix could be mistaken for Jesus. The possibilities seemed endless, and for two slim volumes (To Your Scattered Bodies Go and The Fabulous Riverboat) Farmer kept those possibilities whirling. Alas, by the third volume (The Dark Design), it became clear he was struggling to move the plot along, and by number four (The Magic Labyrinth) the complications seemed to have multiplied to a point where they could never be resolved. I suppose it's possible they WERE resolved, but though I dutifully read the final volume (Gods of Riverworld), I cannot for the life of me recall HOW they were resolved. In other words, this isn't a series I wanted to end. It did so. I just wish like hell it had ended in some other way.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 4, 2018 7:51 AM.

The New Digs was the previous entry in this blog.

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