Pixel Scroll 7/30/17 And Remember To Scroll Your Answers In The Form Of A Pixel

(1) AN AMAZING BOOK. So says James Bacon, who gives a rave review to Anthony Hewitt’s Joshua N’Gon – Last Prince of Alkebulahn on Forbidden Planet blog.

We journey forwards and back as we come to know what has occurred to Joshua and the man who wants to get him, Kanu, genius criminal who has found a way to recreate his memories. Kanu has been ostracised to London from Alkebulahn with his mind wiped, but has the help of ‘arachnobots’ and now he controls a huge armaments corporation which is a front for a sinister organisation The Black Axis. He comes across with some considerable strength and charisma, indeed in one moment where he speaks of making people uncomfortable because of ‘My ethnicity, my bearing and my outspokenness’ and although is an absolute villain, his story is nicely interwoven, as it is important to the back story that is Joshua’s heritage.

Its a cracking good read, this one.

It rockets on, the chapters are nice and short, and all the time there are adventures. Joshua is set tasks by his learned school teacher, at a very impressive school, and these end up involving explorations and inventing, taking part in extreme sports, or combative and challenging excitements, and soon we see that our team gets into some tights spots culminating in a wonderfully tense set of scenes.

This book has it all: a sinister, cloaked Black Airship, mechanised Mayhem, ancient elements with science fictional connections, alien technologies and black history, white pulsed energy blasts, portals, a robotic and somewhat intelligent drone called Ballz, super soakers turned into weapons that make water solid like a ball bearing until they strike an adversary, a visit to the British Museum, Notting Hill Carnival and to imaginative places that are portrayed with an element of brilliance. Music, food and language give strong cultural indicators, offering elements that I was not aware of before….

(2) CHOSEN WORDS. Nicholas Eskey of ComicsBeat “SDCC ’17: Interview: Author Karin Tidbeck Uncovers the Dreamlike Storyline of’ ‘Amatka’”.

Have you always planned on writing for an English-speaking market?

When I was nineteen, I worked in a science-fiction bookshop in Stockholm. There was, and still is, this magazine called “Locus,” which is the SFF industry’s main magazine, and I would read that during lunch break. And I had this revelation that “I wanted to be in here. I want to have my book reviewed in here. I want to have an interview here. And I want to be on the shelves in the book shop… in English.” The thing is, Sweden has a very small readership. It’s very difficult to get books published, it’s very difficult to sell books, it’s extremely difficult to sell speculative fiction. So, I realized that the market was so small that I had to switch languages, but I didn’t switch until I was in my early thirties.

Tell us a little about your book, “Amatka.”

Amatka is about humans colonizing a world where matter, physical matter, responds to language. It’s about what happens to society that tries to survive in such a world. What happens to the people who quite can’t find a place in it. So, it’s about reality, it’s about language, it’s about revolution, and it’s about love.

(3) SPACE SHOWER. Sci-Tech Universe says “Get Ready! The Brightest Meteor Shower in the Recorded Human History Is Happening” – and you’ll be able to see it.

There is going to be a meteor shower on 12th of August, 2017. According to astronomers this will be the brightest shower in the recorded human history. It will light up the night sky and some of these might even be visible during the day. This meteor shower is being considered as once in a lifetime opportunity as the next meteor shower of such kind will be after 96 years.

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occurs every year between July 17 and August 24. The shower tends to peak around August 9-13.

(4) GO FEST, YOUNG FAN. The Verge reports “Niantic is delaying some of its European events after Chicago’s disastrous Pokémon Go Fest”.

Niantic Labs threw a big event in Chicago last weekend to celebrate the first year of Pokémon Go, only to run into cellular data congestion and server issues that made the game unplayable for many attendees. Now, the company has announced that it’s delaying several planned European events to ensure that trainers will be able to play the game.

In a blog post, Niantic said that its delaying two sets of events planned for Copenhagen and Prague (August 5) and Stockholm and Amsterdam (August 12), until later this fall. Several other planned events for Japan (August 14th), and France, Spain, and Germany (September 16th) are moving forward as scheduled.

The delay comes after Chicago’s Pokémon Go Fest got off to a disastrous start last week. Cellular service was spotty, and server issues prevented players from logging into the game. When Niantic CEO John Hanke took to the stage for his opening remarks, players booed him, and the company ultimately ended up offering refunds and $100 worth of Pokécoins to players. Last week, nearly two dozen attendees launched a class-action lawsuit against Niantic, aiming to recoup travel expenses.

(5) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. The Hugo Award Book Club declares there are “Too Many Sequels” up for the award. They make a colorable argument anyway.

It’s worth noting that the majority of this year’s Best Novel Hugo Award shortlist is comprised of books that are either the first part in a series, or the sequel to another work.

In fact, only one of the six novels on this year’s shortlist (All The Birds In The Sky) is a standalone work.

This is not the first time in recent memory that the shortlist has been dominated by sequels, prequels, or works in a shared universe. But it is part of a larger trend, and it’s one that worries us.

In the 1960s, 88 per cent of the Hugo shortlist was comprised of standalone novels. From 2001 to 2010, 56 per cent of Hugo shortlisted novels were standalone works. In the first seven years of this decade, the statistic has fallen to 27 per cent (ten of the 36 novels shortlisted).

(6) HARRYHAUSEN FILM ANNIVERSARY. Episode 15 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast is the “20 Million Miles to Earth: 60th Anniversary Special”.

Join us for a celebration of Ray Harryhausen’s 1957 classic, ’20 Million Miles to Earth’. Our 15th episode sees Foundation trustee John Walsh and Collections Manager Connor Heaney discuss the adventures of the Ymir- one of Ray’s most beloved and sympathetic creations.

We then discuss the first exhibition of Ray Harryhausen material in the USA for several years, opening at the Science Museum Oklahoma from July through to December. We describe this incredible display with museum director Scott Henderson, alongside his own lifelong enthusiasm for Harryhausen films.

An exclusive interview follows, recorded on location at the Barbican Centre’s ‘Into the Unknown’ exhibition with Terry Marison. Terry was one of the suited Selenites in the 1964 classic ‘First Men in the Moon’, and discusses his experiences of being one of Ray Harryhausen’s living creatures!


  • Paperback Book Day

How To Celebrate Paperback Book Day

The best way to celebrate Paperback Book Day is to curl up with your favorite paperback book. If it’s been a while since you’ve bought a proper book, this is your opportunity to do so. Get out there and find a copy of your favorite text, or even pass one on to another friend. Then, when you’ve hit all the used book stores and perused the shelves of the nearest book stores, it’s time to come on home and look over your collection. Paperback Book Day recalls all those rainy quiet days spent reading a book while the drips ran down the windowpane.


  • July 30, 1971 — Apollo 15 landed on the Moon.
  • July 30, 1986 — Walt Disney’s Flight of the Navigator premiered on this day.
  • July 30, 1999 The Blair Witch Project, is released in U.S. theaters.


  • Born July 30, 1947 — Arnold Schwarzenegger


  • Born July 30, 1948 – Actor Carel Struycken is born in The Hague, Netherlands. He is best known for playing the Giant in Twin Peaks, Mr. Homn in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Lurch in three Addams Family films.

(11) WELLS AUTOGRAPHED. You can get a mighty good price on a beat-up old book…if H. G. Wells drew an original sketch in it — “First edition of HG Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’ doubles estimate at £11,000”.

A first bookform edition sold for £11,000 at Cheffins of Cambridge earlier this month was slightly foxed and stained, but on the front free endpaper Wells had signed and inscribed the book for Edmond Joseph Sullivan and added a tiny drawing of a moustachioed angel.

(12) ON THE ROCKS. The Guardian’s feature on shipwrecks ends with a Dracula reference — “Walking the Yorkshire coast: the shipwrecks and sea caves of Flamborough and beyond”.

The last stop in any shipwreck walk ought to be the evocative St Mary’s church in Whitby, where there is a memorial to the lifeboat tragedy of 1861… After visiting the church, head down the steps – known by all as the Dracula Steps – across the swing bridge and over to the pier itself, a fabulous piece of marine engineering.

From there, continue up the hill towards East Terrace. On a grassy bank you will find a park bench dedicated to Bram Stoker, who sat here and used a real shipwreck – that of a Russian vessel on the shore opposite – to create an imaginary one, that of the Demeter, and, of course, the most memorable shipwreck survivor of all time: Count Dracula himself.

(13) I STREAM, YOU STREAM. Another splintering of the dying network monolith… all 28 seasons of The Simpsons are now available on Vudu.

(14) NOVELLA TO TV. From Tor.com we learn: “Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom in Development at AMC”.

AMC announced that Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom is in development for television as part of their “scripts-to-series development model that puts the emphasis on the most important part of our strategy – outstanding writing, a commitment to worlds you’ve never seen on TV before, and rich character development.”

(15) NOBODY LIVES FOREVER. While conducting an interview for The Guardian, Alison Flood learned from “Robin Hobb: ‘Fantasy has become something you don’t have to be embarrassed about’”.

Good fantasy, Hobb believes, is about “lowering the threshold of disbelief so the reader can step right into the book and not feel blocked out by something that’s impossible or at first glance silly. And I think silly is more dangerous than impossible.”

It is also, as Martin knows so well, about not being afraid to draw the final curtain for your characters when the time comes. “Nobody gets to go on for ever. If you put a little magical umbrella over your characters and say ‘yes, we’re going to scare you a little bit but ultimately you know that at the end of the book everything is going to be much the same way it was when we started the story’, well then, why write the story, what’s the point?”

(16) ALIEN ADVENTURE. The Recall official trailer.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

108 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/30/17 And Remember To Scroll Your Answers In The Form Of A Pixel

  1. First? And I also would like to see more stand-alone novels on the Hugo list… but, honestly, I have the general impression (not backed up by any research) that stand-alone SFF novels are getting rarer and rarer overall. Here in 9942, there’s no such thing as a stand-alone novel….

  2. (5) “Too Many Sequels”: In the first seven years of this decade, the statistic has fallen to 27 per cent (ten of the 36 novels shortlisted).

    Well, they kind of sabotage their own point there. A book which eventually ends up being first in a series is just as deserving of buzz as any other standalone novel.

    If you consider first books in series as being standalone at the time they are released, the statistic is actually 21 out of 36 novels (58%), so I think that they’re massively exaggerating.

    I agree with their point on sequels, though. I do expect subsequent novels in a series to stand well on their own in order for me to be willing to rank them highly on my ballot. And in the case of works like Skin Game, which are so severely lacking if one hasn’t read the previous books that they’re nearly nonsensical, they go below No Award.

  3. Flipping through my kindle, of the last 50 books I’ve read, only 2 have been standalones. They do seem to be getting rarer.

  4. Seems an obvious consequence of authors and publishers catching on to the fact that follow-ups to successful books lead to increased sales. Nowdays, authors are likely to stick with something that sold well rather than strike out into new ground, and that’s if the publishers will even let them.

  5. Too many sequels?

    I think it’s just a consequence of current market reality. If a book is good enough, readers crave more. See also movie franchises..
    With book series and awards, the sorts of series books that get nominated are able to work as stand-alones. Generally.

  6. 4) I iz very happy about this one. I would have missed the Stockholm event as it was at the same time as Worldcon in Helsinki.

    As a side note, I gained as much experience during a week of playing in the last event as I did during the whole of the previous year…

  7. JJ wrote “If you consider first books in series as being standalone at the time they are released, the statistic is actually 21 out of 36 novels (58%), so I think that they’re massively exaggerating.”

    In terms of Too Many Sequels, there’s a big difference between a book that spawns sequels, and a book that is *designed* to need sequels.

    As an example of the former, Rendezvous With Rama was not written with a sequel in mind, but spawned several sequels. That is more of a standalone work than Too Like The Lightning, a book that its own author has stated is incomplete without the sequel.

  8. Bottom line: giving us statistics about how many nominees were part of a series while ignoring any statistics about how many new releases were part of a series really tells us nothing. There might be an important point there, or it might just reflect the general changes in the market. We have no way of knowing. As it is, all the statistics do is mislead us by making us think there’s a point there.

    I’m sure they had good intentions, but this is part of Lying with Statistics 101. (A course more people should take.) 🙂

    Anyway, I’m more concerned with the quality of the work than I am with whether it’s part of a series. Though I do agree that a work should–nay, must–stand on its own to really be worthy of a Hugo. But that is often unrelated to whether it’s part of a series or not.

    There was a Perseid a few years ago where I actually saw a couple of meteors during broad daylight. It’s far from unheard of. But definitely cool. Hope folks do get to see that.

  9. Soon Lee: I think it’s just a consequence of current market reality. If a book is good enough, readers crave more.

    That, and books are expensive. It’s hardly surprising that people will be willing to go for something they know from past experience they are almost certain to enjoy, over a book which is an unknown quantity.

    This is reflected in sales figures too, so it’s hardly surprising that editors and publishers are going to be more likely to greenlight a follow-up to a successful book than a book which is an unknown quantity.

    And yet, relatively unknown authors do still manage to break through. Becky Chambers, Yoon Ha Lee, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, Andy Weir, Naomi Novik, John Scalzi, were all relative unknowns just 10-11 years ago.

  10. @Xtifr: That’s very good. I can’t explain it to the other people here in 1038, though.

  11. I think there’s a tendency to award a completed series by giving a Hugo to the final book, and I’m okay with that.

    I have more of an issue with books that don’t have satisfying endings unless you read the next book (like “Too Like the Lightning.”)

  12. I just finished reading “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”, and my socks were knocked off to the extent that it made me go back and re-read “Every Heart a Doorway”. The first time I read “Heart” I was annoyed by some of its flaws (chiefly that I found the solution of the mystery plot a bit obvious), but this time I was able to focus more on the themes of self-acceptance.

  13. Greg Hullender: I think there’s a tendency to award a completed series by giving a Hugo to the final book, and I’m okay with that.

    I’m not seeing that in the history — The recent wins by Ann Leckie, Cixin Liu, and N.K. Jemisin came in the first book of their multi-book series.

    There have been Willis and Bujold series-enders that won, but in Willis’ case two of the earlier novels in that universe also won.

  14. In addition to books being expensive enough that buyers may want a known quantity, there’s the whole issue of bookstore buying-algorithms, which make authors more afraid to try something new, which may not sell as well, and will get future works ignored by the stores. This may not be as big a factor as it was a decade or so ago, but it’s definitely been a problem which has bitten more than a few authors. It’s the reason some have switched names, or will use different names for different styles of books.

    Sticking with your successful series is a good way to avoid getting accidentally blackballed by mindless machines.


    A work that is effectively a serial – part of a longer work chopped up at more-or-less arbitrary points – is a very different beast to a book intended to start a series but that initially stands alone. I’d put Fifth Season and Ancillary Justice in the latter category. I don’t have an issue with them being written with a series in mind – that’s the reality of publishing today – so long as they are satisfying standalone stories in their own right; which they are.

    Looking at the history, a sequel seems to be very unlikely to get a nod unless earlier books in the series have already had a go. Leaving aside pupp-ed stuff, the only recent examples of it I can find are books from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, both of which are good examples of a series that saw a massive growth in popularity. A bit further back I can see City on Fire getting a nod even though Metropolitan hadn’t. I don’t see this as a major problem – if fans liked the first book, and still like the second book, then surely the message is: this is a good series, go buy book #1? (There’s probably more; I didn’t scour the list)

    That said, I do appreciate a good standalone, and I consider them a good chance to try an author I’ve not paid enough attention to. When it comes to deciding my ballot I find I do give more attention to a new story than a sequel – fresh ideas deserve their reward, after all.
    If you look at recent winners then it doesn’t look like a problem at all – the most recent example of a sequel winning is Paladin of Souls. In fact, the 90s were much worse for awarding sequels than 2000+ has been.

  16. I feel like I enjoy standalones more than I do multipart works. They’re complete, focused. If it’s a good one, you neither need to slog through an intro volume in order to get to the good stuff, nor be disappointed with a mediocre followup to a smashing beginning.

    So, I’d definitely like to see more of them — in the Hugos, in the markets, what have you.

    The flip side is, a standalone gives up some powerful, popular tools — continuity, familiarity, building upon earlier scaffolding, returning to beloved characters. And, in the current ocean of fiction, standalones can just be really hard to find — not because they’re not being written, but they do seem to be a riskier proposition; given less attention; being written less by already-popular authors.

    The blog post’s concluding message, BTW, is very apt — I really should get to reading some new novels. If anybody has any 2017 standalones to recommend, I’d really love some. I’m partial to high-concept; I’m looking for novum. In recent years my favorites were Walton’s The Just City and Palmer’s Too Like The Lightning. I stay away from thriller-esque style.
    I’d love to hear any recs you’ve got 🙂

  17. 5)
    My gut tells me that more novels are written as part of series these days, so just by statistics, novels that are in series or are part of series are going to be nominated. Standalone one and dones are a bit of fashion, for aesthetic and economic reasons, as Soon Lee noted above already.

    Looking at a list of Hugo winning and nominated novels without enough caffeine: Is Foundation’s Edge the first sequel to win a Hugo Award? And is Children of Dune the first sequel to be nominated?

  18. I have a particular fondness for what I call “big world” books. That is, they’re standalone works with self-contained stories, but at the same time they connect to other works by the same author to establish that all of those books exist in the same… big world. The crucial aspect of my definition is that the connections are minor enough that someone unfamiliar with the referenced work(s) isn’t missing out on key information, but someone who picks up on it gets a little added insight. For a writer working in a speculative-fiction setting, this also means you get to reuse the gizmos and/or magic you invented for one book in as many others as you need to; Heinlein’s “Shipstones” appeared in several stories,

    As a more detailed example, Stephen King needed adult Henry Bowers to get somewhere in It, so he had Henry’s old (and deceased) childhood buddy Belch pick him up in a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury. In and of itself, that works just fine; one car’s as good as another… but if you remember that Christine was a Stephen King novel about a malevolent red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury, the connection is kind of neat.

    This can go too far, though. I remember tracking down those sorts of connections in other Stephen King books when I was younger, and the Overlook Hotel wound up existing in the same big world as the movie of The Shining – which struck me as more than a little weird. After all, this was before he started using the Dark Tower series to explicitly connect everything in a multiverse. (Maybe that version of the movie was “inspired by the true story”?)

    Naturally, I think it’s safe to say that those “big world” books are more accessible, both for dilettante readers and for award consideration. Heck, I know of one book that incorporates the events of West Side Story as incidental background, but the connections are subtle enough that it’s really more like an Easter egg. The story works fine whether you notice that or not.

  19. 5) Readers often like things they’re familiar with… and publishers like things that are reliable sellers; in times of economic uncertainty, publishers like things that are reliable sellers a lot. So I’m not surprised to see a lot of trilogies and series and “set-in-the-same-world” stuff about.

    @Rev Bob: things like Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish novels, or Jack Vance’s Oikumene/Gaean Reach stuff? (Would Niven’s Known Space things count, or are there too many interconnecting references in the individual stories?)

  20. (2) I suspect that the bookshop Tidbeck talks about is “SF-Bokhandeln” (literally “the SF bookstore”), a shop whose physical presence I’ve shopped at in three out of (I believe) four locations. It’s probably a familiar haunt for all Stockholm Filers.

    As far as translation goes, yes I would agree, it’s probably easier writing in English, than writing in Swedish, then translating (as an example, “Trigger Snowflake – Lawman” only exists in English, unless someone’s done a fan translation and not told me).

  21. If you consider first books in series as being standalone at the time they are released, the statistic is actually 21 out of 36 novels (58%), so I think that they’re massively exaggerating.


    Ninefox Gambit drops straight into the sequel, and I think Too Like The Lightning (which I DNFed after about 50 pages of being annoyed by the faux Austen style) likewise.
    Looking a previous years: Fifth Season and The Aeronaut’s Windlass definitely present as volume 1 of… (though did TAW get it’s sequel and make no ripples at all?), Three Body and The Dark Between the Stars likewise.

    Not sure when we last had a book that later spawned a sequel rather than being the first in the series. Mira Grant’s Feed in 2011 does stand alone perfectly well, but that was a series by the time I read it. Little Brother from 2009 perhaps.

  22. Ivan Bromke writes: As an example of the former, Rendezvous With Rama was not written with a sequel in mind, but spawned several sequels.

    No it didn’t, nope, no, not listening! La la la la!

  23. @Paul:
    First nominee should be Skylark DuQuesne, I believe.

    And there is the spaceship “Znex Jngarl” in the Expanse.

  24. @Steve Wright:

    I’d call “Known Space” a big world that contains multiple series. Some stories stand alone, others don’t.

  25. [Godstalk Part Infinity: Terra Has To Be Around Here Somewhere Edition]

  26. “This mouse has two buttons and you ask yourself, has he clicked both? In all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. You have to ask yourself one question, ‘Do I feel Pixel?’ Well, do you, Scroll?”

  27. Known Space (as I recall) was originally a few separate series about different eras, that gradually grew together into one universe (Niven notes that “A Relic of Empire” is one of the stories that used elements from the different eras, making it clear that they were connected http://www.larryniven.net/knownspace.shtml)

  28. @rev. Bob: do Gladstone’s Craft novels count? I’d say it’s a pretty big world, and you can probably get away with reading at least the first five in just about any order without too much trouble, but there are the threads of a much bigger arc above the books which seems to be drawing all the various PoV characters together.

  29. @NickPheas:

    Ninefox Gambit felt like it would work without a sequel (even if a sequel would probably flesh out the universe, calendrical rot or not), but Too Like The Lightning does not work well as a stand-alone.

  30. Paul Weimer on July 31, 2017 at 2:51 am said:

    My gut tells me that more novels are written as part of series these days, so just by statistics, novels that are in series or are part of series are going to be nominated. Standalone one and dones are a bit of fashion, for aesthetic and economic reasons, as Soon Lee noted above already.

    That might also be genre dependent. For example it’s rare I read or see a mystery/thriller that isn’t part of a longer series, serials far outweigh stand alone books in that category. Though that’s sort of shifting with the growth of popularity in books like ‘Gone Girl’ & ‘The Girl on the Train’ and similar works which are sort of a weird sub-genre of ‘unreliable female narrator’ books that was clever a couple of times then really dumb.

    But in Horror series books are much rarer. They exist still but aren’t typical.

    SFF does seem to have quiet a lot more series now, and I suspect that’s because they sell better, and having a multi-book series where people keep buying the first likely means a higher buy in rate for the sequels than a one and done. And having many books all selling just okay seems to be where more writers make money than one well and the rest not. I can see the appeal there.

    I don’t have any data to back it up but as a genre my gut feeling is that it has more series than some genres, like horror, westerns or general literary fiction, but less than mystery/thriller/romance/YA

  31. @OGH:

    There have been Willis and Bujold series-enders that won, but in Willis’ case two of the earlier novels in that universe also won.

    Which Bujold series did you have in mind? I don’t find Gentleman Jole on the Hugo site (and the Vorkosiverse has at least two previous winners, cf the Willis). And for Willis — do you mean Blackout/All Clear? I’d call her time-travel stories a frame rather than a series.
    Nominations for series-ender (or at least trilogy wrap-upper) go back to at least 1979 (Harpist in the Wind).

  32. But in Horror series books are much rarer. They exist still but aren’t typical.

    Apart from the fact that most of the characters will be dead or horribly scarred, when a lot of the impact of horror is “in which the protagonist discovers that the world is more horrible than they previously imagined” you can’t really do it repeatedly.
    See also “Yes, Dana, there isreason to think that Earth has been visited by extra-terrestrials, how have you forgotten what happened to us last week, and the week before that?”

  33. Known Space (as I recall) was originally a few separate series about different eras, that gradually grew together into one universe

    There are a few early Niven stories which contain what became Known Space concepts, but don’t fit in with the series.

    I also noticed in reading Robert Reed’s stories that ‘hyperfiber’ gets recycled through a few works before it becomes a Great Ship concept.

    But in Horror series books are much rarer. They exist still but aren’t typical.

    The tendency of series to guarantee a certain degree of safety for an ongoing protagonist doesn’t suit Horror so well, I guess….

  34. I’d be interested in statistics about what percentage of things being published, nominated, and winning awards are actually partial books, where the whole was broken up for publishing reasons (like Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring), and whether that has changed over time.

    That seems easier to agree on than whether something was written with a sequel in mind, or how well the first book stands alone. A first book is more likely to “need” the next in the series less than the other way around, because books 2, 3, etc. often rely on the reader’s knowledge of events in earlier books, but a story can be complete in itself even though we know the characters live on.

    And some “sequels” rely more on prior reading than others. A lot of mystery novels involve continuing characters, but it doesn’t seem to matter much in what order I read the Nero Wolfe or Kinsey Milhone books. (I think Grafton is getting tired, but that means I have now bounced off X twice; it doesn’t mean B is for Burglar has to be read before L is for Lawless.) A Closed and Common Orbit contains spoilers for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but I think it would work on its own.

  35. NickPheas on July 31, 2017 at 6:46 am said:

    Apart from the fact that most of the characters will be dead or horribly scarred, when a lot of the impact of horror is “in which the protagonist discovers that the world is more horrible than they previously imagined” you can’t really do it repeatedly.
    See also “Yes, Dana, there isreason to think that Earth has been visited by extra-terrestrials, how have you forgotten what happened to us last week, and the week before that?”

    Horror movies have gotten around that for years with making the main character the monster itself. Jason, Chucky, Freddy, Jigsaw and so on. Or with making them thematically consistent like The Purge, V/H/S, [time of day] of the Dead, Blair Witch. Video games are the same with horror you’ve got far more series than stand alone titles, like Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, Clock Tower, Dead Rising, Silent Hill, Dead Space.

    So for nearly all other mediums Horror serials are more common than not.

  36. @Vicki Rosenzweig:

    In so far as I found A Closed and Common Orbit quite readable, and I’ve read exactly one Becky Chambers book so far, I’d say that it works pretty well as a stand-alone.

  37. @Oneiros et al.: (Is X big-world or a series?)

    With any classification system, there will be edge cases that require individual judgment – and with this one in particular, there can be significant overlap. I mentioned Stephen King earlier, so I’ll use him again. I think most of his books, maybe even all, now fit into a big world. However, nobody would say you need to read Cujo before you can read The Shining, or vice versa. They’re far enough apart in their world that their relative order doesn’t matter. I’m sure you could put ’em on a timeline and say which one happened first, but to what end? On the other hand, one should definitely read The Shining before Doctor Sleep, because the latter is a direct sequel to the former. It’s a two-book series inside a big world setting. (See also the Ringworld books as a series inside Known Space.)

    I’m not comfortable being Judge Bob and ruling on those edge cases as if I have some special authority, except for my own consumption. The rule of thumb I use is, “Is it best if I read this before that?” If it doesn’t matter, big world. If it does, series. It’s an intentionally basic idea that I’d rather not complicate with subsections and footnotes.

    As a more complex case, the erotica author I’ve been editing is building a big world that contains multiple series, with the intention that some of them will intersect – but each is intended to work independently. In fact, in the two not-short-fiction books we’ve published, one takes place during the other. There’s a little bit of crossover, in that a couple of characters from the novel are mentioned in passing in the collection (and vice versa), so the two generally work in a big-world fashion. However, there’s one short story that is both a companion piece to the novel and a sequel to a story in the collection, and that technically stitches the two books together as a weakly-drawn series. Therefore, the author recommends reading the collection first – even though everything else was published before the collection was written – to avoid the one minor spoiler that happens if you read ’em the other way around. Then there’s the under-construction story that I understand takes place about eight years earlier, but may have a framing device that makes it a technical sequel to a different short…

    Like I said, categories get fuzzy. Fiction tends to do that. So does reality. This is why I wish Calibre had better series support.

  38. 5) I’m kind of torn on this issue. I like a good series, and very often I will want more of the thing I just had and really liked, but designing your books to be incomplete without the sequels is also risky for the reader: can I trust that the writer even knows how to land an ending, given that they aren’t going to even show me one for however many more years? will I have to wait the better part of a decade for the next one to come out? will they ever even finish the story, or are they just going to milk me forever (I’m looking at you, Bernard Cornwell)? will they pull a Dave Sim and go nuts halfway through? will they pull the other kind of Dave Sim and try to cram every idea they have, no matter how badly it fits, into this one structure because they’re terrified nobody will buy something from them that isn’t part of the series? will they die before the story is done?

    Compared to, say, a movie ticket, books aren’t expensive at all (and I did some digging into Canada’s consumer price index, and their relative cost today is more or less identical to what it was 100 years ago, despite falling margins, so books aren’t actually getting any more expensive, either), but it would be nice if not every damn thing were about market forces. I want complete stories, too. I want the satisfaction of an ending.

  39. 5) Thots, perhaps uffish:

    Common-element books: multivolume-plot/story-arc series, common-background/future-history series, common-character series, ad-hoc-sequel series, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral. . . . (Oops, got carried away there.)

    Historical view: Anthony Trollope’s Barchester and Palliser novels, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, Ellery Queen, the Skylark and Lensman series, Heinlein’s Future History and Asimov’s Foundation, the Flandry cycle. . . .

    The Same Only Different is a powerful force in the production of entertainment, and the various flavors of series satisfy The Same. (Only Different separates the hacks from the craftspersons.)

  40. Ridiculous claim about the Persied meteor shower–for one thing, there will be a bright moon in the sky! Get some sleep, I plan to. (proud member of the RASC and long time sky gazer.)

  41. To improve somewhat on anecdata: I went through the last few weeks of Locus Online‘s “New Books” listings. This is a somewhat arbitrary choice but presumably represents a consistently-defined listing of books.

    Throwing out collections and anthologies, I wound up with a total of 95 novels, of which 32 – so almost exactly one-third – are stand-alones. That’s probably a slight overestimate of the number of stand-alone novels, since there are a couple that are almost certainly intended to be series if they’re successful, but unless the blurb denoted it as “First in a series” I didn’t count them as such. On the other hand, I also included the couple of books described as “stand-alone prequels”, on the grounds that they are targeting the existing audience for a series. I also included books that are part of trilogies or duologies as series novels, but they don’t dominate the numbers (especially the latter; I think there were two of them). This also doesn’t include what Rev. Bob called “big world” novels, but I think those are a rather different animal; for example, I wouldn’t consider Banks’s Culture novels a series. Hence two-thirds of the SFF novels are explicitly part of series.

    Independent of what winds up on Hugo shortlists, this strikes me as a huge fraction of series novels out of the total of SF novels. Although, as James Davis Nicoll observes, series have always been around, I find it hard to believe (based on my own reading experience, which is hardly a well-defined sample) that historically the proportion has been this high.

  42. Chip Hitchcock: Which Bujold series did you have in mind?

    Why don’t you keep looking? It won’t be hard to find.

    Hint: It was 12 years between the last novel and the first novella in that universe, the latter at a different time in history and no characters — except the gods — in common. So I count that novel as the end of its set.

  43. Oooh, Filer game:
    List late entries in a series that you think are phenomenal books. Like, books that knocked your socks off, well past the series itself being established.

    (Another interesting one would be: List fantastic second books in a series.)

  44. RIP:
    Sam Shepard, who played Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff”, age 73.
    Jeanne Moreau, who was in the Cinderella remake “Ever After,” age 89.

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