Chris's Reviews > The Second Generation

The Second Generation by Margaret Weis
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Aug 22, 11

bookshelves: ick-attack, dragons, fantasy-tsr-gaming

** spoiler alert ** I was a Dragonlance, and by extension TSR, nut in high school and early years of college. At one point, I must have had every Dragonlance novel. I hung out with Dragonlance nuts (we were also Robin McKinley nuts. What? You loved The Hero and the Crown? So did I! So I should read these, huh?). Looking back now, when I have long gotten read of several Dragonlance novels, including this one, I still have to admit that the first six books (Chronicles and the Twins) are good, not great, but good. In particular, because they do examine aspects of good and evil; the last book of the Twins when Raist gives everything up for one thing others would see as worthless is just wonderful.

Dragonlance is still around today, and ever so often I can impress students with "Yes, I know what it is. I like kender." Yet, unlike Terry Pratchett who I have been having a literary affair with for over a decade, or Robin McKinley with whom I celebrated a twentith anniversary, the Dragonlance books didn't have the same staying power, at least the newer books.

In part, it is because of this book. The Second includes original and previous published short fiction. The previous published fiction was great. The fiction created especially for this volume and leading to the next book, I had a huge problem with.

I hate it when writers go back and totally change characters. And that is what Weis and Hickman did. What was worse was who they did it to. In Chronicles, Tanis the half elf is torn between his love for Kitara, a human, and Laurena, an elven princess. Laurena was based on Hickman's wife, and Kitara is a human woman who, it is revealed fights for the evil army. Kitara is also the only dark haired woman in the series. (Tika is a red-head so don't yell at me. Geez). Laurena has long blonde locks, is always rights, and despite being a spoiled princess because a great warrior. Kitara was sexually loose, a skilled fighter though hard work, and came from a dysfunctional family. While I never liked Laurenana the differences didn't really bug me as a high school/ early college student because at least Weis and Hickman shaded Kitara.

In this one book, they ruined that.

It is said that we can never go back, that our prespectives always change with time because we age and we learn. Sometimes that is true, but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes we go back and we like it better. Sometimes we go back and we now hate it. Sometimes, our opinion stays the same. Everytime I read LOTR, I still feel that same thrill. I still dare Moira with the Fellowship. When I watch Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, I still smile. I've been reading McKinley for over twenty years and still respect her. I've been reading Datlow/Windling for the same amount of time and still love the collections. Ever time I read "The Cloak" by Blixen, I'm convinced it is one of the most perfect short stories ever.

Books and series that stay treat their readers, fans, viewers with respect. Pratchett said it best, he would rather have readers than fans. When you look at series or books that would rather have fans (money) then viewers or readers, you see disappointment. Think Star Wars, or even Star Trek. (And no, I'm not taking about books vs. movies here. That's different. SW and ST books are written be different writers, there is going to be a difference. There the characters just need to be in character. I'm taking about old and new films/television).

What ruined Dragonlance for me was this book because of the rewriting of character, of series history, that Weis and Hickman did. They turned Kitara into the sterotypical evil seductress, who sleeps with a holy knight and refuses to marry him, but then discovers she is with child. Something that quite clearly did not happen in Chronicles or in the prequel featuring Kitara and Sturm (the knight in question). Looking back, it seems as if the writers shied away from giving Tanis a bastard son because that would effect the Tanis/Laurenana relationship. However, that son would have mad sense. Additionally, if Kit were so evil wouldn't she just have an abortion, wouldn't a sexually loose woman who is a warrior use birth control? It felt cheap, wrong, and worse insulting, especially when the book came out in hardcover with hardcover prices.

Today, I would add that it is extremely interesting how the evil man is allowed to redeemed himself but the evil woman is made to be even worse. Hmmmm. Was it because she wasn't a blonde? Does peroxide sterlize the soul? Hmmm.

In some ways, I suppose I should thank them. For after them, I no longer followed blindly were writers went. I wanted writers to acknowledge that readers had exceptations and things should make sense. Yes, that means you can't always do shocking twists, but it also means that sometimes you do the difficult thing because it would work. When Weis and Hickman didn't do the difficult and opted for the cheap and easy out, it felt like a bad television show.

If you don't respect your readers, why should your readers read your work? This true of writers and publishers.
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