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message 1: by David (new)

David (rapierhomme) There are two genres of fiction that I like, fantasy and mysteries. Aside from the obvious differences I've noticed one other thing. In mysteries, a series can go on for 8, 10, 12 books or even more with each individual book telling a story and wrapping it up by the end. Naturally there are some story arcs that carry over from book to book, but for the most part each story is self-contained.

That doesn't seem to be the case with fantasy novels, with the possible exception of "urban" fantasy. For the most part fanatasy authors limit their story arcs to trilogies, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Steven Erikson, Terry Goodkind and a few others not withstanding.

This made me question:
1) Why is that the case?
2) Are there any ongoing epic/heroic fantasy series out there?
3) Would this concept even work in epic/heroic fantasy?

I know there are a few series in which characters and situations carry on from one book/story to the next. "Theives' World" is an example of that, although it is a series of anthologies written by multiple authors, as was the "Dragonlance Saga". Robert Asprin's "Myth" series and Alan Dean Foster's "Spellsinger" series each cover multiple books and are self-contained, but they are primarily comedic fantasy.

I'm curious as to your thoughts.

Thieves' World
Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Another Fine Myth

message 2: by Jon (new)

Jon Sprunk | 49 comments For episodic fantasy, you can go back to the pulps, ala R.E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, and tons of less well-known authors. I think the fantasy crowd got away from that style because they wanted more concrete story arcs with definitive beginnings-middles-endings rather than strings of open-ended episodes, but that's just my theory.

message 3: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Michael | 572 comments I think there are several reasons. For one thing, most fantasy seems to be based on a single story ... even the trilogies or trilogies-plus mostly work around a central plot, which has a beginning, a middle and an end. In a single novel, one book ... but the basic beginning/middle/end works well in a trilogy.

The problem is that once you get to the end, what more can they do? They've solved the issues presented in the 'beginning'.

You see ongoing mystery series because of the setup ... characters in a police department or P.I. with a new 'case' every book. You don't run out of bad guys to chase if you're a cop ... if you are a king, once you get your throne back (presuming you lost it anyway) theoretically you will run out of people that want to take it away from you.

I think the long-term series has to have a setting where there is a continuing 'bad guy' option ... law enforcement, military, exploration ... something where you can have a continuing cast of characters to build around but a new situation which can have a beginning/middle/end. Otherwise you end up with (particularly in fantasy) a never-ending quest that goes on and on until everyone is sick of it or a soap-opera-ish kind of format.

Mercedes Lackey has developed the Valdemar series by using a group plus long timeline ... some of the individuals from previous books appear in others or are referred to ... but generally she has trilogies plus stand-alones within the Valdemar series, which makes it work.

Several sci-fi authors have been long series work within a military framework, David Weber, David Drake, S. M. Sterling and Lois Bujold have all done it well. Anne McCaffrey used a long timeline to make her Pern series work.

But within the more traditional fantasy, perhaps in part because the genre seems fairly heavily based on quest scenarios, it is difficult to continue a single quest through much more than a trilogy.

message 4: by Olga (new)

Olga Godim (olgagodim) | 308 comments There is a delightful Blood series by Tanya Huff. It includes 6 novels. They are a mix of mystery and urban fantasy: a female PD and a vampire solve crimes. I think a long series demands a special setting to work, a setting most fantasy writers are unwilling to create. The heroes of epic fantasy mostly concentrate on their needs (revenge, saving the world,restoring the king, and so on), while the heroes of a series mostly concentrate on someone else's needs (find out who killed that woman or stole this necklace). In epic fantasy, the heroes act out of necessity: if they don't save the prince, the forces of evil will win. In a series, the heroes act because they've been assigned the case or hired to solve it. They do it because it's their job, like a baker's job is to bake so many loaves of bread each day. A medical setting also works for a series: each patient is one case and one story.

message 5: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 469 comments Sharon: I liked your comment. I know of only a few fantasy writers who wrote interesting series based on the world and characters they created rather than on the beginning/middle/end trilogy. Fritz Leiber comes to mind with his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, as does Howard with Conan. (Yeah, he did the same with other characters, but I didn't care for them that much.) For an extended series such as those to work, an author has to have a detailed picture of his fantasy world and be content to stay on that world for an extended period of time as the stories are written.

message 6: by David (new)

David (rapierhomme) S.J. wrote: "Sharon: I liked your comment. I know of only a few fantasy writers who wrote interesting series based on the world and characters they created rather than on the beginning/middle/end trilogy. Fritz..."

I had forgotten bout the Fritz Leiber series. I never read them, but my aunt did. And it's been a while since I read them, but weren't the Elric books the same way?

message 7: by S.J. (new)

S.J. Lewis (sjlewis) | 469 comments Ah, yes! I never got into the Elric stories myself, but I had a friend who was. On the other hand, I scrounged up every Leiber book I could find.

message 8: by MrsJoseph *grouchy*, *good karma* (new)

MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 7282 comments The Xanth series (especially the first ones) and the Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony comes to mind.

Of course, Andre Norton is the best in this instance with her Witch World Series. I have most of them in print - and at 20+ books I still haven't completed the series. Mercedes Lackey followed Norton's lead with using timelines, history and characters to flesh out her world. I can't recommend her enough!

message 9: by David (new)

David (rapierhomme) I'm a big fan of Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery series. I have read all of the books at least once and some of them several times. Even though the books are connected, they can be read as stand-alone novels. So if I get to thinking about a particular book and how good it was, I can always go back and re-read it without having to commit to reading the entire series.

This is not the case with heroic fantasy, for the most part. If I want to re-read Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks, I've pretty much committed myself to re-reading the entire Night Angel Trilogy.

I just think it would be interesting to have a series of connected fantasy novels with a main protagonist going through a series of stand-alone adventures. Of course the series would have to be well written with strong characters and a well crafted world.

message 10: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Michael | 572 comments Lois Bujold did that with her "Chalion" fantasy series. Three books (so far but I am really hoping for more). The first, The Curse of Chaliontells the story of one 'kingdom' of Chalion, the royal family and the 'hero' of that kingdom.

Bujold takes a minor character from the first book, the widowed mother of the now-current queen of Chalion and builds the second book around her.

Third book same world, different characters and not as good as the first two, but there are several characters in the first and second books that I'd really like to see as another in the series.

message 11: by David (new)

David (rapierhomme) I was doing some more research this and Alex Bledsoe has a series of books based on a character named Eddie LaCrosse, a "sword jockey" who solves mysteries. Some of the reviews I've read have labeled the books as Sam Spade meets heroic fantasy. From what I gather, each books stands on its own. So far there are three books with a fourth being released this summer.

Alex Bledsoe

message 12: by MrsJoseph *grouchy*, *good karma* (new)

MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 7282 comments David wrote: "I was doing some more research this and Alex Bledsoe has a series of books based on a character named Eddie LaCrosse, a "sword jockey" who solves mysteries. Some of the reviews I've read have labe..."

Strangely enough, I am reading a book by Alex Bledsoe right now: The Hum and the Shiver.

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