Science Fiction Book Club discussion

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Too many book series

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris (kingtermite) In the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre it seems almost many authors invent their "world" and then continually write new stories within that world. It seems like its taking the "easy way out"...writing from what's comfortable and not having to event a new world.

One of the reasons I find this a little annoying is that the number of books from a "series" then becomes so unwieldy after a while that it is a bit intimidating.I often don't want to start a series that has say 20+ books in it. I'm almost "afraid" that I will like it and want to continue reading.

I'd much rather see book series end after, at most 5-6 books.

Anybody agree? Disagree? Feel like throwing a shoe at me?


message 2: by Diane (new)

Diane (meramom) | 4 comments I agree completely. I have also had to order the second or third book in a series of late. Then I end up starting another book in between and get two series going at once!


message 3: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I agree. In fact I usually don't start a series that has more than 3 or 4 books in it, it just gets to be too much.


message 4: by Rebekah (new)

Rebekah I agree and disagree I guess. As a reader, I like reading about worlds and characters that I'm really familiar with, but I think as a professional writer, you really should challenge yourself to try something new.

I'll usually read a few different series, and I'll read them off and on so I get a good mix of familiarity and new stuff. I'm currently in the middle of reading 3 different series, and occasionally I'll read a stand-alone novel.

I tend to find though that a series that has 20+ books is almost...optional? Like the plots/subplots don't intertwine the way a 5 or 6 book series would. So you could read the first 5 books of the series and stop without losing the "end of the story."


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris (kingtermite) I think that's my problem with those 20+ book series. I don't know where the stories went, so I don't know "what" I'm missing. So, rather, I end up not reading them because I don't even want to get caught up.


message 6: by David (new)

David | 9 comments I've found that by reading too many books from series I've really limited the breadth of my reading - something I've really noticed since joining Goodreads. I do have a habit of finding an author and a world I like and sticking to it to the exclusion of everything else. But If I was an author and had invented a world filled with carefully thought through rules, characters and places I would want to stick to using it too.


message 7: by Paul (last edited Feb 28, 2012 02:49PM) (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 15 comments I hadn't really thought like it like that. I'm currently writing a series of sci-fi novels, but each one is set years apart and in many cases don't share even characters. They are all set in the same universe but each story is designed to stand alone. Each book describes a different key point in a possible future of the human race.

I've spent years developing a large and very detailed universe. I could not hope to cover more than a very small portion of it in a single book.

I guess it all depends on how the "series" is structured.


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris (kingtermite) I think you make a good point Paul. It depends on how the series is constructed. They may be separate small series in the same universe. I don't really have a problem with that, but it needs to be make clear somehow because most series don't really clearly show the difference of separate story lines in the same universe.

I see something like Terry Pratchett or Anne McAffery and I have to start researching to see if I need to read 30 books for "the story" or not. I have no idea of knowing which books go together and which are independent but in the same universe.

The thought of 30 books in the same universe is intimidating without knowing a finer separation. I don't want to even jump into a 30+ book series without that knowledge because I'm thinking that could be a few YEARS of solid reading.


message 9: by Chris (new)

Chris (kingtermite) I also wanted to address the lazy by using the same universe part. I think its OK to reuse that universe for a small series or two. More than one book is fine...but it does seem a bit lazy to just stick with the same universe over and over and never venture out and invent something new.

It's kind of like the software developer who comes up with a great piece of software and then spends the rest of his life constantly tweaking it and making it better or adding features. It would be better to make it really spiffy and then move on and develop something new.

(Sorry...had to use a software developer analogy as that's up "my" alley).


message 10: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I say yes and no. It all depends on if the author has a good editor to keep the stories fresh and no to winded.

I think people tend to forget what a great editor can do for a writer and not having one can hurt so much (read unedited the stand by king to see my point)

I love the Pern novels. I was so happy that the son is writing in the pern world.

But I am finally reading the wheel of time series because a friend loves them so much but I find myself skipping paragraphs because they are windy. Not sure if I will make it through all of them


message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 15 comments Chris wrote: "I also wanted to address the lazy by using the same universe part. I think its OK to reuse that universe for a small series or two. More than one book is fine...but it does seem a bit lazy to just ..."
Surely it depends how large and varied the universe is? I spent almost a decade designing the Astronomicon universe. My books feature different characters, doing different things, in different places and for very different reasons. As the books are spread over a broad timescale there's all sorts of varying technology in use and it allows me to attack different aspects of the story.

The first book is a small group fighting for survival after crashing their colonisation vessel on an uninhabited world. The 2nd book is a different set of characters, a few decades later struggling for independence from Earth for the mining community on the Jupiter moons. The third book (I'm writing currently) covers the panic and reactions of a first contact situation on Earth. They are all firmly set in the same universe in the relatively near future, but I've tried hard to make each book stand alone as a story in it's own right. However if you read them in order they all fit together and remain totally consistent.

I've also been wondering about doing some short stories too


message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris (kingtermite) No, it doesn't matter how large and varied the universe. That's not the problem.

Things are slightly better nowadays with the internet, but generally speaking its difficult to know that this set of books in the same universe is separate from that other series and just using the same universe. So, as the reader, I don't have an easy way of knowing if the series written first has relevant story information to that 2nd series.

Whether it does or doesn't isn't really relevant because I don't know if it does or not. Thus, when I see 20 books that are all set in the same universe, I have to assume that I need to read all 20 books.

I may know that I can read from the early series and they stand on their own...but I don't know if later series require knowledge from previous ones.

Basically, what *I* would like to see is authors to stop using the same universe for so many books. Create a universe for a series or two, but then move on and create a new universe. I can much easier tolerate starting some books if there are only 6 or 7 set in that universe....but when there are 20 or 30 or more, forget it. I'm intimidated before even starting and likely not to even bother with your books.


message 13: by Katie (new)

Katie Adee (katie_adee_author) I completely agree that there are too many series out there. I don't mind series set in the same world but look at it from different characters or different situations. It's getting disheartening browsing the books at the library or bookstore, finding something that sounds utterly awesome, only to discover it's book 2 or 3 in a series.


message 14: by Tad (new)

Tad | 2 comments It's all about money, I'm afraid. The easiest way for an author to get a following is to write a series, rather than books that are independent of each other. That's the best way for authors to achieve a "brand," and have their sales feed off each other. I, too, wish there were more authors willing to take the latter track.


message 15: by Katie (new)

Katie Adee (katie_adee_author) Tad wrote: "I, too, wish there were more authors willing to take the latter track.

Tad, I think they're out there. Finding them is a bit trickier. From an author's standpoint, it's nice to have some familiar ground to use--world, characters, writing style if in 1st person. From an editor's/agent's standpoint, you're probably absolutely right about the money. From a reader's standpoint: getting annoying. Would we mind nearly so much if the chracters (main and sub, heroes and villians) were really engaging? If the world was amazingly built? If the writing was magical? If an author could acheive all three in every book? If the series stopped after a reasonable length of time? I personally wouldn't.


message 16: by Steven (new)

Steven Jordan (stevenlylejordan) | 7 comments As a proud owner of the over 180 stories written for the Doc Savage series, I guess I have to say that it depends on the series, and what you get out of it. The Doc Savage novels are an interesting point, because those stories are largely self-contained; it won't hurt you to miss reading one.

I also own all of G.R.R. Martin's Wild Cards books, and that is a series I can't get enough of. And within the Wild Cards "universe" are plenty of stories to be told, from plenty of characters' perspectives, so it never gets old.

Some series are pretty much done after just 2-3 books... but I don't see that as an absolute state. It really depends on the breadth of the series.


message 17: by Gregory (new)

Gregory | 4 comments I recommend reading Brandon Sanderson's books. Each book or series is based on its own unique world with its own set of magical laws that are completely different than his other books. But, all his "worlds" are in the same universe. He has a few subtle character cross-overs, and I'm pretty sure he has mentioned it himself.


message 18: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Void (stephanievoid) | 8 comments I agree. But I think authors want to write a series because it may do better than stand-alone books.
Or maybe they can't bear to abandon world they created.


message 19: by Eva (new)

Eva Mostraum (mostraum) | 2 comments I can certainly see many good viewpoints here.
Personally I don't mind if several books are set in the same universe. A lot of good authors do this, along with Paul Vincent and Brandon Sanderson I also see Iain M. Banks and Ursula K. Le Guin doing the same.
What I wish for, and this is also a publisher issue, is to make it easy for readers to find out where the different books belong, if it's a conventional series or a book set in the same universe but otherwise unrelated to the others. This should be done in several ways, a list in the physical book, and lists on websites.

The series that I think there's too many of is the ones where you have to read them from beginning to end. As David (message 6) said: "I've found that by reading too many books from series I've really limited the breadth of my reading". I agree, so I try to avoid the overlong series, while at the same time I enjoy returning to The Culture by Iain M. Banks now and then. I've read his books totally out of publishing order and years apart, and it doesn't matter as they're all about different characters and situation even though the general "universe" is recognizable. The same thing with Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish cycle.
Sorry, this is a bit long-winded, but here's my conclusion: For me to start a new series now I need to be told very clearly that it'll only go on for about 3 books (or 7, I'll admit to that one) or that while it's set in the same universe I don't need to have read the first 3 to enjoy and understand number 4.


message 20: by Carro (new)

Carro | 7 comments As a reader I am fine with series where each book is an episode in the life of the main character - so Tanya Huff's Federation books, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty the werewolf, Bujold -both sf and fantasy. Where the series is one massive multi-threaded, multi-charactered story split across a number of books, then I don't even start it these days - just not for me.

I would also like to say (as someone seeking publication :) ) that all the feedback you see on writing groups, hear from sff convention panels etc, is that in the sff genre series are easier to market. The writer may or may not want to write a long series and nothing else over a number of years, they might or might not want to stick with one particular genre, or sub-genre, but all the advice around does seem to be that until you are established, you need to be a very recognisable "one thing".
Once you are established, then genre hopping is fine - most of your readers follow you (e.g. Tanya Huff has written pretty standard fantasy, urban fantasy with magic, a vampire series and an sf series).

You do also see online that some readers complain when the next book of the series takes a while to come out. So if a writer fancied taking a break and writing a stand-alone in a different world before they write the next book in their ongoing series - some readers would not be happy if they do.

I do agree also that some writers probably have a lot to say in the world they've created and don't want to move away from it.
It is just that other writers would like to move around between several worlds, coming back to one, moving on to another - so just wanted to punt that into the conversation :)


message 21: by Clay (new)

Clay | 6 comments Like others, I have to both agree and disagree. I think it depends on the author and the series.

For example, Jordon's Wheel of Time series should have been confined to 5 or 6 books. Yet, David Weber's Harrington series or Elizabeth Moon's Paksenarrion's World series continue on because those worlds change and and evolve as the series continues (and yes...I am sitting on my hands, waiting for the next Paks book that comes out next month!)

Others end too soon, leaving the reader wishing for more. Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War stories would be an example of this.


message 22: by Clay (new)

Clay | 6 comments Others here have touched on marketing as reasons why we have a lot of series.

There is probably a lot of truth to this. If series did not sell well, there would not be that many of them.

I would not say this would be the case with all authors. Going back to my two examples from my previous post, Both David Weber and Elizabeth Moon were well established authors before they began the Harrington or Paksenarrion series.

The Late Anne McCaffrey was also well established with a variety of books scattered through out the SF world, yet she always came back to the Pern books...and her fans (me included) could not wait until the next one came out.

I guess, from a reader's POV, it comes down to this: Can the author keep the series interesting and fresh? If so, continue with it.


message 23: by Jonathon (new)

Jonathon Crouch (misterjonathoncrouch) | 3 comments well.. you know, it's one of those prefernce things.

it is lazy certainly

and it is awesome also

eg I found the wheel of time dull as hell and so I feel like he was just being lazy

and I find the discworld always a big bucket of fun and so I feel like he's just getting all the goodness out of the universe he invented.


I am indeed an inconstant fellow


message 24: by Ava (new)

Ava Dohn | 19 comments Katie wrote: "Tad wrote: "I, too, wish there were more authors willing to take the latter track.

Tad, I think they're out there. Finding them is a bit trickier. From an author's standpoint, it's nice to have s..."


If we go beyond science fiction and fantasy the majority of what we read takes place on earth. So if that's true why do we have trouble with sci-fi in one universe? Your point about the characters, the events, the story are all true.

In my books I've the whole collection of Anne of Green Gables, these books all take place in the same areas of the world, with the same main character for 6 of the books. The story altered with the growth of Anne through life and experiences. And it's my belief that this is possible in sci-fi/fantasy also.


message 25: by Ava (new)

Ava Dohn | 19 comments Clay wrote: "Others here have touched on marketing as reasons why we have a lot of series.

There is probably a lot of truth to this. If series did not sell well, there would not be that many of them.

I woul..."


Keeping stories "interesting and fresh" involves writing so that the readers feel the world and the characters they're interacting with.

My difficulty with series is in general, by the third or fourth book, action sequences, language patterns, personality traits, event formula, seems to follow a repeated pattern that can be discerned in previous books.

For example, with Anne McCaffrey's Pern books at the beginning of the sets there were three books for each set of main character stories. An underappreciated and/or unknown character that grew into a hero. The heroic actions of the Dragon Song series was neat because of the new dragon's introduced. The actions of Lessa were great with growth and valor, but those books along with the White Dragon, kind of took all the fun out of the rest of the series. Because the most intriguing and interesting things that could happen to any characters in that world had already happened.

Any new stuff was to a limited degree a repeat of the old stories.


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