The Sword and Laser discussion

Prequels, Side Stories and Novellas

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message 1: by Eric (new)

Eric | 22 comments I am curious if others have issues with books in a larger series written before, in between or any other such combination within the context of a larger series.

For some reason, I never found myself unable to pick up Robert Jordan's New Spring, George R.R. Martins various short stories and novellas set within his world or any other similar work.

Logically, I can understand authors who spend a great deal of time creating a large world spanning several books inserting smaller works amongst their tales, and its value to readers. However, I have a negative knee jerk reaction to these brief asides.

Does anyone else share my opinion and can you explain it? It's possible I'm just being ridiculous.

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul | 19 comments Sort of ....

Both Jordan and GRRM have been criticized about how much time they take between books, and many believe that these side works just delay the publication of the next installment of a series. I believe that criticism is fair in those cases, but ...

I read on an author's blog that the publishing industry has certain rules about how fast books in a series come out. Publishers will often sit on a completed work for timing issues. An author who has completed writing a popular series, but is waiting for the entire thing to be published, can please fans while earning some extra cash by publishing side stories or novellas or whatever. In this case, I think it's ok. It's when the production of the side stories delay the next book in the series that is a problem.

Having said that, I'm not particularly happy when a publishing company takes "side stories" from four different series by four different authors and lumps them into one book. I feel that this is an obvious ploy go get me interested in the works of other authors. For one, I don't like having to buy something I don't want in order to get something I do want. Secondly, I don't like being manipulated like that. I will never pay for compilations like that, although I might pick them up at the library.

message 3: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments A lot of time it is just part of the existing story, or background the author has written for it, yet had difficulty fitting into the book.

Sometimes theese end up as prologs, but sometimes not. So, why not wrap it up as a short story and sell it ? With ebook releases this is now a much easier thing to do.

message 4: by Andy (new)

Andy (andy_m) | 311 comments I think it depends on the author and the series.

I personally have really enjoyed Jim Butcher's short stories in the Dresden Files series. Some of them have really added to my understanding of the characters or have been really fun reads.

Your frustrations could be a case of an author being contractually obligated to write the stories - maybe they are not what they author wanted to write?

GRRM writes huge books - writing short stories requires a different approach - maybe just not his strong suit.

message 5: by Sam (new)

Sam Erwin | 26 comments Yeah, Martin takes longer than most I've seen, which could lead to some of the frustration.

With Butcher's Dresden Files short stories, they're mostly fun romps and, as Andy says, add to the understanding of the characters on occasion. Especially the 2 times he's written stories that are from Harry's first person perspective (which would be the novellas/novelettes Backup and Aftermath).

message 6: by Stan (last edited Jun 14, 2012 07:44AM) (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments Funny - I started reading GRRM for his sci-fic short stories


Tuf Voyaging


Wild Cards

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments I actually really like GRRM's Dunk & Egg stories. They're short and fairly self-contained and a lot less grim than the ASOIAF books.

message 8: by Keith (new)

Keith (keithatc) Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold is a breezy aside to the overall Vorkosigan Saga, but it's one of my favorites in (or out of) the series

message 9: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments Eric, is it the achronicity that you object to, or the length of the story? I can think of several good series that didn't go in linear order. Both Bujold (Vorkosigan) and Steven Brust (Taltos) have been happily cavalier about maintaining chronological order within their publishing order; Anne McCaffrey (Pern) and Marion Zimmer Bradley (Darkover) did generational stories that popped back and forth through their planets' histories. Also see the Silmarillion.

Otherwise, it sounds like you don't like short stories. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

message 10: by Leesa (new)

Leesa (leesalogic) | 643 comments I like them, but I tend to be a chronological reader, *especially* if the stories are part of a series. Sometimes I don't know where the story falls in a series, and if it is part of an anthology of different authors with stories set in their longer series stories that I have in my queue, it gets confusing and sometimes it's a bit spoilery.

message 11: by Tae (new)

Tae | 25 comments I've found many of the prequels or side novels of major series to be rather lacking in content and that is the main issue. You're enraptured in the main story and plot and some authors are excellent at extended themes/storyline but are unable to convey the same sense of story in a single work or short story.

Robert Jordan is a prime example of where a prequel just went wrong. It didn't really add anything to the story and instead of building up the characters it rather debased their image. At least that was my opinion. Had New Dawn been the first book I read I would have never picked up any of Jordan's other works and would have lost out on the WoT series.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr however is an author who I've thoroughly enjoyed and whose Sage of Recluce series has parts written in reverse chronological order. Yet, each book stands strong on its own and ties in well to the series overall.

In honesty I think it just comes down to the author. Some have the skill to intersperse singular novels with condensed stories out of sequence and some do not.

message 12: by Andy (last edited Jun 15, 2012 07:01AM) (new)

Andy (andy_m) | 311 comments Sam wrote: "Yeah, Martin takes longer than most I've seen, which could lead to some of the frustration.

With Butcher's Dresden Files short stories, they're mostly fun romps and, as Andy says, add to the under..."

If you enjoy the Dresden Files be sure to read "Even Hand" a short story in the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology. It is a short from Marcone's perspective. It very much added to his character.

PS: Jim Butcher has said that he does not enjoy writing short stories and plans on stopping as soon as he fills his existing contracts. Just a FYI.

message 13: by Eric (new)

Eric | 22 comments Perhaps it depends on the quality of the book. I find that the level of interest in the series does not add to my desire to read the "aside" works. For example, I absolutely love ASoIaF series, but I really have no interest in picking up the books outside of the main series. The same thing applies to books written in movie universes such as Star Wars. Even something The Wind Through the Keyhole feels wrong to me.

Kvon, I have no problem with the idea of short stories. I think they often tend to be an author's best work from a writing standpoint as opposed to world building or scope. Perhaps it is the anachronistic nature of the books.

I am the first to admit that my reaction to these works is completely irrational due to the fact that I have never picked up one of these books. Perhaps it is the idea that if an author didn't say it within the context of the main series, it doesn't feel as authentic. Granted, I often think that we as consumers of media often try to put limits on the creators of movies, music, television and literature. Then again, that is another discussion.

message 14: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2266 comments Not exactly a prequel/side story, but it was the Discworld story in Legends (an outstanding Granny Weatherwax story) that finally got me to check out the Discworld series in a serious way.

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