Thoughts on the Multitude: Fantasy Writers and Multiples

Hello, Muggles. (This is a term of endearment, I promise.)

I’ve recently dedicated more time to finding more off-the-cuff and non-mainstream fantasy and science-fiction to peruse and review.

My latest foray into different lands has come from Peter Brett’s novel, The Warded (or Painted, as it is known outside of the US) Man.

I had intended to go all in with a full scale review of the book, but while researching the author and his work, I was struck by something else to touch on.

Fantasy novels are strange and complicated creatures. They usually contain almost entirely author-crafted worlds, insane plots and subplots, an enormous amount of characters and quite a hefty dose of suspension of disbelief.

There’s one other interesting thing about fantasy novels: they usually travel in packs. You usually see them in dilogies, the ever popular trilogy, and countless numbers of series and continuations.

But why? The first trilogy that I ever read was Lord of the Rings, and it’s obvious why Tolkien wrote that as a series. The scope, the themes, the events that he intended were much too broad to be covered in one book. But, according to author Juliet McKenna, Fantasy’s trend toward multiplicity is not just a question of scope and author intent. It’s a gift to devoted and largely non-stanning [1] readers who are used to getting as much bang for their bookstore buck as they can afford, and have come to expect reliability from their favorite authors. It’s also good for the publishers, as they can get authors to commit to a longer contract and potentially make more money if the authors make good on seducing the masses with their literature.

But the trilogy, while it works for authors, generally elicits the stank face [2] from readers and the fantasy savant.Many feel like the trilogy is a gimmick, a ploy to trick them out of money,time, and most importantly, their enjoyment of the author’s work. One argument is that every book in the series can’t stand alone, and you have to rely on earlier books in the series to understand all the plot nuances.

The Inheritance Cycle was originally the Inheritance Trilogy

When you pick up a book at your local (read: independent) bookstore and flip through it and then purchase it, do you really want to have to consider that you’re committing yourself to as little as one and as many as nine more books in the series? The costs of those books might be spread out over time, but the mental energy given to reading a series of books that might not all be readable is a big risk to take, IMO.

Authors write for their audiences, and I think that we also have to produce books that are relevant to our audiences. And, while every book in a decalogy might be awesome as a standalone book, why not use that energy to produce more books in the same universe, or different stories involving the same characters instead of beating to death one story that could have been handled in a standalone novel?

And speaking of trilogies, The Warded Man was refreshingly dope. Full review up next!

Keep Your Spears Sharp!

[1] -Second definition

[2]- Neither one of those defs wow me, so look at the synonyms below the first definition for more clarity

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