Although I admire LMB’s Vorkosigan series, I haven’t felt the temptation to write series myself until this week. Although all of my original fiction is nominally set in the same future universe, recycling the same characters hadn’t occurred to me. Then I started thinking about the backstory of one particular guy/gal (at the time, I thought he might need a sex change to make him more interesting), and his backstory quickly became a prequel plus some vague notions of a third tale in between the one I was revising and the new prequel. Later it occurred to me that an older, bitterer version of my guy could assume the lead in yet another story along the same lines which has been floundering for years now.
There are definite advantages to recycling characters - creating them is enough work that recycling is better than reinventing. Think of the potential of having your protagonist walk into the story with a major chip on his shoulder - longstanding difficulties with government bureaucracy could give my guy/gal the conflict his story badly needs. On the other hand, I don’t usually like short-story series. Whenever that blurb appears about the previous adventures of so-and-so having been published in this and that old issue of Analog or F&SF, I cringe inside. I feel that I’m being cheated - I paid for an original character and I got a tattered, used one.
Fortunately, I don’t intend to read these stories, just to sell them. Personal preferences aside, there are other disadvantages to character recycling. As mentioned above, all my stories are set in the same universe, but the timeline doesn’t firm up properly for a thousand years or so. Usually it’s not a problem since I don’t mention any dates for the near future, but having a character live through more than one story puts bounds on when certain technological advances happened. (Or is that willan on-happen?) The entire milieu is determined, to some extent, by what happens in a particular story.
Nevertheless, I’m heading down the yellow brick road to a series.