The Temptation to Write Series

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.

2 Responses to “The Temptation to Write Series”

  1. Kim Says:

    Orson Scott Card has talked about this same train of thought when writing Speaker For The Dead. While writing, he realized that he could reuse Ender from Ender’s Game as the protagonist. Eventually, that led to more books for Ender.

    I never understood why he thought that the character needed to be the same. He certainly tied them together well - the Bug Queen takes on an important role in this triology. But Ender as an adult character didn’t work for me. Perhaps it was the lack of dimension in Ender’s character in Ender’s Game. He was a child who had the mentality that he would do his uttermost to stop any bully from attacking him again which led him to kill - the first time unintentionally, the second time I suspect that Ender knew it was “kill or be killed”. Then, as the adult Ender, he’s not at all that kind of ruthless, quite the opposite. Ender’s Game tells us that Ender isn’t that way anymore and tells us that he wrote books that are treasured as religious writings - but we never see the development of that boy into that man, hence I found it unbelievable to tie the books together. Mentally, I kept them entirely separate.

    Yes, I liked all four of the books.

    I look forward to reading your original fic. I’ve always enjoyed your fanfic, you have a style that charms me.


  2. Jemima Says:


    My appreciation for Ender dropped off in the second book. I think it’s difficult to change the overall tone of a series in the middle. Ender changed, but the nature of the stories changed even more. Ender’s Game was one of those concept stories that you really can’t follow up, even if you’re OSC. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion have a similar problem, because the former is in a unique Canterbury-Tales style and the latter isn’t. (I haven’t read the other two.)

    I think series work best when you’re writing the same general kind of story each time. Of course it’s hard to resist the temptation to rake in the dough by writing sequels to a surprise hit like Ender’s Game - I wish I had such problems. As it is, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for my original fic.