Charlie Stross Offers You a Frosty Tumbler Full of Ice-Cold Perspective

Relating specifically to the trouble authors have with multi-volume epic series, and the finishing thereof. Will you quaff this heady elixr? If you’re one of those pulling a long face about GRRM being “late” on his next book, you should. And everyone else will get a nice POV on a specific writing issue. Go now.

28 thoughts on “Charlie Stross Offers You a Frosty Tumbler Full of Ice-Cold Perspective

  1. Why is that bastard wasting time blogging instead of finishing The Merchant Princes!? We’ve stuck with him through the entire series and we *deserve* the next book RIGHT NOW.

    :-)

  2. Hmmm…that looks like an amber colored ale. i suppose it’s just me, but I’m much more productive when drinking lagers. Anyway, it seems he’s making a toast so the least I can do is raise a glass in return. Cheers.

  3. I thought I would be fast enough to write a short message complaining that Stross ought to be finishing “The Fuller Memorandum” instead, but I see that even by comment two, that bit has been done and punished. Feh.

  4. See, I like Stross. (I like you, too!)

    But I can hold off on The Merchant Princes because I randomly found Book 2 and read through it only to go “no, I must read these in sequence, preferably when more have come out.”

    It’s the same way I approached Old Man’s War. Which, of course, I then read 3 books of in a week.

    But yes, sometimes I do wish that books I like could be set up like massively multiplayer online games that I could just dip into and there would always be something going on.

    Ohhh! Go hypnotize several wealthy conglomerates and have them make Old Man’s War into a MMORPG, John! I wanna go be a Broccoli Man demolishing cities of tiny people! ;)

  5. Talking of multi-books epics, there’s a writer that impresses me considerably: C. J. Cherryh. Her SF series “Foreigner” already counts 9 novel published over 13 years, #10 is slated for publication in April and she’s just finished #11 last week. Oh, and immediately began the writing of #12. While keeping her fans posted in her online journal on what state the writing is.

    Plus, she’s recently revisited her classic Alliance-Union universe with Regenesis, a sequel to the 1988 novel Cyteen.

    Yes, another multi-book, multi-pov, endeavour, constructed over 30 years… And I’m not talking about her other novels and series, including the 5-novel fantasy epic Fortress! (Memo to GRRM fans: you might like that one. And it’ll help while away the time until DwD. Hint, hint!)

    Some authors are just awesome. It’s enough to make you wish you could just spend your time doing nothing but… read.

  6. Mr. Scalzi has been crystal clear, and right. Mr. Stross is equally right, crystal clear, and his crystal glass is half-full of sparkling bubbles of rationality and mirth. I’ll have one of what he’s drinking, bartender!

  7. I’ve occasionally wished for a time machine so that I could go to the future (say 5-10 years) and pick up copies of all of the books that my favourite authors have written in the meantime. I’d skip back to ‘now’, then read the books. Afterwards, I’d send them (anonymously) to the given authors so he/she could send the (now finished) opuses off to their publisher without having to go through the tedious process of actually writing those books. They could get along with other projects, I’d repeat the time-travel bit again, and soon I’d have dozens (or hundreds!) of books by Scalzi, Stross and so on. It’s a win-win situation!

    Come to think of it, maybe this explains some particularly prolific authors– somebody is already doing this for them! If any time travelers are out there, please send John and Charlie their next 5-6 books. Now.

  8. I do not envy any author that tackles multivolume series with multiple viewpoints. I think it’s amazing they can pull it off at ll, never mind a series.

    GRRM will release the book when it’s finished. I can wait.

  9. Charlie Stross doesn’t look anything at all like the mental picture of him I had whomped up in my head.

    Are you sure that’s really him, and not a golem-Stross ?

  10. This whole topic has become like a sore tooth for me. I just want to keep poking it to see how bad it can get. Though poking Scalzi and/or Stross to entertain me would be stupid unless I wanted to be metaphorically eviscerated in front of the whole bacon/cat loving intarwebz.

    And I have no desire to be slapped down by either. So I’ll only say that I hope everyone who has an incomplete series out there will learn from the Herbert experience and forbid his or her estate from “completing” them.

  11. Irene @# 9: The other author who considerably impresses me with multi-book series, in addition to Cherryh, is Julian May. Particularly the Pliocene saga, where there seem to be about a dozen characters weaving in and out of story threads, and it all comes together amazingly.

    Of course, she’s also said that she spends a ridiculous amount of time working out the logistics of the plot, and has the details of who goes where, when, for how long, and how long it takes them to get there, well before she actually starts composing prose. And she had the basic structure of the entire series worked out in advance. Which tends to help one avoid the problem of “now what do I do about that element that I introduced two books ago and left hanging?”

  12. I was just thinking ‘boy am I glad one of my favorite long-running and uncompleted series of sci-fi novels didn’t have someone come in and try and finish it’. And then I made the mistake of checking to be sure.

    There should be a law.

  13. “Though poking Scalzi and/or Stross to entertain me would be stupid unless I wanted to be metaphorically eviscerated in front of the whole bacon/cat loving intarwebz.”

    /popcorn

    As I said on Stross’ blog, I think GRRM’s only real problem was that he communicated partially and when he looked at what he had and decided to redo it (which I presume is what he’s doing) he didn’t just say “Yeah, I decided I didn’t like the second half… I’m redoing it, it will be awhile. And you might see other things come out as I recharge the batteries.”

    Don’t get me wrong, the fans are wrong in this one and there’s really nothing GRRM can do at this point, but the lesson I’d learn from this were I mad enough to try a multi-volume work is to either say basically nothing or, if I talked about future works to be reasonably transparent about things like starting over etc. Of course whether that’s even allowed given the publisher relationships etc I have no idea.

  14. I wish to thank [almost] everyone for the wonderful airing of viewpoints and for lending perspective on the process of artistic creation. Never again will I be able to fan the smoking coals of Righteous Impatience Justified toward a certain band which took six years to release their third album…

    (Lrf, V nz ersreevat gb gur tebhc OBFGBA naq vgf prageny perngvir gnyrag.)

  15. Hell, I’m still waiting for Jean Auel to finish her next book in the Earth’s Children series. I can trace my moves around the country with the frequency of those books being published.

  16. Aside from any rightness or wrongness in how Stross’ post applies to topic it directly tackles, it makes for a great outline for chapter 1 of “How to an Epic Series”.

  17. I’m still waiting for the resolution to the Childe Cycle :-(

    Although I’d trade the final book in return for Gordon being alive.

    The irony of his death and the incompletion of the Cycle is that he once remarked after using a word processor for the first time “I might actually get this thing finished!”

    Almost Gordon, almost.

  18. On the first comment thread, someone basically said that GRRM posted a “Laurell K. Hamilton” bleep you to his critics. I challenge GRRM to do a real LKH: give Cersei supernatural erotic powers that get her out of all present and future difficulties, eventually give her absolute power over Westoros and as a final grace note: said powers evolve to the point where she can change the shape of the planet’s orbit so that Winter no longer comes. That should take about two weeks to bang out, get ghost writer to pad it out with incomprehensible, poorly turned “eroticism,” publish as 2 Volume set (in a timely way) for $29.95 each; collect underwear, …, profit. That would get the fans off GRRM’s back, make his publishers happy and set up a lucrative, open-ended series of soft porn that GRRM probably would not even have to write himself. See, everybody wins if GRRM just gets with the program and gives us what we want when we want it.

  19. GRRM will finish when he can. I don’t envy him. The one thing that did him in was that when A Feast for Crows was released, he represented that it really was one half of a novel and the other half is coming pretty soon. Poor Martin. I think he was caught in some guilt about releasing A Feast for Crows so he made statements when he didn’t really know how much he had left to do.

    And speaking series that needs a new book, what about David Gerrold’s War of Chtorr series? I can trace major periods of my life just by the publication date of each novel in the series.

  20. Hey, Charlie’s glass is nearly empty! So much for a frosty tumbler full of ice cold perspective. He should stop giving us his opinions and get to the bar.

    What? That’s beer and not perspective? I’m always getting those to mixed up.

  21. Oddly enough, I was just about to mention waiting for more in the Chtorr series since nineteen ninety what??? I’ve been very worried about Jim and Lizard…

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