The Neverending Story
Posted by hyperpat on September 26, 2006
Why is it that fantasy authors can’t seem to get their story told in something less than 6,000 pages spread across six volumes? Examples include George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (not complete), Stephen King’s Dark Tower (finally complete after thirty years), Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant (thought to be complete at six volumes, but now he’s adding more), Robin Hobb’s Farseer, Live Ship Traders, and Tawny Man set (three closely interrelated trilogies), Terry Brooks Shannara set, and the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Wheel of Time monster by Robert Jordan. Now this is not to say that these works are bad (in fact, the first four listed fall in the very good to excellent class, IMO), but it does sometimes seem as if these stories never have an end, have a cast of thousands (literally, in some cases) that sorely tax the poor reader’s ability to remember who’s who, and descriptive passages that go on and on.
Now certainly part of the reason for these monsters is the fact that the authors have spent a lot of time in creating their fantasy worlds, investing them with so much detail that these worlds can literally come alive for the reader. Naturally, they are reluctant to just throw all that hard work away and start on something totally new. And in general, the readers clearly want this, as they eagerly buy up whatever the next volume is, often waiting years in anticipation for it to appear. Which makes the publishers request more from the authors, as this is obviously money in the bank.
But I’d like to see more fantasy works that are really complete in one volume. And there are a few authors who seem to produce such things: Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place), Emma Bull (War for the Oaks, Bone Dance), Terri Windling (The Wood Wife), and John Crowley (Little, Big). All these are good reading, and you won’t have wait another decade for the authors to finish these stories.