With the news breaking that Iain M Banks had asked Ian MacLeod to carry on his culture series after he died (though whether Ian will take up that mantle is another matter), I started wondering about science fiction authors and the series they generated.
Apart from the Culture series, there’s Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Robot series, Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, Anne McCaffrey’s Talent and Dragons of Pern series, Arthur C Clarke’s Rama series, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and so the list goes on…
Most of these series have been written in sequence. Usually the first makes a big splash and the sequels are disappointing by comparison. I suspect it’s because in a lot of cases there are no really new ideas being added to the series for the second and subsequent novels. And again with a few exceptions, an author tends to major on one series only. It’s as if they have put everything into the one universe and stopped there.
But what makes a good series?
Well if you look at the list I’ve come up with, they’ve all got seriously new (at the time the first in the series was published) concepts.
So why have I got two series on the brew writing-wise?
Well one you all know about…
There is a fourth story not yet published (for good reason I hasten to add) called Space Blind. And of course the precursor to all these was Agents of Repair published in Jupiter issue 29.
But I’ve been recently working hard on another series. Well it turned out to be another series. It all started with a description of a moon, which grew into a novel, which I could not get any agents or publishers interested in. [That’s not strictly true, but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you…].
Anyway, I had a Eureka / lightbulb moment and decided I would rewrite that novel. But to gain confidence that what I was thinking of would work, I wrote a lead in novelette with a completely new lead character.
Then I had an idea for a standalone short story and looked round for a character… and that lead character fitted perfectly into the part. Two stories, same lead character… this is starting to look like novel to me – a precursor to the one I’m writing.
So now I have three novels to write –
- C.A.T. (and his nine lives… excuse while a chortle at my own pun — but the stories above all happen before the novel starts – now you know where Space Blind is heading)
- Combining the two precursor stories into a new novel (the novelette left a nice loose end for me to carry on writing the novel, into which I could fit that short story)
- Rewriting my old novel.
Obviously novels (2) and (3) are the start of a series, and C.A.T. can easily be developed into a series.
For reasons too convoluted to go into, the first quarter of the novel I’m rewriting is effectively being written from scratch… a whole eight chapters.
Now here’s the thing… I know the first chapter is good given the comments I’ve had from a couple of friends. The second chapter is better than the first, and crazily enough I’m now only half way through the first draft of the third chapter and I already know it’s better than the second.
What’s going on here? This novel rewrite is getting better and better. I also know that when it comes to writing the chapters for the second quarter, I’ll be using the best chapters from the old novel (some of which got me shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit prize).
I’m seriously scared I might have something really wonderful and inspiring on my hands. And it’s certainly a novel I don’t want to spoil by rushing it. Even so, I’m sure as heck excited by it.