Is having these as guidelines be too limiting?


Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
I'm kinda thinking about 2 SOFT rules for myself as a fantasy reader. But I'm wondering if Id' be limiting myself too much.

1. This is the one I wanna discuss the most, so if you're gonna respond to just one of these, go for this one.

Unless I'm super jazzed for it, no new series that's currently over 5 books. I have 2 series' that I've read about 5 books of, and quite frankly I think at this point I might just sorta be kinda good with them.

One series is Shadowdance. I've read the first 4, and I don't really have much of a desire anymore to continue. I think I'm good. The other is Dresden. I've read through 4 of them, dropped 2 of them, and I think at this point I've kinda gotten tired of Dresden. I might get be less tired of him after a while, but I don't see myself being able to enjoy him at all this year. I still look back at the first 2 books really fondly though.

However, I should say that if it's a series when the first 3-5 books actually have a complete ending where the main goal was completed, and the author decided years later to continue in with a whole new story(like the Drizz't books) I'm ok with that.

2. I'm thinking about dropping episodic series with the same characters. I think that they get pretty repetitive, and because they're episodic, sequels often feel they're just some random idea that the author came up with to see how it'd do rather than something they have a lot of passion for.

Again, do you think I'd be limiting myself too much? Any thoughts on these ideas would be gretly appreciated. Just keep in mind that like my rule where I don't read anything pre-1980, it's more a guideline.
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Journeyed there and back again
It depends, really.

Many well-loved fantasy series span over 5 books. Granted, mosty of them would have a weak book or two in the middle, but usually they at least start and end properly, with enough gusto to satisfy. Sometimes authors just get carried away in the transitioning books.

As for special cases like the Mistborn series of trilogies, if you have liked the first trilogy, which kind of derails after book 1, you'd probably like the rest of the books so far, which really do improve on the quality of the 2nd and 3rd book from the original trilogy. The new books aren't like the awesomest thing in the world, mind you, but they are quite decent for Brandon's regular story-telling prowess.

And then there are things like Riyria, where the author have finished the story in 6 books, an rather than pushing it too far with a new conflict for the main duo, he just puts up prequels works with them, wich for the most part are quite nice, alhough only one or two of the four so far have managed to get close enough to the quality of the original works.

I'd say that as long as the main/the initial/ conflict haven;t been addressed in the first five books, there's a good chance the over-all story to be consistent enough in quality to keep you interested.

Of course there are cases where authors like Raymond E. Feist just don't know when to leave a conflict be, but you could also be arguing the case that he actually resolves his conflicts within 3 to 4 books, he just defaults to a very annoying tactics to address the already resolved dire conflict as a beginning move of a bigger one, which feels and is in fact cheating and lazy writing.

So yeah - I'd say it depends. You would be better of checking beforehand if there is or if there isn't a horde of pitchfork-gripping fans bemoaning the fate of certain series before you plunge into it - that's for the really long series, mind you.


Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
First of all, hey there ExTended, how's it going? DOn't think that I've seen you here before. I'm Morte. Used to be a regular here, and I come back every few months or so. I call many here friend, but place just isn't active enough anymore.

And yeah, appreciate your post. And yeah, 2 weak books in a series might be what kills a series for me. That might be part of why I don't want to read any more Dresden. With something like Legend of Drizz't I can just read summaries and go the the next set of books.

Oh, and about something specific that you said:

"I'd say that as long as the main/the initial/ conflict haven;t been addressed in the first five books, there's a good chance the over-all story to be consistent enough in quality to keep you interested. "

What? No, my complaint is that when a series doesn't have a good conclusion after 5 books.

and yeah, the way that Mistborn does thing is something that I think I'd like(assuming that I can handle mow comlex the magic system is. Gah!. I also think that I really like the way that that powder mage trilogy continued.

Again, thanks for replying.

Maark Abbott

Journeyed there and back again
Releasing all limiters.

Don't let yourself be bound by them.


Maark Abbott

Journeyed there and back again

Alice Sabo

Knows how to pronounce Kvothe
I actually look for long series, because if I like a world and the people, I'm going to want to hang around longer. Also I don't always read one after the other. When I finish a book, sometimes I look for something different. I felt a need for something absurd and funny and got the next Thursday Next book from Jasper Fforde. Then I felt in the mood for some Urban Fantasy and went with an Alex Verus book. So you might feel like a Dresden in the future. But you might need some time. They are almost standalones, in that Butcher explains the world in each book.

Don't judge the series by it's length. Decide if you want to visit again.

Maark Abbott

Journeyed there and back again
For me, a lack of length is actually a turn-off. Publishers seem to have this obsession with analacritously short books (they say 120k is long... LOL) but the issue is that once they're done, you're left wanting. Deadhouse Landing is a prime example of this. It left far too much out, and suffered heavily for it.

Darth Tater

Journeyed there and back again
The length of a book or series can be so intimidating!
I’ve heard it’s not the length of a book that is important. It’s all about what the author does with it.

Seriously though, out of curiosity what about a lengthy book and/or series “intimidates” you?

For me long books and series offer more of a comfort zone. When you start something unfamiliar you’re introduced to new characters you need to remember, new landscape, new terms, figure out what’s going on, etc. When a book is good I like to savor it for as long as possible. All of these things apply equally if not more with series for me.

I’m not sure anyone can answer your question for you. Any time you exclude a category by definition it is limiting. Are you happy with your guidelines? If so, have you run out of things to read? Getting bored? Curious about something new? Like to shake things up now and then? It’s up to you and you alone. Perhaps go through some of the “best of” lists and if something new “grabs you” you can decide whether or not to take the plunge.


Journeyed there and back again
Pretty simple answer to this one - if you've got enough cool stuff to read and don't feel like you're missing out of anything, then no, its not too limiting.

If that's not the case, then yes, its probably too limiting.

David Sims

Warded demons with Arlen
There might be a way to extend a series that doesn't suffer from the anticlimax problem.

I had an idea for a series based on an Atlanta-born (in 2033) girl named Brenda Lynn Jones. She inherits a "full set of divine genes" from her parents, which were (unknown to them) the descendants of persons born from Heinrich Himmler's Lebensborn project. Himmler had been, during the war, secretly using controlled human breeding to recover and concentrate the genes of the ancient pagan gods. These ancient gods were a dim memory by the time of old Sparta and Athens and the Peloponnesian war. In fact, they passed from existence about 30,000 years ago following a period when the gods and goddesses became estranged from each other (they saw each other as rivals, instead of partners), and began breeding with mortals. They basically mixed themselves out of existence.

In order to help readers of this post understand the story mechanism by which a series can remain ever-fresh, no matter how much history it possesses, I must plow through the basic pertinent ideas, the setting and the characterization, to a certain extent.

Brenda Jones grows up at first as an ordinary girl in an Atlanta elementary school. But when she reaches puberty, her divine powers slowly begin to emerge along with the physical changes that happen to girls. She becomes much more intelligent, for example. Her teachers notice that she went from being a GPA 3.ish student in the 4th grade to a consistently 4.0+extra credit student in the 5th grade. She then gains the ability to alter her perception of time, and to move faster, jump higher, and so on.

Brenda becomes fascinated by astronomy, physics, and rocket engineering. And then she learns that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth in the year 2059. While she's in middle- and high school, she is also enrolled in a local college, and she's acquired several bachelor's degrees and has started a (SpaceX-type) rocket company with money she's acquired by trading stocks and by using her goddess powers in profitable ways. Brenda develops a portable hydrogen fusion engine, which unfortunately requires herself as an integral component and won't work without her, and has it installed in a spaceship she's had a team of engineers building. The spaceship is completed soon after Brenda graduates, and Brenda (who by now has an intuitive ability to calculate changes-of-velocity for transfer orbits, even when there are several significant masses whose gravity needs to be accounted for) flies it to the asteroid and uses the remaining fuel to push it into a new orbit that doesn't hit Earth.

The first book closes with everybody on Earth, including Brenda's best friend, Ruby Pierce, thinking that Brenda is going to die in the cold, cold reaches of the outer solar system, a heroine who sacrificed herself to save the world.

But then Brenda notices she has another divine ability, namely she's able to transmute matter from one form to another...

The next book in the series reveals how Brenda returns, and there are all sorts of celebration on Earth as soon as her voice is heard. But then astronomers locate the spaceship she's coming back in. It isn't the little space-plane she had had before. It's a huge space station, a squat cylinder with a radius of 5 kilometers, a frustum length of six kilometers, a period of rotation about the axis of symmetry of 142 seconds, a habitation area of 188 square kilometers, and a long-term maximum carrying capacity of 10000 people. It's so big that the astronomers can see it from several million miles away. She parks it, however, at the Sun-Earth L4 point; she doesn't bring it near Earth itself. The story tells how Brenda commutes from her home in space to Earth, where she uses her financial resources to buy a cattle ranch in Chile and then invite persons who are suitable in terms of genetics, character, and abilities, to become her employees. She hires cowboys, engineers, school teachers, nurses... say what?

While she was out in space, Brenda decided to build an Empire in the Solar System. It would be a super-state, ruled by herself, indirectly through local governments themselves governed by her imperial policies. But it was necessary to move toward this goal slowly and in secret. The Chilean cattle ranch, which was very profitable because Brenda had learned to copy physical objects, such as cows, and "print" more of the copied object into existence. (She could do it with gold and platinum coins, too. The world wouldn't be wise to this ability for a long time.) The nurses were hired to take care of children, copies of babies born to eugenically superior humans from other parts of the Earth, as well as from Chile. Brenda flagrantly "stole" (as data) the information needed to replicate an exact copy of someone else's baby, and she used it over and over again.

The school teachers were hired to provide early education, encourage physical fitness, and to instill a degree of self-discipline in the children. When they were grown, Brenda took them to "heaven," which was her space station, where they had free homes, land to farm, and some basic laws to live by. This was an on-going business. Since the babies were copies, nobody noticed any babies disappearing, so no alarm was raised. Essentially, over the course of decades, several hundred thousand infants were given twin brothers or sisters, raised in secret on a Chilean farm, and then transported to a space station (Brenda created more as they filled up) and made into farmers-in-the-sky.

As the result of her business ventures, Brenda came to be among the richest people on Earth (and, as we shall see in a moment, this wealth paled in comparison to what she would soon control). She kept the government of Chile happy by paying her taxes on time and supplying the country with free electrical power, as her own solar power stations produced much more than she needed for her own purposes.

The space stations inhabited by farmers developed culturally, making their own music, telling their own stories, exploring their environment in its free orbit around the sun. The stations were clumped by fours, two pairs of mutually orbiting stations, and the pairs in their own mutual orbits. Brenda had given them little short-range spaceships that they could use in traveling between stations, for trade and whatever. And there were thousands of these station-quads orbiting the sun. Additionally, there were stations buried under the moon's surface, and on Mars cities were growing.

Brenda had a daughter named Brandy Laura Jones, who became the governor of Mars for a while. There's a tragedy in the making there. Brandy leads the Martians into a rebellion against the SSE, and Brenda must Put Her Foot Down in some way or other. I haven't decided on how, yet.

It seems that full divines have a lifespan of about 2000 years. They aren't immortal, as the old Greek/Roman legends said, but they did live for a very long time. Demi-divines (half divine, half mortal) lived for about 350 years. Brenda began having children of her own, raising them, copying them when they were ready for use, and putting them to use as pilots for interplanetary spaceships. A demi-divine has very limited divine power. The strongest of them might be able to lift their own weight in a 1-g field. And they were smarter than mortals usually are, with a mean IQ of around 160, which is nowhere near the IQ of a full divine like Brenda, but is high enough to become skilled nuclear engineers or spaceship navigators.

At some point, the stodgy authorities of Earth noticed what Brenda was doing. It was time, then, for Brenda to declare the foundation of the Solar System Empire, with herself as the Empress and ruler (and owner) of all the mass in the solar system, with the exception of Earth and the Sun, the former being the property of its inhabitants, and the latter being the common heritage of mankind. All treaties to the contrary, Brenda said, would be cheerfully ignored. And, should Earth want to fight about it...

Brenda made a demonstration of military power by sending a thousand nuclear missiles from the moon along very-high-speed hyperbolic trajectories that skimmed above Earth's atmosphere and converged in space on the other side of Earth at a distance of a half-million kilometers, where they simultaneously exploded and spelled out the message in both light and gamma rays...


Earth backed down. Their assets, such as military bases and cities, were fixed. The Empire's assets were, for the most part, mobile. Brenda convinced the powers of Earth that she had them far overmatched in nuclear throw-weight, and, indeed, she could probably best them in war by using only kinetic energy weapons, i.e., without using any nukes at all.

Furthermore, there was Brenda herself, a full goddess whose powers were still growing. She could beat the whole Earth in a fight all by herself, by ripping up a mountain and using it like a jackhammer, wham wham wham...

The most powerful nations on Earth cowered before the might of the Solar System Empire, and they hastily agreed to a treaty, which was generous under the circumstances, whereby Brenda and her appointed agents could go anywhere on Earth they pleased and hold irrevocable diplomatic immunity. However, no one from Earth could go into Empire space without the Empress' own permission (and under imperial escort). In return, Earth would keep its political independence and not be harmed by the military forces of the Solar System Empire. Earth's space was deemed by the Empire as extending radially out from the geocenter a distance of 53000 kilometers, or about 1.25 times the radius of a geostationary orbit. The sun belonged to "everybody." Everything else belonged to Brenda Jones, who, however, shared her property with qualified and chosen others, and to a considerable extent they could create whatever local government suited their taste, with the understanding that local government must bow to Brenda Jones whenever she happened to be around.

Brenda really didn't like public administration, and she relied on these local governments to deal with most of it. And for the part that concerned the Empire, Brenda let her capable Prime Minister to handle it. Brenda put on her crown only when something really bad happened that nobody else could fix. What she really wanted to do was continue to create places to grow her "people gardens."

A cultural rivalry developed between the Empire and Earth, in one episode of which Earth presented as being one of its crowning cultural achievements a rap song with a mixed group of grunge-wearing youth hopping around while sing-chanting, drawing gratuitous attention to their sexual parts and wearing their baseball caps backwards. In response, Brenda Jones presented a simple religious song having a character that might be approximated by Elenyi's rendition of Be Thou My Vision. (It's on YouTube, if you want to hear it.) The Empire was proving that it could kick Earth's ass in any field whatever, that, inasmuch as civilization was the triad pursuits of survival, truth, and beauty, the highest human civilization was no longer on Earth, but was, instead, in the Solar System Empire.

Thus, the second book is about the creation and establishment of the Solar System Empire, the colonization of the Solar System.

The third book is about the creation of large telescopes and adjunct space habitats in the outer solar system, tasked primarily to find and catalog exoplanets. Ruby Pierce (Brenda's old pal from high school) has become the Prime Minister of the SSE, taking care of imperial government matters while Brenda is busy building, as you might have guessed, starships.

Here is where you might be getting the first glimmer of the parallel structure of the series. Even with fusion power, interstellar distances take a long time to cross. Study the "rocket equation" and assume that the specific impulse of a very excellent fusion drive is around 70,000 seconds. Remembering that the payload (the colony-building seed infrastructure) must slow at arrival, you're doing well to get a cruising speed of 0.01c, meaning that Proxima Centauri is still 430 years of traveling time away, and each starship will be huge at launch and expensive to build.

Unless the builder is a full divine.

As the books go by, the dataships go out to the nearer stars of the Milky Way galaxy, then to stars more distant, then to the stars of other galaxies in the Local Group. Then to stars of galaxies in the rest of the Laniakea supercluster, and to the Perseus-Pisces supercluster, the Coma supercluster, etc., all the way to the Shapely Concentration, at a distance of 700,000,000 light years and a travel time greater than the current age of the universe. (Brenda's dataships can't travel to any destination further than that because the Hubble flow exceeds the dataship's maximum hyperbolic excess speed from the Milky Way galaxy.)

Each colony is started when an arriving dataship's computer prints into existence a copy of Brenda Lynn Jones, who takes over the colonization mission from that moment onward.

Each star system is different, with different resources and different challenges.

Yet the central characters are always Brenda Jones and her friend Ruby Pierce, and familiar faces will be seen among the earliest colonists: those nurses who raised the first generation of babies for the Solar System Empire, for instance, will reappear in nearly every other planetary system that gets a dataship sent to it. Once in a great while, an alien race will be encountered and have to be dealt with, either in weal or in woe, but those will be exceptions. Most star systems do not host any native life.

The parallel structure offers almost unlimited storytelling possibilities, fresh every time because they aren't continuations of the same historical story line, while giving the reader the feeling of greeting, once again, his or her favorite story characters.

"First light," said Brenda Lynn Jones, realizing at once that she had materialized from nothing a moment ago.

Briefly, she felt homesick for a world that she had never seen and never would see. Instead, she saw the frame of a dataship around her, and, where that did not obscure, the stars of a galaxy far from the one she had known. Or thought that she had known. Her memories were as replicated as her body was.

From a metal plaque in front of her seat, she read

"You are Brenda 747061.42206.44.109-1. If you ended up where you were supposed to, your ship's chronometer should read about 2 billion years...."

It read 2,092,117,704 years.

"Awaken the computer in your cockpit and watch the video briefing."

Brenda turned on the computer. The image of a copy of herself appeared on the monitor and began speaking.

"You are within the Perseus-Pisces supercluster, and have been preceded by three generations of colonies there. The dataship that left the Milky Way galaxy did so about 14 billion years ago."

Brenda noticed a copy of her best friend from high school, Ruby Pierce, entering the room behind the video Brenda, fiddling with something in her hands while standing in the background. Ruby seemed preoccupied and didn't speak.

"The first Brenda to reach Perseus-Pisces sent another dataship to a galaxy further into the supercluster 6 billion years ago. The Brenda of the resulting colony sent a dataship to yet another galaxy about 4 billion years ago. The dataship that brought you to where you probably are now departed from the galaxy that I'm in 2 billion years ago.

"Do you see a pattern here?"

In the back of the room, Ruby laughed. "'Two billion years ago.' It was last week." Ruby could be heard faintly over video Brenda's microphone.

"When you arrive, the galaxies in Perseus-Pisces that are nearest to Laniakea will have been colonized by the Brendas that were sent to them, and the colonization of Perseus-Pisces should be one dataship generation from completion. After you attend to the other stars in your own galaxy and its nearest neighbor galaxies, whatever ships you send to the more distant galaxies will finish the intergalactic part of our job.

"Which is just as well, since the Hubble flow has stretched this supercluster to an extent that separates its opposite ends beyond voyaging distance at any practical dataship speed.

"The components of the Laniakea supercluster — Virgo, Hydra-Centaurus, Pavo-Indus, Fornax, Dorado, Eridanus — will have been almost completely colonized by the time you exist. The Coma Supercluster and both of the Hercules Superclusters have probably been colonized to about the same extent that Perseus-Pisces has been, but there is no way to be certain. Parts of the Leo Supercluster probably have been colonized, too.

"Whatever ships that the Solar System Brendas sent scattershot toward the Shapely Supercluster might still be enroute, as that was nearly the limit of our reach with dataships. Anything farther than that would would have been un-catch-up-with-able."

Ruby, laughing again, turned and exited the room from which the elder Brenda was making her video.

"Since your ship made an intergalactic voyage, I know nothing about the place where you arrived. Your dataship will have chosen a star on the lower main sequence, with preference given to early K type stars."

Brenda paused the video and examined her new sun with her spaceship's sensors. Its effective temperature was the easiest quantity to measure: 4853 Kelvin. Bouncing a radar signal off it told her its distance, and from the angular size she found its radius: 0.74 solar radii. That meant it was 27% as luminous as Earth's sun was when Brenda One was a girl growing up in Atlanta, with 31% of its light in the visible spectrum, which was consistent with spectral type K3. Brenda estimated its mass at 0.78 solar masses, though this would have to be checked by orbital motions later.

The habitable zone distance for isolated rocky planets with Earthlike atmospheres would be from 0.50 AU to 0.72 AU, and the planets within that zone would have expected spindown times, from an 8-hour initial period to a 1:1 tidal lock, from 4.14 billion years at the inner edge to 37.3 billion years at the outer edge. The star's total time on the main sequence would be around 18.3 billion years. In short, it was a very good star to be the owner of.

She found the star's planets shortly thereafter. The remnants of her dataship, in which her little spaceship was riding in an interior bay, had entered an elliptical orbit inclined 107 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. In addition to the star, her new real estate included two gas giant planets, two asteroid belts, an assortment of rocky planets, and the usual neo-Kuiper decorations in the boonies. There was a moonless planet in the classical habitable zone, and Brenda's spectroscope showed her absorption bands from both water and molecular oxygen. Both of the gas giants had a collection of moons, and some of them seemed large.

Brenda pondered the idea that she was rich. She turned the video back on.

"That's all the diaspora information that I will give you here. You can find out more from relevant documents on your computer.

"Here's what we know about Earth and the Solar System. Brenda One went on to found the Solar System Empire, whose first citizens were copies of babies born to...
The astrophysics is real, in the sense that the correct physical relationships are observed and the math is correctly done. I am, really, more of a retired physicist than a writer of fiction.
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Journeyed there and back again
I'm honestly kind of with the OP on this one. I don't really have any rules for reading books, I'll still pick up whatever (and I just started reading Dresden Files this year), but I have veeeeeery little patience with very long book series these days. Especially a series where each entry is a doorstopper. I just don't find most of them stimulating enough to the imagination, and they require such an investment. I don't have the reading time I used to have, so I have to budget better.