This Road… It Leads to Nowhere!

How do you feel about series with no projected end-date or endgame? 

If you may recall, I went through a brief period of addiction to The Vampire Diaries (the television show, not the books). And, yes, I know, shame on me. But call it a guilty pleasure.

Then, one day, when I was half looking for something fluffy to read and half looking to see where the television series was headed, I read the Wikipedia entry for The Vampire Diaries novels, and I discovered that author L. J. Smith originally wrote the series as a trilogy. She then added more, and a little more, and now the series will be continued by a ghostwriter, since Smith signed a “work for hire” contract, and the copyrights to the series belong to her publisher.

It hit me: this series is headed… nowhere.

It’s a soap opera. It will continue until it doesn’t.

That sort of ruined it for me. Everything that we’re working toward has no significance, and once we find this artifact or beat this enemy, we’ll just need to find another artifact or beat another enemy. There are no happy (or sad) endings, unless someone dies. It cheapens the current struggle, because, in the end, what’s it all worth?

I’ve often wondered how writers of novel-series manage to juggle their eventual goals for their characters when their contracts keep getting extended. If you project three books, with X midpoint goal happening in book three, what do you do when, after book two, you get an extension to seven books? We’ve all seen series completely derailed when this happens. *coughSwordofTruthcough*

Any ideas how this works? How would you manage it? How, as a reader, do you feel when you realize you’re being led by the nose to an undetermined end?

Jazz Punk

Those of you who don’t watch Fox’s latest sci-fi venture, Fringe, missed a miraculous moment last night: the birth of a new genre.

The much-discussed episode, titled “Brown Betty” after a very special breed of pot, is a drug-induced, musical fairy tale told by a mad scientist to the main character’s young niece. It’s a noir tale of a broken-hearted private detective, a young man with a glass heart, and an evil scientist who steals children’s dreams as inspiration for his inventions, which include teddy bears, hugs, and singing corpses.

But I’m not too interested in the plot, as fun and quirky as it was; nope, I’m interested in the setting. The fairy tale combines a prohibition-era, jazz age setting with the sci-fi technology of the Fringe universe… Jazz Punk!

Steampunk is, for the most part, running out of steam (haha), but it’s been a major sci-fi fetish for a good twenty years now. Could this be its replacement? You still have the dark, smokey atmosphere of Victorian London, but this time it’s noir New York, gangster Chicago. Imagine the potential: think of flapper dresses, the fedoras, the high-tech computers! Picture the roaring twenties, but with lasers and flying cars! Swing dance, but with AI?

Yeah, okay, that last one was cheesy, but I think the Fringe writers, in keeping with Fox’s theme week,  inadvertently created an entirely new sci-fi genre — and possibly a new fetish. If you haven’t watched the episode, check it out. Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities… Smoke some Brown Betty if you have to.

“Brown Betty” discussion:
Entertainment Weekly