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Old 01-30-2010, 06:29 PM   #1
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Pet peeve: series authors who introduce things in non-series books!

I was recently reading a series (not a very good one, I don't plan to continue it) where in book 4, the main character is single and at the start of book 5 she has a boyfriend with whom she has been in a relationship for three months who she met on a case. I had read all the previous books in the series and did not remember this at all. I did some research and found out that the author had written a short story which had appeared in an anthology with several other authors. It was in this short story that the case, and the boyfriend were introduced.

Also in the Sookie Stackhouse series, there is one key plot event in one of the books which is based on a short story the author published elsewhere. I went from one book in the series to the next and kept feeling like I had missed something, and again had to do some digging to find out what was going on.

I think this is really not fair to readers. A person who is reading the books of a series in order should expect to be able to follow all the threads in that series. If the author wants to do a side project using these characters, it should not be written so that it has such a material effect on the series that a loyal reader who is going from Book 3 to Book 4 will feel like they have been cheated. As an example, Nora Roberts often writes little side stories using the Eve Dallas character from her J.D. Robb series, but these are just yet another case that detective character works. They don't introduce pivotal new characters or radical changes into the lives of the characters we already have.

Has anyone else encountered this problem before? Are there authors who are particularly egregious offenders who I should avoid in the future? Honestly, even for authors for whom I am a fan, I can't possibly be expected to keep track of every side project they might do. I buy the books in the series, in the order they come out, and feel like given that, I should be able to follow all events and developments with ease. If there is anybody else out there who is doing this, I would rather know ahead of time so I can avoid those books.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:26 PM   #2
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Has anyone else encountered this problem before?
I've no doubt encountered it in books, but since I don't memorize books, I couldn't tell you when. The only example recent enough for me to recall comes from comics, where a character enters a morgue and starts a "did X kill Y because of..." speech and I'm left wondering how the corpse got there. Had to track down a four-episode side-series to fill that in. I do think they could do a "previously on our show" bit to provide enough background to follow the current work even if you haven't been fanatical about reading every side-work.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:46 PM   #3
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I've no doubt encountered it in books, but since I don't memorize books, I couldn't tell you when. The only example recent enough for me to recall comes from comics, where a character enters a morgue and starts a "did X kill Y because of..." speech and I'm left wondering how the corpse got there. Had to track down a four-episode side-series to fill that in. I do think they could do a "previously on our show" bit to provide enough background to follow the current work even if you haven't been fanatical about reading every side-work.
I will second this about comics. It is very common for events that occur in other comics to have an impact on the series that you are reading.

The scene with Crispus Allen (the corpse) was from "Infinite Crisis" and leads to him becoming the new Spectre. To get the full story you had to be a regular reader of monthly series "Gotham Central" (which provides the back story on who shot Allen and why) and also the four-issue miniseries "Day Of Vengeance." To the casual reader Allen becoming The Spectre was a surprise considering the setup in the other series (where it appeared to be so obvious who would become the new Spectre).

In the current DC big event, "The Blackest Night," besides the main miniseries you have to read both "Green Lantern" and "Green Lantern Corps" along as many miniseries which shows the impact of "The Blackest Night" on other characters (such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman). Added to this are many series "brought back from the dead" (such as "The Phantom Stranger" and "Catwoman" which had been cancelled) for a single issue.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:50 PM   #4
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It is frustrating. I go to wikipedia or the author's website to download the series order including short stories so that I make sure I read them in order and don't miss those extra details. I also use the list to keep track of what I've read and what is next (since I don't read them straight through).
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:53 PM   #5
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I believe Penguin was taking these and cutting them up into smaller ebooks. There was a big complaint that Patricia Brigg's "Alpha and Omega" series was hard to get into, because the characters were introduced in one of these compilations but the first book jumped into events without skipping a beat, so many were lost. Luckily Penguin offered the ebook of the short story, and I knew about it before I started the series.
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Old 01-31-2010, 10:04 PM   #6
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I've thought of another example, though again, not an ebook. I listen to various audiobooks, radio dramas, and audio plays when I exercise, and one of the audio series I'm following (ever so slowly, among other things) is Big Finish's Bernice Summerfield stories. In one episode our adventuring professor of archeology turns up pregnant, with sufficient in-story dialog to suggest I'm supposed to know the backstory. But I don't: turns out the events happened in one of the BS paperbacks, not an audio story, and I only follow the audio series for this character. I'm only in series three, and the audios are up to series ten, so I wonder if I'll find other cross-tales that I'll have to look up online.
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Old 02-01-2010, 02:20 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Solitaire1 View Post
I will second this about comics. It is very common for events that occur in other comics to have an impact on the series that you are reading.

The scene with Crispus Allen (the corpse) was from "Infinite Crisis" and leads to him becoming the new Spectre. To get the full story you had to be a regular reader of monthly series "Gotham Central" (which provides the back story on who shot Allen and why) and also the four-issue miniseries "Day Of Vengeance." To the casual reader Allen becoming The Spectre was a surprise considering the setup in the other series (where it appeared to be so obvious who would become the new Spectre).

In the current DC big event, "The Blackest Night," besides the main miniseries you have to read both "Green Lantern" and "Green Lantern Corps" along as many miniseries which shows the impact of "The Blackest Night" on other characters (such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman). Added to this are many series "brought back from the dead" (such as "The Phantom Stranger" and "Catwoman" which had been cancelled) for a single issue.
That's largely why I stopped reading comics. When I was young, it was a standard thing for each comic to have at least three self-contained stories per issue. As the stories grew in sophistication and the number of pages per issue shrank, eventually it became standard to have one story per issue; with a particular interesting storyline being an event that might continue over two or even three issues. But now stories are all multi-issue, and can start in one series, continue in a second, move the action to a third, and trying to determine where they will end must vex even the gods. What person with any semblance of a life has the time to sort through such confusion? Of those who do, how many have the resources to buy all the various titles necessary to keep up? Personally, I think this marketing strategy, designed to get people hooked into more and more titles, has backfired and is responsible in large part for the decline in sales over the years.

The only new comics I read these days are titles such as Papercut's Tales of the Crypt series and an occasional self-contained graphic novel.
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:38 AM   #8
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A related issue would be when an author has a "crisis of continuity". Larry Niven is especially good at screwing with continuity, even when not actually rebooting his universe.
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:12 PM   #9
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That's largely why I stopped reading comics. When I was young, it was a standard thing for each comic to have at least three self-contained stories per issue. As the stories grew in sophistication and the number of pages per issue shrank, eventually it became standard to have one story per issue; with a particular interesting storyline being an event that might continue over two or even three issues. But now stories are all multi-issue, and can start in one series, continue in a second, move the action to a third, and trying to determine where they will end must vex even the gods. What person with any semblance of a life has the time to sort through such confusion? Of those who do, how many have the resources to buy all the various titles necessary to keep up? Personally, I think this marketing strategy, designed to get people hooked into more and more titles, has backfired and is responsible in large part for the decline in sales over the years.

The only new comics I read these days are titles such as Papercut's Tales of the Crypt series and an occasional self-contained graphic novel.
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A related issue would be when an author has a "crisis of continuity". Larry Niven is especially good at screwing with continuity, even when not actually rebooting his universe.
I agree that the massive interconnectiveness of comics has, on the whole, worked against them. It makes it difficult to completely follow any story.

Recently, there has been a small movement away from the massive interconnectedness. One series I'm current reading, "Doom Patrol," features The Doom Patrol and The Metal Men in stories that basically self-contained (they do cover multiple issues but only within this series). I hope this trend continues and becomes dominant.

But for me, one of the worst developments in comics are the continuing retcons (retroactive continuity) changes. For example, just since 1986 we've had the following retcons (this is just what comes immediately to mind):

- Superman was never a Superboy, now he was a Superboy

- Superman first met Lex Luthor when they were adults in Metropolis, now they first met in Smallville.

- The killer of Batman's parents never caught, now he was.

- Woman Woman was not a founding member of the Justice League of America, now she is.

- The Legion Of Super-Heroes (LSH) has had at least two complete reboots, and many continuity changes (Superboy as a long-time member, Superboy was a member for a short time, Superboy never existed, the current Superboy was a member for a time, the current Superman was a member as a teen).

- The Metal Men were originally robots, then they were originally human minds in robot bodies (the source of their human personalities), then they were always completely robots with no human minds involved and their personalities come from the metals they are made of.

- The current series Booster Gold is involved with keeping history on track, and as a result has caused a number of retcons involving Superman, Batman, Justice League, and Green Lantern (just to name a few).

For me, the worst aspect of this is that I can't be sure exactly what is currently in continuity. Something that should be simple like "In what comic did Deathstroke The Terminator first meet the Teen Titans?" isn't that simple (it was originally "New Teen Titans" #2 but the Booster Gold series mentioned above changed this).
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:15 PM   #10
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Ah, is that where Torchwood got the term Retcon? I didn't know that.
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Old 02-02-2010, 10:46 AM   #11
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You could try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. There are some "between the numbers" books but they are all self-contained and don't affect the main series.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:04 PM   #12
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I think Kresley Cole did that. If you look, it says that the first book in the series is "A Hungar Like No Other." But things happen in the first book that make you go, huh? THEN you find out that the original first book is in an anthology called this with those 3 other authors. So here I am, at the 4th book and they keep referencing to this and that and I'm like,"Which book was that in?" only to find it...somewhere else.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:14 AM   #13
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You could try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. There are some "between the numbers" books but they are all self-contained and don't affect the main series.
Actually, wasn't one of her sub-stories resolved in one of her "between the numbers" books? In one "numbered" book her sister was engaged, then she and the lawyer decided not to get married in a "between" book. Right?
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