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Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Dropped" Series - Some Favorites I Would Love to See More of (by Liviu Suciu)

Recently there has been a controversy involving small press Night Shade and some of its authors. Here at FBC we had a post covering the cancellation of The Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams published by Night Shade and then an update with more about the whole thing.

However in the many comments we received, there tended to be a bit of confusion between the two main issues that appeared: dropping series/authors and financial/rights shenanigans. To my mind there is an ocean of difference between the two, one being an accepted business practice that happens quite often however annoying for the readers and very unpleasant for the authors and even the editors involved, the other a matter of right and wrong that *should not happen* at all and should be brought under illumination asap.

So I decided to give some examples of big time favorite series of mine that have been "dropped" for a reason or another and from which I hope another book may get published sometime, book that I would get and read asap. I read the books in cause pretty much on publication and I reread some across the years, all remaining favorites despite the "unfinished status". In chronological order:

Continuing Time by Daniel Keys Moran 1988-1993
Emerald Eyes/The Long Run/The Last Dancer

This was supposed to be an epic story spanning millenniums of history and going to the far future; the fourth book The AI War was announced in the mid 90's but it kept being postponed until it was canned; the author recovered the rights some years ago and promised he will have the book out in some form, but he has not yet done that as far as I know. The first three books are available free electronically HERE and there are excerpts from both AI War and the next planned novel Lord November around.

Emerald Eyes deals with the Castanaveras telepaths in a near future dominated by a French led UN in which America is occupied. It's a powerful novel that sets the tone of the series. The Long Run features Trent "the Uncatchable" Castanaveras who is from the young generation and not a telepath, but one of the most endearing heroes in sf; it's a fun, fun adventure taking place in occupied America and on the Moon.

The Last Dancer has episodes in the distant past but essentially deals with the American uprising for independence in - what else but - 2076 and features young Denice Castanaveras who is the last powerful telepath alive together with her addict twin David. Trent appears too and he steals the show whenever he does, but this one is the best novel of the series and among my all time favorites. All in all this is an A++ series with 3 superb and quite different novels (tragic, fun adventure, epic) and it still has its fans even today.


Metropolitan/City on Fire by Walter Jon Williams 1995-1996

This is UF when the term was not invented so the series was probably ahead of its time. In an enclosed more or less all-urban world of city-states, with a magical substance "plasm" that powers everything, Ayah is a minor plasm-inspector in an obscure city-state, though she is not of the majority local racial stock, but of a people that currently have no land of their own, being scattered and generally looked down by the locals throughout the world. Even her fiancee who is from the majority, kind of looks down on her and she longs for escape but how and where?

Constantine is a former Metropolitan - head of state - in exile; he is from a rich and powerful family and has a pretty bad reputation, though as the story goes on we find out that coming upon almost absolute power in his own important state, he tried to reform society and bring a better world into existence; for his pains he was overthrown by the neighboring oligarchies alarmed by his revolutionary instincts, though he decided not to fight to the bitter end as too costly for his people, but accept gilded exile in Ayah's minor city-state.

When Ayah finds a secret plasm tap which can generate a lot of "unlicensed" power, she decides that's her ticket out so she contacts Constantine as a potential buyer. Given a chance to regain power, the Metropolitan uses the plasma to help revolutionaries in one of the most corrupt states around to overthrow the government, while sort of seducing Ayah to his cause.

In "City on Fire", Constantine now a leader - though not a local - of the new country has to battle corruption, the local mafia and oppressive church, while Ayah becomes both his minister of "plasma resources" and the heroine of her dispossessed people who flock as mercenaries to Constantine's standard and offer him a powerful army; of course neighboring and even farther away oligarchies are unhappy and try to do everything to overthrow the "new regime", but this time Constantine is decided to fight to the end and with Ayah and her people's army he may even have a chance...

These books have great world building, inventiveness and absolutely awesome characters in Ayah and Constantine and while unlikely, I truly wish we would see at least one more installment; even so they are highly recommended and they give a great reading experience; alongside the standalone Aristoi this is the best WJ Williams I've ever read and it's a pity his recent efforts are more conventional.


Metaplanetary/Superluminal by Tony Daniel 2001-2004

This series was planned as a clear trilogy and the author was very upset when he could not publish the third volume. So here you get an incomplete story with threads left hanging, most notably the resolution of the war between the Inner Planets and the Outers as well as the fate of AI's imprisoned in chilling concentration camps - those scenes in which sentient AI's who are hated by the bad guys who lead the Inner Planets are tortured in the equivalent of concentration camps are among the most disturbing ones in a series which has quite a few disturbing such, including sex between AI's and humans leading to children who are a bit weird, but recognizably human and much more...Though of course the Inner leaders classify those children as "mixed blood" in an obvious analogy...

Enhanced humans, posthumans - called "manifolds", people who can dimly imagine the future at a high costs, evolved animals, sentient star ships, a flying Jeep and much more are among the wonders of these two books; I thought Superluminal a bit of a let down after an awesome Metaplanetary though it was just the transitional middle book syndrome, so this series definitely needs its conclusion... A worth read with the caveats above.


Sea Beggars by Paul Kearney 2003-2006
The Mark of Ran/This Forsaken Earth

This one has been planned at four but the author said he could make it work in three from what I remember, though it was still canned to much distress from its readers and Mr. Kearney of course; since Solaris has been getting serious about publishing Mr. Kearney's work, both new and reprinted, there is a chance for the series to be continued when rights to the first two novels revert to the author. Personally I think that Paul Kearney is among the highest level fantasy writers out there, on par with anyone you care to name.

As it happens while the general picture remains unsolved, This Forsaken Earth ends on a definite note, so these two can be read with some kind of conclusion. The books are quite dark but powerful and the main character Rol Cortisahne is very interesting. While there are some standard elements - mysterious orphan, apprenticeship to a powerful master - the series is dark from the beginning and then it takes an unexpected turn with most of the action becoming sea-based as the title implies. Both books are highly recommended by me and I hope we will finally see the next two planned books in a few years.


Joe said...

I should really e-mail DKM about AI War, but he has been posting excerpts from that book on his blog (hasn't been updated in almost a year, though) and I'm not sure if he's jumping out of sequence. I'd love to have AI War in book for, though.

I would throw Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age novels into this. She's published four, but has no contract for more. It's a setting she has plans for many more novel length stories and I really want more. Except for the one additional book she has written but is unlikely to sell and thus may put up on the donation model, we're not likely to see any more PA novels and that's a shame. I think they are better than anything else she has done - and she's damn good.

It's not a dropped series, but I want a third Ariane Emory novel from C.J. Cherryh.

More Imaro novels from Charles Saunders. Night Shade republished the first two, but declined the third, presumably for lack of sales (which had been previously published but out of print). Saunders himself has self-published the third and fourth volumes. I intend to pick them up in the future, but I'd love to see more publisher and consumer support for Saunders.

Liviu said...

I follow DKM blog too and I was very excited when he announced he got the rights back, so hopefully we will see the novel at some point.

Great additions with the other series and I hope more favorite series like these will come up in discussion since at least this way they are not forgotten.

Anonymous said...

What about the Christopher Snow trilogy by Dean Koontz? What happened to the third damn book?

Quit messin with Frankenstein and finish Chris Snow!!!!

Take care,

Bastard said...

What about the Halfblood Chronicles by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey? I've heard rumors about a possible 4th book called Elvenbred, but with Norton's death it never got done/released.

Many have hoped for Mercedes to continue it, but seems like she has no interest in it, which is a shame.

Goodeye said...

The Last Mortal Man - Syne Mitchell.
A series that died after one book but I would have loved to see her resolve the story line.

Goodeye said...

I would have loved to seen the "series" Deathless continue after one book. The Last Mortal Man by Syne Mitchell was a great read and would have done well as a series I believe.

Tracy Falbe said...

When authors of series get dropped by a publisher, they should continue to write and market their new novels to their existing audience. Self publishing is very affordable with print on demand and digital publishing. An author with an existing but unfinished series and loyal readers would definitely make some money. In this day and age there is no reason for an author dropped by a publisher to just leave it at that.

Matt said...

Ohhhhh, yes, I would LOVE to have a resolution to Tony Daniel's series.

Also, I humbly beseech Scott Westerfeld to stop writing YA (I know it pays the bills) and go back and write in the "Risen Empire" universe. Those books are crying for a sequel.

Bastard said...

Tracy, I very much doubt it's as easy as that. Pretty sure that publishers control certain rights that [might] prevent an author from doing something like that. But I'm no expert.

Liviu said...

Thank you all for the great comments and additions; regarding independent publishing and rights, DK Moran bought back the rights to AI War for something over 10k from his announcement of several years ago, but I distinctly remember Tony Daniel exploring the independent way at the time, though being 2005 or so, it may have been early for that - today with the Amazon platform and Smashwords and others, I think it's much feasible as other established authors discovered and Ms. Falbe pointed out.

Personally, I think that with Mr. Daniel returning to sf novels soon from what I hear - he published some mind blowing stories recently in several anthologies, one I reviewed here from Eclipse 2 and one in New Space opera 1 - 3 of the 4 series here have good odds of continuation.


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