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  • Writer's pictureAmelia

A Series Problem

I, in a turn of events that will astonish no one, need a new word.

I know, I’ve talked about it before.

My eternal problem: I need to find, not just a word with the right meaning, but the one, true word, encompassing every aspect of text and subtext, fitting the feel and flow of the sentence, giving and receiving in equal measure from the words on either side of it.

I have ranted about this before, and I will undoubtedly do so again, and then all my friends will helpfully suggest words that might be, but probably aren’t, the word I am looking for. And at some point in the process I will just have to get on with things.

It happens.

The word I’m looking for at the moment, though, is a little more troublesome than usual, because the word that isn’t right; or rather the word that is right, but that I don’t want to use, is: “Series”. As in “The Vicar Man series.” Because there are implications to that word.

But also, it’s the only word I’ve got.

“Series” these days, doesn’t just mean “series”.

Or it can, but when you use the word in context of other words, like “fantasy books”, it picks up a whole host of other, implicit words.

Like: “Trilogy.” Or “Ongoing.”

The word “Epic” one feels, may appear at any moment.

Certainly there is a general sense that any given book is only a part of the whole. You need to read all the books — and, crucially, in the right order — for the story to make sense.

Miss a book, and the whole thing falls apart.

Read what’s available so far, before the series is complete, and you can expect a long, tedious, frustrating wait until the author finally gets around to finishing the thing.

People will barely put up with that from George R. R. Martin.

They’re not going to put up with it from me.

Not all books are equally affected mind you.

Detective novels seem largely immune.

If I talk about “The Miss Marple series”, “The Sherlock Holmes series”, or, bringing things somewhat confusingly up to date, “The Flavia Albia series” there’s a general understanding that I mean a series of books about the same person, and that that person will be solving a different mystery in each book.

Science fiction can go either way: Frank Herbert’s Dune series, for example, is very much a series series: read one book out of place and you can become hopelessly lost; whereas Ian M. Banks’ Culture series is more an assemblage of books, all interacting with one another, around a general setting, and with related or intersecting themes.

This probably says something about the mindsets behind books in question. It’s been a while since I did my literature degree, but it definitely feels like there’s something there*.

But for fantasy, or romance, or whatever romantasy actually is**?

“Series” might as well be “serial” or “sequence” or any of the other words that show up when I remind myself, for the umpteenth time, that what I need isn’t actually a synonym: it’s a whole new word.

It’s not just books that are affected either.

We see films*** advertised as “Not a sequel but an equal” in an attempt to explain that this isn’t “Part Two”, you don’t need to have watched the first one, the story works perfectly well on its own.

There’s always that sense that, in a series, things should happen — well, in series.

Begin at the beginning, go on to the end, then stop.

And they often do****, even in detective novels*****, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and forth within that series.

Watson can always dig an old case out of his files. There can always be an untold tale, picked up years after the fact and told, all out of joint with the rest.

Series doesn’t have to mean story, is the thing.

Even when a series occurs in chronological order, even when it is, in a way, all part of one character’s ongoing story, the individual books — or episodes, or however you’re telling the tale — don’t have to depend on each other to make sense.

That’s my problem. The Wolf-Finder General is its own book.

You can pick it up, read it, and —I swear— enjoy it without ever touching a copy of The Vicar Man.

At the same time, it’s part of the Vicar Man series.

Reading The Vicar Man will give you more context on the characters.

It will explain, in more detail than The Wolf-Finder General, precisely what happened to bring them to this point.

Reading The Wolf-Finder General first will spoil****** a couple of points in The Vicar Man.

But you can still read either one of them without bothering with the other.

Or you can read them in the wrong order and, yes, a few things will be even less surprising than they would have been the right way around, but you should still be able to enjoy them perfectly well.

And either way you won’t have to sit around, waiting for the next book, and the book after that, to know how the story ends.

Yes, I am planning both of those books.

And a couple of side-stories.

Maybe some others too.

The books are, inarguably, a series.

There was one book, and now there’s another book, with the same characters in the same world.

The events of the second book even follow the events of the first.

With a small gap for everyone to catch their breath. And hopefully take a bath or two.

No, I’m not telling you why anyone would need a bath.

You’ll just have to read The Vicar Man and find out.


Anyway, it’s about a three month break: I’d hope they’d all have taken more than a few baths in that time.

A copy of The Vicar Man stacked on top of a copy of The Wolf-Finder General, carefully arranged so that you can't see that the book on the bottom is a proof copy, because I still don't have any author copies yet. They are on top of a large, squashy beanbag, which looks brown or black in the picture, but is actually purple. Honestly I'm just including this because posts with pictures in get people's attention better than posts without. Supposedly..
The start of a series. Or just two books.

The point is that “Series” doesn’t mean “Serial”.

It can mean “Stories” not just “Story”.

And if it’s going to keep meaning “one whole thing” and stop meaning “lots of little things all strung together” then we’re going to need a brand new word.

Which won’t really help me, anyway, because my books are listed as a series on Goodreads, and on Bookbub and Book Sirens, and on — whisper it — Amazon, and I doubt that's going to change.

So no matter what I say it is, it’s still, as far as the world’s concerned, a series.

Don’t let that put you off.

*It does and there is.

It says “This writer wanted to write something like this, and this other writer wanted to write something like that.” The fact that the format of each series somewhat reflects the nature of society and events within the books too is probably coincidence. Which, as any literature student will tell you, doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze out at least two thousand words on the subject, double spaced, with full quotations and citing your sources.

**Romance driven fantasy, apparently.

So now I know.

And you do too.

If you didn’t already.

***Did I go hunting for the first film to be described this way?

Yes I did.Did I manage to figure out what it was?

Did I buggery.

At this point I feel there are equal chances of it being Shock Treatment or Ralph Breaks The Internet.

So just a few points of difference, there.

****Or, equally of course, they don’t, and sometimes that’s a feature of the series, and things are revealed along the way that the reader didn’t know the characters knew till later on.

That sort of series if often more of a series series than the other kind, somehow.

*****Agatha Christie sat on “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” for decades just so that it would actually be Poirot’s last case

******Spoil them, but not ruin them.

That’s another word that’s a little tricky, now and then.

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