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Disappointed!

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 06-01-2008

2

(I’m hear­ing Gary Old­man in The Fifth Ele­ment when I read the sub­ject there. Yes, I prob­a­bly could have found a sound clip and includ­ed it, but I’m count­ing on your imag­i­na­tions and mem­o­ries here.)

Well, I final­ly got around to read­ing the rest of Fledg­ling, the Liaden Uni­verse nov­el pub­lished by seri­al­ly by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in 2007 using the storyteller’s bowl con­cept.1 Sam has record­ed the final chap­ters for pod­cast­ing and is edit­ing the record­ing this week.

Partners in NecessityJust to be clear: I have been a com­plete­ly immod­er­ate fan of Lee & Miller’s work since the ear­ly 90s. I was total­ly hooked when my friend Ed loaned me the orig­i­nal three books in this uni­verse (Agent of Change, Con­flict of Hon­ors, and Carpe Diem), and I searched in vain for years and years try­ing to lay my hands on my own copies of them. When I found them repub­lished as Part­ners in Neces­si­ty, you bet­ter believe I bought the very first copy I laid eyes on, even though I real­ly couldn’t afford it at the time. Then there was the long wait for Plan B, then I Dare, to final­ly fin­ish the main plot lines from the orig­i­nal books (I can’t call them a tril­o­gy, because they don’t stand alone).

Plan BThat wait was one of the rea­sons I stopped read­ing any series that hadn’t been ful­ly pub­lished. I am not a patient woman. My name is Cyn­thia, and I am a sto­ry addict. I want my next fix now, right now, and it’s rare for any author to get past my reluc­tance to com­mit to an unfin­ished sto­ry2

I DareI don’t nor­mal­ly re-read fic­tion. There aren’t many movies I’m will­ing to see twice, either. It says a great deal that Part­ners in Neces­si­ty is com­fort read­ing for me, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read that col­lec­tion.

I read almost all the oth­er Liaden mate­r­i­al avail­able, includ­ing the chap­books. Scout’s Progress and Pilot’s Choice (pub­lished togeth­er as Local Cus­tom) didn’t trip my trig­ger quite like the oth­er stuff, but they were decent read­ing. I read Crys­tal Sol­dier as soon as it came out, but haven’t yet had a chance to read Crys­tal Drag­on. I know that I read Bal­ance of Trade, but for some rea­son it didn’t stick in my mind as well as the oth­er tales did. I read The Tomor­row Log, which isn’t even a Liaden book. I read Sharon’s Barn­burn­er, which isn’t even sci­ence fic­tion or fan­ta­sy. I sought out their short sto­ries in antholo­gies like as Such a Pret­ty Face, even know­ing that they’d prob­a­bly be avail­able in chap­books that I’d end up buy­ing again lat­er.

But real­ly, I was wait­ing for the sto­ry that was sup­posed to be told in Fledg­ling. Who was this Theo per­son who showed up at the very end of I Dare with “a kind of com­pli­cat­ed prob­lem” to lay before the head of Clan Kor­val?

I was going to wait ’til Fledg­ling was fin­ished to read it, but got caught up because Sam was pod­cast­ing each chap­ter as it was released, and with the mate­r­i­al right there I just couldn’t resist it. I accept­ed the fact that Fledg­ling, as pub­lished online, would be a first draft. No prob­lem. I have no com­plaints there.

As I got into chap­ter 30, I real­ly had to won­der if they were going to pull a Hein­lein-esque “pull some­thing out of the authors’ pos­te­ri­ors and wrap it up with some hereto­fore unknown-to-the-read­er secret power/​force/​weapon/​group.” To their cred­it, they didn’t. But it’s not okay.

I am ter­ri­bly, ter­ri­bly dis­ap­point­ed that the authors hit chap­ter 31 and just…stopped. Um, what hap­pened to chap­ters 32 – 36? That’s it. They hit their word count, they say. 3

None of the plot threads were tied off! Not one! They nev­er even got to the ques­tions raised at the end of I Dare! The whole enter­prise just raised new ques­tions!

Yes, I am, in essence, yelling. Because I real­ly feel cheat­ed. If I’d been told at some point, in the notes or their mail­ing list or what­ev­er, “Hey, we’ve real­ized that we’ve got a lot more sto­ry here than we’d real­ize, so it’s going to be longer and we need more dona­tions,” or even, “Hey guys, we’ve got to split this nov­el into sev­er­al vol­umes,” I wouldn’t feel this way.

Look, I would have bought a book two even if they did clear up at least some plots in vol­ume one. Didn’t I (and many oth­er fans) prove my loy­al­ty by talk­ing up their out-of-print books for years and years, with­out even know­ing if we’d ever get more? Why on earth would any author do this to his fans? Is it a mat­ter of just not “bud­get­ing words” prop­er­ly, or what? I know that there’s a prac­ti­cal lim­it to the num­ber of words that go into a sin­gle paper­back vol­ume, but plen­ty of oth­er authors man­age to stick to such lim­its and cre­ate very good, stand­alone books! Even books that are part of a series with a larg­er sto­ry arc!4

Do Lee and Miller care what I think? Prob­a­bly not. It’s com­plete­ly pos­si­ble that I’m in the minor­i­ty among their read­er­ship. I am on their dis­cus­sion list, and while I do not read every word of every sin­gle mes­sage, I would have noticed if there’d been an out­cry on this sub­ject. No, I don’t read their Live­Jour­nals these days, as I don’t hon­est­ly man­age to keep up with those of real-life friends any more (and I get email reminders now when some of them post). Maybe there was a hoorah there, or in the Fledg­ling dis­cus­sion forum.

But do I think I have a right to feel cheat­ed? Yes. I’m big on set­ting appro­pri­ate expec­ta­tions, and I real­ly don’t think they did that. I stopped read­ing Anne McCaf­frey because of that kind of thing.5

Am I like­ly to read the fin­ished ver­sion of Fledg­ling? I don’t know. We’re sup­posed to receive a copy at some point. I’m unlike­ly to read Fledg­ling II (Salta­tion), Sword of Ori­on or Duaine­fey now. If Web of the Tri­dent (sequel to The Tomor­row Log) is ever pub­lished, yeah, I’d sor­ta like to know what hap­pens next — but again, I’ll read it from the library, or find a used copy.

What I won’t be doing in the future is to rush right out and buy what­ev­er they pub­lish right away, as I’ve done with most of their books, because I don’t trust them as much any more. I won’t be rec­om­mend­ing them to all and sundry with­out reser­va­tion, either. And I’m very sad about that.


1 They cred­it Eliz­a­beth Moon with the idea in its cur­rent form)

2 Fin­ished but not yet pub­lished doesn’t count, I’m afraid. I’m still wait­ing for Diane Duane to fin­ish the Doors series, too, dan­git!

3 They do note that they have to leave room to expand some things in the edit­ing process. But four miss­ing chap­ters doesn’t real­ly seem right.

4 See Jim Butcher’s Har­ry Dres­den nov­els, J.D. Robb’s Eve Dal­las series, and Diane Duane’s Young Wiz­ards books as exam­ples

5 Ridicu­lous fan­ta­sy claim­ing to be sci­ence fic­tion, crap­py books “coau­thored” with every Jane, Jill and Sal­ly her pub­lish­er want­ed to pro­mote that might have been in her uni­vers­es, but showed no signs what­so­ev­er of being touched by an expe­ri­enced writer, etc.

Comments (2)

I think I’d be cross about this, too.

I’d been think­ing about lis­ten­ing to Fledg­ling. I may still do so, but only as anoth­er vehi­cle to lis­ten to Sam 🙂

Will I read Fledg­ling II, which they’ve announced that Sharon will be writ­ing?

I real­ly hope we didn’t say that Sharon will be writ­ing Salta­tion. Sharon is knee-deep in Long­eye and Steve is tak­ing the lead on Salta­tion.