A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.


(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.

2 comments to Disappointed!

  • 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.