Asimov, Benford, Big Dumb Objects and Me.

It seems like almost every book you pick up these days, especially if it’s in the science fiction/fantasy genres, is a part of some long-running series. There are obvious commercial reasons for this, but I’m guessing a lot of authors also just think in terms of long story arcs. I mean, I’m doing it myself with my Timegate series. I’m only one book in at the moment, but I’m over half-way through the writing of a companion book (it’s not, strictly speaking, a sequel) set in a parallel version of the first one’s universe. There’s plenty of short story spinoffs in the works, too, largely culled from left-over material from the original unedited draft. And I’ve definitely got ideas for a third novel, which would be a sequel. So the series bug is with me, too.

I’ve been working my way through a few different series in my own reading lately. They include Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, Christian Jacq’s Ramses 2 series, good old Harry Potter, and that amazing gothy tome of weirdness, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. Reading that one I definitely see where they got ideas for the old Addams Family TV series!

Next up I plan to embark on a reading of some of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation stories, the classic space opera centred on something Asimov called psychohistory, and which – arguably – influenced Lucas’s Star Wars. This one’s interesting for the way it branched out into a sprawling saga from its original trilogy in the 1940s and ‘50s. Asimov kept adding to it, including further sequels then going back to its origins with Prelude To Foundation and Forward the Foundation (the last book he wrote before his death). To further complicate matters, a second trilogy was written after that by three other writers. It fits roughly between Prelude and the first original Foundation story in the timeline. I, of course, read the original trilogy and the sequels long ago, so I’ll be concentrating on these earlier entries, which feature the life of Hari Seldon, the originator of psychohistory.

I’m particularly looking forward to reading the first entry in the second trilogy, Foundation’s Fear, by Gregory Benford. Part of this is simply because it was the last one of the second trilogy that I acquired, and I had been looking for the thing for ages. I finally found a nice hardback copy going for a song in a local thrift store – a serendipitous purchase and a fine memory. The other reason is Benford’s one of my favourite authors, with his books Timescape and Cosm being especially awesome reads. Though they haven’t all been great. He wrote a book called The Atifact that I thought was terrible – a lazily-written attempt at a blockbuster style Big Dumb Object story. And I know what I speak of: my novel Eye of the Timegate is also, in its way, a Big Dumb Object story. I even have one of my characters say at one point, “I feel like I’m in a Big Dumb Object story”. See, it’s all right as long there’s some self reflection there…

Okay, I seem to be rambling at this point. So let me just end this particular blog with: Yeah, I write series, therefore I am…

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