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The interconnectedness of… nothing?

June 17, 2010

Where are James, Morgan and Kit when you want them?

Here am I, with this d**n blog post to put together… I ask you, ‘series’?

“Write about your favourite series,” said she who must be obeyed. (Sorry, C.J. – couldn’t resist that one!)

What does any boy-child (stuck in a man’s body) do in times of trouble? Call on his childhood heroes, of course!

Classic...

Enter Kit – and Greg may just be with me here – Kit Kinnison, Lensman extraordinaire! Or was it Morgan, first? Morgan Kane, gun-slinger! But, hold on, talk about genre-hopping, the name may have been James, James Bond – shaken but not stirred, my dear!

Which of these classic heroes stepped into my bedroom first? Which had me marvelling at their exploits before the others? I remember not.

Take a break...

(…Pause, as the author stops to break out the supply of chocolate stashed in the ready-to-hand refrigerator! …That’s better!)

Anyway, lest I be accused of digressing – to change the subject, or otherwise play for time until inspiration about “series” strikes me – I shall continue.

E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Classic Lensman series; Kjell Hallbing (aka Louis Masterson) – author of over 80 Morgan Kane books (although my collection only got to the first 27 or so); and Ian Flemming’s James Bond, provided my principal diet of reading material, from as early as I can remember reading books without pictures, to my entry into the adult world of work. There, sadly, amongst the stresses and strains of working life, my recollection of series reading fades into obscurity.

Norweigan cowboys?

Ask me what it is about those books that I should remember them and I cannot recall a single story… Concepts? Yes. That each provided me with enjoyment? Yes.

But if I were to critique them as I have come to know the word critique, then I would most probably destroy an illusion. And, besides, I would have to read a whole shed-load of books again! I can, however, remember that the Morgan Kane series, when neatly stacked in order on my bookshelf, displayed a great view of the hand-tooled leather gun belt I’d always wanted to own!

Is it simply that we always remember our first time? (Painful or not!)

There were other series, certainly. As I matured and found the odd moment of time during and between marriages… (That’s another story!)

I’m being subjective here, but let me see… There was the superb Tai Pan and Noble House of James Clavell’s Asian saga, and Eric Van Lustbader’s character, Nicholas Linnear’s various outings.

Now, my problem is that, for a writer, I actually consider myself a poor reader – at least these days.

“If you are going to write, you have to read a lot,” said the invisible age-old writing sage, hovering just behind my left ear.

Where does that leave me?

More books?

My problem is that I decided, some years ago, to do some academic “stuff” – research! It got me a PhD, in which I studied a great many books – hundreds in fact – but not novels. And never cover-to-cover. Research, almost quite literally, killed my ability to sit and read a novel. Now, I am so creative with ideas that leap of pages at me that I have to sit down and write more!

So when the thought of having to write about my favourite series hit home, I said “HELP”.

And Greg reminded me of the classics – well my classics anyway.

But, being a part-time scholar, I just had to spoil things and ask myself a question. “Just what is a series,” I said.

“A number of things that follow on one after the other or are connected one after the other. The sum of the terms of a sequence,” said the great voice of internet wisdom. (Because it’s quicker to Google than to pick up a big book on words, these days – sad, but true!)

But I would like to leave you with a thought. Perhaps all that is needed to connect the books in a series is precisely what is left out of them.

It is the trail of gaps, the lack of adjectives, and the limitation of descriptions and economy of language in well written prose and dialogue that the good authors manage to leave behind. It is, what I would say, the “absent other” in the text of a well written book that allows us, as readers, to create our own interpretations, realise out our realities and place ourselves at one with the story that imbibes, in us, a desire to read the next book by the same author. We wish to experience the same feeling, again, as we read in a first book, whether or not the author has displayed an overt tendency to serialise through the continuation of an interesting character, place or time.

James, where are you?

Perhaps, what I recall from those adventures of James, Morgan and Kit, is the sheer pleasure they gave me in allowing me to find my own way into their world. What, to me, makes them a perfect series is the interconnectedness of absence!

So, as I close this post, and look to where my own writing is taking me… Will my character Finn Jackson reappear in many more books? Or will someone else step into his shoes? Only time will tell…  🙂

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2010 3:58 am

    I never really got into Louis Masterson, but I do remember E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “Lensman” series. Excellent stuff full of innovative gadgets that have amazingly come true today.

    E.E. was always one of my favorite “Initials” authors — H.P. Lovecraft, A.E. Van Vogt, H.G. Wells.

    Thanks for the insight. I think this was exactly what was expected by she who must be obeyed.

    • June 17, 2010 11:36 pm

      Thanks, Greg… 🙂

      As an avid Western fan (past – and proud – owner of a Stetson), I do wonder how far (in the real West) a Norwegian’s take on gun-slinging really held sway…

      Any Texan’s care to comment? 🙂

  2. June 17, 2010 8:25 am

    Smart asses! Should I point out for our reading audience that we all gave ideas for this quarter (and every quarter) on the blog and I am merely the person who puts it into a coherent schedule format and posts it on the site for us all to keep track of?

    But I’ll take the obey part 😉 Means less work for my whip. Wah-pesh! Shut-up and WRITE!

    Good point, David, about what is left out that is truly what connects the series. Using your imagination with the barest of descriptors to fully immerse yourself into the world the author has created brings a special connection to that creation. No one will see it exactly like you do, and it becomes wholly yours.

    You kept the books, right? That speaks for itself.

    • June 17, 2010 11:38 pm

      🙂 🙂 What more can I say!

      Except, I tried to keep the books… But I think my ex-wife threw a lot away when I was unable to remove them from the premises in due time!

  3. June 17, 2010 8:37 am

    I’m with Greg on this one. I’ve read–and re-read–the Lensman series a number of times, and have loved it every time. I’ve always been impressed by how the end of each volume had the largest and most horrific threat imaginable… and how the following volume topped it anyway.

    Your insight about series in general–that it is what is left out that strings them together, is titillating, and while I cannot challenge the idea, I think I can add to it.

    Additionally–for me, at least–what makes me keep coming back to a good series is the over-all story arc which ties the shorter arcs of the volumes, and the ability in a longer series to more fully develop (and cook and change) characters.

    For contrast I look at the very long series, “The Destroyer”, by Murphy and Sapir–a guilty pleasure for me over the year– and Stephen King’s “Dark Tower”. The latter having a specific ending, the former going on and on until it lost steam and purpose.

    • June 17, 2010 11:42 pm

      Add away, Richard!

      I welcome your insight also! I’m a great believer in story arc, too – somthing that is missing from a great many series!

      Thanks… 🙂

  4. Sharon Hamilton permalink*
    June 17, 2010 11:19 am

    I remember the first day I walked into the library and asked them to help me with some reading recommendations for summer when I was, I think in 4th or 5th grade. I came home with Anna Karenina and Tale of Two Cities. Then I read War and Peace, Dr. Zhivago, decided I couldn’t get into the Little Women series, cut through Nancy Drew like a hot knife through butter, and then, finally found science fiction. I was beginning to think I wasn’t a reader afterall. I didn’t like to work that hard on those big books (Harry Potter was percolating in a subsidized flat in London). How lucky the kids are today to have these great YA series, some that even hooked their parents.
    Science fiction was my diet because they were quick reads and full of fantasy, and I wasn’t the Fairy Queen sort of girl, and then I did read Clavel and Michener – Lustbader – okay I read that for the sex. And, believe it or not, I got into romance through Anne Rice and her vampire series. I couldn’t wait to get the next one. Paranormal romance fixed the problems with their plumbing, and now we have all sorts of creative solutions. And that works for me. I like seeing new treatments of old issues. And I’ve decided I like happy endings. Danger yes, happy endings, always.

    Now that I write, I agree, I don’t read with the same enjoyment, but it still is enjoyment. I like seeing how the author hooks me in and won’t let me go. I look for the skill of writing a good story, getting the words efficiently right, seeing how the author will solve this problem (because I know it will be a happy ending). I don’t go off any more cliffs. I’ve got enough of that in the real world.

    God, I hope I made sense here.

    • June 18, 2010 12:25 am

      Don’t worry. You did fine. By the way, you wouldn’t be available to take over for CJ, would you? (as a guest blogger once or twice?).

      P.S.: Don’t tell CJ I said that.

      • Sharon Hamilton permalink*
        June 18, 2010 11:57 am

        Who could replace CJ? Certainly not me…

      • June 18, 2010 12:03 pm

        No – Greg’s right. I’m looking for a co-blogger for my day. But I have someone in mind already (maybe). We’ll see how their guest blog spot goes.

        And on that note – if you’d like to guest blog with us, Sharon, we’d love to have you! Please email me if you have an interest cj_ellisson@yahoo.com

        Hope to hear from you!

  5. June 17, 2010 11:47 pm

    Wow! Sharon… a lot of sense… anyone who can write starting with Anna Karenina and get to Lustbader – even just for the sex – earns credibility in my eyes! 🙂

    • June 18, 2010 12:20 am

      I’ll say. “A Tale of Two Cities” and “War & Peace” are dreaded by high school seniors. Now, that’s some reading acumen, although I can’t understand how Nancy Drew even got off the book shelf.

      • Sharon Hamilton permalink*
        June 18, 2010 12:06 pm

        She was skinny with big tits. I wanted to look like that when I grew up. What can I say? I liked the pen and ink sketches and she was a female heroine. But in the end the male-female love relationships are what I found most satisfying, and where I wound up staying. That mystery and variety of the sexual attraction, that space between two people and how they get together, that’s the real mystery I love exploring, and writing. But a good dark mystery will still pull me into the grave along with it….

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  1. Influence? Quelle influence? « Wicked Writers

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