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“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sequels, Series and Sequences

Is it just me or do there seem to be a lot more sequels showing up these days?

I am not talking specifically about movies playing at the local cineplex during the summer. After all, the marquees at those places have reliably been filled for years now with the titles of sequels, remakes, remakes of sequels, sequels of remakes and the occasional spinoff of franchises full of sequels. No, I am talking about movies and television shows from long ago that we thought were done and dusted but which are unexpectedly and belatedly brought back for another go.

Probably the most prominent example in our house is the quarter-decade-later resumption of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks saga. Fans of the show had long given up hope of seeing the abruptly curtailed story of supernatural doings in a fictional corner of northeast Washington state after the series’s cancellation in 1991. A 1992 feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, did not advance the plot much, but at least there was the promise of more movies. They did not, however, materialize. Now Showtime is airing no fewer than 18 new one-hour episodes. This is quite a bonanza, considering that the original series took only a bit over 34 hours to watch, according to a binge watching website. (Yes, there is such a thing.) The feature film added 135 more minutes. And Twin Peaks is by no means the only old series to get revived years after the fact. The sitcom Full House, which went off the air in 1995, is back as Fuller House. The sitcom Roseanne, which went off the air in 1997, is also coming back. There are probably other examples.

As for movies, did anyone expect there to be a Trainspotting sequel two decades later? I didn’t. I caught up with it recently and enjoyed it, although it was largely fan service. But that’s what we fans want, right?

I feel obliged these days not to be too harsh on sequels since the universe has played a trick on me by conspiring to get me, after criticizing more than a few sequels in public over the years, to write my very own sequel. Keep watching this space so you can be among the first to know when it is available for purchase. It could be any minute now. Well, maybe by the end of the summer.

Allow me to dissemble. I am not sure I really consider Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead: Part 2 (as no one, including myself, will call it) strictly a sequel. Let us consult a dictionary definition of the word sequel: “a literary work, movie, etc., that is complete in itself but continues the narrative of a preceding work.” Okay, so it is a sequel, but I do not consider it the second in a series. The question of whether the two books plus any future ones dealing with the adventures of Dallas Green constitute a series is not academic. When I acquire an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for a new book, one of the fields that must be completed is whether the work is part of a series. You know, like one of the Harry Potter books or any other of the numerous examples of fantasy YA lit that, seemingly by decree, cannot be told in a mere single tome. I have no plans to list Max & Carly or its sequel as part of a series. Any sequels to The Three Towers of Afranor, however, along with the original book could well be listed as a series—if I ever get any encouragement to write them.

In my mind, the Max & Carly sequel is just another book that will stand or fall on its own and which just happens to include some characters that also appeared in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. As it happens, at least two of the characters in the new book will also appear in my long planned novel about Seattle in the 1980s—if I ever get around to writing that one. Dallas, however, will not appear in that book. In other words, I fancy myself (with typical lack of humility) as a modern-day Honoré de Balzac. He was the 19th century French author of nearly a hundred novels, which included many of the same characters and told overlapping stories. Some of his better known books are Eugénie Grandet, Le Père Goriot and Illusions Perdues. These scores of interweaving books by Balzac are not referred to by academics as a “series” but as a “novel sequence,” and the name of the sequence is La Comédie Humaine. So that is what I am writing: a novel sequence. Just do not expect me to write as many books as Balzac did. The scary thing is that he would have probably written a lot more if he had not died at the age of 51—five months after getting married.

If you are having trouble getting your head around the whole “novel sequence” thing, perhaps because you are more of a comic book person than a French literature person, then think of it this way. It’s kind of like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe but with French people instead of superheroes. But my novel sequence comprises only my books set in the real world. Do not expect a future book, for example, where Dallas shows up in Afranor.

Or wait… maybe he could. Hang on, I just might have an idea for the best cross-over ever!

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