Don’t you just hate it when worlds die?
I’m not talking about when planets explode in the interest of a story. Alderan is not on my mind as I type this, nor am I pondering of the post-apocalypse of Walking Dead or 13 Monkeys. I’m not even talking about the natural and writer-intended conclusion to a story, whether that be a great series finale (lookin’ at you, Babylon 5) or the perfect ending of a book (the Sabriel trilogy comes to my mind).
(Side note — Babylon 5‘s finale may be one of the best in televised science fiction. It still gets me every time I watch these last few minutes. If you’ve not seen the series, it’s worth it. Watching these five minutes without context probably won’t do much for you, though.)
If every story is a world built of syllables and ideas, then every one of those worlds ends eventually. If it’s as its creator(s) intended, all is good.
But when the story ends before it was meant to…?
I don’t know if Larry Maddock intended his Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels to be a spanning opera of building plots. The series lasted four volumes, and all of them were fun little adventures putting a James Bond-esque character into different time periods. The last volume in particular actually tied a number of plots from the previous installments together and left them in a pretty little package that left me wanting more. But… there is no more. That world has died.
(I have recently discovered that he had written more stories about one of the characters, Webley, before he was Hannibal Fortune’s partner. I will likely have to pick them up at some point, but I understand they’re more humor-based than adventure-based.)
When a series ends unexpectedly, I have this sad melancholy. It’s like all the people who lived in that world don’t get to say goodbye. They just pause at the end of a day, waiting for another page to be written, but it never will. A literary purgatory, if you will.
I never get this feeling from worlds that have single installments. If it’s a single movie or novel, I nod and say, “Well done.”
Nor do I get that feeling when a series comes to a planned end. Sure, Friends had a finale, but it had been expected (at least at the beginning of that season) and written for. The characters were all left in good places, and we all got to say goodbye.
But when a series ends in the middle of things, when sales weren’t high enough or a writer runs out of ideas or, you know, heartbeats… it’s just left hanging. The worlds they created wither.
I think of Scales and Scoundrels, a fantastic comic series that was clearly intended to go on quite a bit longer. I loved the characters. A dwarf afraid of the dark? A dragon (kind of) choosing to be human? Great adventures? Add to solid writing the perfect art… ah. Each installment was a delight.
But those pesky sales weren’t high enough, apparently.
And now… the world is paused. The creators are trying to bring it back some way, and I’ll be there to support them when they do.
But until then… the world has paused. I suppose it’s not a death, as it may continue. But for right now… it comes out to about the same.
How about Firefly?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get thee to Facebook. You can watch it for free right now. You can thank me later.
Think about all those great TV series that last not long enough.
Think about the comic series that end far too soon.
Think about the novel series that will never conclude.
Don’t you hate it when worlds die?
What do you do when that happens? I know a lot of people turn to fan fiction, but I’ve never been able to do that. I’m too focused on “official” stories. It’s not that there isn’t craft in such tales. (I’ve seen some My Little Pony fan songs that blow me out of the water… so I guess I can’t say I’ve never gotten into fan fiction stuff.) The problem is that I want it to “count.” Maybe that’s the comic geek in me, sifting through what’s in continuity and what’s out.
But for my sake, if you’re writing a series… please write a conclusion so that if something untoward happens to you, the ending is there ready to go.
It’ll help me and your world.
But probably mostly me.