Drizzt Do’Urden Simply Won’t Stop Adventuring: Myke Cole on Learning to Love Serial Fantasy
My name is Myke Cole, and I have a hard time with serial fantasy.
Yes, that’s right, I’m admitting it right up front. I’m wading into the hornet’s nest and making my confession.
More than three books in a series and I start to nod off. At five, you’ve pretty much lost me. It’s happened to me again and again and again. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I honestly don’t really care what happens after Dance. I followed Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharp through twelve books before I finally decided that, no matter how awesome his further adventures might be, I couldn’t get excited about them. Daniel Abraham’s The Widow’s House is the fourth book in his absolutely stunning Dagger and Coin series, and I know I’ll get to it… eventually.
It’s happened to me time and again with comic book series. Fables, Hundred Bullets, Sandman and on and on and on. I reach a point 5 or 6 or 10 trades in where I just sort of throw up my hands.
And all of the above examples are for good books. The kind of books that resonate and transport, the kind of books that make you want to give up writing because you’ll never be in the same league as that author.
For years, I’ve hid my head in the company of other fans, bit my tongue and kept my opinions to myself. Because Brandon Sanderson wound up rounding out The Wheel of Time series at fourteen books. Because Drizzt Do’Urden simply won’t stop adventuring, because fans LOVE long serials.
My military fantasy Shadow Ops series is a complete trilogy. Readers will also note a different protagonist for each book. This is by design. I try to write the kinds of novels I’d want to read: varied, ambitious, giving the reader a completely new experience every time they crack the spine.
This is done at the expense of familiarity and the kind of bonds some readers like to form with a single protagonist over a long, long time. I get that, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But that’s not the kind of book I want to write. I have a the attention span of a Jack Russel Terrier. You might think this a liability in writing, and it is, but I’ve managed to use discipline and hard work to rein it in to the point where I think I can put out a pretty decent book. But what I can’t do is spin yarn after yarn in the same track.
Thank God for Joe Abercrombie. After loving his First Law trilogy, I was surprised and thrilled to find that his fourth novel, Best Served Cold, followed an ancillary character from the original trilogy on her own adventures.
He did it again with The Heroes and again with Red Country. All were amazingly good. All sold like hotcakes. I read them in weeks and rushed to the store for the next one. There was no sense of fatigue, no sense of not needing to know where the story went. I’d found an author who could satisfy my impatient reading style.
And if he could do it, then maybe I could too.
My editor at Ace/Roc had steam coming out of her ears when I handed in Fortress Frontier, and she saw that Alan Bookbinder was the protagonist instead of Oscar Britton. She had a similar reaction when I pitched her the outline for my 4th novel, Gemini Cell, which hit shelves on January 27th.
Gemini Cell is a total reboot. It’s technically a prequel set in the Shadow Ops universe, but the truth is that it is completely new storyline and new characters. Even the magic system is different, more occult, than the original trilogy.
It’s intended to be a new entry point into my universe, a book that readers can enjoy without having any other Myke Cole yarns under their belt. My biggest fear is that folks will see it on the shelves and pass it up because they haven’t already read the original trilogy.
Gemini Cell is many things: It’s a story about PTSD, it’s a zombie tale, it’s a novel of the occult. It’s a military action drama featuring a badass Navy SEAL. It’s a love story between two married people.
Maybe you’ll disagree with me on that, but one thing you won’t disagree with me on is that it’s different from anything I’ve ever done before.
And that’s something.
Hope you like the book. Thanks.
Myke Cole’s latest novel Gemini Cell was released on Jan. 27th by Ace Books (Penguin-Random House). His short story “Naktong Flow” appeared in Black Gate 13. He is also the author of the Shadow Ops trilogy: Control Point, which Peter V. Brett called “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men,” Fortress Frontier, and Breach Zone.
Roving reporter Patty Templeton interviewed him for Black Gate in 2012. His last article for us was “Selling Shadow Point,” Find him at mykecole.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/mykecole, and on Twitter at twitter.com/MykeCole.
Driz’zt at least is close to a true serial. Every three books you get a real ending to the story and you can read either 3, 6, or 9 of them and then stop without being left hanging with open questions.
That’s a lot better than having a single story that stretches over 10 or 14 books.
I understand people having a hard time getting into a long series. But I’m almost 26 and I’ve been reading Drizzt since 13. It’s kind nice knowing that once or twice a year I get to go on another ride with my old friends.
… still waiting for that layabout Spenser to finally deliver the next installment of Faerie Queene … And don’t even get me started on Chaucer …
I agree completely that the monotony of a lot of these serial fantasies wears me out, as well. Part of the problem, I think, is that the writer reaches a point where telling the best story is secondary to telling ANOTHER story.
I respected the boldness of your point of view choices in the Shadow Ops novels. Not only were they different protagonists, they were frequently at odds with the goals and motivations of earlier protagonists. You’re right – each book had a completely different feel, and shifted the reader’s perspectives on the events that came before. Tough to pull off. It was a fun read and I’m looking forward to GEMINI CELL.
Though I love series fantasy reliably enough that it’s my regular reviewing beat at BG, I completely get what you’re saying about the moment when you no longer need to know what comes next.
Classic series blunder: build up to a global cataclysm, and then have an entire volume of denouement. There are things Kate Elliott did right in the Crown of Stars series that nobody else tries to do at all, but the last volume sat unread on my shelf for five years, because it promised to do in 700 pages what I thought should take — at most! — three chapters.
You’ve written a love story about married people! Presumably they’re even married to each other. That is a rare and fine thing in a fantasy novel. I’ll have to check it out.