- There have been series in popular fiction, both within and outside GENRE SF, at least since there have been magazines. For example, fans of Arthur Conan DOYLE may have waited eagerly a century ago for the next Sherlock Holmes story, or, inside sf and a bit later, the next Professor Challenger story. Series are fun to write, fun to read, and they help sell magazines. There were many sf series before the advent of specialized sf magazines,examples being the Quatermain books of H. Rider HAGGARD and the much loved Barsoom and Pellucidar stories of Edgar Rice BURROUGHS, or, popular at thetime but now mostly forgotten, the Dr Hackensaw series of Clement FEZANDIE. (In this encyclopedia we print series titles in bold type.)There is no point here in trying to list the most popular fantasy and sf series from, say, Robert E. HOWARD's Conan through Nelson S. BOND's Pat Pending, but there may be a point in spelling out some of the ways sfPUBLISHING has affected, and been affected by, series publication.In the 1930s, it became quite common to devote entire PULP MAGAZINES - or at least their lead novels - to a single series featuring one main character and his (or her) sidekicks. Examples include scientific detective Craig Kennedy in SCIENTIFIC DETECTIVE MONTHLY (1930) or DUSTY AYRES AND HISBATTLEBIRDS (1934-5), or, more spectacularly in terms of longevity, Doc Savage in DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE (1933-49) or The Shadow (1931-49) or CAPTAIN FUTURE (1940-44).When, in the late 1940s and the 1950s, SMALL PRESSES were set up devoted to republishing classic magazine sf, it quite often happened that their sometimes arbitrary dividing up of a series into books set the shape by which that series was ever afterwards known. Thus Isaac ASIMOV's Foundation series of 8 stories (mostly novelettes), published inASF (1942-49), appeared in book form as if 3 novels: Foundation (fixup 1951), Foundation and Empire (fixup 1952) and Second Foundation (fixup 1953). In this instance the illusion of them being novels was not difficult to sustain, because the stories had been well planned to fit a coherent and developing pattern.When a series of stories is collected in book form, however, it is not always easy to decide, bibliographically, the degree of cohesion the stories (often revised for this format) have been given. Thus we might describe one book as "coll of linked stories" and another as a FIXUP, the latter term being used by us to describe stories sufficiently jelled together even in their first writing, or woven together by rewriting, for the result to be called a novel. To take examples, it seems fair to call George O. SMITH's Venus Equilateral (1947) a collection of linked stories, although we describe A.E. VAN VOGT's THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER (1941-2 ASF; 1949 Thrilling Wonder Stories; 1951) asa fixup (a term its author also uses), because the degree of cohesion and plotting towards a climax is very much greater in the latter than in the former. But what, for example, of Gene WOLFE's THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS (fixup 1972)? This is described by many bibliographers as a collection oflinked stories, which is true. But when one comes to examine the links, including those that lie half-concealed beneath the surface of the text, then the interweaving comes to appear so strong that the book, although indeed in 3 parts, must surely be read as a single novel.These problems about sf series whose first appearance was in magazines and original anthologies came to seem somewhat old-fashioned during the 1980s and 1990s, because by far the greater number of sf series now being publishedwere appearing in books in the first instance. That, on the face of it, is not very important, but the sinister aspect of 1980s series publishing was the implacable way in which book series were taking over more and more of the industry. These were often series thought up by a publisher or some sort of entrepreneur, or even licensed out by a film studio. That is to say, the author's primacy in writing series was beginning to lose out to the purveyors of product concept, to whose instructions the authors wrote. (The question of whether or not the authors retained copyright in the workis not necessarily connected to their following of instructions, though those authors who followed instructions but retained copyright no doubt felt rather more dignified than those who did not.) This whole depressing issue is touched on (from different perspectives) under the rubrics GAME-WORLDS, PUBLISHING, SHARECROP, SHARED WORLDand TIE. Things are seldomentirely bad, however: there have been, for example, many enjoyable original novels among the 100 or so STAR TREK ties. Even the book series spun off from GAMES AND TOYS are not all bad, though many are; in the UK, the company GAMES WORKSHOP persuaded several quite distinguished writers to write novels and stories set in worlds first created for a games format. Some of the shared-world series like WILD CARDS have produced excellent work. But, even when the exceptions are admitted, there remains a huge residue that few demanding readers could find anything but dispiriting: series as formula, writing by numbers. In FANTASY writing, for example, for every trilogy published that actually requires 3 vols for its adequate development, there are half a dozen that are trilogies (or even longer) for no better reason than to fill slots in the marketing space. In HEROIC FANTASY (or SWORD AND SORCERY) the series mentality is especially strong, as it is in SURVIVALIST FICTION and post- HOLOCAUST sf. All this is saddening, because previously series had held a veryhonourable position in the history of sf's development. Many readers of an earlier generation had their innocent SENSE OF WONDER first awakened by E. E. "Doc" SMITH's Lensmen stories (1934-50), and that is a comparativelystraightforward SPACE-OPERA example. In a series, there can be room for enormous conceptual elaborations which could scarcely be confined within the covers of a single book, as (arguably) in Frank HERBERT's Dune series, or Larry NIVEN's Known Space series (a good example of the whole coming to seem greater than the sum of its parts), or Ursula K. LE GUIN's Hainish novels, or C.J. CHERRYH's Union/Alliance sequence, or Bruce STERLING's Shaper/Mechanist series, or Brian W. ALDISS's Helliconia novels, or GeneWOLFE's Book of the New Sun (more readily thought of as a 4-vol novel), or Michael MOORCOCK's Jerry Cornelius books. It would obviously be possible to extend this sequence for a very long way even while restricting it to unusually distinguished work. Be sf in the form of HARD SF, NEW WAVE, CYBERPUNK or SCIENCE FANTASY, it has been one of its great strengths (andone of its unifying factors) that, unlike most MAINSTREAM fiction, it has been able to work on such broad canvases. So far as we are aware, nobody has made any academic analysis of the effect of series-writing on the HISTORY OF SF, but the result would surely be a confirmation that seriesdevelopments have been at sf's very heart, certainly in the special but vital case of future histories (HISTORY OF SF). It may not be too great an imaginative leap to see the whole of GENRE SF as constituting a kind of gigantic meta-series (or multiverse), in which intellectual developments in the form of constantly evolving protocols and motifs are passed from writer to writer. Certainly many sf readers share an intuitive, metaphysical sense that the entirety of genre sf somehow (ignoring nitpicking distinctions) shares a common background, as if there were now a real future that has been invented by consensus of the sf community. If that seems an overstatement, then at least it can be granted that some of sf's most heroic generic exploits have been conducted, and could only have been conducted, in series form. All the more tragic, then, that the word "series" in the 1980s (and still) should gradually be changing its meaningto "multi-volume packaged commercial product".PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.