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Side Stories in Literary Worlds

#1 User is offline   nicetrout 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 02:43 AM

Hey Everybody

I was talking with a buddy about this yesterday and I figured I would throw it up here because it's related to Malazan in a way. I just finished the latest Stormlight Archive book which I did not enjoy, but that is not the point of this thread. In reading discussions and talking with people about the book online there was a lot of talk like:

"You really should read ______ or _______." before reading the next book.

Which is a sentiment I can understand, because Stonewielder is next up on my list even though I have not finished the Erikson series proper, so I'm open to that type of sequencing. I was talking to my friend about his relationship with sequencing different Star Wars books in that EU, a separate subject entirely.

So I was curious what people thought about authors writing books that have either stories or characters, from either side stories or other novels. My gut instinct is that is somewhat exclusionary to the normal reader, like I for one am not going to read any sort of Sanderson short story and am bothered to think that the series proper is somehow incomplete without them. On the other hand I did enjoy starting Toll the Hounds and then knowing who Traveller was when he arrived early on in the book. So I personally am split on the subject.

Thoughts?
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#2 User is offline   Luv2B_Sassy 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 03:00 AM

Honestly, I think it's annoying to have to "hunt down" works like that. There are tons of publishing reasons for it, especially back in the day with way more literary magazines and such, so I don't really blame anyone. It's just not fun for me. I never liked hunting down bands' rarities either. But if you collect them or make them otherwise easy to find/read, then no problem. The digital age makes it a whole lot less a hassle, and official collections are even better (Side Jobs by Butcher and Sharp Ends by Abercrombie were both treats).
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Posted 06 December 2017 - 04:33 AM

I preferred to read the main Malazan series, then move on to ICE. The exception being Night of Knives, which I read before TCG.

Side Jobs was so good that the words you are now reading cannot rightly describe just how amazing it was. But the same can be said for the entire Dresden Files in my opinion.

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#4 User is offline   Salt-Man Z 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 04:38 AM

I don't mind them as long as they're not necessary to enjoy/understand the "mainstream" releases. The first example of this I think ever encountered was when reading Card's Alvin Maker series: it was going downhill already, and then (I think) the fifth book threw a bunch of references in that confused me, making me feel like I had missed a book or something. Only much later did I find out they were blatant callbacks to a couple of short stories that had been written between books. It was pretty irritating. (I eventually got my hands on them, but have yet to read them.)

Stuff like the Dresden shorts is great, though, because they'll give you insights into characters or side adventures etc. that are 100% unnecessary to the main series. (It helps that I can always pick up the containing anthologies from my library, too.)

Intertwining series (like ICE/SE) are okay, as long as they're relatively simple to keep up with and easy to come by. The fact that NoK and RotCG were limited edition exclusives for so long was pretty obnoxious, but once they hit a mainstream publisher it was pretty easy to keep up with alternating SE/ICE books as they came out. Once it starts getting complicated, though, it can get like you're back in the 90s trying to keep up with 7 different X-Men comics that all intertwine, and nobody wants that.

This post has been edited by Salt-Man Z: 06 December 2017 - 04:42 AM

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#5 User is offline   nicetrout 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 03:10 PM

I feel like the sentiment is typically designed so that the Main Work is "readable" without the extra material, but I feel like in practice it just ends up being exclusionary. Like I don't know about but I feel like you can tell part of the story is missing sometimes, just because either the importance some characters are given or just how the story references things that would otherwise be mundane.

Also I have no comment about the butcher stuff, never touched any of that.
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Posted 06 December 2017 - 03:16 PM

View Postworry, on 06 December 2017 - 03:00 AM, said:

Honestly, I think it's annoying to have to "hunt down" works like that. There are tons of publishing reasons for it, especially back in the day with way more literary magazines and such, so I don't really blame anyone. It's just not fun for me. I never liked hunting down bands' rarities either. But if you collect them or make them otherwise easy to find/read, then no problem. The digital age makes it a whole lot less a hassle, and official collections are even better (Side Jobs by Butcher and Sharp Ends by Abercrombie were both treats).


It bugs me when comics do crossover "events" to sell issues. You can just read the main line of comics for the main storyline...but if you want the WHOLE story, you have to collect umpteen different single issues of other line comics that handle a bit of the storyline. It's frustrating as HELL and always has been. Collecting a comic "event" is a tedious ordeal.

As far as novel authors, I'm fine if a side character spinoff book adds stuff to the overall themes and story in ways that largely don't affect the main storyline (Andrea's side books in the Kate Daniels word come to mind) and merely server to enhance the character it's discussing.

But with Brandon Sanderson, for example, I feel like reading OATHBRINGER and not reading the short story about Lift (EDGEDANCER) first does the character a disservice...which feels like Brandon's fault more than anything.
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#7 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 03:42 PM

View PostSalt-Man Z, on 06 December 2017 - 04:38 AM, said:

I don't mind them as long as they're not necessary to enjoy/understand the "mainstream" releases.


That's pretty much my opinion on the matter as well. If we're talking about additional stuff that elaborates on a character/event that's not vital to the main story (great examples are the B&KB novellas) or deal with characters/events set in the same setting but apart from the main plot (]i}Goats of Glory[/i]), great, I'll probably hunt them down and read them. However, when they contain vital information that's needed to understand the main plot, it begins to feel like a chore and an attempt by the author to make me buy more books.

On the other hand, there are certain readers, who.. get so much into this whole 'gotta read them all' mentality, they cannot let you read your main series sans side quests in peace. It's almost impossible for someone to ask anywhere about the MBotF reading order without being swamped by people claiming you can't read the main series without supplementing it with ICE's books. Well, yes, you can. And I have a feeling that Sanderson's fandom has a lot of those. However, I also get the feeling that he does actually put vital information into side stories, which I highly dislike.

Good examples of side stories for me are the short stories Cook wrote about the Black Company which have no impact on the main series but are great additional adventures, or the fact that King's Insomnia has some background info that informs the ending of his Dark Tower series without being requiered reading. Actually, King plants a bunch of hint to the Dark Tower in his non-DT works, but it's so minor you can absolutely do without and is more in the line of easter eggs one could find while reading.

This post has been edited by Puck: 06 December 2017 - 03:48 PM

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#8 User is online   QuickTidal 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 04:21 PM

View PostPuck, on 06 December 2017 - 03:42 PM, said:

However, I also get the feeling that he does actually put vital information into side stories, which I highly dislike.


^^This!

spoilers for EDGEDANCER

Spoiler

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#9 User is offline   Dolmen 2.0 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 04:37 PM

Well I think I can honestly say I prefer a IP that expands on the core story. If a series like MBotF has a series of Novellas that 'fill the lore' I will have no qualms reading as much as I can get my hands on.

It's a bit unfair to discuss this on an Erikson forumn as we're all likely biased in that we get the main story delivered in the form of tiny side stories snipped and merged together. It's rare to step back and say see this here bit about Picker? This was the main story, the rest was there to build on this.

Since the main book themselves are a glossary of stories that build to a thematic point I feel ICE does some of that thematic construction in his Novels. That throwaway character from RotCG? Well she becomes a plot force in Stonewielder. But all the while carrying strong themes with her touched on in Toll the Hounds. I feel that affects greatly how I enjoy each of these side stories because of the shared flavor drawn on from the main books.

If Sanderson does the same thing I would applaud it even if it feels like necessary reading I think an effort to expand a story universe rewards all readers, it makes the escape to fantasy more complete. I would not be the best person to ask when this stops being enrichment and starts to be a cash grab. I blindly followed as much of the X-men spin offs as I could even if just to rage at how absurd some of it was.

And yes, side jobs was spectacular. I hope Butcher does more like that.
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#10 User is offline   End of Disc One 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 05:03 PM

I'm fine with it, and honestly I kind of like the idea of having different formats of story (novel, novella, short story) that are integral to the whole. It gives the author more freedom. And if I'm interested in a series, I'm going to stay informed on these releases so I'm not worried about missing them.
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Posted 06 December 2017 - 05:04 PM

View PostDolmen 2.0, on 06 December 2017 - 04:37 PM, said:

...
And yes, side jobs was spectacular. I hope Butcher does more like that.


BRIEF CASES, due in early 2018 iirc.

Also, WORKING FOR SASQUATCH is already out. Good fun.




As for moi, i'm all for branching out side stories, but if it's essential for the main story and only appeared in some anthology otherwise loaded with crap I do not wish to pay for or read, I have stabby thoughts.



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#12 User is offline   Salt-Man Z 

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 05:23 PM

The key with the Butcher/Cook stories, for example, is that they (generally) are written to fit retroactively back into the series' past somewhere. So they can't affect what's already happened. (They could potentially seed plot points for forthcoming books, which can still be done well if you're careful.)
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Posted 06 December 2017 - 06:24 PM

The KATE DANIELS series is an interesting example of this... the authors do write side stories and full on novel(las), that are relevant, and if not essential to the main story, do get referenced in the main books. What they also do - that I think is clever - is , frequently have characters refer to events going on but not actually written. So the casual reader can't really know the difference, and the reader who reads the asides gets the extra kick.

To a certain extent, Sanderson and King get a pass because they are (in King's TDT case were) overtly writing a bigger story in almost all their work, and flat out telling you so. Don't like it, don't read them, but this is what they do and there is clearly a market for this sort of reading experience, so why not?



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Posted 06 December 2017 - 07:11 PM

I think the most egregious example of this is Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space, where the very end of the series makes no sense until you read the title story of Galactic North.
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Posted 06 December 2017 - 08:22 PM

View Postpolishgenius, on 06 December 2017 - 07:11 PM, said:

I think the most egregious example of this is Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space, where the very end of the series makes no sense until you read the title story of Galactic North.


I keep hearing about revelation Space, Its high on my to read list. That tie in reminds me of the Foundation series.

Science Fiction Author Isaac Assimov wrote prolifically over the years. One of his more popular works, the foundation series was doing well on its own but later received sequels that tied back to his earlier work and short stories, attempting to create a self contained fictional universe.

I think this is a dangerous approach and a bit unnecessary. I like his original Bicentenial man and the book I, robot was kinda revolutionary to me. Both were not based that far into the future, well atleast for someone reading in a post 2000 era. These works were fine on their own but I like them a little less considering the retroactive branching to a galactic empire. Makes it all less personal which was what I loved particularly regarding Bicentenial man. It reduces the stories a little. I think Authors need to avoid that sort of thing.
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#16 User is offline   Mentalist 

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 07:56 PM

View Postpolishgenius, on 06 December 2017 - 07:11 PM, said:

I think the most egregious example of this is Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space, where the very end of the series makes no sense until you read the title story of Galactic North.

I see your RevSpace, and I raise you Michael Moorcock's entire body of work. especially after he went back and re-write a bunch of stuff to make more Multiverse links and crossover references apparent.

I mean, I love most of his work. But trying to systematically make stuff fit is beyond headache-inducing.

This post has been edited by Mentalist: 07 December 2017 - 07:56 PM

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 08:18 PM

View PostMentalist, on 07 December 2017 - 07:56 PM, said:

View Postpolishgenius, on 06 December 2017 - 07:11 PM, said:

I think the most egregious example of this is Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space, where the very end of the series makes no sense until you read the title story of Galactic North.

I see your RevSpace, and I raise you Michael Moorcock's entire body of work. especially after he went back and re-write a bunch of stuff to make more Multiverse links and crossover references apparent.

I mean, I love most of his work. But trying to systematically make stuff fit is beyond headache-inducing.


A problem i have always had with Moorcock is that i find large chunks of many/most of his books read as though he needed to make his books longer so he threw in some random multi-verse/alt-lives stuff to fill in the middle. It was usually interesting, but rarely significant to the finale of the story. I always enjoyed his work, but his execution of the inevitable Eternal Warrior tangent sometimes leaves me disengaged from the story.
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#18 User is offline   Puck 

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 10:55 AM

To clarify, my personal issue is not with authors who create multiverses or have interconnected books, but with those who put vital information into novellas and side stories which then are published in some anthology which needs to be hunted down to be read. To be honest, Sandy is the only author I've heard of doing that, though. Everyone else somehow manages to have both side stories and make their main work readable without those.

This post has been edited by Puck: 09 December 2017 - 10:55 AM

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#19 User is offline   RACHEL 

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 02:11 AM

I haven't read Oathbringer so correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't realize that the story Edgedancer was vital to understanding it. I thought Oathbringer started with a certain character already "leveled up" magic wise. Edgedancer is just the story of when the character "leveled up". Other characters in the books have upgraded magically and it follows a formula so it's hardly vital to the understanding of the books if a character gets to the next stage in their magic offscreen. I thought Edgedancer was mostly just a fun story for people that had to know the exact story of this one character. I was unaware that Sanderson had side stories with info vital to the understanding of Oathbringer.
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Posted 07 January 2018 - 04:54 AM

View PostRACHEL, on 07 January 2018 - 02:11 AM, said:

I haven't read Oathbringer so correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't realize that the story Edgedancer was vital to understanding it. I thought Oathbringer started with a certain character already "leveled up" magic wise. Edgedancer is just the story of when the character "leveled up". Other characters in the books have upgraded magically and it follows a formula so it's hardly vital to the understanding of the books if a character gets to the next stage in their magic offscreen. I thought Edgedancer was mostly just a fun story for people that had to know the exact story of this one character. I was unaware that Sanderson had side stories with info vital to the understanding of Oathbringer.


From the foreword to OATHBRINGER:
“If you haven’t had the chance to read Edgedancer—a separate Stormlight novella taking place between books two and three—I’d recommend it to you now. Find it sold on its own, or in the story collection Arcanum Unbounded, which has novellas and novelettes from all across the Cosmere. (The universe in which this series, Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, and others take place.)That said, as always, every series is written so it can be read and enjoyed on its own, without knowledge of these other series or books.”
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