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Series labels

 
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1369

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:17 am    Post subject: Series labels Reply with quote

I briefly mentioned series in my original Genre Labels essay (still visible on the WWW board), but have recently been thinking more about series and reading order.
I read F&SF for many years before I started reading romances. Most F&SF series have stories that build through multiple books, so it is best to read them in order. Occasionally an author writes books out of the order of the chronology of story events, and there can be valid arguments for either story chronology order or publication order. The Pern books by McCaffrey and the Liad books by Lee & Miller are examples of series that I would recommend to read in publication order rather than story universe chronological order.
There are also some series that are more episodic or standalone, without any overall story arc or development, where reading order isn't a big deal. The Tom Swift Jr. series that I read in my teens was like that--even though there were new inventions in every book, Tom was 18 years old through more than 30 books.
When I started reading romances, I found a different sort of series: the one-couple-per-book series. Some have overall arcs of development and many don't. In some of the series without an obvious overall arc of development, primary couples from one book will be important secondary characters in other books, but in other series primary couples get little page space outside their own books.
Many Paranormal Romance series that I've read are best read in order, including series by G. A. Aiken, Dana Marie Bell, Meljean Brook, Kresley Cole, Bianca D'Arc, MaryJanice Davidson, Thea Harrison, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Angela Knight, Shelly Laurenston, Katie MacAlister, Erin McCarthy, Robin D. Owens, Cindy Spencer Pape, Kimberley Raye, Tielle St. Clare, Lynsay Sands, Nalini Singh, Kerrelyn Sparks, Vicki Lewis Thompson, and Christine Warren (though the way the "Others" books have been published & revised makes reading order a bit of a challenge).
I'm unsure about the Cynster books by Stephanie Laurens. I have read them in order of publication, but they are more loosely connected than most paranormal series. Her Bastion Club books are definitely a read-in-order series.
I like the fact that AAR reviews mention if a book is part of a series, but I'm wondering if it is worth trying to encourage the online romance community to add a few modifiers to the word "series". Some possibilities:
ARRO Author's Recommended Reading Order
MRC Major Recurring Characters
MVCA Multi-volume Character Arc
MVSA Multi-volume Story Arc
MVSCC Multi-volume Same Central Characters
OPCMV One Primary Couple, Multiple Volumes
OPCPB One Primary Couple Per Book
RIAO Read In Any Order
RICO Read In Chronological Order
RIPO Read In Publication Order
These labels can overlap, so there are probably better systems (though I didn't get any suggestions when I posted an earlier version of these thoughts on the Potpourri message board some time ago). MRC could mean books like Nina Bangs' books with the cosmic troublemakers as recurring secondary characters but no obvious MVSA, or Meljean Brook's Demon books with the h/h of Demon Angel present as important secondary characters in most following books with a MVSA, but the latter could also be described as MVCA. Laurens' Bastion Club books, with the buildup to Dalziel's story, could be described as MRC, MVCA or MVSA. MVSCC includes series like the Tom Swift Jr. books or the J. D. Robb "In Death" books, though I've also seen suggestions that the In Death books are RIPO.
The majority of books published as romances are OPCPB, but there are exceptions (which I consider to be badly assigned genre labels). The Undead (Queen Betsy) books by MaryJanice Davidson are labeled Paranormal Romance but still haven't reached a primary couple HEA after 10 or 11 books. A number of books by Katie MacAlister are labeled Paranormal Romance but take three or four books per couple.
There is a lot of overlap between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, but I don't approach UF expecting OPCPB. I recently bought & read the Lupi ebooks by Eileen Wilks after one of my brothers recommended them. The publisher is too cheap to include cover images, and I have never seen genre labels on any ebooks to date. I just checked the Fantastic Fiction site and found the Lupi books listed there as Urban Fantasy, which fits the fact that most of the books have centered on one couple. For another example, I consider the Otherworld series by Yasmine Galenorn to be Urban Fantasy rather than Paranormal Romance (as does the FF site), but the one book I bought in paperback before switching to ebooks said Paranormal Romance on the spine. A quick web search turned up an author site saying the author considers the series Urban Fantasy and has no control over publisher genre labels. Maybe not seeing publishers' genre labels on ebooks is a blessing in disguise.
A large portion of my reading these days (about 3/4 so far this year) consists of books in series. In line with my earlier plea for better labels on individual books, I would like to see publishers do a better job of labeling books in series.
Always list all books in the series at the front or back of the book. Clearly label the list as Author's Recommended Reading Order, Chronological Order, or Publication Order. Do NOT just list the titles in alphabetical order unless that is also the recommended reading order.
Include all anthologized stories/novellas/novelettes in the list, correctly placed in the specified reading order.
For those who care about numbers, here are some terms. Some years ago I tried to recall appropriate series words for various numbers and did a little dictionary checking. Trilogy and tetralogy both trace back to the ancient Greek religious theatrical competitions. The three tragedies were a trilogy and the three tragedies plus one comedy that made up a playwrightís complete entry were a tetralogy. The words were later generalized to describe three or four works of any kind. Since the cultural and linguistic origin is Greek, I checked for other words using the Greek number roots rather than the Latin (quattro- is from Latin). For two works, duo can be used, though it isnít specific to writings, or one can just talk about a book and its prequel or sequel. I was able to find OED mentions for pentalogy (five books) and hexalogy (six books). I didnít find any mention of heptalogy, octalogy or ennealogy, but heptad, octad and ennead are words for groups of seven, eight and nine items. The word Decalogue (or decalog) is reserved for the Ten Commandments, and I didnít find decalogy. I did not try to find terms for groups beyond ten books.
I read a lot of books in series, and some of those series feel like they have gone on too long while others still feel fresh after many books. As with any generalization about fiction, a good author can write a counterexample, but I would say I find a positive correlation between the number of major characters and the number of books I'm willing to read. Genre also make a difference. With just one central couple, a trilogy or tetralogy will often work for me, but anything longer has to have a good reason. With many major characters, I can happily read many more books as long as they don't feel like rehashes of the same material.
Examples (counts are what I've read, + mostly indicates anthologized stories):
6+UF Magic books by Ilona Andrews: I'm still interested.
3 UF Mercy books by Toni Andrews: unfinished since 2009. Will this be finished?
9 PNR (3 linked Salem trilogies) by Annette Blair: is there more to come?
8+UF Mercy & Alpha books by Patricia Briggs: keep going.
7+PNR Demon books by Meljean Brook: this story is hanging unfinished.
10+PNR IAD books by Kresley Cole: what is planned?
10+PNR Undead books by MaryJanice Davidson: please wrap this up.
50+SF 1632 universe books by Eric Flint & many others: keep going.
9+UF Night Huntress (& World) books by Jeaniene Frost: keep going.
11+UF Otherworld books by Yasmine Galenorn: please wrap this up.
4+PNR Elder Races books by Thea Harrison: more, please.
9+PNR Mageverse books by Angela Knight: thank you for wrapping this up. I was getting very tired of too much of the ubervillain.
10+PNR Pack and Pride books by Shelly Laurenston: keep going.
10+PNR Guardian/dragon books by Katie MacAlister: please wrap this up.
10 PNR Celta books by Robin D. Owens: keep going.
12+PNR Vampire books by Kerrelyn Sparks: please wrap this up.
4 UF Katie Chandler books by Shanna Swendson: book 5 just came out four years after book 4.
19+PNR Others books by Christine Warren: I'm ambivalent.
9+UF Lupi books by Eileen Wilks: I'm still interested, but is there a planned arc?
Tangential note: I need to find a better way to keep up with releases. While checking some counts for the above list, I came across info about an Elder Races novella that came out a couple months ago that I hadn't heard about. I also found out about the Shanna Swendson continuation after a four-year gap.
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PatW



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 639
Location: Gulf coast Florida

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
In line with my earlier plea for better labels on individual books, I would like to see publishers do a better job of labeling books in series.
Always list all books in the series at the front or back of the book. Clearly label the list as Author's Recommended Reading Order, Chronological Order, or Publication Order. Do NOT just list the titles in alphabetical order unless that is also the recommended reading order.
Include all anthologized stories/novellas/novelettes in the list, correctly placed in the specified reading order.


THIS ... really frustrating when such a list is missing or worse when it is in alphabetical order!

I like your labels although I'm not sure publishers will adopt them, perhaps authors and reviewers will take note. I've read only a few of these series, but labelling them, plus your take on where they are in the progression is quite helpful. I understand the "wrap this up" versus "keep going" feeling and although I'm sure each reader will have different tipping points within any series, thanks for your takes!

As for the "In Death" series they definitely should be read in publication order if you care about all the secondary characters in Eve and Roarke's world. There are major developments in their lives even when there isn't much progression in the Main Couple relationship. The mysteries themselves are pretty much standalone although there are occasional backwards references to previous cases.
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Lillian Sulivan



Joined: 05 Feb 2010
Posts: 237

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps publishers are reluctant to codify series books for fear of scaring off readers, but I've recently found myself reluctant to pick up any series books because I might not enjoy/understand them fully without first reading the earlier installments.

Best,
Lilly
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"Or perchance when the last little star has left the sky,
Shall we still be together with our arms around each other,
And shall you be my new romance?"
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Kayne



Joined: 31 Mar 2007
Posts: 892

PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Series labels Reply with quote

Mark wrote:

Always list all books in the series at the front or back of the book. Clearly label the list as Author's Recommended Reading Order, Chronological Order, or Publication Order. Do NOT just list the titles in alphabetical order unless that is also the recommended reading order.
Include all anthologized stories/novellas/novelettes in the list, correctly placed in the specified reading order..


I agree. Many times I find myself searching author's websites for this info.
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