Sequels.  Not a summer goes by without sequels buzzing around like thick, bloated horseflies.  Some are become a part of the atmosphere, annoying but harmless, content to go their own way and to have you ignore them.  Others insist on being noticed:  flying in front of your face, landing on your food, zooming by your ear — in other words, begging for you to reach for the flyswatter.

Samurai III:  Duel at Ganryu Island should nominally be considered a sequel, but since it’s part of a larger work — the life story of samurai Musashi Miyamoto — it can be given a pass.  The same goes with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  But how many sequels are conceived with a narrative arc that encompasses several films, and how many simply add on the Roman numerals like unsightly deposits of fat on their waistlines? Can anyone justify the existence of the Star Wars prequel trilogy?

When I was in high school, I was an avid reader of genre fiction — particularly of science fiction and fantasy.  But I was lukewarm towards series, particularly the canonical ones.  I took to some of them, but rejected others.  Thus, I finished Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series but never got into Frank Herbert’s Dune series.  I read through the first two trilogies of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever but stopped Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings midway through The Two Towers (too many damn songs).  I hear Piers Anthony’s Xanth series continues even after his death. And V. C. Andrews has been writing via ouija board for years now.

In the shopping center near my high school, there was a small used bookstore that specialized in paperbacks.  They offered a deal:  trade in two paperbacks, take out one.  When I could, I stopped there after school.  Most of the shelves were packed with Harlequin Romances, the author names repeating in different shades of soft colors.  But there was also a small science-fiction/fantasy section against the wall, still with a number of recurring author names, but with more fanciful fonts on the spine.  I took my sister’s romance books — she had more than she needed, believe me — and traded them in for sci-fi novels.  And more often then not, when I got home, I would discover that I had somehow picked up “Book 3 of 7” of a Series Fill-in-the-Blank.

Even after I learned to open to the “Also by this author page” and scan for the “Other books in this series” column, I found that it became increasingly impossible to find stand-alone novels.  Everything seemed built around the franchise model.  So I found myself drawn more and more towards short story collections and “legitimate” literature.  But that doesn’t meant that I sometimes don’t still dream about cashing in on my as-yet-unrealized 10-volume fantasy epic.  With any lucky, it’ll write itself after I’m dead.  After all, it worked for Robert Jordan.

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