March 16, 2005

Calling Patrick Nielsen Hayden

There’s been quite a few revivified “space operas” in recent years that I’ve really enjoyed, many of them playing around in some of the same kinds of conceptual spaces, in futures where the definition and meaning of “humanity” has become quite plastic. Some of them read a bit like “Book of the New Sun meets E.E. Doc Smith”, such as John Wright’s great series that begins with The Golden Age.

One of these series I quite liked was by Tony Daniel: the two books published are Metaplanetary and Superluminal. It wasn’t the absolutely greatest work of its kind that I’ve ever read, but it was extremely enjoyable, with an infectiously page-turning narrative, some interesting ideas, some strong characters. I’ve been looking at Amazon for a while wondering when the next volume was coming out. Today I decided to google “Tony Daniel” and I found out that the next volume is never coming out, because his publisher decided to cancel it.

I don’t quite understand why an SF publisher would stop short of finishing a three-part series, even if the sales weren’t stellar on the first two parts. Why not go the distance? Some SF series which start in a rather unheralded way gain steam over time and eventually pay off pretty handsomely.

I think this is the most disappointing series cancellation I’ve come across. I was also pretty frustrated when Patrick Adkins’ excellent retelling of Greek mythology, focusing on the untold stories of the Titans that preceded Zeus, was cancelled, but I could understand that a bit better: it was a pretty boutique series, and by the third volume, Adkins was starting to get into territory where he was going to be retelling stories we already have heard rather than filling in a story only known in its outlines, a harder act to pull off.

I turned up a bit of evidence that another series I sort of liked, though this one was a bit cheesier, The Journeys of McGill Feighan, by Kevin O’Donnell, might actually be about to start up again after a really long hiatus. I just found out that a long-interrupted series by Pamela Sargent on the terraforming of Venus that I thought was decent enough was actually completed in 2002, which I didn’t realize—now the third book is already out of print!

There’s also old series where I occasionally mournfully snoop around to see if somehow there was another volume that I never saw—Sterling Lanier’s two Hiero books, for example.

I really wish somebody would make sure that Daniel’s series isn’t one of those series that people have to snuffle around looking for a conclusion to for the next two decades. Somebody give that man a contract, please. I promise to buy two copies. I want to see how it all turns out. Isn’t there some karmic principle that says that if Robert Jordan can continue his quest to destroy the remaining trees on planet Earth as long as there are still people dumb enough to buy his crimes against language and narrative, then a tightly plotted, entertaining SF trilogies should at least get to go the distance?