Endings by Karen Lord

Tue 30 Nov 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

Endings by Karen Lord

I was at a teahouse last Tuesday, chatting with a fellow Bajan author and feeling very literary and cultured (which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, especially the tea). We were debating the age-old question of literary versus genre or, more accurately, the perception of what may be defined as literary or genre. This post is not about that debate. It’s about an interesting tangent that came about as we discovered a mutual dislike for a particular staple of science fiction and fantasy—the multivolume opus.

I’m not talking about the trilogy. The five volume epic also gets a pass from me. I’m not at all disapproving of completed novels in a linked arc of however many books the author can produce and the readers may desire. I mean those books, those doorstopper-thick books, those finely detailed, intricately plotted and often even well-written books that take you through 1027 pages and leave you hanging for next year’s sequel … again and again over the course of several years.

I’m sorry. I can’t risk it. I’m no longer a teenager gifted with long, slow summer vacations and delusions of immortality. I will wait till you have finished the story before I pick up even the first volume.

This goes double for television. I’m not hanging around week after week, hoping for some tiny bit of story resolution. We both know how it’s going to end: one thread tied off neatly, two formerly completed threads frayed, and an entire new seam unravelled to make sure I have to tune in next week. But I might be busy next week, and the weeks after that. That means I’ll have to catch up on five more episodes before I can begin to understand what’s happening in the newest episode—at which stage I will drop the show entirely and make vague promises to buy the DVD (or, which is more likely the case, take the instant gratification of a quick summary and some viewer reactions from a wiki or forum).

I know it’s my own peculiar quirk and it certainly needn’t be anyone else’s. I would not judge any writer’s creative choices, and I’m not sneering at the reader or viewer who likes that kind of approach. I too once looked forward to each new instalment in a long, slow, twisty tale with anticipation and delight. Now I’m finding solace in movies without sequels, stand-alone novels, short stories and miniseries, which distil experience to such brevity and intensity that what takes hours or minutes to read or view will take days and months to ponder and discuss. I’ve exchanged the thrill of a possible future for the bittersweet joy of farewell to worlds and characters I will never see again save in memory and retelling.