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  1. #1

    Joe Abercrombie: First law finished? Or Saga continues?

    Joe just had an AMA on reddit and I fear my question was too late and won't get answered. I know he checks these forums sometimes, and I know KatG will have an opinion here as well.

    So 2 questions

    • Do you consider First Law to be a complete series? Or since there may be more written in that story would you consider it unfinished?
    • How many more series will it take for Bayaz and the South to finish their war? This may be only answered by Joe himself, or he may not even be sure yet.


    So I had mentioned before that I don't normally read a series until it has been complete. I don't like waiting years for the next book and have to try and remember what happened last. It was brought to my attention that just because a set of books is complete, doesn't mean the series is complete. Maybe it's just a matter of opinion or POV, but to me if you are writing a trilogy, and you finish that trilogy. It is complete. To make a comparison....

    R Scott Bakker has made it known that his Second Apocalypse will be told in 3 sets of trilogies. So if he for some reason only completes 2 of those, then his "series" is unfinished. While Joe Abercombie has never made that apparent. So if he never wrote another word in the First Law universe, I would still consider First Law to be a complete series.

  2. #2
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    I look at it as both. First law may be done, but the story is not. Will JA go back to it? I hope so. Same with Butcher's Codex of Alera. First Lords Fury wrapped up that arc, but (I will be vague to avoid too much spoilering) you know that there should be more to come in order to close the story out. Even if it is in the future with a new set of characters. There are other continents out there.

    The Pillars of Sand wrapped up the Echoes of Empire Trilogy, but it is clear that there should be more to come. Yes the trilogy is complete, but the story is far from over.

    I hope all 3 of those sagas continue. I must admit that I am jonesing for some more Sand dan Glokta.

  3. #3
    Maybe I am misrepresenting the other side of this discussion. But pretend for a second that you refuse to read any series that isn't finished. Like me, you don't want to wait for the other book, etc. Would you read First Law? It's a complete trilogy, but the series isn't finished...

  4. #4
    I would say no, its a completed tale, but one that conspicuously sets up a larger narrative. Its a complete story, but the story in itself is an introduction. That being said it is at a satisfying resting point and the single novels have been excellent - especially Best Served Cold. The intent for a longer series is evident to me, and distinguishing between it and Bakker's series simply because he has spelled out the number of books seems odd.

    I do believe Abercrombie will complete the series, but I have the impression that he will take his time doing so working on other projects, and likely more single novels that further flesh out the world, etc. He's relatively prolific, but my belief is he does not want to rush it, and that he feels he is improving as an author and his world is improving as it becomes better realized.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Maybe I am misrepresenting the other side of this discussion. But pretend for a second that you refuse to read any series that isn't finished. Like me, you don't want to wait for the other book, etc. Would you read First Law? It's a complete trilogy, but the series isn't finished...
    Yeah Chris, I kind of knew what you were getting at..... I just kind of got on one of my tangents and neglected to address this point. I think that I would use kind of a compromise approach. With First Law as your example..... I don't think it would be possible for JA to just wrap up his story in one more book.... I would think that it would take at least another trilogy..... so yes, if I were like you (which in the respect of wanting to read completed stories I am..... I just usually lack the willpower to hold off on getting the next book....lol) I would definitely read First Law..... but then hold off until the next trilogy/portion/section/arc (however we want to label it) is complete and then read that. I would trust that the author has a point for pausing the story at a certain point.

    My own example is The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Because of the time between the books and the number of books I have read in between reading those books, I will be rereading the series prior to reading the last book. So I definitely understand where you are coming from.

    Cheers Brother!

    Kempster

  6. #6
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Series are never finished unless the author dies, and sometimes not even then. While it's possible, and has sometimes happened, that an author finishes a storyline in a series or writes the last one of a more episodic suspense series, it is also extremely common for an author to stop a series and then return to it shortly or years later for more stuff that has come up in their fevered imaginations. Or not. It is also equally common for an author to think that he or she is writing a trilogy or duology or five book series -- and sincerely have the storylines for that planned, and when writing the books, finds that the trilogy is actually longer, or that there was a whole storyline that needs to be dealt with in a consecutive trilogy, etc., and the books are successful enough to manage it. If you go back and look at what authors say at the start of a series about how long they think it's going to be, half the time it turns out that they were wrong. That's because they are not creating widgets. They are creating worlds and stories.

    This is the principle reason I don't get hung up on waiting till a series is "finished" before reading it, especially in fantasy. George Martin originally conceived of Game of Thrones as a 2-3 book series. Then it was going to be four or five with a time gap in between books, then two books to fill the time gap, projected end is seven books. Stephen Brust wrote the bestselling Vlad Taltos series and it's an episodic suspense series. Then he stopped for many years. Then he wrote some more, so to catch up, I will also have to re-read the previous books, just to remember where the series was in the overall stuff and the details of the individual cases, many of which finished.

    Multiple trilogies became a common tactic in fantasy in the 1980's. David Eddings, for instance, used it, as did Mercedes Lackey, Glen Cook and a host of others. It doesn't mean that a story of a world is finished, but there is a breaking point. There are stories within stories, and the stories within finish. Sometimes the larger story is finished -- Wheel of Time, Malazan. But if Steven Erickson goes back to Malazan, it will not surprise me in the slightest. The stories we get are the stories we get. Every book has an ending, every t.v. show episode does too. It's an end. It may be an end with uncertainty and questions, but it's an end. But that doesn't mean that you can say, put a cork in it, it's done. Every book we read may just be one book. Or it may be a dozen. So for me, when I find a book/author I like, my reaction to the next book in the series isn't, oh rats, it's "squee!"

    Abercrombie wrote an initial trilogy. That's what he sold to publishers. It had a beginning story, which ended, a middle story, which ended, and a third story, which ended. But the overarching plotline and dozens of sub-threads remained. You knew that you would probably see various characters again, as you did. Standalones let Abercrombie play out different kinds of stories, expand the scope of the world view, while advancing a little a few plot threads of the overall arc. And Abercrombie announced he'd sold the next trilogy within the First Law world. So the series isn't finished; some of the stories are.

    From what he's said in the past, he regards the First Law trilogy as a complete trilogy, a complete story, and I've never disputed it. I just don't view it as the end of the series -- all the standalones, which sort of form their own trilogy, advance the overall story further. But even if he promises you that the next trilogy he's doing will be it, kapute, the story done, he may turn out to be wrong. I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it, if I were you.

    Scott Lynch gave me an author summoning spell, but I can't find it at the moment. Perhaps Joe will do a search, though, and make fun of himself while answering your questions. Or you could do what philgeo did and go contact him at his website: http://www.joeabercrombie.com/

  7. #7
    Well that's all pretty much common knowledge. Authors can write however they want. The discussion I guess is more about how you define the word complete, when referring to a series.

    By your definition Kat nothing will ever be complete. Maybe if the author died, all main characters died, and the entire universe and all dimensions implode! Otherwise something can always be written in that universe to further it's story.

    If I approach fantasy with the intention to only reason complete series. I would consider First Law Trilogy complete. If GRRM said hes writing a trilogy, and decides to write 5 more, then 7 total....it's not complete until he writes them all. Then it is. You are trying to insinuate that even after he completes this ASOIAF series that it's not "complete".

  8. #8
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Well that's all pretty much common knowledge. Authors can write however they want. The discussion I guess is more about how you define the word complete, when referring to a series. By your definition Kat nothing will ever be complete. Maybe if the author died, all main characters died, and the entire universe and all dimensions implode! Otherwise something can always be written in that universe to further it's story.
    Yes, it can indeed have something new written in the universe to further the story. That's how it regularly happens in fiction. That doesn't mean that books don't have endings or that all storylines in a series don't end. It just means that complete is not a fully concrete concept where fiction writing is concerned.

    If I approach fantasy with the intention to only read complete series,
    And again, I don't approach fantasy fiction with this intent. If I did that, for instance, I could never read any contemporary fantasy series, and I like contemporary fantasy series. You, on the other hand, have an interest in battle fantasy, and battles usually have endings. If those feel to you definite enough, then that is what works for you.

    I would consider First Law Trilogy complete.
    Right, so you won't be reading the next set of books in that universe regarding Bayaz, because the series and the story are finished. Problem solved.

    If GRRM said hes writing a trilogy, and decides to write 5 more, then 7 total....it's not complete until he writes them all. Then it is. You are trying to insinuate that even after he completes this ASOIAF series that it's not "complete".
    I very seldom insinuate on these boards because people can't read tone on the Internet. Martin is writing a specific story through multi-volumes (as opposed to some other types of series,) that will come down to a conflict of ice and fire -- the ice ghouls versus the remnants of magic in the land and the dragons. That battle will be an ending of A Song of Ice and Fire. But it is also possible that Martin will leave a whole bunch of story arcs open at that end and that he will then come back to the universe and continue the story in that direction. I don't think he will definitely do this; it strikes me that he would like to put Song to bed. But I don't know what he will do, and neither necessarily will he. I never expected Donaldson to go back to the Thomas Covenant series and continue the story, but he did.

    But it's not really about what the author does or even says. It seems to be a matter of what seems complete to you is complete. If Abercrombie came here and said that First Law wasn't a complete story (which again I don't think he'd do,) would you then feel you'd failed your requirement to read only completed series? Or would you still feel that the story was complete for you, that the ending felt like a finished ending to a saga? If so, then does it matter whether other people find the series complete or not?

    For me, the central story arcs of Abercrombie's main story with questions attached are not resolved and are continued through the standalones and will likely be continued in the next set of books. For me, the story isn't complete, and I have no idea how long Abercrombie will stay in that universe spinning those arcs out.

    But that's not a problem for me. It clearly is a problem for you. But if you feel that the First Law trilogy is complete, then my agreement isn't necessary.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Right, so you won't be reading the next set of books in that universe regarding Bayaz, because the series and the story are finished. Problem solved.
    Not sure what clever word play trick you are trying to pull. But, I don't read incomplete series, and I consider First Law complete. So, if Joe writes another story in this universe, if I follow my standards, I won't read it until it's complete. So for example, if it's a trilogy...I won't read it until he finishes book 3. Ez Pz.

    But it's not really about what the author does or even says. It seems to be a matter of what seems complete to you is complete. If Abercrombie came here and said that First Law wasn't a complete story (which again I don't think he'd do,) would you then feel you'd failed your requirement to read only completed series? Or would you still feel that the story was complete for you, that the ending felt like a finished ending to a saga? If so, then does it matter whether other people find the series complete or not?
    I'm starting to just think we are talking about two different things here. The "story" as you just put it and the "series" of the books called "First Law" are two different things.
    Imagine it like this... I say "I won't watch a television series until it's complete". So they do a First Law TV series, and say it's going to be 2 seasons. They finish 2 seasons, and I watch both of them after it's done. Is that a complete TV series? I think most would say YES....

    Now imagine they say, that was so popular we want 3 more seasons! Now it's incomplete?

    If they had said we are airing an open ended series, no idea how many seasons, then it's not complete until they air the series finale. But First Law Trilogy was 3books. Complete at 3 books. I guess this is why I think we are talking about 2 different things. The "set" is complete the "story" may not be....because I agree in a sense a story can ALWAYS be expanded upon unless the universe implodes.

  10. #10
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    According to Joe,*cough*, there is another set of stories being written in the first law world. He was speaking at a small UK Convention at the weekend. Nice chap, evil sense of humour.

  11. #11
    I think Kat pretty much summed it up, but to be clear, Joe has said he is under contract to write three more books in the First Law world which will likely follow the children of various characters from the first 6 books. He is also going to release a book containing several short stories from that world as well. He will start on the new trilogy when he finishes the "Half King" books, which he is about half way done with. He keeps his fans very up to date on his blog, so if you want I would say check that out.

  12. #12
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Not sure what clever word play trick you are trying to pull. But, I don't read incomplete series, and I consider First Law complete.
    Okay, so why did you start a thread where you are asking if the First Law is a complete series if you already consider it complete? I am confused.

    So, if Joe writes another story in this universe, if I follow my standards, I won't read it until it's complete. So for example, if it's a trilogy...I won't read it until he finishes book 3. Ez Pz.
    We already know that Joe is under contract to write another set of books in the First Law universe. The overall story will be continued in those books, as well as new stories. What I'm curious here is how you handle an open-ended series, instead of one that is being written in sets (but is still usually open ended on a major plot arc or more.) Do you just wait until the author announces, "okay, I'm done for now, I think," or do you pick a book and decide that's the end point because some plot arcs are resolved?

    Contemporary fantasy, as I mentioned, usually although not always uses a mystery suspense structure -- episodic novels with overarcing plotlines that can continue on for quite some time. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, etc. are not completed series. There are also secondary world fantasy series that are like that -- Stephen Brust's Vlad Taltos, Glen Cook's Garrett P.I., Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse series, and so forth. Do you just not read those series because they aren't going to end for quite awhile?

    I'm starting to just think we are talking about two different things here. The "story" as you just put it and the "series" of the books called "First Law" are two different things.
    They are and they aren't. Stories can be both an episode that resolves and a storyline that continues at the same time. The First Law trilogy is a story that resolves -- an episode. But the main storyline continues. I'll give you an example -- Robin Hood. The tales of Robin Hood are tales -- they have resolutions and endings. But the overall arc of the Robin Hood mythos is that he's opposing the policies of the rulers of England as an outlaw in the forest around the time of King Richard, who spent part of that time imprisoned from the Crusades. More modern developments of the mythos built a story arc where Robin Hood is a deposed aristocrat instead of a yeoman, and a supporter of King Richard opposed to his brother Prince John, and the resolution of the story has in modern culture traditionally been that Richard returns to England, schools John, pardons Robin and stops taxing all his peasants. (Needless to say not historically accurate.) Doing a set of stories about Robin Hood that does not get to Richard's return or some other resolution of Robin's outlaw status -- death, etc., does not resolve the main storyline of Robin's character, which is his being an outlaw. It may however come to the end of a story concerning Robin. One does not invalidate the other.

    If the author of a set of books about Robin Hood intends to write to the resolution of Robin's main story, but does so in sets of trilogies, that's really no different than if the author did it as a straight sequential series. A series is a serial -- things that follow one another and/or are connected to each other (the same world and characters and over-arcing plotlines.) We acknowledge both points. Mercedes Lackey has done something like eight different Valdemar series set in her world of Valdemar with connected characters and sequential plotlines. Each set we call a series -- the Valdemar Mage series, etc., but when referring to all the books set in Valdemar, we also call that the Valdemar "series."

    So the decision of what makes a "series" a series and "complete" is not purely a dictionary thing -- it's a your mileage may vary thing. The universe in which Joe is writing these books is the First Law universe. When someone says the First Law series, they may be referring to the first trilogy, but they may also be referring to all six books he's done so far in that universe, and the next set of books he does will be included in that. Which is why your criteria can get rather complicated. And perhaps why you asked this question: "Do you consider First Law to be a complete series? Or since there may be more written in that story would you consider it unfinished?"

    If Joe did come here and say that the First Law trilogy was not the complete series and that he considered it an unfinished story until he's done the new ones, would you then feel that you messed up by reading the incomplete First Law trilogy, or would you stick to your feeling that the first trilogy did finish a story, if not the main storyline, and therefore was complete? And if it's the latter, why ask Joe the question since it doesn't matter what he answers? There's nothing wrong with you having your criteria for your choices, nor are you insisting that others follow it. But I'm not sure whether you are applying your criteria to Abercrombie's work or trying to clarify how your criteria would apply to it. I do know that Joe has said he regards the First Law trilogy as one story that finished, so that would seem to answer your first question, if not your second.

    Now imagine they say, that was so popular we want 3 more seasons! Now it's incomplete?
    The series is ongoing, so the initial story in the two seasons or the two different or more stories of the first two seasons may or may not be complete, but the series story continues and so the series is not complete until they stop showing the series, at which point they will have a "series finale" episode. Again, one does not invalidate the other.

    For instance, the television show Supernatural had a five season storyline (to get to syndication number,) that they weren't sure that they would get to but they did. They had an ending to the over-arcing storyline that had been created. But that ending was also completely open-ended with many unresolved plotlines, some of which were then picked up the next season. The series continues -- they have not had a finale, they aren't completed. If they'd been cancelled in season two, they would have been completed then. Most television series start with an idea that will be a storyline that can be spun over several seasons but may be substantially changed -- it isn't like writing a novel. Saying that they have a two season series just means that the network bought the first two seasons, so they know they'll have that many. It doesn't mean that they'll necessarily complete main storylines in two seasons.

    If they had said we are airing an open ended series, no idea how many seasons, then it's not complete until they air the series finale. But First Law Trilogy was 3books. Complete at 3 books. I guess this is why I think we are talking about 2 different things. The "set" is complete the "story" may not be....because I agree in a sense a story can ALWAYS be expanded upon unless the universe implodes.
    You seem to want a very definite nature to the term "open-ended" but most series are developed open-ended, even when there's something of a plan. I think, from what you are saying, that your criteria is that it's a set of stories you need completed, not a series. So the Bayaz gets the Seed and uses it to stop the Southern Army for the moment story is resolved in one set of books, but the war of Bayaz and the Southern Army goes on in the overall series and is not resolved.

    For me on First Law, the main story is not resolved so it's not a complete arc yet and the series of stories is on-going. It's six episodes, sub stories of the main story. Should Joe resolve the Bayaz main storyline in some way and then go on to further write stories set in the First Law universe, we will again have the double uses of the word series. People will refer to the, probably, First Law series to describe the Bayaz storyline, but also all the books written in that universe as Joe Abercrombie's First Law series. Tolkien's Middle Earth series means The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, etc. Stories do have endings, small and large. Series is rather broader.

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