Ah, the dreaded movie sequel, fodder for the critic's rant.
"Looks like another Sequel Summer," they'll say. "Producers are milking intellectual properties for all they're worth. God help us, it's creative stagnation out there, and we're about to slit our wrists for want of an original story."
Or something like that.
Needless to say, I think movie critics are generally too hard on sequels. Fortunately, although the book industry has its own share of haters, sequels, or series books, don't seem nearly as maligned. Harry Bosch has spread himself over twenty-two books, and counting. Spenser hit forty-five this year—with the help of Parker's post-mortem successor, Ace Atkins, no less. Harry Potter carried on for a mere seven books, and although they kept getting longer and longer, no one accused Rowling of milking it...
Although to be fair, dividing the seventh book into two movies was indeed the equivalent of squeezing the last drop out of a withered nipple. But again, that's back to Hollywood, and therein lies the difference.
So what is that difference? Why do people seem more willing to experience dozens of books with a single protagonist, set in a single universe, than they do their movie counterparts? I have a theory, and it amounts to this: Movies are in your face, but books are in your mind.
Movies are like loud acquaintances who pay you an occasional visit—at first they're entertaining, but after awhile, they're obnoxious. Ben Franklin said it best: Fish and relatives start to stink after three days. So it can be said of movies.
But books? Books are more intimate. They're like those more frequent chats with your best friend, roommate, or significant other. Reading the next book in a series, revisiting that character and his or her universe, is more like checking in.
Perhaps the best way to put it: Movies are the equivalent of going out. Books are the equivalent of coming home.
I know there's more to it than this. I know a lot of people don't even read books these days, that they'd rather stick with matinees and Netflix. And I know that extroverts and introverts think of going out and staying home differently, which makes my entire analogy rather moot. But it's just a theory, and it came to mind yesterday as I was working on the treatment of my very own sequel, the second Alan Blades Adventure.
You see, I've been a little worried about my second self-published book being just more of the same, about my reputation as an author who's only capable of writing a single type of story. Much like Ray Bradbury was concerned about being considered a mere writer of pulp rather than an established author of literature, or like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was disappointed with being equivocated with Sherlock Holmes rather than his denser historical fiction, I found myself worrying that I'd be pigeon-holed as a scribe of tongue-in-cheek frivolity rather than a master of the craft. Shouldn't my second book be something of more literary merit?
I know what you're thinking: Slow down, Nate! You're getting way effing ahead of yourself. You're talking legacies, up there. Stephen King wrote Shawshank eight years into his horror binge. You've got plenty of time for an opus.
And you'd be right. So I'll take a step back from the self-conscious panic attack. Alan Blades, it is.
Besides, I've discovered something that I never knew until now: writing a second book in a series is an absolute blast! I've already created this universe and these characters, now it's a matter of exploring them in more detail. I get to play in my sandbox. Although I'm excited to see what they do next, revisiting them is nothing short of comfort. It's nothing short of coming home.
I hope you visit often.