Shared History: Revisiting Long Book Series

I’m re-reading C.J. Cherryh’s Atevi books—there are nine of them, and another three promised, which makes them one of the longer SF series around. (Editor’s note: this article was originally published in 2008; as of 2017, there are 18 Atevi novels and 2 short stories.) I was thinking, as I made my way through book 2, Invader, that there are some things about a long series, any long series, that are quite different from an individual novel, perhaps in the same way an individual novel is different from a short story.

A novel is one story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Diane Duane’s Door Into… books, when people are going to tell a story they begin, where we’d start “Once upon a time,” with the formula “This is the story of /whatever/ and this is the way I tell it.” I ...