When Authors Reboot a Series

I’m sure that all fans of Sherlock Holmes were excited when The Strand began to publish The Valley of Fear in serialized installments in 1914, and again when more short stories appeared in 1921. Even The Hound of the Baskervilles came a whole ten years later than the previous two. In recent years, several authors in many different genres have given us new novels in series long given up on or thought to be complete.

A few years ago, I started watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix, having heard lots about it and wondering if it would help to counteract the stigma Twilight had put on vampire stories. I was pretty attached pretty quickly (and not just because I enjoyed looking at Ian Somerhalder. Though that was a perk). So, of course, I wanted to see what the source material was like. Some kind of way, I’d missed the L. J. Smith boat in my youth, having gone straight from Lurleen McDaniel books in middle school to Anne Rice in high school. So I grabbed a couple omnibuses from the library and set to reading.

I finished the original four pretty quickly. And acknowledged that not only were they very different from the television series, but that they were severely dated, having been written in the early nineties, when certain character traits were popular in teenaged heroines. With that in mind I moved on to The Return series, which was published in 2009.

That’s right, 2009. Almost twenty years after the “original series” came out. When things like this usually happen, authors will revisit their characters in later years, or enter the same universe with different characters. Instead, L. J. Smith just picked up where she left off, but with the characters–still the same age, mind you–living in the late 2000s, with smartphones and hundreds more pages of exposition per book.

Just a few months ago, I read the most recent book in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, of which the last installment was in 2004. In Prince Lestat, an unknown amount of time has passed since the last book–actually, the events of the last several books aren’t even mentioned, so that anything that happened in Lestat’s timeline after Memnoch the Devil is irrelevant.

I was perfectly fine with that.

Only a little while later, Anne announced that she would be publishing a new book in her Sleeping Beauty series, the last of which was published in 1985. That’s right, she waited my entire lifetime to continue that particular series.

This is not something that is strictly for vampire novelists.

When Helen Fielding felt the need to bring Bridget Jones out of the cupboard after fourteen years, the thirtysomething goofball obsessed with weight loss and Mark Darcy had evolved into a fiftysomething busybody obsessed with…well, something else.

Elizabeth Peters took a thirteen year break (well, if you call writing ten Amelia Peabody mysteries a break) before writing the final book in her Vicky Bliss mystery series.

Thomas Harris pretty much surprised us every time a new Hannibal Lecter book came out, with seven to eleven years between each one.

There is always the good and the bad about authors revisiting long-lost series. Sometimes they pick up stories they feel left off in a bad place. Sometimes they just come up with new ideas for their old characters. Sometimes they fix problems from earlier novels. Anne Rice didn’t even bother to retcon; she just didn’t mention the period of Lestat’s existence in which his personality took a complete about-face and some weird stuff was happening in crossovers with her other series. And it was definitely for the better.

When situations like this happen, my default setting is delighted, and hopeful that I won’t be disappointed by any new developments or a change in writing style or characterization. So far, that hope hasn’t been completely dragged in the dust…though it has been depleted a few times.

How do you usually feel when you find out a series you thought long dormant–or complete, even–will be picked up again?

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