A serial killing

Spoiler content: possible minor for A Song of Ice and Fire in form of crackpot theory.

I’ve been reading Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic, The Thirteenth Rib, by David J. Schwartz. I have not yet finished it. Did I put it down because it isn’t good? On the contrary, it is good. But I can’t remember why anymore, and I’ve moved on to other books in the space between, so I’m just not motivated enough to pick it up again.

This is because I started reading Gooseberry Bluff as a Kindle serial. I thought the serial idea was fun. It made me feel all Dickensian or something. And this book looked like it would be fun too, and not terribly heavy or ponderous. I thought that made it a good candidate for giving the serial thing a whirl.

But I was mistaken, because worldbuilding. Schwartz has created a living, breathing world, with its own rules, history, and culture, different from our own. As fantasy authors do. And should. He does that part right.

Which is wrong – for this format. When I’m only getting a short installment of his story every two weeks, well, call me an old lady, but I can’t remember all that rich detail that makes a fantasy worth reading in the first place. It shows up every other Tuesday, I read it in one sitting, and then, what? I’m not going to read for two weeks? Of course I am. So I fill my head with other people’s stories, and by the time I get the next bit two weeks hence, I’ve forgotten too much. I spend as much time paging back through the old stuff to refresh my memory as I do reading the new stuff.

That’s kind of an odd complaint, I suppose, from someone who has known the names of all thirteen dwarves since the age of seven, can still recite the Dark Is Rising poem in its entirety without error, and continues to question whether Coldhands could be Benjen. I don’t have trouble holding onto my fantasy worlds. But only if I’ve gotten hold in the first place. Fantasy relies on immersion. Prevent that and you’re never going to get nerds debating the finer points of your world on internet forums. Which, as you know, equals the pinnacle of fantasy success.

I still think there’s hope for fantasy in the serial format. I think larger installments, more often, or both, would have made a big difference in my experience. But in the meanwhile, I’m going to wait a bit and then sit down fresh with Gooseberry Bluff, and read it from beginning to end. I think it’ll suit it much better.