How Do You Wind Up a Series, Anyway?

Space:1999 was around long before I got here, and presumably, it’ll still be around when I’m not.  If there’s a mysterious unknown force involved here, one has to wonder why yours truly is left carrying the mantle for this series and now finds himself needing to wrap up the series in a final novel, Odysseus Wept.

Winding up the series is infinitely more complicated than starting it.  To clarify that point, no, I didn’t start Space:1999, but my novel Resurrection did start this book series.  Mateo Latosa and I spent a lot of phone time talking through the pitfalls of this book series, how to make sure it had room to grow, how we could honor the past but build a framework for new stories, and ultimately, how to really close in on what Johnny Byrne had expressed to Mateo as his hopes for something like a new beginning — not a reboot, mind you, a new series, sort of Space:1999 the Next Generation.

For anybody reading these novels, we’ve been planting seeds all along to make that happen.  The Alphan adventure isn’t ending with Odysseus Wept — but the Powys Space:1999 adventure certainly is.  If I had one wish for the future, I would love it if some fan fiction writer (or maybe more than one) picks up the mantle from where we leave it off.

That’s the easy part — we’ve been building pieces of that foundation for quite a long time.  Now it’s just time to gather the threads into a whole.

What’s hard?  Well, Odysseus Wept is a novel, and novels need character arcs, and plots with beginnings, middles, and ends, and to some degree, a changing of the guard will be happening in this book — it takes place over a long period of time, and just like in real life, your parents were the stars of the show when you were a kid and then at some point in your forties or fifties, you suddenly realize that they’re now sort of supporting characters, and you’re running the show, and your kids are watching the calendar pages pass until one day, they’ll be the stars of the show.

See what I mean?

I have to put aside the “novel architect” on this project and focus more on multiple smaller stories, with smaller arcs, but with different central characters as the “stars” of those arcs.  Every novel has sub-plots — this is really different. This book has sub-novels.  I don’t think I realized that coming in — from an architectural perspective, this is something like six mini-novels — but the “design” portion of each one is just as challenging as a regular sized novel.

For anybody interested, who’s been following the book series (and if you haven’t, man will this sound nerdy/fanboywonkish), here are some, but not all, of those mini novels (oh, by the way, spoiler alert!!!!):

  • Space Brains: Who/What/Where/Why?
  • The Life and Times of Paul Morrow
  • The Life and Times of Ariana Carter
  • The Life and Times of the Koenig-Russell Family
  • Hey, Look, It’s the Moon!
  • Goodnight, Moon (catchy)

And part of me really, really, really wants to be done — there’s other stuff I really want to be working on.  But I look myself in the mirror and say:  “Don’t phone it in, pal, you’ll never respect yourself afterwards.”

So, there’s pulling together the loose threads, there’s laying down all of the separate stories that need to be told, and then there’s wondering — well, what do people want?

That last one is a question that historically WE DO NOT ASK.

That’ll sound pretty arrogant — lemme explain.  The best way to produce something bland and palatable but not great is to try to please everyone.  You end up with something…fine.  That’s just an awful word to me.  I’d much rather have you walk away from one of my books angry than ready to forget you read it.

This book isn’t going to try to be controversial.  It’ll try to be entertaining.  It’ll try to be true to everything that’s come before, particularly our book series.  But I’ll be honest — if I’m gonna pull punches a little, it might be in this book, just because it’s the end of the series, folks — if I have a choice to have a character’s fate be memorable vs. satisfying, this time around, I’m probably gonna go with satisfying.  Much to the horror of my writing instincts.

But in this case, my paternal feelings have to win out.  For at least a little while longer, I’m the step-dad of this series that has dominated much of the last fifteen years or so of my life.  I have only written one non-Space 1999 novel in this millennium, and it’s one you probably won’t ever get to see (there’s pumpkins and butcher knives and we don’t have the rights, many of you will know which book I mean).  I have started other books, and I really want to get to them!  But the only books I’ve finished are on Moonbase Alpha.  I haven’t forgotten how Captain James T. Kirk’s death in “Star Trek: Generations” felt — and I’m determined to really not have that happen here (hey, did I just split an infinitive, how bold!).

But what always nags me is this series — especially given its real life drama, only two seasons, and drastically different seasons at that — this lady deserves an elegant resolution.  And I’m gonna do what I can to make sure she gets one.

How do you wind up a series?

You try for a soft landing, and just keeping going till you see the runway get closer, closer, and then you touch down.