Intriguingly titled post at tor.com: Is There Such a Thing as a Necessary Prequel?
Hmm! A necessary prequel. One without which the novel itself cannot stand? One that the readers demand? What makes a prequel necessary? Why that prequel, and not some other prequel?
I have some important prequels around here and there. The most obvious is The Year’s Midnight, which is the prelude for the real story of the Death’s Lady trilogy. But is it a necessary prequel? I chose to write it. But I might equally have written an entire trilogy that handles the huge backstory, then used the story in The Year’s Midnight to link the huge prequel trilogy to the second almost equally huge story that happens sixteen years later. Who can say which part of the backstory is necessary? Other than me, deciding to write it or not write it.
Actually, I’m now more than a bit curious about the reading experience if someone skips The Year’s Midnight and reads the other two books in this set. Would the lack of that prelude interfere with the reading experience? If so, then the prelude is necessary.
In Winter of Ice and Iron, I started with a tiny prequel story about Innith’s mother — remember that?
In Law of the Broken Earth, I did the same thing, though the little prequel story was just a bit longer.
Of course some of the Black Dog novellas are prequel stories.
Well, enough thinking about my own prequels. What about this post? Let’s see —
The Magician’s Nephew was the hardest book to write in the Narnia series. It took C.S. Lewis five years, one significant redraft, and completing every other book in the Narnia series before he’d finally beaten The Magician’s Nephew into an acceptable shape.…
Ah, okay. The post is about writing prequels after the series is complete, and is arguing that most authors can’t or don’t write prequels that stand up to the original series in quality. Why do so many screenwriters and novelists think they can toss off a prequel that’s genuinely satisfying? The pop culture landscape is rife with prequels that either bombed entirely or quietly faded from fandom memory … Why are prequels so hard to pull off?
I don’t know, are prequels hard to pull off, really? Of course a lot of the linked post is about movies. I don’t watch that many movies, so I’m not particularly familiar with those. But while on the subject, here is a fun post: 10 Science Fiction Prequels that Aren’t as Bad as Phantom Menace
Yes, I heard quite a bit about Phantom Menace at the time.
Let me think. Steven Brust has moved back and forth a lot along Vlad’s personal timeline while writing the Taltos series. I don’t think moving back in time is a problem in this series, although some books in the series are not necessarily ones to re-read. (Thinking of Tekla, of course.) If he did that now, it might seem a little odd, after moving so far forward along in Vlad’s life. But this is still one of the best examples I can think of.
Lois McMaster Bujold wrote Barrayar after writing several books about Miles. That was definitely a successful prequel novel. Looks like Shards of Honor and The Warrior’s Apprentice came out the same year? I don’t remember that. I wonder which she actually wrote first. Either way, she backtracked to write Barrayar.
In fact, if she wanted to go on with the Vorkosigan series, one way to do that would be to go way back in time and write prequels. I grant, she doesn’t seem to have much interest in doing that. Which is too bad; wouldn’t you like to see a couple books set during the Cetagandan invasion? That may be one of the prequels I would most enjoy reading.
Okay, on that note — what’s a prequel you would particularly enjoy, to a series or a standalone that doesn’t have one now?