Things I Have Learned

First of all, I have some people to thank:

  • The authors of the Liaden Universe, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, without whom there would be nothing for this blog to do, and more importantly for the joy their work has given many readers around the world.
  • Everybody whose work has gone into making WordPress such a powerful and easy-to-use blogging platform, with particular thanks to those who worked on the Akismet spam filter and the Editorial Calendar scheduling tool; this project would have been much more difficult and painful without you.
  • Every single person who commented on any of the posts.

And now, we’re near the end, which is the traditional time to look back and think about what one has learned. So here are some of the things I have learned doing this re-read:

  • Reading one chapter per day works well for a book where all the chapters are about the same length, but not so well for a book where the chapters vary according to the pace of the story and may be anything from one page to fifty pages long.
  • An ebook reader is not bad for reading a book straight through, but can be a pain when you want to flip back a couple of chapters to check on something you think you remember being mentioned but you’re not sure exactly where it was. (And worse yet when checking on the thing you think you remember requires flipping back and forth between two different books on the same device.)
  • Sharon Lee was right when she told me at the start of this that authors arrange chapters and scenes the way they do for a reason, and to split or rearrange them is to damage the story. Of course she was, but being me I had to try it the other way to realise it. And, all things considered, I’m glad I paid her enough attention to rein things in as much as I did.
  • This was a pretty ambitious project, especially since it’s the first time I’ve done anything like this. Eighteen novels is definitely jumping in the deep end. There’s a perfectly good four-novel series that ticks most of the boxes for why I wanted to do this project; if I’d thought of it, I could have done it first as a warm-up. (Part of me still wants to do it next; another part of me is horrified at the thought of ever trying anything like this again.) But the Liaden Universe had one particular appeal that the other options didn’t, which was that there was a new novel due out that was a sequel to one I hadn’t re-read, and I wanted to make time to re-read it before the sequel. Which brings us to the next point:
  • It can be tricky to read a series in chronological order when it’s still in the process of being written. I thought I was safe because all the upcoming novels were progressing the story, so I could just stick them on the end, but I didn’t account for all the additional short stories that weren’t so accommodating. As it was, I still got it wrong in places. Not just with the new stories I hadn’t read yet, but also sometimes with older stories that I’d misunderstood or misremembered when they were set. So I can’t, even now, claim with entire honesty to have read the whole series in chronological order. But I am in a good position to advise the next person who wants to give it a go. That’s tomorrow’s post.

3 thoughts on “Things I Have Learned

  1. Ed8r

    Whew…the part about using an ebook reader is so very true. I love the convenience of carrying a library shelf with me, but I really miss that sense of “I know it’s in the first third of the book, on a right-hand page, about halfway down the second paragraph.”

    I’m not nearly done with my reread, but I sure appreciate your work here. Being able to find a chronological list helped me finish my first read—which had proceeded in true “saltation” fashion—and is making my reread so much more enjoyable.

  2. Jayme M Weare

    I don’t see “Lord of the Dance” in your chronology for the series. It is included in Constellations 2 and describes a mid-winter dance held at Ms. Audrey’s. It is a trick to get Pat Rin to dance in a round dance to prove to him what everyone else knows, that he is indeed a pilot. Turns out Kareen’s only talent is to prevent him from testing a one when he was young. It mentions as time frame references Miri’s having had Lizzie and Shan setting out to the Terran Trade Commission headquarters to try to get an upgrade to the Surebleak port and taking Padi on her first venture. Sometime between Dragon in Exile and Alliance of Equals, I think. I have been working through your list that includes many short stories I haven’t read before such as Misfits when I noticed that “Lord of the Dance” was in the table of contents but not your chronological list. I had read it before, and it stuck with me because I dislike Lady Kareen.

  3. Paul A. Post author

    In general, if you have a question about why I’ve put, or haven’t put, a story in a place in the chronology, it’s almost certainly answered on this page.

    In particular, the reason that “Lord of the Dance” is not included in the chronology is that there’s actually no point in the chronology that it can go, no time at which all the things said to happen in the story could all be happening. For instance, if Lizzie’s just been born, then Daav can’t be at the party, because he’s off with the Uncle.

    This isn’t just my opinion; it’s been officially stated by the authors. They intended it to be a canonical story when they wrote it, but when they came to write the later novels it turned out not to be possible to arrange matters so that there was a space it could fit into, so now it’s a member of the short list of stories that are officially considered “what-ifs” or “might-have-happeneds”.

    (This, of course, leaves some fascinating question marks over the parts of the story that aren’t dependent on timing. Is it still true that Lady Kareen’s force of personality is backed up by a touch of dramliz talent? It’s never mentioned in any other story — but then again, no other story says that it isn’t true. And there are some moments when a person might wonder…)

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