The popularity of the form can mainly be blamed on Hollywood, where the quality of a script is increasingly judged on whether the title could reappear followed by a “two” and ideally a rising succession of digits. Taking their cue from movie studios, writers and publishers began to imagine a second go at stories that had seemed to be one-offs.
Hmm. I don’t think this gets it right at all, and I’ll be back ofter I have caffeinated myself sufficiently to explain why ….
Okay, I’m back and duly amped up on coffee, and here’s why I think The Guardian piece is off the mark. Sure, there are authors and publishers out there who want to capitalize on the popularity of an original work and, in essence, turn it into a franchise — a cash cow, as it were. And yes, Hollywood does this all the time. Big business, big bucks.
But readers are a loyal bunch, and when a work of fiction captures their imagination, they often want it to continue: its world, its characters, its ethos, and the feelings they have while reading it.
When I was a child, I read all the Oz books — those written by L. Frank Baum but also by his successors, regardless of whether they were good, bad or indifferent.
I imprinted on Jane Eyre when I was 11 or 12 years old. Initially I read the novels of Victoria Holt as the closest modern approximations of JE that I could find, as I’ve said. In the intervening years, I’ve encountered and read every so-called prequel and sequel I’m aware of (and there are many).
The same holds true for sequels and prequels of Wuthering Heights. The Phantom of the Opera. Rebecca.
To name only a few.
Yes, it can be about the greed or lack of originality of some authors, some publishers. But never forget: it had better be about the readers, first and foremost.