athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
The Everlasting Gobstopper* is Your Obedient Serpent's own rhyming slang for a "Neverending Doorstopper", the most egregious metastasis of Trilogy Creep.

To qualify as an Everlasting Gobstopper, a work must have most or all of the following traits:

  • Each volume in the series will run around a thousand pages, putting each individual installment firmly into Doorstopper territory.

  • There is no clear end to the progression of installments: while the saga appears to be telling a story, there is rarely a hint of actual resolution. It is, in short, Neverending.

  • The characters rarely manage to accomplish anything of significance. They are tossed around from event to event, becoming increasingly mired in events outside their control.

    • Corollary 1: The more sympathetic they are, the less they manage to accomplish.

    • Corollary 2: Any minor "victories" will happen early on in the series. As it progresses, the characters become increasingly less effective, as the author finds it easier to play on readers' sympathies tormenting characters rather than advancing the story.

  • Readers often develop Stockholm Syndrome. After investing so much time and energy into a work, they are not going to walk away and leave it unfinished, no matter how much of a slog it has become or how little they care about the characters anymore.

  • As the work continues to expand, it becomes increasingly likely that the author will walk away and leave it unfinished.


While these symptoms are most commonly found in Fantasy Literature, the contagion has spread to other genres and media as well. HBO's Game of Thrones, of course, is the most obvious example, being a direct adaptation of one of the quintessential Everlasting Gobstoppers.

An example native to television might be Supernatural: after the resolution of its original story arc and the departure of the creators, the series has continued without actually progressing, to the point where one can tune into any random episode from Seasons 6-10 without being able to determine if it is, in fact, a rerun.

In the world of comics, Hickman's multi-year run on the Avengers titles spiraled into a Gobstopper. Hicman managed the rather impressive feat of making the defeat of a vast alien armada seem ultimately meaningless. Geoff Johns' tenure on Green Lantern and its spin-offs deserves a mention, as well: it even outlasted the original author (though Mr. Johns is, thankfully, still with us); after his departure from the books, those who followed him kept spinning out the plot threads he set in motion, stretching them ever-finer and more tenuous.

Note that an author can crank out novel after novel about the same characters for decades, but if the characters resolve the issue at hand in each installment, it's not a Everlasting Gobstopper. The continuing adventures of Philip Marlowe, of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or even those of Harry Dresden do not qualify as Gobstoppers. Yes, Harry's saga has an ultimate over-arching story arc, but each volume is largely self-contained; he and his friends resolve the most immediate of threats and dangers, and even multi-volume plot threads are resolved every few books. Butcher lets his characters win now and then, and that big looming metaplot actually progresses as we learn more about it.

I am ... not a fan of Everlasting Gobstoppers, and I try to avoid them. I get sucked in on occasion, of course; the Agent Pendergast series seemed like a tidy batch of fairly self-contained superhantural thrillers until it swallowed its own tail diving into the protagonist's dysfunctional family background; ultimately, I walked away from that one and haven't looked back. More recently, after thoroughly enjoying the tidy trilogies and done-in-one works of the preposterously prolific Brandon Sanderson, I picked up The Way of Kings ... and discovered, as I was immersed in the second volume, that Sanderson intends to run that series for at least ten full doorstoppers.

Coyote help me, I am looking forward to them all.


*The phrase, of course, is borrowed from Roald Dahl's masterpiece, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
athelind: (Yog-Sothery)
A week or so ago, I finally got a proper eBook reader: a waterproofed Kindle Paperwhite from WaterFi.

Being an aficionado of older literature ... and cheap ... one of the first things I did was to download a number of things from Project Gutenberg, including several by Robert W. Chambers, author of The King in Yellow.

I am currently reading In Search of the Unknown, which is about a Zoologist from the Bronx Zoo c. 1900 (when the Zoo was at the forefront of zoological research), who keeps getting pulled into encounters with supposedly-extinct animals and outright cryptids.

It is … really surprisingly funny. The first story is pretty much an encounter with a Deep One, but even as the creature shuffles and flails onto their boat accompanied by every eldritch adjective one would expect from the man who gave us lost Carcosa, our eternally upbeat protagonist is still more focused on his banter with the cranky old invalid he’s befriended, and his flirtations with the old man’s pretty young nurse.

Imagine, if you will, P.G. Wodehouse writing H.P. Lovecraft. The unnamed, girl-crazy protagonist has been firmly cast in my head as Hugh Laurie.


athelind: (Sci Fi)
For years, I've been calling Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination/Tiger! Tiger!* "a forgotten cyberpunk classic from the '50s" and "more cyberpunk than cyberpunk".

I was even more correct than I thought: William Gibson, one of the progenitors of the Cyberpunk Movement, has just cited it as one of his favorite novels, going so far as to say "I doubt I’d have written without having read it."

Hunt it down, people.

It's still high on my list for Books That Oughta Be Movies.


*Tiger! Tiger! was the title of the first book publication, but it was originally serialized as the Stars My Destination, and, frankly, that's a far better title.
athelind: (Sci Fi)
Almost every library I've patronized in the last four decades has used the same basic set of icons to delineate the various genre ghettos: a skull for mysteries, a stylized atom or a rocket ship surrounded by "atomic" rings for SF, and so forth. Most of them even seem to use the same company, with red ink on yellow stickers.



Why can't I find these icons on the web? I find several places selling library genre stickers, but not the classic old red-on-yellow designs.

I know they're OUT there -- I see them at my local library all the time, on brand new books.
athelind: (Default)
Almost every library I've patronized in the last four decades has used the same basic set of icons to delineate the various genre ghettos: a skull for mysteries, a stylized atom or a rocket ship surrounded by "atomic" rings for SF, and so forth. Most of them even seem to use the same company, with red ink on yellow stickers.



Why can't I find these icons on the web? I find several places selling library genre stickers, but not the classic old red-on-yellow designs.

I know they're OUT there -- I see them at my local library all the time, on brand new books.
athelind: (hoard potato)
In an obscure comment on TV Tropes, I read a rumor that part of Fox's motivation in the Watchmen suit may be to leverage Warner into finally clearing up the DVD rights tangle on the Adam West Batman series.

If this gets resolved with "We'll let you release Watchmen if you let us release Batman on DVD", that's a win/win in my book, and Fox might actually be forgiven their trespasses on the comics community.

Bear in mind the source -- this is an unattributed wiki comment about a rumor. I'm not even sure if there are rights issues with Digital Distribution of Dozier's Dynamic Duo: the Movie based on the series has been out in several editions over the years.


athelind: (Default)
In an obscure comment on TV Tropes, I read a rumor that part of Fox's motivation in the Watchmen suit may be to leverage Warner into finally clearing up the DVD rights tangle on the Adam West Batman series.

If this gets resolved with "We'll let you release Watchmen if you let us release Batman on DVD", that's a win/win in my book, and Fox might actually be forgiven their trespasses on the comics community.

Bear in mind the source -- this is an unattributed wiki comment about a rumor. I'm not even sure if there are rights issues with Digital Distribution of Dozier's Dynamic Duo: the Movie based on the series has been out in several editions over the years.


athelind: (hoard potato)
As Salon reminded me this morning, 2008 marks the 100th Anniversary of The Wind in the Willows. This is not merely a classic of children's literature; it is, quite possibly, the furriest book of all time.

Read it online, or pick up a copy for the holidays -- it's public domain, so you can find any number of inexpensive editions.

I first read it at the age of 38, and found that, despite being undeniably a book about Youth, it also has much to say to Adulthood and Middle Age.
athelind: (Default)
As Salon reminded me this morning, 2008 marks the 100th Anniversary of The Wind in the Willows. This is not merely a classic of children's literature; it is, quite possibly, the furriest book of all time.

Read it online, or pick up a copy for the holidays -- it's public domain, so you can find any number of inexpensive editions.

I first read it at the age of 38, and found that, despite being undeniably a book about Youth, it also has much to say to Adulthood and Middle Age.

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