I don’t like franchises. I don’t like creative works to be referred to as “IPs.” I don’t care if that’s the wave of the future, or if that’s how you make the real money in sci-fi and fantasy, I don’t want my own works to spawn a “franchise” or become an “intellectual property.”
I want to tell stories. Stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. I don’t want prequels, endless sequels, side-stories, spin-offs, or an ever-expanding universe.
Why? Personal preference. That’s all, really. To me, I can smell the cash-grab a mile away, and the cash-grab smells like milk. Superfluous stories about how this character got to where he got when the actual story began don’t move the needle for me at all–I don’t care. I suppose I suffer from that thing where if something doesn’t matter to me. I assume it doesn’t matter to other people. And this is true, to a degree. But I think it’s more about the proper care and feeding of my own particular creation.
When my current Swordbringer trilogy is over, it’s going to be over. There will be no revisiting it. I don’t care if that’s cutting myself off from serious sources of revenue. It wasn’t conceptualized to be a never-ending concern or a “universe” (ugh), but a single, cohesive story with a through-line that takes readers from Point A to Point B with lots of fun, interesting, exciting, and thought-provoking things in between.
If you like franchises or IPs, that’s great. You’ll probably make more money than me. These franchises just aren’t my thing.
A caveat: If I create a setting or a character with the specific purpose of being an on-going, open-ended concern–like Conan the Barbarian or Sherlock Holmes or characters akin to that–that’s one thing. But even those would have an expiration date were I to do something like this.
I have to say, for someone who was a huge comic book fan as a kid, the never-ending super-hero sagas now strike me as silly. Spider-Man is never going to change, and new Marvel characters are never going to be created, because there’s too much money to be made. Marvel used to come out with new, awesome characters that stuck around from the 60s through the 80s, and then it just kind of dried up. Why?
Franchisery, that’s why. “Every generation needs their version X-Men!” or whatever other character, the conventional wisdom went.
Really? Do they? The old stories still exist. And–get this–every generation can have their own new characters. But no. We can’t have that.
I’m a fan of stories that are complete. Say what you want about Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time had a beginning, middle, and end. So does The Lord of the Rings, despite many people’s best efforts to wring more nostalgia-bucks out of it. Or you’re trying to foster this collector’s mindset, like we had in the above-referenced comic industry with its endless crossovers and “events” . . . in the world of moving pictures, in order to get the whole story, you have to watch these 23 movies and subscribe to these streaming services to watch these shows that all tie in. . .
I don’t have the time, money, or energy for this. Neither do you.
The elephant in the room, of course, when talking about wringing nostalgia-bucks out of a dry stone, is the laser-sword franchise we all know and love. I suppose Star Trek also fits the bill. The last thing I’d ever want is the quality of stories in my fictional setting and with my fictional characters to deteriorate to the points that these two once-proud and noble franchises have. I don’t care about the money, I care about the integrity.
Yes, it’s easy for me to say now when nobody is dangling six- or seven-figure payoffs in front of me, but even if they were, I think it’s more than possible to shop around to find some sort of collaborator who shares your values and respects your vision.
I like when I close the book on a series that I enjoyed reading or watching and it’s done. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but it’s nice. I can revisit anytime later if I want. The characters and stories live on and are never tainted by the knowledge that somewhere out there is a piece of work–not a fan-fiction, but something canon, something with the official franchise stamp of approval on it–that pisses over everything good about the original work, that even though it shouldn’t affect my enjoyment of it still lingers out there as a related, connected thing that in some way large or small diminishes the original work.
I don’t know why this bothers me more than, say, a band that soldiers on after key members die or depart, making subpar work. Take Black Sabbath for instance. The 73 singers they’d rotated through and the albums they did after Ozzy left–not to mention the replacement drummers and bassists!–don’t even come to mind when I’m rocking out to their classic original-line-up stuff. But knowing that there are godawful spin-offs and whatever of a book series I liked irks me to no end.
This irking is illusory, of course. I’m writing about it for the sake of this post since it’s rhetorically effective to help illustrate the point I’m trying to make. Because endless franchisery of other properties is something I do not have control over.
I do, however, have control over my own.
Read The Last Ancestor today, book one in my trilogy that will end for good when the third book is complete.