Saturday, September 17, 2011
episodic: Containing or consisting of a series of loosely connected parts or events. One could speak of Flash Gordon in the early radio serials, of Sherlock Holmes in the stories, even of the works of Dickens, published in parts every month, so that people waited at the docks in New York for the arrival of the latest portion, crying out "What happened to Little Nell?" Modern television is of course almost completely in this vein, as are web comics and almost all other cultural items consumed by the populace. But in fiction, much of the time there aren't episodes. A good number of books stand completely alone, including all of my currently available stuff. In speculative fiction, series of whatever nature are quite common, indeed expected; but episodic ones are not common. A Game of Thrones, currently terribly popular, isn't actually episodic. Or if it is, one could say it has two episodes, the first and second trilogies (using the word loosely, as the second trilogy will likely actually be five books). But there are a good number of fine episodic series: Discworld by Terry Pratchett; Xanth by Piers Anthony (I speak only of the first half dozen or so, after which I cannot defend it); the Garrett Files by Glen Cook. Many more exist, and I think they are a strong type, stronger, probably, than the endless march of trilogies. Trilogies so often let one down by the end; moreso if the series is longer still. But episodes, they do very well by themselves, one after another, and it is hard to hate them for failing you. They seldom do.