Sunday, July 15, 2007

Continuity Copping

As a fan of various tv shows - you know the ones - I've spent considerable time contemplating continuity, the wealth of often inconsistent backstory that fictional works develop over time. The greater the body of work and the longer its history, the more likely it is that multiple writers have been involved with the franchise, introducing story elements that serve the current plot but contradict what went before. In Star Trek, the planet Vulcan "has no moon" in one story and two of them in another, with the mitigating factor that the second, contradictory reference is in an animated episode can can possibly be considered apocryphal. In Quantum Leap, the series creator established that Sam's body leaps - but the actor who played him and at least one writer of QL novels disagreed.

Continuity is an issue in both the book
I'm editing and and one I'm reading.

Doctor Who, with its nearly 44-year history, has lots and lots of continuity issues for fans to try to explain away. The show has had three versions of the destruction of Atlantis, two mutually exclusive origins of the Daleks and (if memory serves) two of the Loch Ness Monster. Continuity glitches between the end of the Second Doctor's run of stories (The War Games) and his return appearances in The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors have led to a theory about a gap between The War Games and the following story, Spearhead from Space, which was originally meant to take place immediately after The War Games. This theory, called "Season 6B", was first proposed by writer Paul Cornell and his co-authors in a book called The Discontinuity Guide. (Yes, there's enough continuity glitchiness in Doctor Who to fill a whole, rather thick book.) The idea has received enough acceptance that Terrance Dicks, writer of The Five Doctors, has incorporated the premise into at least two novels, one of which I bought today. Given such past continuity issues, it makes my heart go pitter-pat when Russell T Davies, the current executive producer of Doctor Who, manages to take story elements from three seasons of the revived series (and a few references to the old one as well) and make them fit together in unexpected but consistent ways, as he did at the end of the 2007 season.

But what does all this mean for my novel, Heirs of Mâvarin? After all, I've been working on stories about Mâvarin for about 33 years, over 1700 pages, and about half a million words among the various books, which is about the length of The Lord of the Rings. Okay, that's scary! You'd think that with my rather good memory (when I'm rested, anyway) and longstanding habit of finding and explaining away continuity glitches, that I would manage a remarkably consistent body of work about Rani and his friends. It's not quite true, though. Just tonight, in Chapter 10 of Heirs, page 376, I cam across another reference to the twins being seven months old at the time of the kidnapping. I knew I'd changed it, but what was their correct age at the time? I couldn't find the reference in Chapter Three, at least not quickly. It was somewhere around a year old, but did I establish anything specific? Were they 11 months old, or 13 months? Did King Jor celebrate their birthday in the Palace before his kidnapping? I don't really know.

You know where I looked it up? In this blog. I mentioned the age continuity problem in a previous entry. And I send with "just over a year old." There, that should do it!


1 comment:

julie said...

Have you thought about a wiki? My son is working on a mech novel - he needs to do a lot of worldbuilding - and he ended up using a wiki to keep track of all the technology he's using. It's not for everyone, but it's certainly an interesting idea.