The recent discovery of a heretofore unknown sequel to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is both exciting and dreadful.
On the one hand, considering all the high-profile epic fantasy sequels we’ve been waiting for oh so patiently, the revelation of a surprise sequel—no waiting!—to one of SFF’s most revered works is exciting stuff. On the other hand, there’s the fact that Burgess abandoned the newly-unearthed book—title: A Clockwork Condition—and considered it unsuccessful, which tempers enthusiasm.
But it also makes us think about all the other “lost” SFF sequels we’d love to see dropped unannounced like a Beyoncé album. Here are 10 more speculative fiction sequels that haven’t been published—yet anyway.
The Dark Remains, by V.E. Schwab
Schwab’s first published novel, The Near Witch received strong reviews but soft sales, leading planned sequel The Dark Remains to be canceled by her (then) publisher. Of course, Schwab famously landed on her feet (to say the least—last month she appeared on our list of the month’s bestselling SFF four freaking times), and The Near Witch was rereleased earlier this year in a fancy special edition by Titan books. It’s a happy ending, except… we would still kind of love to read The Dark Remains, which apparently exists in some form, though Schwab has stated unequivocally that she has zero intention of publishing it (her exact quote on the matter is as follows: “it sits in a drawer somewhere, and it always will”). While we respect an author’s right to put a painful publishing experience behind her, we’d still be there for the continuing adventures of Lexi and Cole, last seen saving one another from close-minded townsfolk and the ghostly vengeance of a wronged witch..
The Spindle of Necessity, by Catherynne M. Valente
Repeat Hugo Award nominee Catherynne Valente’s awesome alternate history saga that begins with The Habitation of the Blessed is predicated on the idea that a 12th century hoax letter reportedly penned by the legendary Christian monarch Prester John was 100 percent real. The series is richly inventive, emotionally and narrative complex—and it was intended to be a trilogy. Then in 2012, after the publication of the second book in the series, The Folded World, Valente announced she was splitting from her publisher (for the entirely fair reason that they owed her a good deal of money), and the rights to the first two books had reverted to her. The final book, The Spindle of Necessity, has been lost ever since. Last year Valente announced she hoped to launch a Kickstarter to finally get Spindle off the ground, but we’re still waiting. Granted, she’s delivered us plenty of joyful distraction in the meantime in the form of her Hugo-nominated 2018 novel Space Opera, which will receive its own sequel in 2021.
Damned Book Three, by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk is obviously okay with long gestation periods for his sequels—this is his first of two entries on this list, and lest we forget, Fight Club 2 followed the publication of the original novel by no less than 19 years. But to get to the point: the novels Damned (2011) and Doomed (2013) tell the story of Madison Spencer, a 13-year old girl who finds herself in Hell after being killed in an… unpleasant accident involving her adopted brother. Madison goes on a tour of the afterlife and, thanks to her particular set of skills, slowly takes on the mantle of Hell’s princess. This is fantastic stuff, peppered with plenty of Palahniuk’s signature perversity and erudition. After rejecting a chance to serve in Heaven, Maddy’s life and fate are clarified in Doomed when she is banished to purgatory (our own reality, which is the fundamental joke of the novel). She goes on to haunt her own life. Palahniuk promised a third and final book in the series, but followed with six years of radio silence on the subject, which might have something to do with the tempered response the first two novels received. Still, even if these aren’t among Palahniuk’s best books, Maddy’s story is sufficiently interesting to make us want to see how it all ends.
The sequel to Replay, by Ken Grimwood
Grimwood’s 1986 novel predates Groundhog Day by nearly a decade, and operates from the same general idea—a man dies of a heart attack in 1988 and wakes up in 1963 in his 18-year old body with a chance to live a better life the second time around. It happens over and over again—he always dies on the same day in 1988, no matter what he does with his live(s). Grimwood has a lot of fun with the concept as the “replayer” tries different approaches to his repeated lifetimes, slowly noticing that he “wakes” later and later in his timeline with each cycle, until eventually he’s repeating just the last moments of his life/death. Along the way, he falls into a romance with a fellow replayer, on the way to a surprising twist ending—but there’s no clear explanation for the how and why of it all, which might have come in the sequel Grimwood was working on when he died in 2003, oddly enough of a heart attack. We don’t know how far he got with it, but it would be awesome if there had been a complete manuscript lost in a stack of his papers.
The Rant sequel, by Chuck Palahniuk
Rant is a beautiful, flawed book that stands alone pretty well, but when it was initially published in 2007, Palahniuk made it clear he saw it as the first book of a trilogy. But it’s been 12 years, and books two and three have never surfaced. Palahniuk has occasionally commented on the sequel to this fascinating story of an alternate reality in which a disturbed serial killer’s life story is elevated into a scripture of sorts, noting that he has the story idea firmly in his head but is waiting until he can perfect the mechanics of it. Apparently he’s intending to use “a non-fiction form” to deliver the remainder of the narrative. Of course, even the Reddit AMA from which we gleaned that fact took place six years ago, and there’s been no word since. Our hopes of ever seeing this trilogy fulfilled are getting dimmer.
American Gods 2, by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman’s been talking about a sequel to his modern classic for years now—it was first announced way back when the television adaptation was in heavy development at HBO, before that project died an untimely death and the project moved over to Starz. But Gaiman is a busy guy, and makes no bones about the fact that this book is third or fourth on his to-do list. He recently noted that at the pace of storytelling involved with the TV adaptation, the sequel would pick up around the eventual season six, so he still has a few years to write the book and avoid getting into a Game of Thrones scenario, where the TV show has raced ahead of the books. The good news takeaway is that the sequel is apparently on Gaiman’s radar, which gives us hope. The bad news is that it’s unlikely the man’s going to be any less busy in the coming years. Another entry in the plus column? His current project is another long-awaited sequel, to his 1996 debut novel Neverwhere.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye Sequel, by Alan Dean Foster
These days, Star Wars fans know well that Alan Dean Foster wrote the novelization of the first film before Lucas had totally finalized his ideas, leading to a book that doesn’t quite match the finished product. It’s also now legend )or Legends) that Foster also wrote a novel that was intended to be provide source material for a low-budget sequel in the event that the movie that was not yet called A New Hope stumbled at the box office. Foster’s marching orders included keeping the settings and special effects requirements at a minimum. The novel that resulted instantly became an outlier in the Star Wars universe—an non-canonical story in which Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader meet face-to-face long before their duel in The Empire Strikes Back, and in which Luke and Leia aren’t siblings and are definitely gonna hook up (Luke even creepily imagines kissing Leia as she sleeps, which… well, 1978 gonna 1978). Even more incredibly, Foster was contracted to write a sequel to Splinter, but it was canceled when Star Wars did a bit better than expected at the box office. Still, off-brand as it is, Splinter is a really good book, which is why it’s still in print; we’d love to read what Foster had in mind for the alternate future of a long time ago in that galaxy far, far away.
The Last Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology series is legend, and the final, never-published installment even more so. (George R.R. Martin freely admits his story Meathouse Man was rejected twice for inclusion.) Ellison began work on the third anthology after the first (Dangerous Visions, 1967) and the second (Again, Dangerous Visions, 1972) became massive, influential hits that transformed how science fiction was perceived in the literary world. He expected to deliver The Last Dangerous Visions in 1974 or so, but proceeded to delay and equivocate and hold up the release of stories by some of the biggest authors in the field at the time. He passed away in 2018 with the project—and the nearly 150 short stories involved—still unrealized. The whole crazy saga is as complex and messy as Ellison himself, and many of the authors who submitted stories for the book have died since doing so, and we still have no idea if we’ll ever get to see some of them (others have leaked out in various forms over the years). Of course, if someone were to find an edited manuscript of the anthology in a file somewhere, the mess of trying to get it published might still delay it a few more years—but without Ellison around, who knows?
Maze, by Christopher Manson
Manson’s classic puzzle book continues to haunt and frustrate people decades after the end of the interactive contest it was designed around. The book is a sort of pick-your-path maze, with each page representing a room with doors leading to other pages/rooms; the combination of Manson’s creepy art and flair for devious puzzle design captures new adherents all the time, and it was a big enough hit back in the 1980s to inspire talk of a sequel that was much more ambitious. Manson described a book wherein the reader/puzzler would return to rooms several times to find details changed, as well as the inclusion of a monster of some sort that would inexorably follow the puzzler until it finally caught up with them. Other tantalizing ideas included a page that would be an infinite corridor… somehow. Manson had the brains and skill to make it happen, but the publisher suffered some problems and the project was set aside and eventually forgotten. You can catch a glimpse of it here.
668: The Neighbour of the Beast, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
This sequel to Good Omens, Gaiman and Pratchett’s beloved novel of the over-the-top apocalypse, reportedly went off the rails when Gaiman moved to the United States in the ’90s, leaving Pratchett to lament the logistics of working together on it. Of course, Sir Terry eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and passed away in 2015, seeming to dash all hopes of a sequel—until Gaiman revealed that he’d had discussions with his co-author and that the two had actually done some plot work for the book. Some of that material will turn up in the eagerly anticipated television version of Good Omens, which will expand upon the original story and incorporates concepts that would have appeared in the second, including an expanded role for the angel Gabriel (played in the adaptation by by Jon Hamm which is … perfect, really).
Did we leave any legendary sequels off the list? (And don’t say The Winds of Winter.)
The post The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Sequels Never Published (Yet) appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.