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Ser Scot A Ellison

Does starting a series create an implied agreement that the series will be completed?

152 posts in this topic

1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I don't think "Statement of Intent" and "promise" are quite as co-extensive as you seem to think.  The key there is whether someone acts in reliance upon the "Statement of Intent".  If the answer is yes then there may be some obligation on the part of the person who made the statement if they reasonable knew that another party to rely to their detriment upon that statement.  However, arguing that the person who buys the book, in a series, is materially harmed by their reliance is where this becomes difficult.  They did get a book, a book that they presumably enjoyed (hence they want the next book in the series).  The person who wrote the book, the company that published the book is entitled to payment for the product they produced.  As such I think this is a wash.  

Sorry, but you're acting like a lawyer here. I'm not saying that the person who buys it  can join a class-action lawsuit. I am saying that they have a reasonable expectation when they buy 'first in a trilogy' that the trilogy will at some point actually be completed, and if it is not then they have a reasonable disappointment because that promise was essentially broken. 

Not everything about a promise is legally binding. 

1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

While their may be some obligation that obligation is discharged by provided the portion of the series the person purchasing the book actually obtains.  Another difficult question if this is in fact an obligation/promise to complete... the damages are contingent upon the series being incomplete.  So long as the series can be completed I would argue the person claiming the author has an obligation to complete can't claim damages, because the series can be completed.  That means the only time damages would actually arise is when the author can't complete the series. 

Again, lawyer bullshit. If you make a promise to your kids to provide something and then don't follow through, you don't then get to be sued by your kids - but you making a promise implies strong intent, and you not following through means that they don't trust you for other things, they are disappointed rightfully so, and they will expect less from you in the future. 

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11 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Sorry, but you're acting like a lawyer here. I'm not saying that the person who buys it  can join a class-action lawsuit. I am saying that they have a reasonable expectation when they buy 'first in a trilogy' that the trilogy will at some point actually be completed, and if it is not then they have a reasonable disappointment because that promise was essentially broken. 

Not everything about a promise is legally binding. 

Again, lawyer bullshit. If you make a promise to your kids to provide something and then don't follow through, you don't then get to be sued by your kids - but you making a promise implies strong intent, and you not following through means that they don't trust you for other things, they are disappointed rightfully so, and they will expect less from you in the future. 

Kalbear,

Promise has a legal connotation, hence the reason a promise can have legal effect.  

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8 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Kalbear,

Promise has a legal connotation, hence the reason a promise can have legal effect.  

Every word has a legal connotation, including the word 'connotation'. Is your question whether or not there is a LEGAL obligation to complete the series? Because the answer is obviously no, and the discussion should just end. But that's not a particularly interesting statement to make.

I also take it that you never make any promises to your wife or children, then. Or expect to be sued if you break them. Is that fair?

Though if you're going the legal way, saying 'first in a trilogy' and then not following through is deliberate misleading advertising and false statements. If the trilogy doesn't exist, it's clearly not 'first in a trilogy'. In that respect one could presumably sue for false advertising, no?

Edited by Kalbear

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Felice,

Funnily, I started the Olympic thing by intending to mention what happens if the Olympian proceeds to spend his time in Olympic village smoking pot and drinking. ;) But yes, that person would clearly be seen as having failed: they were picked as part of the team with the explicit understanding that they would try their best. Their failure to do so is a genuine failure, and depending on how it happened, could indeed be a moral failure (obviously, the story of, say, an athlete who has a sudden tragedy in his life then leading to an inability to perform at the level they're accustomed, people generally understand this).

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3 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Every word has a legal connotation, including the word 'connotation'. Is your question whether or not there is a LEGAL obligation to complete the series? Because the answer is obviously no, and the discussion should just end. But that's not a particularly interesting statement to make.

I also take it that you never make any promises to your wife or children, then. Or expect to be sued if you break them. Is that fair?

Though if you're going the legal way, saying 'first in a trilogy' and then not following through is deliberate misleading advertising and false statements. If the trilogy doesn't exist, it's clearly not 'first in a trilogy'. In that respect one could presumably sue for false advertising, no?

You could but you would lose.  What is your damage?  Further, as I pointed out there is no time specified for completion of the series.  As such as long as the series can be completed the damages are speculative/contingent.  

I suspect you are driving at a moral obligation to complete a series.  Does that really exist?  Is Melanie Rawn a bad person because she will never finish the "Exiles" series that I started reading in the early nineties?  I don't think so.  But creating a moral obligation to finish would seem to imply failing to complete makes the person who fails "bad".

Could you please be more specific about what you mean by a "promise" and what such a promise implies if not a "legally binding" promise?

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Well, I know there are a wide variety of reasons it hasn't happened, but I haven't forgiven Melanie Rawn either.  In my case, that means she gets no money or investment of interest from me, or promotion of past works.

 

There's no legal obligation but I lean on the side of "promise", which is to say: "I am letting you know that this is a project that will not be completed in a single volume.  You are taking a risk by signing on at the beginning of this project, but I have the intention that this will reach a conclusion."  A bit of a handshake.

 

(I posted this not having seen the Rawn-mention that went up at the same time, just to clarify.)

Edited by Little Valkyrie

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Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

You could but you would lose.  What is your damage?  Further, as I pointed out there is no time specified for completion of the series.  As such as long as the series can be completed the damages are speculative/contingent. 

One could argue that the implication of completion is another assumed value as part of the advertising. Mostly, you cannot claim the existence of something as a promotional value if it doesn't actually exist; the damages there is to the consumer as part of false advertising, and essentially you are selling them something that does not actually contain what was implied, which has been the requirement for damages for a long time. 

Basically, so long as there is no reasonable expectation that the series will be completed it is a false statement. 

Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

 I suspect you are driving at a moral obligation to complete a series.  Does that really exist?  Is Melanie Rawn a bad person because she will never finish the "Exiles" series that I started reading in the early nineties?  I don't think so.  But creating a moral obligation to finish would seem to imply failing to complete makes the person who fails "bad".

I don't know if she's a bad person, but I wouldn't trust her or her publishing outfit again. Again, if you break a promise it is rude at best. Does it make you 'bad' if you break a promise to your kids? Whether someone is bad or good is beyond the judgment of this topic, but I would argue that if you don't follow through that was a Bad action, and you'll be less likely to go to the Good Place.

Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Could you please be more specific about what you mean by a "promise" and what such a promise implies if not a "legally binding" promise?

No, other than promises are not required to be legally binding.

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People have the right to be as unreasonable and hard-hearted as they like, of course. I still don't think this creates an actual obligation. If one says one will attempt a thing, one is obliged to attempt it, not achieve it.

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Just now, Ran said:

People have the right to be as unreasonable and hard-hearted as they like, of course. I still don't think this creates an actual obligation. If one says one will attempt a thing, one is obliged to attempt it, not achieve it.

Certainly, but if there's a failure to complete the thing it is natural to have disappointment from the backers and supporters. Some times there may be completely reasonable reasons why it wasn't completed. Other times it is not. But the completion, not the attempt, is what was being backed, and it is entirely natural and within normal societal values to expect completion when it is stated.

The olympian here is a bad analogy, in that there is only one winner in any event - whereas there is no restriction on writing a book, and many people have written trilogies successfully before. Lynch writing a trilogy does not affect whether or not Rothfuss writes his. 

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And there have been uncompleted series before -- uncompleted for medical reasons, for financial reasons, etc. The existence of completed works and the existence of incomplete works should be sufficient proof that intention is not a promise to succeed, merely to try. You can be disappointed, and indeed if you are disappointed it means that the writer was on to something good (from your perspective, at least!), and it's a shame... but any since of anger or outrage seems misplaced.

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17 minutes ago, Little Valkyrie said:

Well, I know there are a wide variety of reasons it hasn't happened, but I haven't forgiven Melanie Rawn either.  In my case, that means she gets no money or investment of interest from me, or promotion of past works.

 

There's no legal obligation but I lean on the side of "promise", which is to say: "I am letting you know that this is a project that will not be completed in a single volume.  You are taking a risk by signing on at the beginning of this project, but I have the intention that this will reach a conclusion."  A bit of a handshake.

 

(I posted this not having seen the Rawn-mention that went up at the same time, just to clarify.)

Ha, I was goign to bring up Rawn. My feelings match yours. I think for the most part, no, there is no obligation but Rawn has been, well, maybe not Rothfuss level, but really bitchy about the whole thing.

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3 minutes ago, Ran said:

And there have been uncompleted series before -- uncompleted for medical reasons, for financial reasons, etc. The existence of completed works and the existence of incomplete works should be sufficient proof that intention is not a promise to succeed, merely to try. You can be disappointed, and indeed if you are disappointed it means that the writer was on to something good (from your perspective, at least!), and it's a shame... but any since of anger or outrage seems misplaced.

And I think it depends a lot on the why.

If (for example) an author has a long history of taking time to write, is fairly honest about it, and attempts reasonably to keep people up to date, it's a lot easier to give them less anger about it. If an author instead states that the trilogy is already basically written, it'll be out every year (unlike that Other Author, hah!) and you can expect quick hits - well, getting angry at that author because they basically lied is pretty reasonable, as they were using their supposed speed of releasing as a feature to their series. 

In either case, I think that an explanation of why things didn't happen the way they were implied to by the 'first in a trilogy' thing is something that is owed. And I think outrage over that is reasonable depending on what the explanation is. Promises are broken all the time to kids too, and sometimes the reason why is totally acceptable and fair, but if you make a promise and break it saying what the cause was is about as big a norm as we have.

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There is no obligation, or tv shows wouldnt be prematurely cancelled

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2 minutes ago, Derfel Cadarn said:

There is no obligation, or tv shows wouldnt be prematurely cancelled

Maybe not entirely fair, but I treat things like TV which are the product of so many hands and have complex network and funding obligations very differently than books, which do have editors and publishers but are usually the product of one (or two people).  Comics fall a bit into the middle.  I won't touch an unfinished Brian K. Vaughn book any more because he has a nasty habit of mid-series slumps and shitty endings.  I am annoyed but understanding when a Big Two work aspires to longform but ends up not getting around to everything it promised, because the pressures of monthly serial production and "Oh hey, you have to line up with this event" are considerable.  But even in those cramped spaces, it's worth nothing who finishes a good portion of what they set out to do and who, you realize, you've followed for this long and you got exactly what? out of it.

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27 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Ha, I was goign to bring up Rawn. My feelings match yours. I think for the most part, no, there is no obligation but Rawn has been, well, maybe not Rothfuss level, but really bitchy about the whole thing.

I do feel for her.  I'm sitting on an unfinished project that pokes me like a sharp knife.  There's a very faint flicker of hope that pops up occasionally--the damn thing is still listed as 'in progress' on her website.  You might be interested to hear that people in largely female-fandom spaces (like people writing fanfiction for Yuletide) still remember and are aggrieved by this one in particular; I think it's because the matriarchal world of EXILES meant a lot to people who got it at a certain age.  But it was also not quite a GRRM or a Rothfuss in that she came back and she said "Hey, old fandom, I'm not giving you what you want after I left you on a brutal cliffhanger, but surely you will follow me over to these other books that I am writing, right?"  And there's where the handshake broke, and the new stuff hasn't sold.  It's surely a hard market, the genre shift is often something dictated by publishers (won't you write something more in line with what's hot?  Katherine Kerr has talked about that, with writing urban fantasy instead of Deverry, but there were also serious health problems involved there), but I don't think you can rule out an alienated fanbase as one factor, not in this one.

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My knowledge of the Rawn situation was a combination of a death or tragedy in the family, depression, and personal health issues, then an extremely long recovery at which point she couldn't really get back to continuing the world. In particular, I recall her at one point polling fans for help in trying to basically collect the details of the setting some place so she could try to get back into it, but it seems she couldn't. 

To me it feels like we're fans of a couple of mountaineers trying to make the peak of Everest, and are almost there... but something dreadful happens. Do they press on, fail, and die, or do they give up and maybe try another day? There has been a time in the past where the latter was  sometimes seen as unforgivable and cowardly. For how long is a writer supposed to beat their head against a wall, if they find themselves unable to advance something? Until they're homeless? Until they're dead? 

Also, to say her other stuff hasn't sold seems odd -- she's had five books in her latest series published by Tor, and in hardcover. That suggests they were doing okay, at least, and that the publisher thought they were sound investments.

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I think LV meant the first series she wrote after her hiatus, the stuff that was basically really, really bad urban fantasy about witches? I know it was planned as a trilogy but the second book sold so bad the third was scrapped. I have no idea how the new series has sold, but friends of mine who were long time Rawn readers like me have said it is...not good.

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43 minutes ago, Derfel Cadarn said:

There is no obligation, or tv shows wouldnt be prematurely cancelled

TV shows don't usually state 'first season of three seasons'. 

And nowadays with the longform becoming more of a norm and series having actual ideas of how to end, you bet your ass there's a lot of pressure to give people actual abilities to end series how they want to. Point of fact, there are a lot of series out there that ended despite the producers wanting them to, because the creators wanted to give the ending they wanted. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Lost, Sopranos, Mad Men, Stranger Things, and even Sense8 are all things along these lines. Other shows were given the opportunity to wrap up things. 

And this is all the case because the networks know that if they don't do this, there will be a lot of ill will and anger, and people simply won't watch. 

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5 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I don't think "Statement of Intent" and "promise" are quite as co-extensive as you seem to think.  The key there is whether someone acts in reliance upon the "Statement of Intent".  If the answer is yes then there may be some obligation on the part of the person who made the statement if they reasonable knew that another party to rely to their detriment upon that statement.  However, arguing that the person who buys the book, in a series, is materially harmed by their reliance is where this becomes difficult.  They did get a book, a book that they presumably enjoyed (hence they want the next book in the series).  The person who wrote the book, the company that published the book is entitled to payment for the product they produced.  As such I think this is a wash.  

While their may be some obligation that obligation is discharged by provided the portion of the series the person purchasing the book actually obtains.  Another difficult question if this is in fact an obligation/promise to complete... the damages are contingent upon the series being incomplete.  So long as the series can be completed I would argue the person claiming the author has an obligation to complete can't claim damages, because the series can be completed.  That means the only time damages would actually arise is when the author can't complete the series. 

 

 

You're making a nonsense legal argument. Of course there is not a legal obligation, so just be done with that.

 

If you polled most people, I believe they would not buy a book that is advertised as part of a series if you tell them that that series will not be completed. A trilogy, or book series, takes one story and divides it into pieces that allow the author to receive compensation (and generate buzz and future sales) prior to finishing the whole thing. The books in both KCC and ASOIAF do not stand alone. They are very clearly individual pieces of a larger story, and were advertised exactly as that.

 

As far as the obligation to finish, or not, I understand that "shit happens." However, I do believe that authors have an obligation to make a good faith effort to finish a series. In the case of the two prominent unfinished series at the top of mind, it's my opinion that Martin is making a good faith effort, and Rothfuss is not making a good faith effort.

Edited by sperry

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25 minutes ago, sperry said:

 

You're making a nonsense legal argument. Of course there is not a legal obligation, so just be done with that.

 

If you polled most people, I believe they would not buy a book that is advertised as part of a series if you tell them that that series will not be completed. A trilogy, or book series, takes one story and divides it into pieces that allow the author to receive compensation (and generate buzz and future sales) prior to finishing the whole thing. The books in both KCC and ASOIAF do not stand alone. They are very clearly individual pieces of a larger story, and were advertised exactly as that.

 

As far as the obligation to finish, or not, I understand that "shit happens." However, I do believe that authors have an obligation to make a good faith effort to finish a series. In the case of the two prominent unfinished series at the top of mind, it's my opinion that Martin is making a good faith effort, and Rothfuss is not making a good faith effort.

What constitutes a "Good Faith Effort"?  Why is Rothfuss not offering one but GRRM is?

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