Friends, let me make one thing absolutely clear: If I die and a series of books remains incomplete, do not – I repeat, do not – hire someone else to finish it. Let my works o’ genius remain mysterious and unfinished.
I haven’t read any of the recent examples of this phenomena. I spent plenty of hours reading The Wheel of Time series (ohmyfrickingod so much time slogging through those middle books) and I was saddened when Robert Jordan passed away, but I probably won’t bother reading the final volumes in that series. I have nothing against the guy who’s completing them, and I’ll probably seek out a synopsis somewhere so I can at least find out where the story was headed (since they are being written, as I understand it, from Jordan’s notes, so the plot should be more or less what he intended). But I don’t want to read the books.
The same thing goes for the ‘new’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book. It may be brilliant. It may perfectly mimic Douglas Adams’ peculiar brand of brilliance. I probably won’t read it, though.
The reason for this reluctance is simple: The reason I read these books to begin with was because of the wit, talent, and heart of their authors. Hiring someone to finish the series’ after that author has passed away transforms it into simply a brick of product in the machine’s supply lines. If we imagine that anyone can write these books, then we’re that much closer to just writing a frickin’ computer program to create our books, and have done with it. Not only would that put me out of a job (and daddy needs his medicine), but it would be pretty goddamn depressing.
As a reader, sure, I want some closure to these stories. On the other hand, I like to imagine these stories are not just created via a combination of Magic 8 Ball, twenty-sided dice, and a thesaurus, that there’s some soul in there. That part of the appeal is the special sauce of the author themselves. If you decide that the story can be completed by someone else just as easily, then screw it: Every book series can be outlined by committee and then freelanced out. And that would suck.
Then again, my special sauce tends to be drunken, belligerent, and whiny, so maybe we’d be better off hiring someone to finish up the Cates series. AVAST! Over my dead body. Oh, wait. . .maybe I should stop drinking so much, let the liver swelling subside a little.