The Border Between Books

Schlock Mercenary is a long form comic strip in which the fifteen years of daily updates are all part of the same continuity. That continuity is broken up into books, in large measure because I don’t expect anybody (not even me) to keep track of all the things that happened in the last 15 years of strips in order to enjoy the things happening this week.

When I start a new book, I reset some of the narrative “rules.” “New story” things start happening. We begin an all new set of dramatic and character arcs. If you’re blazing through the archives one click at a time, you’re going to miss this. With the current site design that can’t really be helped. If you’re reading the books in print, your arrival at the last page is a very strong signal that we’ve finished a story.

Today we sit at the boundary between Book 15 and book 16, and I created a “THE END” graphic and a “NEW BOOK STARTS HERE” graphic to try to communicate that. But what does the boundary mean? Here are the implications, with bullets:

  • Questions I left hanging in the last book are not on the front burner right now. Before I can answer them, I would have to ask them again.
  • Characters from previous books who are going to be important in this story will be introduced, or at least mentioned, fairly early on. This holds true for ships, locations, technologies, and events, as well.
  • The previous book’s themes are a closed matter. Delegates and Delegation is done saying what it had to say. Big Dumb Objects will open its own thematic discussion. If themes from previous books are going to be echoed, they’ll be reintroduced in order to prevent confusion.

You don’t have to read Schlock Mercenary in any particular way, and you certainly aren’t required to get out of it what I put into it (something I honestly don’t expect to happen very much.) Your reaction to a story–any story–is yours, and is based as much on who you are as on what’s in between the first and last pages of the story.

If, however, you want some clues as to how a story will unfold, it’s helpful to understand the form in which the creator is working. For Schlock Mercenary, that means observing the border between the books, and knowing that while the rules of the universe remain the same, each of these books has its own beginning, middle, and end.

As much as I’d love to start filling page after page with commentary about the stories I write, I’m going to leave that project for another day. For now, if you’ve got questions about the story, you’re supposed to. You’re on Page One. Everything is a question, including “what are the questions?”

I’ll do my very best to entertain you with the questions, the answers, and all the misery, misdirection, and mayhem that fall between them. This is my job, after all. And speaking of that, I need to get back to work…