Friday, 10 December 2010

Well, duh (or: Bethesda Blog Fail)

Readers of this blog will know that I enjoy solitary activities regarded as selfish and childish. By which I mean computer games. And I have been particularly fond of the Elder Scrolls serious, produced by Bethesda Softworks.

On 24 November 2009, the first of an advertised two novels set in the Elder Scrolls universe, according to some accounts set 40 years after the end of the last Elder Scrolls game (Oblivion) and potentially setting up the plot of the next (as yet unannounced) game was published. Written by Greg Keyes, the novel actually ends on something of a cliffhanger., the official Elder Scrolls website from Bethesda, is still advertising the first book as its 'top story':

The Infernal City — the first of two books based on The Elder Scrolls' universe written by New York Times' Bestselling Author Greg Keyes — is now available.

Okay, so a year later, there's no sign of the second book. There has been no mention of it at (beyond referring to The Infernal City as the first of two), there's no 'pre-order now' at Amazon.  And no buzz.

So I whipped off a note to, Bethesda Softworks's blog, and asked simply: "Is the sequel to Greg Keyes's Infernal City ever going to appear?"

Here is the reply:

"When we have more details on the book, we'll share the information with everyone."

Well, duh. I didn't think you had amazing things to say about the new book and were keeping it a secret from potential customers for kicks. So I infer the answer to my question is 'no', or at least 'not in the foreseeable'.

Which makes me wonder. Here is a synopsis of my wonderings:
  • Does a second book exist in any form?
  • Was there not some kind of contract that two books should appear by some date?
  • Is there some kind of problem (copyright, artistic differences, contractual dispute) delaying the second book, and if so, at what stage?
  • Do you routinely publish and advertise the first of two books without reasonable hope that the second is in the pipeline?
  • Do you publish the first book as a cliffhanger to be finished in the second book (as opposed to ending the story and following up with a proper sequel) without the second book in hand, or at least a good chunk of it?
  • Why is no one talking about this?

I can see why Greg Keyes and Bethesda may not want to talk about it, or may be contractually or legally obligatedd not to discuss it, but there's been absolutely no buzz about the (non)existence of the second book.< Now I grant the first book wasn't so great that I was bugging everyone I know to read it. But I still want to hear the end of the story, dammit. So getting back to my exchange with the folks at BethBlog, not even a 'It's in the works! It's coming! Shhhh! Don't tell anyone!'. "When we have more details on the book, we'll share the information with everyone." Well, you must have some details. They should be in the contract. They should be in the outline. They should be in the editor's and publisher's files. Greg Keyes should know something. Random House should know something. Maybe not what you need to make any kind of public announcement, but surely you have something. And surely someone besides me cares whether or not we hear the end of the story, even if it turns out to have nothing to do with, or be entirely contrary with, what Bethesda wants to do with the next game.

Which I can totally see. Keyes names the next emperor of Cyrodiil, develops his family, develops factions that would have to be dealt with in one way or another. But if you contract with somebody to write books set in your universe, you either a) micromanage the details of the universe so the author doesn't screw anything up, or you b) let the author do his/her thing and just declare them 'non-canonical' when developing the next game.

Or maybe there's still no plan to develop the next game, in which case still less is there a reason to hold up the second book.

So I think the second book just doesn't exist in any useful form yet. Once somebody has a reasonable draft, someone should be shouting about it. And they're not. So what does all this non-information (and more interestingly non-buzz mean)? The first book didn't do well enough so they're not bothering to produce the second? In which case someone needs to come up with another 'top story' at and just let the whole thing die. Or is there something really, really interesting going on that nobody can talk about.

In which case I wish WikiLeaks would get on this story. Because, being childish and selfish, I really care a lot more about this than the stuff WikiLeaks usually deals with.