From Trilogy to Tetralogy
My Road to Environmental Armageddon began as a simple story (The Souring Seas) about the adventures of a graduate student working in a group focused on climate change research. It morphed into three interconnected stories that together produced a precautionary tale about the hazards that might befall humanity if we ignore the global threat posed by unrestrained exploitation of fossil fuels.
These stories share a flaw. None come to dramatic conclusions. I ventured from The Souring Seas to A Technological Solution in an attempt to produce a story that followed my chosen theme but reached a more dramatic conclusion. It didn’t work. On to book three, Future Imperfect, to provide a more dramatic conclusion for book two. When I was done, I looked back and saw three books that linked together quite nicely, but none found the dramatic conclusion I sought.
I now had a trilogy. Everyone knows about trilogies. They seem especially popular in the fantasy genre, perhaps because Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings may be the best-known trilogy of all time. Asimov’s Foundation started out as a trilogy but got expanded decades later. There are dozens of other examples. I have Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (the first of a trilogy), Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide (a series that’s really a trilogy) in my library.
I have my trilogy drafted, but it doesn’t reach a conclusion. If I write a fourth, I’ll have a tetralogy. What, you might ask, is a tetralogy (Word’s spell checker doesn’t recognize it). I googled tetralogy and learned that ancient Greek playwrights were rather keen on them. Tetralogies, series of three connected tragedies and a fourth tragicomedy featuring a chorus of satyrs were popular. This sounded promising. I have my three interconnected stories (okay, they aren’t plays, but they are tragic because they deal with humanity making a mess of the global environment). All I need is my tragicomedy to bring it to a rip-roaring conclusion.
But what is a tragicomedy? Sigh, back to google and Wikipedia where I learned tragicomedies are similar in spirit to the bawdy satires of burlesque. They featured choruses of satyrs and were rife with mock drunkenness, brazen sexuality, pranks, sight gags, and general merriment.
Okay, that’s not quite what I imagined. Could I generate a tetralogy with three more tragic parts as my characters get deeper and deeper into the hazards of my precautionary tale and a final one that provides a happy ending? Why not?
One giant problem! Now I must generate a happy ending. I’m not sure I can do happy endings. Perhaps one with a faint glimmer of hope.