My exposure to Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s classic was quite late. It was in 1997, that I picked up the first Chronicle book and devoured it in 2 days. I remember running towards the only shop that housed the remaining trilogy (in Subang Parade, could it be MPH?) and finished each at a shorter time. It was my second ‘epic’ series which I have read, the first being Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I liked the premise, and the pacing; it was not much on characterisation, and more on the plot lines moving.
I have collected a dozen of books from the franchise since then. And it is still shocking to compare that to the actual list of books produced (and how they fit in the timeline) for the fantasy universe! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dragonlance_novels
Can you imagine the amount of money a hardcore ardent fan would have to fork out to capture the whole length and breadth of the series? Wow… I can buy lots of stuff with that kind of money. But then again, that is why the proliferation of titles; to cater to niche markets. But still, I have the ‘core books’.
My only complaint now is this: the Dragonlance universe has expanded into a massive ball of complexities where each element relates to each other, to the extent that progression into the newer stories are burdened by the heavy baggage of history collected. Which explains why Weis and Hickman are so wordy as time goes on. Each novels are clocking at about 500+ pages, which in my opinion can be reduced to a manageable 400+ size with proper editing.
Do not judge a book by its cover is ‘actually’ a false statement. In fact, the emphasis on good art covers have never been greater than now! And in this respect, Dragonlance has not failed to deliver on the promise of cool looking art. There’s a book out from TSR that compiles all the covers and related art in one place.
There is still potential left in this universe… and it is always an inspiration for me to build one similar to it. One universe which makes me cringe everytime I think of it is the Star Wars Novelisation Universe (aka Expanded Universe)… http://www.theforce.net/books/ this site gives a very very in depth view of ALL the books that has been produced by Lucas’ company (I fanatically read the site for 4 years). I gave up on the universe when one of the chief writers, Timothy Zhan, wrote a closing duology to the old series. The newer series – entitled The New Jedi Order (under another publisher) piqued my interest for only a few months… it’s war like angle for a dozen over books, really stretched my patience and subsequently my interest in the whole franchise altogether. It was sufficient for me to update my knowledge from fan written plot summaries.
What makes Epic Scale stories attractive? I have no real idea behind this. But analysing Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance, I can say that it is always about conflict and honest characterisation. Conflict that challenges the emotional state of the readers (firstly, the emotional investment must be established) and Honest Characterisation that deals with the reality of human beings (regardless whether they are off-world characters or aliens). Packed around all these things are a myriad of ‘colourful’ universe-specific elements that are original, and a heck of big marketing effort! 🙂