The Allure of the TBC … by John David Anderson
Fun fact: I didn’t actually write the last three words of the final chapter of my novel Stowaway. My editor did. And I find them to be the three most ambiguous, frustrating and provocative words in the entire book.
To be continued . . .
Even now I can’t type them without also adding the ellipses, that string of periods conjuring a visual of an actual cliff from which the intrepid hero is hanging. In my case the hero, Leo, is on a spaceship with a band of pirates, having had his world view shattered, his family torn apart, and the fate of the Earth thrust upon his shoulders. Dot, dot, and dot.
Growing up, I remember watching reruns of Batman, the campy T.V. show with all the awesome onomatopoeia. (BIFF! KA-POW! And my favorite . . . ZONK!). I couldn’t tell you the plot of any one episode, but I remember how half of them ended, at least—with the dynamic duo about to be turned into slurpies, eaten by tigers, or crushed by a giant meteorite. Will our heroes escape? Tune in next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel!
I tuned in next time every time. Such is the allure of the TBC.
Thanos’s snap. Gollum’s betrayal. Bullwinkle hanging by his horns. Every good story needs a hook at the start, but some give you the harpoon at the end, leaving you strung on the line until part two (or part twenty) comes along. They fill you with anticipation and dread, expectation and doubt. The effect can be maddening, but also, in its own strange way, empowering.
When I was five, my father took me to see Empire Strikes Back—my first movie in a theater and still one of the greatest to be continueds in all of film. I was enthralled for the whole two hours, but then the credits rolled, and I panicked. Seriously? Who ends a story like that? What happened to happily ever after? I was thoroughly miffed.
“Don’t worry,” my father told me. “I bet they make another one.”
The long wait for the Jedi’s return was agony, especially for a budding geek such as myself, but it was also full of make believe. After all, three years is plenty of time to ask what if. Time to save Han, destroy the Empire, and slay my Sith Lord of a father once and for all. (No redemption here. I was a little kid with a broom handle lightsaber—there was only one way that confrontation was going to end.) In my head (and backyard) I had already played out a hundred sequels before Jedi hit the theaters. George Lucas and company had given me the pieces of a puzzle to play with, and the pictures I made with them were satisfying stories in themselves.
Because there is something to be said for that space created by to be continued, even beyond the anticipation it fosters, and that something has to do with possibility. That space speaks to the storyteller in all of us. It invites us to play along. All these loose threads begging to be tied. All these characters in search of an ending. That’s why, as a reader, I don’t mind waiting a while for the next book in a series (even yours, Mr. Martin)—because there’s a magic in imagining how it’s all gonna end yourself, in asking what happens next and not having the answer waiting for you on the next page.
It’s also why, as a writer, I was excited to return to that spaceship and its pirate crew. Because I, too, had to find out what happened. I couldn’t leave poor Leo hanging. In those three dots were three hundred pages of story still to be told, a family to be found, a world to be saved.
Maybe that’s why we like those kinds of endings—because of the promises they hold, the sense of hope and possibility implied in those three dots. Don’t worry, the ellipses say, all is not lost. There’s a way out of this yet. After all, we’ve all felt ourselves dangling from the cliffside, fingertips slipping. We live our lives wondering what will come next, hoping that our tomorrows offer something in the way of excitement and adventure, with the potential for character growth and an epiphany or two, culminating in an emotionally satisfying resolution.
The same end is waiting for all of us, of course. But until it comes, it’s our world to build, our story to write, day by day, episode by episode, one to be continued after another.
Homebound by John David Anderson
Leo Fender is no stranger to catastrophe, whether it’s the intergalactic war that took his mother’s life or the ongoing fight for his own. He’s seen his planet plundered, his ship attacked, his father kidnapped, and his brother go missing—and found himself stranded on a ship with a bunch of mercenary space pirates. Still, nothing could have prepared him for the moment he and the crew tried to save his father—and discovered a dark plot that could destroy hundreds of worlds in the blink of an eye.
Now, Leo is adrift. His father has sent him on a mission with nothing but a data chip and a name of someone who could help, and Captain Bastian Black and the crew of the Icarus are determined to see this through to the end with Leo, to fulfill his father’s wish and prevent further conflict. But as Leo searches for answers, he can’t help but wonder what it would take to end the war, to track down his father and brother and return to whatever home they have left—and if the cost of doing so is one he would be able to pay.
John David Anderson returns with the conclusion to the epic coming-of-age adventure that began in Stowaway—a riveting and heartfelt search for hope and home, family and future, in a galaxy ravaged by war.
Publishing August 23, 2022 by Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Stowaway by John David Anderson
When scientists discover a rare and mysterious mineral buried in the Earth’s crust, they have no idea that it just happens to be the most valuable substance in the entire universe. It’s not long before aliens show up to our little corner of the galaxy, offering us a promise of protection, some fabulous new technology, and entry into their intergalactic coalition—all in exchange for this precious resource. Something so precious that other alien forces are willing to start a war over it. A war that soon makes its way to Earth.
Leo knows this all too well. His mother was killed in one such attack, and soon after, his father, a Coalition scientist, decides it would be best for them to leave Earth behind. It’s on this expedition that their ship is attacked, Leo’s father is kidnapped, and Leo and his brother are stranded in the middle of space. The only chance they have is for Leo to stow away on a strange ship of mercenary space pirates bound for who knows where and beg the captain to help him find his father.
But the road is dangerous, and pirates, of course, only look out for themselves. Leo must decide who to trust as he tries to stay alive and save his family, even as he comes to understand that there aren’t many people—human or alien—that he can count on in this brave new universe.
Now in Paperback!
Published by Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Stowaway, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.
HOMEWARD BLOG TOUR AUGUST 23-SEPTEMBER 3, 2022
August 23 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
August 26 A Library Mama @alibrarymama
August 30 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
September 1 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius
September 3 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke