Inspiration is the key!
I always try to keep an open mind when it comes to sequels, but sometimes I just can’t! I’ll try to take many things into account, though.
So, I was reading the Wikipedia page about “The Little Prince“. I’m sure I don’t have to introduce you to this best-selling masterpiece which has been and is still worldwide popular over sixty years after its publication.
At some point the page lists a few attempts at producing sequels of the French novel, originally published in 1943. Between 1997 and 2007, three different authors imagined a continuation to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella, with the most imaginative plots being staged to capture the same magic the original work had. Even sequels written by the same authors as the first novel have troubles putting out a continuation, as readers often compare the first to the latter, and the writer usually suffers from the “follow-up curse” which consists of pressure and difficulty in creating something as great and widely appreciated as the first piece, revealing what the other side of success tastes like.
You can imagine what happened in the writing world when J.K. Rowling first announced she would not write any more Harry Potter books after “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows“, the last book of the series, released in 2007. ”James Potter And The Hall of Elders’ Crossing” was the first popular attempt at narrating events beyond the last episode of the wizard from Hogwarts and centres around Harry Potter’s son and his first year at the magic school his famous father attended. Copyrights aside, can this type of experiment intrigue the Harry Potter fan enough to give it a read? Will they ever consider it as a proper sequel?
Another element came into play, and that is the world of fan-fictions. Fan-fictions are fictional stories written by fans of a particular movie or television series, most notably. Rarely have I found fan-fictions based on novels or short stories, probably because television series and movies appeal to a wider audience and are therefore subject to the fantasy of thousands of people. Fan-fictions based on books are probably written and read in a closed circle of genre-loving readers and writers alike.
Even other classics like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” or George Orwell’s “1984” (Yes, I bet you guessed the sequel’s title right) have inspired writers to continue where these books’ authors left off. I completely understand the desire to never see an interesting, intriguing, irresistible story end, but that’s its value: it has to end there, unless the author thinks otherwise and starts writing a sequel with their own hands. Maybe I’m too strict on this, but a sequel written by another author is an interpretation and whatever continues the original plot, belongs to someone else’s perspective on the first novel. This is my conclusion: that unofficial sequels are worth being read for research purposes, for entertainment, or for a simple desire to see what others imagine after the events of the original work, but they can never be part of the same world as the latter. Think of a work of art, a painting in a museum. The one hanging on the wall is the original novel, whereas the official sequel would be hanging in the next room. The unofficial sequel is the sketch a painter is drawing as they sit in the room in front of the original painting. Got my metaphor?
Sequels written by different authors are a tricky business: the way you look at them reveals much about your own perspective on books and what your concept of literary work is.