Naturally, the last panel I went to at Boskone was “How Do Endings Matter?” It was a small crowd eager to join the discussion with Debra Doyle, Toni L. P. Kelner, Jim Mann, and Peter Weston Toni L.P. Kelner opened with the classic definition of a good ending being one that leaves you surprised, but it couldn’t have ended any other way. Debra Doyle said it’s like the perfect birthday present: you’re completely surprised by something you always wanted.
Initial examples of good endings included “The Moon Moth,” by Jack Vance, Aegypt, by John Crowley, and the Harry Potter books, (by you know who) individually and as a whole. I think it was Peter Weston who said that the last chapter of Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys, is worth the price of admission.
We argued a bit about how many endings Lord of the Rings has. Being that this was a crowd that had probably made to the end(s) and/or denouncement(s) many times, we were generally agreed that the close of the books was fitting.
But then we devolved into more discussions of bad endings than good. It seemed just about everyone present bitterly told of a bad ending that ruined a whole book for them. We all sounded so betrayed, there was no question the endings matter big time.
So what did I do after that? Join the group reading of “The Eye of Argon.” That is so bad all the way through, any ending is a good one. The sooner the better.