Bicycle RaceToday's Tune:
Obligatory disclaimer: the following is, of course, my personal opinion, and is not intended as a blanket no-room-for-debate statement.
Obligatory disclaimer over'd.
Epilogues are terrible. Or rather, epilogues that focus on telling us that "it all turned out (reasonably) okay sometime in the future" are terrible.
Don't get me wrong. I think sometimes, rarely, there exists an epilogue that serves a real purpose in tying up a narrative and isn't completely awful. But more often than not, particularly at the end of series, I feel like epilogues exist more for the author than they do the audience.
And you know, I can understand that. It's unbelievably difficult to send off characters that you've lived with and loved for the years it takes to finish a series. You want to make sure they're taken care of. That they get their happy (or "happy") ending wrapped up in a neat bow. And I imagine some readers who've also come to love the characters enjoy seeing that everything worked out in the end.
I am not one of those readers. I don't want complete ambiguity after I've invested a lot of time and emotion into a series, but I also don't want to be force-fed the author's idea of a perfect ending. As a reader, I like my endings to be somewhat in my hands. I want to know that things are okay for now, not for always. Knowing that everyone is happy and married with three kids and an awesome job doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy. It makes me feel like I've been robbed of my "what if."
This is kind of what I mean when I say I feel that epilogues are more for the author than the audience. I'm one of those people who believe that once a book is out there in the world, once it's been read and consumed, it no longer belongs to the author. It belongs to the reader. Their imagination breathes life into it. Which is not to say that the author can't write with a certain intention in mind or that they lose ownership of their own creation, not at all. But once we release it into the wild, we can't control how other people react to it.
Part of letting go of that control is coming to terms with the fact that your characters no longer belong to only you. It doesn't necessarily matter how we think they end up 20 years down the road. What matters is that they live on in the mind of the reader.
This is difficult to balance. I don't think writers are some weird spirit medium that only serve as a conduit for transcribing stories from the void. We make conscious, personal choices when we put words to paper. We're trying to convey a specific scene, a specific emotion, a specific theme. We create worlds.
But in the end, we have to let our worlds go so that others might live in them.