Epilogues: What are they good for? (Absolutely nothing?)

This post is part of the 52-Week Blog Challenge, hosted by the Marketing for Romance Writers Blog. (Image above by Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard Grandville – “Eine Andere Welt” von Plinius dem Jüngsten, illustriert von J.J. Grandville. Diogenes Verlag Zürich, 1979. ISBN 3-257-26002-4, Public Domain.)

This week’s challenge is to consider the question Epilogue or No?

Given the fact that my first novel does contain an epilogue, but so far the rest of my novels do not, I suppose you could say I’m torn.

Epilogues do not particularly trouble me. Then again, nor are they something to trifle with.

What is the purpose of an epilogue, and why should one use or avoid one?

Per Merriam-Webster, an epilogue is is “a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work.”

My first book, Ninjas of the 512, seemed almost to require an epilogue, as I didn’t want people to think my main character had died, and thus a bit of additional explanation was necessary.

On the other hand, most of my other works are either serial fiction (which lead from one into the next) or stand-alone erotica (which doesn’t require additional explanation, I would presume!). There isn’t really any need for these kinds of conclusions, no matter how literary the work may be.

I feel that most epilogues exist to tie up loose ends and send the reader off on a positive note, although I could be mistaken (is there such a thing as an unhappy epilogue?), and therefore if you are a writer who prefers to end on cliffhangers or leaving things open for sequels or questions in the reader’s mind, an epilogue would be counterproductive.

So, to answer the question: Epilogue or No? I suppose my ultimate answer is: Maybe?

What do you think? Are you pro or anti epilogue?