Thursday, February 18, 2010

Does George R.R. Martin owe us anything?


Amusing article in the Guardian about the endless wait for Volume 5 of "Song of Ice and Fire", which includes the fake Tory election poster attached above.

Was it Patrick Rothfuss, similarly situated, who simply said "I'm not your bitch"... (UPDATE: Assiduous reader Steven Till knows better: It was Neil Gaiman speaking on behalf of George Martin -- and thereby linking up at least two recent blog posts. Patrick Rothfuss is mostly amusing on the subject on his blog.)

At any rate, Martin is less pithy:

"Some of you are angry about the miniatures, the swords, the resin busts, the games. You don't want me 'wasting time' on those, or talking about them here. Some of you are angry that I watch football during the fall," the author wrote. "Some of you don't want me attending conventions, teaching workshops, touring and doing promo ... After all, as some of you like to point out in your emails, I am 60 years old and fat, and you don't want me to 'pull a Robert Jordan' on you and deny you your book. OK, I've got the message. You don't want me doing anything except A Song of Ice and Fire. Ever."
"Pull a Robert Jordan" is a cool phrase, though.

Still more updates:

Commenter to the original article "Werthead" has this analysis, which I think should be interesting to all you fans of process and structure:
  • If we consider the three big epic fantasy series of our time as George RR Martin's SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, Steven Erikson's MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN and Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME, all three have run into significant mid-series timeline/structural problems. The three authors have taken different approaches to overcoming it.

    Erikson's solution is to ignore the problems and press on, which means the books continue to be published but on the downside with increasingly prevalent timeline problems and continuity errors that occasionally reduce storylines to total nonsense (particularly in the eighth volume, where young characters conceived in the earlier books are years older than they should be, even in relation to one another). This solution has some merit but also means that there are jarring bumps in the books you have to basically overlook to continue enjoying them.

    Martin's solution was to rewrite, rewrite, re-edit, rewrite, delete half the book and rewrite again. This solution is preferable since that when the book is done, the problems are reduced or eliminated entirely, but does add years to the writing time of the affected books (in the case of both A FEAST FOR CROWS and A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, more than doubling the writing time of the third volume, A STORM OF SWORDS, which was written far more straightforwardly), which is extremely problematic when you've just suggested that the next book will be done in a year or two tops.

    Jordan's was to introduce some filler storylines for some characters and put other characters on ice for a book or two whilst he brought other characters up to speed. This resulting in approximately the eighth through tenth novels in the series degenerating into chaotic messes before he pulled together all the story threads in the eleventh volume and set things up for the grand finale, which Brandon Sanderson is now executing with fine form (the recent twelfth book being the best in the series for some time).

    Of the three solutions, Erikson's is the most economical, Jordan's is the most sprawling and Martin's is the most artistic (assuming it works).

6 comments:

Steven Till said...

Neil Gaiman was the one who wrote the article on entitlement issues, telling readers that George was not their bitch. Here is the link to the article: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html. You may have read this before.

Christian Lindke said...

When it comes to entertainment, the author doesn't owe the audience anything. If Martin decided to never write another volume in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, that is his right. He has a right to an absolute NO when it comes to his creations. We have no right to possess or consume his creative works, unless he decides he wants to share them. That's what intellectual property means.

Personally, I want him to finish the series and write the next volume. I also want it to be good, better than the most recent volume -- which very much felt like a placeholder to me.

Martin is one of my favorite authors and has been for some time. The fact that it is taking him 20 years to finish a book series means that he is stressing quality over quantity and that is a good thing. I also think it is more valuable for him to spend time teaching writing courses, etc. than it is for him to finish the series.

As for fears that he might pull a "Robert Jordan," I think that odds are slim in that regard. More likely, he'll pull a "Drood" and that instead of one heir finishing the series we'll see multiple fantasy masters/mistresses give their own ending.

As for anyone griping about Martin promoting the games etc. They should keep in mind that games etc. are inspirations to Martin. Without Chaosium's SuperWorld rpg, we never would have seen the "Wildcards" series.

Generic said...

That said, having what could be interpreted as a snotty and/or ungrateful attitude toward the people who fork out actual money for the products of your genius is not a very attractive trait.

Tulkinghorn said...

Spoken like a man who has never dealt with enraged nerds...

Some of the Rothfuss cartoons (!) deal with this very point.

I think that a great deal of this problem comes from the practice of publishing long genre books serially instead of waiting until they're finished. The pretense that they are separate books is idiotic. On the other hand getting paid before you're done has a lot of benefits.

As the long quote I reprinted above argues, it's almost impossible to write honorably under those circumstances -- and if you do and let it take as long as it takes, it must get irritating to be carped at by assholes while you're dealing with the problems.

Tulkinghorn said...

I just did a bit of looking at the economics of the book that started this problem. The first US edition of LOTR cost $5.00 a volume and was published over a period of about a year.

A $15.00 book would cost about $120.00 after inflation.

An expensive novel.

Generic said...

I beg your pardon. Some of my best friends are enraged nerds.