"You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself"
February 24, 2009 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Fantasy writer George R. R. Martin responds to fans impatient for the latest installment of his series A Song of Fire and Ice: "Okay, I've got the message. "

Additional commentary by MeFi's own jscalzi and cstross is illuminating on the business and art of writing, particularly the challenges of maintaining quality and consistency across multi-volume arcs. John Scalzi, Pissy Fans:

[T]hese same fans would say “Yeah, the series used to be good, but then he started phoning it in around book five.” You know, if I’m going to annoy a fan, I’d prefer to annoy a fan by not writing a book that sucks, than by writing one that does.

Charlie Stross, The art of being late:

Parallelism is hard for human minds to grasp. When you're telling a multi-viewpoint story, what you are doing in effect is equivalent to writing a whole bunch of short novels in parallel — one per viewpoint. And we are not good at doing this sort of thing. Humans generally don't multi-task well; we lose efficiency rapidly as we pay the price for switching context.

An earlier Stross post touches on some similar issues: Why are SF and fantasy novels the length they are?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (158 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I follow his lj pretty regularly. He goes through this about three times a year.
posted by boo_radley at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


And that's exactly how JK Rowling treats her fans.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2009


After all, as some of you like to point out in your emails, I am sixty years old and fat, and you don't want me to "pull a Robert Jordan" on you and deny you your book.

Ouch!
posted by mecran01 at 3:08 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


The series is dead, Jim. It's done for. Gone. Over. Finished. Pining for the fjords.

He lost control and can't figure out how to get it back. It's very sad but the sooner everyone involved realizes that we'll never see the end of the series (and possibly never see anything past A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, assuming he even finishes that one) the better everyone involved will sleep. The fans won't constantly hope for the next book, the publishers won't wonder when the cash cow will wander in, and Martin can go back to authorizing merchandise and schmoozing at cons.

Win-win-win.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


As long as Roy Dotrice is the narrator of the eventual audiobook, Mr. Martin may do as he damn well pleases.

He will, in any case.
posted by Kikkoman at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I loved the first few volumes of Wild Cards when I read them as a teenager, but I'm glad I said to myself years ago that I wouldn't start reading A Song of Ice and Fire until the final volume was published in hardcover.
posted by Prospero at 3:14 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wrote two novels a while ago (envisioned as part of a three-novel linked set) and they got published by a big-name SF house and did pretty well (translated into French, German, and Japanese, and made into a SF Book Club offering). My editor got fired, the publisher decided to concentrate on other stuff, I got a real job, and somehow or another I never got around to writing the last one.

I still get regular e-mails from fans nagging me to finish the next novel, twelve years later. Even though the books are nowhere available. People want what they want and they want it now, and they really don't want you to have any kind of a real life. I don't pay much attention. It ain't worth fussing about.
posted by Peach at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


A Song of Fire and Ice

Damnit. I'll fix the tag, at least.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2009


If it makes you feel any better Mr Martin, I never want to see this novel published. Ever. Leave it alone. TiVo more shows. Take up golf. Whatever.
posted by GuyZero at 3:18 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know too much about this situation (I read the first few books, then sort of forgot about the series), but I feel for the author. He isn't a slave, and there is an enormous amount of brilliant fiction languishing on the backlist that fans can enjoy in the meantime. They could even read Jack Vance's earlier Lyonesse trilogy, which has some *ahem* curious parallels in geography.

Writing is hard. Give the guy a break.
posted by selfnoise at 3:19 PM on February 24, 2009


I think it's partly that GRRM isn't really part of the Internet generation and finds it hard to understand why everyone's so rude all the time.

But also I don't think there's a lot of crossover between Wild Cards fans and A Song of Ice and Fire fans. So the Ice and Fire fans are a bit miffed that he's been choosing to work on Wild Cards books instead, especially since it's a shared world and doesn't necessarily need GRRM to work on it.

I did like Wild Cards back in the first generation, but I lost track after the first six books or so...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:19 PM on February 24, 2009


He can't die yet. He hasn't seen The Jolson Story.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


I didn't realize it until I read some of these links, but I think this is one of the reasons I've switched to reading mainly non-fiction over the past several years. Non-fiction books are generally stand-alone works, and I'm not stuck waiting for the next volume in the series to come out.

(Yes, I'm aware there's good single-volume, stand-alone fiction out there too. I said "one of the reasons," not "the only reason" or even "the main reason.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2009


I wish.
posted by aldurtregi at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I recently finished Book Two and am hesitant to proceed. I'd feel more sympathy for the guy if he would have each novel feel more like a complete story and less like another installment in a serialized piece. This doesn't mean that there can't be cliffhangers, but when you have situations in which two entire long storylines at no point interact with the main one for the length of an entire novel, it gets a little frustrating.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2009


"pull a Robert Jordan"

Death, the ultimate writers' block.
posted by nomisxid at 3:33 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just want to say that out of all the speculative fiction I read in the late 70s and early 80s -- a lot since we didn't have TV -- Sandkings was my favorite story.
posted by troy at 3:35 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Waiting politely and patiently here. I remember what an anxious OMG-I-gonna-die attitude did to Stephen King's Dark Tower, and I want no part of that for Ice and Fire.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:36 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nah, bring back Haviland Tuf.
posted by mdevore at 3:40 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I loved the first few volumes of Wild Cards when I read them as a teenager, but I'm glad I said to myself years ago that I wouldn't start reading A Song of Ice and Fire until the final volume was published in hardcover.

Snap.

It took getting slammed by a truck up the ass to get King to hurry up and finish his big make-it-up-as-he-goes along multi-volume saga. Perhaps Martin should taking some frequent walks down narrow country roads.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:41 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


SANDKINGS!
posted by stratastar at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan - enjoy the books, and have enjoyed meeting Martin.

For me, this used to be a small thorn in the side - all my friends and family I had turned onto the series used to bug me about when the next book would be released. I have learned that the best response has become to suggest other books that I am enjoying. So, to that end, let me say:

He will finish when he finishes. In the meantime, here are some other books:

Shadow in Summer
Betrayal in Winter
The Name of the Wind

Yes, I am aware that these are also books that are part of unfinished series. If that bugs you, don't start.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2009



I will probably get in trouble with the mods for this derail. But would someone create a post about

I think it's partly that GRRM isn't really part of the Internet generation and finds it hard to understand why everyone's so rude all the time.

So why are people so rude on the net? One of my pleasures here is that rudeness is minimal. Why not other sites. I don't understand it.
posted by notreally at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2009


While Book 4 took 5 years to come out, I turned to GRRM's "What I'm Reading List" and checked other authors out. If he does "pull a Robert Jordan," at least there is no son to take his notes and butcher the remainder of the series trying to resuscitate the cash cow. Thankfully, there are still prolific fantasy series authors in Canada (Steven Erikson) who show no signs of stopping yet!
posted by joydivasian at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2009


I recently finished Book Two and am hesitant to proceed.

I was in the same position you were and I eventually talked myself into reading A Storm of Swords. That was when I started to get the feeling that there may not be an end game at all. I started a Feast for Crows, but, knowing it was basically half a book, ADWD being the other half, I just couldn't muster the interest to proceed past the first hundred pages or so.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the first three. I really did. I just want some kind of resolution to... well... shit... to any of the major plot threads. Or even a hint that there is resolution forthcoming. I had the sense to get out of the Wheel of Time series early (because I didn't much care for it and knew almost instantly it was going nowhere) and had high hopes that GRRM was doing something different (I still do.) Once it looks like there's some kind of ending coming, I'll happily pick them up again and read through the series.

So, honestly, I hope he does ADWD right-- and he can take a decade if he needs to. I'm sure my interest will still be there.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2009


Stop milking it, Martin. You don't know what you're doing any more and you are stalling for time. You have too many characters and too many plotlines and you don't know how to untangle them all. I was a fan of the first three books but after the fourth it finally dawned on me that the whole sorry mess was going nowhere, and ever since I have regretted all the time I wasted on them when I could have been reading something else.

The guy's a good writer with a big imagination, no question. But there's pride in your work, and then there's arrogance. It's like he made a really good chili once, and the next chili he made he mixed the formula up a bit, and it was still pretty good, but by this point he's just dumping in everything he can find in the pantry and hoping it will come out edible.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I bought A Game of Thrones, having heard it was the shit, but never really started it. But I figured I would get around to it someday.

If we consider it as an isolated text - as if a second volume had never been published - would it be worth reading - even if as an "unfinished" novel? In other words: is what's in that particular volume compelling enough on its own to make up for whatever narrative blue-balls might result from Martin never getting to "the end"? Because from these writers' descriptions, it seems a deeper work than the kind where closure is the best part.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2009


On preview, I guess turgid has already offered their opinion on the matter.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2009


Furthermore, the guy should watch himself. There are thousands of people out there who are real fans of this stuff, and have invested a lot of time in it, and they love the characters and the world and the intrigue and the plotting and scheming and the big battles and the political hurr-durr, they genuinely dig it because you, the author, tacitly promised them a payoff, and you established the premise that the plot would, y'know, develop, but now you're not doing that and furthermore you're basically showing these people your middle finger and saying to them "Blow me, get a life". And that's a real dumb thing to do to your livelihood.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never read any of Martin's Fire and Ice books, but I did drop in to say that his book Fevre Dream is one of the best damn vampire novels ever.
posted by marxchivist at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd like it to be done, but I'd rather it be good. I've been thrilled with the series up to Feast... and am not eager to see GRRM hurry anything out the door he isn't proud of. Happily, he's a plucky enough fellow that I'm not too worried.

If there's anything he really ought to get on top of yesterday, it's getting the T-shirt web-shop back into commission (c'mon guys, it gets a direct link in your top of page Google result! That's bank!) I think maybe the Official GRRM Webteam may not realize that they can do that in about three hours with a generic Fantastico/Joomla hosting account. Or just through Cafe Press if it's the actual shirts that's hanging them up.

But I want my We Do Not Sow shirt, dammit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:57 PM on February 24, 2009


Plus, the way this thing has been going, all those characters are totally Level 25 by now so it's time to start a fresh campaign.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:57 PM on February 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


I really enjoyed the four novels in the series so far. While I confess I will be disappointed if he never finishes the series, the series was really eye opening to me in that he approaches fantasy in a completely different way than other writers that I've encountered (which, of course, suggests that there may be dozens of other authors who did it before he did that I did not encounter).

In essence, Martin's world might be a fantasy world, but neither the characters or he are particularly interested in the fantasy elements. They're interested in power and money and sex and revenge and justice and all of those other things that make life so rich. Indeed, the dragons of the story are valued more as weapons of mass destruction than as mysterious creatures that sit on piles of gold all day only emerging to eat people.

So, to answer your question Joe Beese, I thought they were worth reading regardless of whether the story wraps up or not.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Joe Beese, the first book stands alone perfectly as a matter of fact. That final scene could easily be the last thing that happens in the Song of Ice and Fire universe, and I would have been happy not knowing exactly what happened next.

The 2nd and 3rd books are both excellent in their own ways as well (The Red Wedding anyone?), but the 1st is truly engrossing. The 4th is really a meandering, unfinished book and I didn't find myself compelled by it. I am really hoping that A Dance With Dragons is a return to form for GRRM, and as such, I don't care if it takes him another five years to write it. Just as long as it's good.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fevre Dream is good stuff; Sandkings (the collection, not just the title story) blew me away. (Haven't read the current series, and don't have an opinion on how Martin should spend his time.)
posted by Zed at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2009


Then there's us "big picture" folks who realize that fantasy novels are like a tiny little meaningless niche in literature. Like pop music, it has a relatively short shelf life and is completely replaceable when the "next big thing" rolls around. So he doesn't finish the series, or painted himself into a corner? Start reading ANOTHER relatively crappy series of sci-fi/wizard/fantasy/dragon/fairy books and pipe down already.. or as Shatner said in that infamous SNL sketch in the good ol' days, "Get a life, will you people?"
posted by ChickenringNYC at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm another fan who is patiently waiting until he finishes the next book - if he ever does. If he doesn't, well, I still like the first books. Just read something else for a bit - A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (both authors) and The Name of the Wind are both great while you wait.

The silent majority are similarly happy to wait, I bet. It's too bad that the rabid "work on it now, don't pull a Robert Jordan" people are the "internet generation people" that he gets to interact with. But it's ever thus, I guess.
posted by gemmy at 4:05 PM on February 24, 2009


Is he contractually obligated in any way to finish it? Surely his publishers are champing at the bit to get another strong-selling title out there aren't they?

Or do they benefit more by having him stretch it into a bunch of bloated, unnecessary novels full of verbiage and excessive people and plot lines like Robert Jordan? Or [gulp] are we already there with no hope of wrapping things up nicely?

Also, I don't really care if GRRM has a life, works on other material, schmoozes with and gets praised by the fandom at conventions, or Tivos every airing of The View. I have only one single concern: THE RESOLUTION OF THE NARRATIVE. I like him as an author of a particular series of books with what will presumably be a coherent narrative arc. I have no vested interest in his other aspirations. So, although it vexes him, I have only one thing to him I want to say, would say, or will say:

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE FINISHED?
posted by Any Moose In a Storm at 4:05 PM on February 24, 2009


Then there's us "big picture" folks who realize that fantasy novels are like a tiny little meaningless niche in literature. Like pop music, it has a relatively short shelf life and is completely replaceable when the "next big thing" rolls around.

yeah, that 50 year old fantasy series about a ring? That was a total waste of producer money to make a movie about.
posted by nomisxid at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


In essence, Martin's world might be a fantasy world, but neither the characters or he are particularly interested in the fantasy elements. They're interested in power and money and sex and revenge and justice and all of those other things that make life so rich. Indeed, the dragons of the story are valued more as weapons of mass destruction than as mysterious creatures that sit on piles of gold all day only emerging to eat people.

You could always go check out Into the Darkness by Turtledove and its five sequels. You pretty much described the series in your previous comment. I only read the first two because I could tell it wouldn't ever get properly wrapped up. Guy makes Strephenson look like a writer of good endings
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2009


I got the first three after several people recommended them here. The guy at the bookstore warned me that Martin writes S L O W L Y. I did not listed, I wish I had.

I really liked the first three, read them in about 6 weeks. I like the world he built, my imagination is richer now. The books gave me a new appreciation for nice sharp steel, I sharpened my old knives and have a couple of very nice folders in the mail. I did some research on horses, all the historical breeds, the extinct breeds, the new breeds. Somehow I ended up re-reading all about the ice and wood shavings "concrete", the material is amazing, someone even tried to build an aircraft carrier out of it.

If he never finishes the series, I still feel I won something by reading the first three.

I know the ending anyway. Arya grows up and marries me and we have a bunch of children, and Jon and Bran are always here for dinner and we show the wolves new tricks, and I am a dragon warg, and every night I can say: Sleep. That's were I'm a dragon. Literally.
posted by dirty lies at 4:12 PM on February 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


they genuinely dig it because you, the author, tacitly promised them a payoff, and you established the premise that the plot would, y'know, develop, but now you're not doing that and furthermore you're basically showing these people your middle finger and saying to them "Blow me, get a life". And that's a real dumb thing to do to your livelihood.

There's something to this. But there hasn't been that much time since the last book (2005), given how long an author's career lasts, and the fans on his site really can be amazingly obnoxious. So he's off his two-year release schedule. Big deal. I'd imagine he needs the time to make sure it doesn't turn into the kind of Jordan-like everything but the kitchen sink morass of failure posited upthread.

To those curious as to how far there is to go, the series is supposed to go to seven books. A Dance... will be the fourth. Which means he's bogging down around half-way--a familiar enough problem for many writers, no? I don't think we need to write him off yet.

My instinct given what comments he's made on that front is that he knows where the series, characters, plots etc. are going to end up--but hadn't really worked out the intricacies of getting there past shortly after the end of Feast.... Hopefully part of this break from publication has or will involve pre-writing not only for the next book but the remaining two (or at least the sixth.)


And if he dies, well that's the breaks. He should spend his life chained to his desk turning out work a lesser quality, just because he doesn't come out so hot on the actuarial tables and might leave his superfans hanging? C'mon.


Plus, the way this thing has been going, all those characters are totally Level 25 by now so it's time to start a fresh campaign.
One of the nice things about his writing is a total lack of ANY palimpsest of D&D or any other gaming system/campaign world.

If you're done picking on us, I think you're wanted back at the cool kids' lunch table.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking of the late Robert Jordan, I still haven't made it through his later books. I think I'm 2 or 3 shy of being caught up for the nearing release of A Memory of Light. If you're looking for some new fantasy to read, I really liked Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. I picked it up to see what could happen to WoT, and I'm intrigued again.

One of my pleasures here is that rudeness is minimal. Why not other sites. I don't understand it.
posted by notreally at 3:44 PM on February 24

Eponysterical. Because people can be quite rude here, you see. Though we usually like to think they deserved it.

We had a deal, Kyle, thanks for the link to a history of SF/Fantasy book lengths. I just thought it was for bragging rights and the hope you're nerdy little arms would get stronger by carrying around all those thick books.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2009


This really strikes me as an example of how badly people misunderstand the creative process. Sure, you can churn out a couple of thousand words of literate babble for an English class on command. But this is an intricate, creative work, with a long backstory to juggle and (hopefully) an eventual conclusion to reach, with engrossing characters and subplots. And it needs to be written, not just typed.

I don't understand how people can miss the fact that the vacations, football, and side projects all feed into the creation of these books. If the author was to live in a dark cave and do nothing but try to create the rest of these books until they were done, dammit, eventually the narrative would wind down into being about a hermit sitting in a cave, writing nonsense on the walls.

Anyone who thinks it's easy to just sit down and write well should be forced to do NaNoWriMo one November. Or worse, read a dozen NaNoWriMo novels. That'll learn 'em.
posted by MrVisible at 4:17 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, these books are all eleven million pages long. The last one came out three years ago. That...isn't that staggering a wait. If these were the only books being published anywhere in the world, then okay, I guess I'd get the anger. But you know, they're not. Read something else. Write your own fucking book. Kiss a girl. What the fuck ever. Writing isn't automagical! I'm sorry, and I speak here as someone who loves this series and can't wait to read the next one, but what a bunch of entitled little twerps.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:17 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


... and I meant to elaborate on RJ: I agree with Any Moose In a Storm - the stories got so convoluted, that I picked up one book and had no idea who the room full of people were in the introductory chapter. I felt lost from the beginning, after being away from the series for a few months.

Creating a universe is great and all, but you don't need to encapsulate it in one storyline. Split off new storylines in that same universe, tie them back to the epic plot, but don't choke the main story with a thousand little distractions. As much as I'd like to create posters dedicated to the storylines of multi-volume books, I don't really.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:18 PM on February 24, 2009


If you're done picking on us, I think you're wanted back at the cool kids' lunch table.

Actually I was gonna ask if I could borrow your inhaler, mine's all out.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:19 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I read a lot of fantasy and made a rule for myself: dead or done. I will never start a series that isn't complete unless I know the reason for it not being complete is the author's death.

Saves on the waiting in anticipation.

I violate this rule for authors I already follow, but it was Glen Cook, Steven Brust, and a few others that made me make this rule in the first place.

I got cuked into Steven Erikson's "Malazan" books, and can't recommend them highly enough, but even with him I wish I'd waited. Only 2 more books to go!

I have some of Martin's stuff waiting in the wings.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:20 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The goods news for anxious SOIAF fans is that the new rpg version of the game comes out this summer. Yay!
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:23 PM on February 24, 2009


Then there's us "big picture" folks who realize that fantasy novels are like a tiny little meaningless niche in literature. Like pop music, it has a relatively short shelf life and is completely replaceable when the "next big thing" rolls around. So he doesn't finish the series, or painted himself into a corner? Start reading ANOTHER relatively crappy series of sci-fi/wizard/fantasy/dragon/fairy books and pipe down already.. who haven't actually read these books or anything but feel inclined to take a shit on you lowbrow types anyway. I'm not really sure what's inspiring me to do this, but I guess it just goes to show that he wasn't only speaking for science fiction/fantasy fans when Shatner said in that infamous SNL sketch in the good ol' days, "Get a life, will you people?"

And yes, that's me fixing that for you. You're welcome.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]



Actually I was gonna ask if I could borrow your inhaler, mine's all out.

Sure, just hold my retainer while I dig it out. If I lose another one, I'm grounded.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:25 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Guy makes Strephenson look like a writer of good endings

I have to assume you mean Neal Stephenson? This criticism died with the Baroque Cycle, and was buried under an avalanche of radioactive walrus shit with Anathem.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:26 PM on February 24, 2009


a) I cannot spell

b) I have yet to figure out who the new author is who should be stereotypically associated with writing bad endings. Yes, the ending for Anathem was more than fine. I eagerly await nominations for Mr. Stephenson's replacement.
posted by GuyZero at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2009


He lost control and can't figure out how to get it back.

The webcomics version of this is called Megatokyosis.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: " I have yet to figure out who the new author is who should be stereotypically associated with writing bad endings. Yes, the ending for Anathem was more than fine. I eagerly await nominations for Mr. Stephenson's replacement."

Who.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:58 PM on February 24, 2009


This seems like a good spot to drop in a link to this recent Ask Mefi question on Stand-alone fantasy book recommendations.
posted by euphorb at 5:03 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never liked fantasy at all (but have nothing against it, to each his own), but I've always been curious why fantasy novels are always part of long series. It is just how the genre developed or do you think it is something intrinsic to the genre?
posted by Falconetti at 5:04 PM on February 24, 2009


Duh. There is already a link about my question.
posted by Falconetti at 5:07 PM on February 24, 2009


Heh. I haven't read a WORD by George R. R. Martin but I loved the Ricky Nelson clip!
posted by TDavis at 5:08 PM on February 24, 2009


Oi! Stross! More Laundry books!
posted by Artw at 5:09 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is just how the genre developed or do you think it is something intrinsic to the genre?

It's possibly a symptom of world building. When a writer sets out to create a fantasy novel or a space opera, he or she has to first develop a believeable yet suitably fantastic world and universe to set that story within. Depending on how seriously they take it - and a lot of them take it very seriously indeed, because one of the traditional functions of science fiction and fantasy is escapism, and another is the nurturing and stimulation of the imagination - this can involve developing entire planets, cultures, languages, histories, bloodlines, flora and fauna, magic systems, etc.

This is a lot of work to do before you even start writing the book itself, and my guess is that having put so much creativity into such fantastic universes, authors are loath to just dump it (a good example would be the "Culture" novels of banks, not exactly a series but all set within the same universe, and I guess a fantasy parallel right off the top of my head would be "Dragonlance", but that's more a shared project) and move on to the next thing with their next novel. And a byproduct of all this world-building is, hey, there are a lot of great stories here, so instead of just telling a few standalone stories in this world, I could tell the story of the world itself, with those stories a part of it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:19 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Duh. There is already a link about my question.

Double-duh. I didn't read that either.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2009


This is why I read Neal Stephenson. He might have gotten even more self-indulgent and rambly in his later books, but there's always a conclusion, albeit sometimes an abrupt and clunky conclusion. Real artists ship!
posted by mecran01 at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2009


"It's gold, reader, g-"
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2009


Oi! Stross! More Laundry books!

Yeah and also, turn A Colder War into a proper novel! I would read the shit out of that!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of course, when that happens it'll have a picture of a naked lolita-bot on the front.
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2009


Of course, when that happens it'll have a picture of a naked lolita-bot on the front.

I wouldn't know. Only books I own are remaindered ones with the covers torn off. Also, can you spot me a twenty?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least he's working on something. Some of my favorite authors who are stuck in mid-list hell, appear to have given up writing entirely. One of my biggest pet peeves is someone letting themselves be pushed into creating a work that doesn't live up to their level of talent.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:39 PM on February 24, 2009


This is why I read Neal Stephenson. He might have gotten even more self-indulgent and rambly in his later books, but there's always a conclusion, albeit sometimes an abrupt and clunky conclusion.

I really loved The Diamond Age... right up until about thirty pages from the end, which is about where it seemed like Stephenson lost interest and just wanted the book to be overwith already. If that's the alternative I'll stick with the multi-volume doorstopper size fantasy novels.

(Yeah, I am one of the zillions of dweebs who will run out and buy Martin's next installment of ASOIAF the day it hits bookstore shelves. I've never written him a hate-filled email insisting that he hurry up and finish the series before he has a heart attack, though. So maybe I'm not all that bad?)
posted by trunk muffins at 5:47 PM on February 24, 2009


I've never written him a hate-filled email insisting that he hurry up and finish the series before he has a heart attack, though.

Exactly. It's perfectly understandable and natural to be frustrated about what's going on with GRRM. But that doesn't give anyone the right to harass the guy or be a jerk to him.
posted by Justinian at 5:48 PM on February 24, 2009


Y'know, George: even if you quit right now and never write another word in your life, and spend your next forty years fishing - all anyone has the right to say about that (apart from maybe some publishers and agents and so on, people you actually have contractual arrangements with) is thank you. Thanks for writing many, many great books. I've loved them all.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you think Bantam is shitting themselves, think about HBO who bought the option for the pilot and are now casting for "Knights Who Say Fuck".

I am pining for this book like nothing else but even if Martin dies I will always have those first three. And hell, the fourth isn't that bad - it's main problem is that he deals only with the plotlines in the West and every fan wants to know what is happening in the North and East. So I'll always have those book which I can read over and over again because Martin has layered that plot like a two-pound onion. But I really really really want to see Tyrion climb onto that saddle and fly north, I want to see Jon Snow marry a dragon queen, and I especially want to see Arya get her mean on.
posted by Ber at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2009


I want to see Jon Snow marry a dragon queen

I'm waiting for Jon Snow to realize that Ned wasn't his father.
posted by Justinian at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


He was supposedly "half done" with Dance four fucking years ago when they supposedly decided to chop the 75%-complete book into two.

I don't mind that he's enjoying life and doing other projects. That's fine. Because obviously if you can't finish half a book in four years, a little optimization is not going to help. He's given us some great books and he should be happy. Finishing this series could be the crowning literary achievement of his life and he might not have much longer to complete it, but if and how he goes about it is entirely up to him.

That said, the fanboy in me is fookin' pissed because I think he's probably lying. I don't think he had any of Dance finished, I think he had to gasp and wheeze to just finish Feast late. The battery on my bullshit detector went dead two years ago. And anyway by now I'm not really even that pissed, because Feast simply did not inspire or even entertain. Yeah, I'll probably buy and read Dance anyway, if it ever comes out, feeling like the junkie whose dealer has moved in with me and started dating my sister and tells me she got those bruises from falling down some stairs. You know, like a Star Wars fan.
posted by fleacircus at 6:42 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


The thing that pushes it over the edge for me is that the last book was filled with B-string characters and plotlines that I didn't really care about, neglecting all the main characters and plotlines we had been following for 3,000 pages.

Then in the afterword of book 4 he says (and I paraphrase): "Hey, I bet you're wondering where your beloved plotlines and characters are! The truth is I just wrote too dang much so I had enough material for TWO BOOKS. So we split it in half and the other half with all the stuff you really wanted to read about will be out in A Dance with Dragons next year!" And then four years go by.

So I'm not mad at him, plus I understand the difficulties of the creative process, but I figure he's made enough money and/or gotten enough power he no longer has to put up with editors or publishers kicking his ass, or be desperate enough to worry about losing the acceptance of his fans.
posted by frenetic at 6:45 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wonder if we will see the last episode of Planetary this year?
posted by Artw at 6:45 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Battle plan to finish ADWD in a month:
  • each chapter concludes with frost zombies eating a major character, or several where convenient
  • dragon slash
  • frost zombies perish in spring
  • after all majors exhausted, Bran wakes up; it was all a dream
  • rocks fall on Bran, killing him
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:06 PM on February 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Chtorr.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


@fleacircus

He was supposedly "half done" with Dance four fucking years ago when they supposedly decided to chop the 75%-complete book into two.

This is what I was gonna say. When book four took so long, and he was mostly done with it, he decided to split it up to get something out faster. So, according to his own statements at the time, he was already half done with the other half. He's now spent almost as long on that last 25% as he did on the first 75%. "Creative process" or no, I don't quite understand that - at least, not from a well established writer, who writes for a living.

And frankly, I couldn't even finish that fourth book. It was boring. After the intensity and amazing creativity of the first three, this was a bit of a shock to me. I really think the guy is lost at sea without a paddle and doesn't know what he's doing with this series anymore. Which I think is terribly, terribly sad, because those first three books contain some of the most amazing, unusual characters I've ever read.
posted by dnash at 7:13 PM on February 24, 2009


Chtorr.

Gesundheit.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2009


I'm still waiting for the next Marid Audran book. WTF Effinger, what's keeping you?
posted by Artw at 7:41 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If you're done picking on us, I think you're wanted back at the cool kids' lunch table."

What level Dungeon Master are you?
posted by orthogonality at 7:41 PM on February 24, 2009


a robot made out of meat: dragon slash

Alas, there are no robots in this world for the dragons to fuck.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:45 PM on February 24, 2009


This is why I only read massive fantasy series that are finished.

Like Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars. It's excellent. And it's complete.

(I began Martin's series with the first two books several years ago, realized I liked the beginning, and that I would also go bonkers reading one book every few years. So I decided I would read all it again once it was completely complete.)
posted by jb at 7:48 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


What level Dungeon Master are you?

lol, dude, DM's don't have levels, only the player charac-...oh i see what you've done there that was some kind of trap.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:52 PM on February 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


"yeah, that 50 year old fantasy series about a ring? That was a total waste of producer money to make a movie about."

Proof that people will pay money to watch midgets do anything; even walk through three movies and make goo-goo eyes at each other for at least one third of the total running time.

I am not a fan of 'the Rings.
posted by NiteMayr at 8:04 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jeez...

I've been reading the books and very much enjoy them. This is saying something, considering 95% of my reading is non-fiction.

But some of you people...


Sheesh

You need to get out more.
posted by Mephisto at 8:40 PM on February 24, 2009


i got halfway through the 2nd book and decided that in spite of literary qualities and the attempt to create a more realistic, balanced fantasy world - that i just didn't find his world, his people and anything else in that book likable - i realize that may have been his intent - and oddly enough, authors like chandler or william s burroughs could be accused of the same thing, but ... well, it just left me cold

i think that someone ought to do a long ass fantasy novel about someone who ISN'T trying to save the world or rule it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:55 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I must be the only fantasy fan here who doesn't like Martin's writing. I tried to read the A Game of Thrones, and quit after about 250 pages because nothing good had yet to happen. I was a third of the way through, had already read more words than many novels even contain, and the entire thing was non-stop shit sandwiches. Conflict and drama are all very good and well, but at that point I can't even sympathize with any of the characters anymore because clearly their lives have always been neck deep in crap, so why aren't they used to it by now?

If you want to impatiently wait for a slowly written series, The Name of the Wind is way, way better than ASoIaF; there's only one fucking main character, so there's little chance of the author losing the oars mid-trip, and while the protagonist eats the occasional shit sandwich, he also gets to eat other stuff, so he knows when he's eating shit.

Okay, I'm done with the weird metaphor.

Yeah and also, turn A Colder War into a proper novel! I would read the shit out of that!

I wanna second that. In fact, I've been sitting on an AskMe about other modern Mythos stories and novels similar to A Colder War. The world needs more stuff like that.
posted by Caduceus at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


You need to get out more.

My hobbies are superior to your hobbies! You are less than me for liking the things you like!
posted by Justinian at 9:24 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's a cute video, really, and I think I get the point he's making, but it's not like Ricky Nelson wrote half of a totally popular song and then wrote Garden Party to try and tell people to not wait for the other half of the song. As soon as Martin finishes this series, he's perfectly free to change his name and start writing epic romance haiku, that's cool.
posted by redsparkler at 9:34 PM on February 24, 2009


I enjoy the musical stylings of Ricky Nelson, and I definitely feel somehow that I should buy a fish from George R. R. Martin.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:48 PM on February 24, 2009


I'm still fucking waiting for Melanie fucking Rawn to finish the fucking Ambrai trilogy.

Yes I am pissed about that. At the very goddamn least, by now she could at a bare minimum post on her website TELLING US WHO COLLAN'S GODDAMN FATHER WAS.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:57 PM on February 24, 2009


I wanna second that. In fact, I've been sitting on an AskMe about other modern Mythos stories and novels similar to A Colder War. The world needs more stuff like that.

Not Mythos, but you'd probably dig Declare by Tim Powers. Also if you like RPG stuff at all, or even if you don't, check out some of the Delta Green sourcebooks, which are all straight up pure awesome.
posted by Artw at 10:08 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now all we have to wait for is: The Watchmen vs The Wild Cards-The Movie
posted by doctorschlock at 10:52 PM on February 24, 2009


Because obviously if you can't finish half a book in four years, a little optimization is not going to help.

To misquote Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about producing genre fiction, "If you take three years to write a novel, you aren't thinking deep and profound thoughts, you're jerking off."
posted by rodgerd at 11:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


*cough* Gunslinger books *cough*
posted by Artw at 11:30 PM on February 24, 2009


showing these people your middle finger and saying to them "Blow me, get a life". And that's a real dumb thing to do to your livelihood.

He didn't say "blow me" at all. This is how he starts the post:

(If you are not one of my detractors, this is not about you. Thanks for your support).

He doesn't even say "blow me" to the people that say that the worst thing about him dying is that they wouldn't get to read their books and demand he spend all his time working for their entertainment. He says he's going to continue to do other things while he writes.

As for whether or not to start the series, I would rather have read what he's put out there, even if it's never finished, than not at all. I guess it depends on how much you value ultimate plot resolution as compared to a good ride.

If it does really bother you that there might not be an ending, here's what A Dance with Dragons will probably be like:

Tyrion, Daenerys, and Jon get together at the Wall with the three dragons. Then, they all do an ancient Valyrian dance that Sam found out about in an ancient book in the Citadel. Rainbows of love shoot everywhere, melting the Others and bringing peace to the realm.
posted by ignignokt at 11:47 PM on February 24, 2009


Declare by Tim Powers

Almost anything by Powers is gold, when you run out of Powers, read Blaylock.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:48 PM on February 24, 2009


He didn't say he wasn't jerking off.
posted by rodgerd at 11:48 PM on February 24, 2009


Of course, one would be hard pressed to find any evidence of deep-thought-thinking in Stephen King's oeuvre, I think. So I'm not sure he gets to define what profundity looks like in the literary industry.

Profitability, yes. Profundity, maybe notsomuch.
posted by darkstar at 12:02 AM on February 25, 2009


Horseshit.
posted by Artw at 12:04 AM on February 25, 2009


He's an artist.. an author.. he can do WHATEVER THE HELL HE WANTS.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:06 AM on February 25, 2009


Tyrion, Daenerys, and Jon get together at the Wall with the three dragons. Then, they all do an ancient Valyrian dance that Sam found out about in an ancient book in the Citadel. Rainbows of love shoot everywhere, melting the Others and bringing peace to the realm.

You forgot the part where half-siblings Jon and Danaerys get. it. on. and restore the Targaryen Dynasty.

Oh wait, that's actually what will happen.
posted by Justinian at 12:16 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


And while I'm thinking about it, I do feel rather conflicted about Martin's delay. On the one hand, I'm grateful for his storytelling (his first three books in the series were very entertaining). I don't think I owe him anything beyond paying him for the experince by buying he book and he doesn't really owe me anything else beyond what I've already paid for.

On the other hand, there is a little part of me that feels like a storyteller and his audience enter into a somewhat subtle social contract, by which the storyteller tacitly covenants to bring the story to a good conclusion and so respect the audience's attention and enthusiasm for the experience, while the audience similarly tacitly agrees to be a respectful, attentive and enthusiastic participant in the experience and so respet the storyteller's effort and craft.

When a novelist gets in the middle of an opus and then just shuts the story off, the audience is rightly incensed. And when an audience greets a reasonable delay in the continuation of a story by showing contempt for the storyteller, the bard is rightly incensed. It seems to me that Martin should honor his fans by being straight with them about the time frame of the story's continuation/conclusion (or lack thereof), while his fans should be courteous and polite, at the very least, when communicating their passion to read his next novel.

As far as Robert Jordan is concerned, I read his first five and then got so fed up with the rambling inability of another thousand pages to advance the plot, further develop the characters or otherwise achieve either closure or catharsis that I had to give up on the series. That, and the fact that he really seemed to have a HUGE mysogynistic streak running throughout the work that it was constantly irksome. Every woman in the Ring of Fire series was either outright evil, severely neurotic or basely manipulative. After a while, even though I'm not a woman I felt insulted by it.
posted by darkstar at 12:24 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


*misogynistic
posted by darkstar at 12:26 AM on February 25, 2009


It's behaviour like this that make me think that all SF/Fantasy fans should read Harlan Ellison's "Xenogenesis" essay. It's not that widely available, but it can be summarised quite easily:

Writers are people. Some fans, not so much.
posted by daveje at 2:57 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I kinda like that ASOIAF never ends. If nothing else gets published, Martin had me at great-helms shaped like animal heads.
posted by Restless Day at 5:33 AM on February 25, 2009


If you paid a house painter and he stopped halfway through, would you be happy? Keep in mind this is a house painter who got millions for that half of a wall, with the implicit understanding that the rest of the wall would also get painted.

It's been thirteen years since the first book was published. If we're generous and count the horrible A Feast for Crows as a whole book, that's a little over three years per book. By way of comparison, Gene Wolfe—possibly the most literary science fiction author of whom I am aware, whose work is layered and complex in a way that Mr. Martin doesn't approach—published his four-volume Book of the New Sun in four years (1981–1984). The Book of the Long Sun took four (1993–1996). The Book of the Short Sun took three (1999–2001).

If we counted only what he's published since 1996, Wolfe has written one trilogy-novel (Short Sun), a thick fantasy duology, The Wizard Knight, Pirate Freedom, and An Evil Guest. He's also released three short story collections: Strange Travelers, Innocents Aboard, and Starwater Strains.

I have never e-mailed Mr. Martin or even complained a lot because he's slow as Hell. I will say, though, that this post (“How dare those people who have given me millions of dollars have expectations?”) makes him look like a petulant child. Some of the sadism of his characters is explained.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:01 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm n'thing the notion that the saga was finished with A Storm of Swords.

I'll go a step further, and posit it was over and done with at the Red Wedding, when all of the emotional investment put into Rob's story had to be abruptly abandoned, and even earlier, when Tyrion was stripped of everything he built for himself.

The stuff going on north of the Wall suddenly became intensely interesting, which saved the novel... but A Feast for Crows was meandering nonsense. G.R.R.M. obviously lost his way, and he's painted himself so deep into the corner, I don't think the series can be saved - and he knows it.

Anything further will be like Cerberus after Church and State - fun, but not the enthralling work of genius it was before.

It's interesting to note that Lord of the Rings and The Baroque Cycle were written as complete novels, and then split up into three volumes after the fact.

It's also interesting to note that Terry Pratchett and Ursla K. LeGuinn use self-contained novels, some short, others long, to tell a much larger story of a time and place, and the people who lived in it.

If you want to write an multi-volume fantasy epic: Take. The. Hint.

Or die in the traces while being flogged by internet-nerds, which is where Robert Jordan wound up, and where G.R.R.M. is headed to.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I gave up on serialized fiction a while ago when I realized I had been reading Patrick O'Brian's twenty-novel nautical series for an ENTIRE YEAR, and that he died in the middle of a book that I would nonetheless read.

Anyway, all this is to say that you should read things that are finished and wait for everything else to arrive. (I'm looking at you cstross you heartbreaker you.) Here's my recommendation: R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing Trilogy.

The Darkness That Comes Before
The Warrior Prophet
The Thousandfold Thought

Bakker has a PhD in Philosophy and his series is a self-contained trilogy with a protagonist/antagonist that is half Socrates and half Nietzsche.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:34 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm really looking forward to the novella Hodor's Big Score in which Hodor ditches Bran for a few years and opens up a hardboiled detective agency in Gulltown. It's 200 pages of two-fisted, pulp-drenched action as Hodor takes on a corrupt government and puts an end to a fiendish gang of smugglers.

An excerpt:

"You know how to whistle, dontcha?" the sultry maid purred as she slinked across the office. She leaned over the desk, giving Hodor a good look at her plunging Braavos cleavage. Her breath felt hot and inviting as she whispered into the detective's ear. "You just put your lips together and blow."

"Hodor!" Hodor said.

posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:54 AM on February 25, 2009 [15 favorites]


Oi! Stross! More Laundry books!

As much as I want you to cheerfully continue quotidien life and post on MeFi, I agree with this so badly.

To indicate just how badly, I will confess to building a Laundry-based Munchkin deck using the Spy and Cthulthu extensions.
posted by ntartifex at 7:47 AM on February 25, 2009


I gave up on serialized fiction a while ago when I realized I had been reading Patrick O'Brian's twenty-novel nautical series for an ENTIRE YEAR, and that he died in the middle of a book that I would nonetheless read.

Was that voyage not worth it though? Even though it's incomplete, and within sight of the finishing line at that, are not the books still worth reading?

I think the Aubrey/Maturin novels slant more towards the "self-contained" end of the spectrum; yes, there are relationship and career arc that stretch over volumes, but largely each book tells the story of a single action or series of actions.

(That said, there are a few annoying instances where one book ends abruptly and the next book picks up immediately after; I always felt slightly cheated by those ones.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:35 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


A Laundry-base Munchkin deck... the coolest thing ever, quite possibly.
posted by bastionofsanity at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2009


Every woman in the Ring of Fire series was either outright evil, severely neurotic or basely manipulative. After a while, even though I'm not a woman I felt insulted by it.

Sorry, that should be Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series.

Channeling Johnny Cash there for a moment, I guess.
posted by darkstar at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2009


If we counted only what he's published since 1996, Wolfe has written one trilogy-novel (Short Sun), a thick fantasy duology, The Wizard Knight, Pirate Freedom, and An Evil Guest. He's also released three short story collections: Strange Travelers, Innocents Aboard, and Starwater Strains.

But Wolfe does have the Latro/Soldier series which was begun in 1986 and still doesn't quite have a definitive end, though the individual books stand just fine on their own.

Martin's not the worst offender out there: Moorcock's Pyat quartet took around 25 years to complete, with a huge lag between the third and fourth volumes.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2009


If you want to see what happens when an author heeds the cries of fans who want to be fed on schedule, rather than their own muse, read the two Hannibal books that Thomas Harris wrote after Silence of the Lambs.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:48 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still waiting for the next Marid Audran book. WTF Effinger, what's keeping you?

Thankfully the Budayeen books are all self-contained. They run better as a series as Audran moves from street thug to kept man, but they all stand alone well.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:57 AM on February 25, 2009


Sadly I read an unfinished excerpt of the 4th. It wasn’t even that it was all that amazing in and of itself or anything, but reading it underlined that there wasn’t going to be a 4th. There’s a short story out there set way after the 4th that suggests that things do not end well.
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on February 25, 2009


sonic meat machine: If you paid a house painter and he stopped halfway through, would you be happy? Keep in mind this is a house painter who got millions for that half of a wall, with the implicit understanding that the rest of the wall would also get painted.

This metaphor doesn't really follow through. For this to work, you would have had to personally pay Martin to come to your house and write the book for you.

Now, let's say Martin was painting his own house and, as he finished each wall, he charged fans of house painting to come over and paid an admission fee to see his walls. People liked his work, so when he finished another room, people came over to his house and paid to see those walls too. Then Martin reached the bathroom and said "whoa, this is a hard room to paint," and took years to finish it.

While people have paid to see the first four painted rooms, they have laid down no money for the bathroom yet. It is reasonable to expect it will be done soon and house painted Martin has assured you he'll be more than happy to charge you to see the bathroom once its done.

Meanwhile, your house hasn't been painted yet because instead of paying for somebody to come over and paint your house, you were paying to see somebody else's painted house.

That, of course, is where my version of your metaphor hopelessly breaks down.

Essentially, an artist is not a house painter. Both are valuable things, in their own way, but they're not the same thing.

If I may create my own tortured metaphor...

Let's say you go to this one restaurant all the time because you discover that the chef changes the soup every six months. You don't have to order the soup if you don't want to (and, in fact, you only ever buy the soup when you go there), but its really good soup, so you do order it - at least the first three bowls. You're disappointed with the fourth bowl, but the chef assures you that the fifth will be better. You keep coming back to the restaurant to ask about the fifth soup - which the chef still hasn't figured out yet.

The chef tells you that he doesn't want to serve it to anyone until he's sure its delicious. He says the current state of the fifth soup is inedible.

Would you rather wait until he gets it right, or would you rather demand that he charge you for inedible soup right now?

Also, would you call the chef names, demand that he do nothing else but try and solve this soup dilemna, and send him hateful e-mails until he finished the soup?

Or would you wait patiently, eat some other good soup from some other restaurants, and check in occasionally to see if he'd figured out his soup mess yet?

Chef Martin was addressing the customers that send him the hateful e-mails. He has thanked the 99% of his customers that just wish to politely check in to see if the soup is ready yet.

I think this mistake Martin made here, if any, was to assume that the loud asshole fans were a significant number of fans. They rarely are. They're just the loudest.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kinda relatedly, some of us are still holding out for the second half of Samuel Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, the long-rumored The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities. Though I get the impression that Delany, while said to be a patient and kind man, is, like Martin, also pretty exasperated with sf fans pestering him about the book that isn't. (The chapter of it that he published in 1996 makes it all the more painful, along with the fact he really hasn't written any new science fiction since Stars....)

Re GRRM, I have to confess the only thing I have read was "Sandkings" when it appeared in an early issue of Omni magazine. Ugh; now I feel old.

sonic meat machine: ...fans who have given me millions of dollars...

Based on what I know about other writers in popular genres, I doubt it's anywhere near that lucrative for Mr Martin, unless movies have been made from his or her works. There are of course greedy layers of retailer, distributor, printer, publisher, editor, and agent in the book cash sandwich who must all get their share of the presumed millions of dollars spent on the books. A great many writers struggle just to make ends meet, even while scores of rabid fans on the intertubes are talking about them day and night. I think sadly about the dozen or so excellent sf writers I know about (and I'm sure there are more than that) who stopped writing because it put them in the poor house.

It makes me think about what Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet: "If... one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn't write at all." Of course poetry is even crueller to writers than popular fiction, but I think the sentiment translates: if you're not obsessed and driven, then being a writer is probably not going to be worth the shit that'll be dumped on you.
posted by aught at 10:56 AM on February 25, 2009


Was that voyage not worth it though? Even though it's incomplete, and within sight of the finishing line at that, are not the books still worth reading?

Of course! However, I think you'll agree that Martin and O'Brian aren't equally worthy of a year's recreational reading. People who read Robert Jordan and George Martin seem to have forgotten that there's a whole world of reading out there, and we've all only got this one short term on earth to squeeze it in. If you're wasting your time on somebody who doesn't have a clue where they want to take the reader and likely won't survive to finish their work, it's because you haven't taken your own mortality seriously. I didn't read any recreational fiction in 2007 except for those Aubrey/Maturin books. There's such a thing as opportunity cost, you know?

If you haven't gotten through Shakespeare's plays, Plato's dialogs, Graham Greene's novels, Middlemarch, Infinite Jest, The Plague, Midnight's Children, Herodotus's Histories, the Sandman comics, Madame Bovary, Delaney's Trouble on Triton, Gravity's Rainbow, Rousseau's Confessions, The Bluest Eye, and a few hundred others, you probably aren't maximizing your reading pleasure on the latest episode in GRRMartin's Bawdy Tune for Mixed Temperatures.

I guess I'm just saying: I liked A Game of Thrones fine, but if Martin's got better things to do than write what his fans want, I've got better things to read.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I didn't read any recreational fiction in 2007 except for those Aubrey/Maturin books.

I nominate the whole "I mostly only read non-fiction" thing as the literary equivalent of the Onion article: Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television.

As in, something annoying people believe makes them superior, but really it just makes them annoying.
posted by Justinian at 12:57 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really? People do that? Over the last decade or so, my fiction:non-fiction ratio has inverted itself such that I now find myself reading mostly non-fiction, and it's not something I would brag about at all--I feel vaguely lazy and guilty for not making myself take the time to read more fiction and expose myself to more/new authors. I become somewhat apathetic about new novels and novelists, and I'm not sure why. It's no badge of honor.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:32 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus: There's nothing wrong with reading mostly non-fiction. There's also nothing wrong with reading mostly fiction.

It's viewing either one as inherently morally or intellectually superior that I find questionable in the onionesque no-television vein.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2009


Joey Michaels, the trouble is that the writer in this particular case repeatedly made promises he broke. This isn't a guy who just wrote four self-contained novels a while back, and now his fans want more. This is a guy who published three novels in 1996, 1998, and 2000. In 2005, after many delays and foot-draggings and merchandising deals and guarantees that the next book was going to be out REAL SOON NOW, he released... half a book. A terrible half of a book that ignored almost all of the interesting characters from the previous three books. He patched over the hurt feelings by saying “Okay, you people who are propping up my burgeoning merchandise and licensing empire, this book sucks. I know it, you know it. Don't worry! It's only the first half of the book I've been promising for half a decade—the second half will be out next year!”

Like I said, I have never complained or written emails about this. I have been a quiet fan—or was a quiet fan, I'm not sure I would even read the next book at this point—but this attitude from him is ridiculous. He's not a year overdue, he's three years overdue from a deadline he set himself after releasing a stopgap book because he felt guilty for being three years overdue.

As for the financials, well, I think the collectible card game, board game, miniatures, minibusts, replica weapons, graphic novels, and television rights probably brought in some cash. He did buy a second house to write in, after all.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Martin is probably in the top 1-2% of author income. He's not Rowling or King, but he's way up there. That doesn't make it okay to be a jerk to him but money is certainly not the issue in what is going on with his inability to finish the book.
posted by Justinian at 3:09 PM on February 25, 2009


I do have a purely selfish reason for hoping he finishes the series, besides wanting to read the novels that is. If he does manage to finish it I'll have one of the only unbroken lettered collector's edition sets of the series and it would be worth rather a lot of money. If he finishes. So please please please please.
posted by Justinian at 3:15 PM on February 25, 2009


sonic meat machine: Joey Michaels, the trouble is that the writer in this particular case repeatedly made promises he broke
Except, no he didn't. I've been following the updates on his website since.. 2000? Something stupid like that. And at no time has he said "the next book will be out ". Ever.

He's said he thinks he's getting close. He's guesstimated when it might happen. But he's never promised. I'm sorry you think he has, but.. he simply has not.

Frankly, I just want him to write the next book so I can see who he kills off next. I'm betting on Tyrion.

posted by coriolisdave at 3:19 PM on February 25, 2009


sonic meat machine: I don't think he's really showing a bad attitude towards his fans here. He's just saying he's going to release the book when its ready to be released and not just for the sake of releasing it.

Also, what coriolisdave said. For the last couple of years, his official website has had updates that consistently say "not done yet - I'm working on it - I'll let you know when its done."

All that said, I don't have any problems with you being angry at him or the delay in the release of the book (I don't agree with your reasons, but I'm not going to presume to tell you how to feel about this). I just have an all consuming need to nitpick metaphors that don't make sense to me. It makes me fun at parties, I'll tell you that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2009


coriolisdave, the "next year" things surrounding AFFC were pretty strong, the idea being that AFFC/ADWD were going to be sort of companion volumes without the wait between them. I think his stated logic was that he thought fans would rather have half then and half in a year instead of waiting.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:19 PM on February 25, 2009


I read the existing books a while back. I hope he finishes the series, but I'd be surprised if he does. I'll probably re-read the first couple of books from time to time.

I always found myself wishing the Danaerys chapters would be over soon. I think I read something to the effect that she is Martin's favorite character and would have a major role in the remainder of the series. Tyrion is my favorite character, so if more volumes come out, I'll probably read them until he gets killed off.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:22 PM on February 25, 2009


I become somewhat apathetic about new novels and novelists, and I'm not sure why.

Here's how I think about it: when you start out as a reader you've got a panoply of genres and at least two and a half millenia of good books to read. Naturally, there's been some culling, and people tend to steer you towards the good stuff first. In small genre with a relatively shallow back catalog like fantasy, you can actually manage to read all the extant good stuff in a single lifetime, and once you're caught up you start reading the slush pile of trade paperbacks hoping to find something just as good as those classics, something to rival the Tolkien and Moorcock and yes Martin that got you hooked. In the average year you might read two dozen books, none of them as good as those first thrills, and all the while you're getting older and gaining life experience and your palate is becoming refined by re-reading, setting the bar higher and higher. So, yeah: apathy... or else, you pick a new genre and dive in and everything is new and excellent again, or else you go back and read Chaucer and Don Quixote and Shakespeare and Walter Scott and Dumas to get the history. Either way, the present is just the leading edge in a long and painful sorting of good books from hackery. As a friend of mine likes to say of Marx's 'dunghill of history': "That's what I aspire to be: a machine that eats and shits books."

"I mostly only read non-fiction"

Sorry Justinian, but Patrick O'Brian's 20 volume epic nautical adventure =!= mostly non-fiction. This is not the Area Man's Smug Superiority you're looking for.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I doubt Tyrion will be killed off, or at least he won't be killed off until the very end. I believe GRRM considers him the primary villain of the piece. Yes, he's more honorable, intelligent, and likeable than most of the characters but that doesn't mean he isn't a villain.
posted by Justinian at 4:45 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry Justinian, but Patrick O'Brian's 20 volume epic nautical adventure =!= mostly non-fiction. This is not the Area Man's Smug Superiority you're looking for.

Huh, yeah, I guess it depends on how much reading you do.
posted by Justinian at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2009


Martin is probably in the top 1-2% of author income... money is certainly not the issue in what is going on with his inability to finish the book.

In my limited experience with delays between writing books, poorer authors are more likely to crank out the next book faster, or alternatively, get out of the game entirely. There are exceptions I'm sure.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2009


Damn Justinian, I envy you that lettered set, especially in light of this.

I think you're wrong about Tyrion being the villain, though. If he has become a villain, then it is because that is only what everyone expects him to be, and I believe our giant of Lannister is wily and contrary enough to defy Westeros's expectations.

OK, enough Ice and Fire chit-chat for this year, Left Hand of Darkness is on my nightstand
posted by infinitewindow at 4:59 PM on February 25, 2009


The series would have been awesome if the main protagonist had been Lord Eddard Stark. nix.
The series would have been pretty darn good if the main protagonist had been Robb Stark. nix.
The series could have been saved if Lady Catelyn had not come back as a zombie.
The series is dead now that Bran is crippled, Arya is blind, Sansa is hostage, and Jon is off fighting Ineluki (or was that another series, I forget).
posted by Vindaloo at 5:20 PM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't see Tyrion as a bad-guy at all. The rest of the Lannisters? Sure. Definitely, in fact. Tyrion, not so much.

Not saying he's not a little fkr, but.. not "the bad guy". Dany's closer to being "the bad guy".
posted by coriolisdave at 7:05 PM on February 25, 2009


The bad guys are still up North. The question is, will the good guys get their shit together in time to face them?
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:16 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tyrion as tragic villain—an intriguing notion, Justinian. You may very well be right. It may be too much to hope that Martin has the courage to make him the hero of the piece. We shall see (or, more likely, not).

Vindaloo, Eddard Stark was my next favorite character, and I was sad to see him go. But his death was the first indication we get that they're playing for keeps. (And I do recall Bran's mishap.) Robb was too generic to live. Bran may be crippled, but he's hardly powerless. Ditto Arya. I'd like to know if we'll ever find out why Catelyn was compelled to do exactly the wrong thing at every turn. I'd also like to find out if Sansa is truly able to learn from her experiences. Damn, the more I think about this the more I want Martin to get off his ass and finish it. This reeks of passive-aggressive behavior to me.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:17 PM on February 25, 2009


I'd like to know if we'll ever find out why Catelyn was compelled to do exactly the wrong thing at every turn.

My personal theory is simply that Catelyn Stark was dumb as a fucking post.
posted by Justinian at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Totally. She went from strong female character to Helen Lovejoy ("Won't please someone think of the children!") to tedious zombie pretty quickly.

But man am I looking forward to Arya busting out and turning half of Westeros into a fine red mist.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:19 AM on February 26, 2009


The Sansa chapters are (probably intentionally) really hard to bear, but how she turns out is the biggest mystery in the series. She might be able to stand up for herself, but probably not. If the series isn't completed, this is the only thing I'll wonder about.

Arya, on the other hand, has a fairly predictable fate (feral Ramona Quimby grows up into a feared assassin, kills one or more key figures in the history of Westeros to change history), but her chapters are a pure joy to read.
posted by ignignokt at 11:00 AM on February 26, 2009


My personal theory is simply that Catelyn Stark was dumb as a fucking post.

I think one of the themes of the books is that the old ways don't work anymore. Catelyn Stark - like her husband - fails at every turn because she is (wait for it) too conservative. All of her choices - like Ned's choices - are based on the old way of doing things.

What Ned and Catelyn fail to recognize is that the revolution that brought down the Targaryans brought down the old ways with it. What we're seeing happen in ASOIAF is the old order of Westeros is freefall.

Anyhow, Catelyn's decisions in her life have been largely based on "what would a proper lady do?" She married the man she was supposed to marry, waited patiently at home, expressed distress when a bad decisions was being made (but didn't do much more than express distress), and encouraged her children to make the same bad, traditional decisions as she had made. Indeed, the Red Wedding was as much a product of her pushing Robb to do the right thing as it was an example of Tulley and Lannister treachery.

Now, she is trying to do "the right" thing by seeking revenge on her enemies, and, as she's been throughout the novel, is deaf and blind to other peoples' words, the truth, and reality.

I don't think she's dumb so much as she's a product of an old social system that is collapsing with ever increasing speed.

Fortunately, at least two of her surviving children (and her stepson, who I imagine she'll try to murder if she sees him) are not tied to the old ways and, thus, stand a good chance of thriving in the new world. Not so much Sansa, who is probably exactly one novel away from a sexual assault from Littlefinger or being arrested for killing Littlefinger when he finally tries to assault her. Either way, she's trapped by the same social conditioning as her mother. If she'd been lucky enough to have been born ugly like Arya, she'd have had a better chance.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ehhh... the Queen of Thorns is very old-fashioned, yet manages to outmaneuver her enemies with breathtaking ruthlessness. The Old Ways work just fine for her.

Olenna realizes that war in a feudal society is never over, one conflict comes from another, grudges and marriages are weapons to be wielded with cool and subtle precision, and she knows damn well what needs to be done to keep her home safe and her family powerful.

I think the reason Catelyn fails is that she believed the first war is over, and has never come to accept her role in causing and ultimately winning it. Catelyn is like Eddard is like Rob: dangerous, strong, intelligent, fatally naive.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:28 PM on February 26, 2009


please don't stop talking about the books, this is what I was hoping would happen in this thread. my memory of them is too hazy to bring in my own ideas, but I'm loving reading y'alls
posted by flaterik at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2009


Slap*Happy: I don't think we actually disagree about this. I think that the way her naivety manifests itself is in her belief that people are going to behave the way she thinks they should - based on the old way of doing things.

Also, the "old ways" of seeking revenge include holding baseless grudges, a thing that led to Brienne of Tarth's current predicament. Should Brienne die, Catelyn will have murdered a powerful ally who is actively trying to help her family. This is entirely consistent with most of her actions, as the Queen of Thorns or otherwise.

The old ways work - until they don't. And if you stick to them after they've stopped working, you're screwed (see Ned, Robb, Papa Lannister, etc).
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2009


Egads, replace "Queen of Thorns" in that middle paragraph with "Lady Stoneheart." I don't know what I was thinking.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2009


As far as the Queen of Thorns goes...

In my opinion, she changes with the times because she is not tied to any outdated notions of how people are "supposed" to behave. This is a quality all of the apparently negative characters in ASOIAF share. They are opportunistic and recognize that change is inevitable.

Yes, she is old fashioned, but she doesn't believe that people are going to behave according to some ethical and rational set of rules.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2009


What we're seeing happen in ASOIAF is the old order of Westeros is freefall.

Which is not to say all the old ways are bad, nor change is good. The freefall of the Old Ways is what's bringing threat after threat to the Wall. I think the goings on up north are showing that there are some good reasons why people have acted the way they do for so long and that changing them without understanding (the Wall slowly becoming a dumping ground for idiots and bastards) leads to calamity.

One pretty constant theme in the books is that agents of change act so for personal, selfish reasons. We didn't topple the mad despot because he was raping the land, we did it because he fucked with our families. I'm not going to be the best Hand I can be because I care about the kingdom, I want to show Dad what for. There are relatively few choices that have been made for the Greater Good and even fewer unselfish characters (like say, the Onion Knight).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:44 AM on February 27, 2009


Agreed - the point, I suppose, is that politics is personal.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2009


Tor.com summarises
posted by Artw at 5:44 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks like Warren Ellis is getting arsey about people asking him about Planetary #27, which apparently he did finish the script for two years ago.

(Planetary #26 was out in late 2006)
posted by Artw at 12:11 AM on March 4, 2009


And another one.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:11 PM on March 9, 2009


I got the chance yesterday to read the pilot script for HBO's A Game of Thrones, and all I can say is that it is stunningly faithful to the book. The dialogue and scenes are compressed of course, and there was one extra scene to give Tyrion more of an introduction, but other than that I was impressed.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:17 PM on March 9, 2009


The dialogue and scenes are compressed of course, and there was one extra scene to give Tyrion more of an introduction, but other than that I was impressed.

sorry, that's a tad unclear ... I didn't mean to suggest that I was unimpressed with the compression or extra scene, simply that I was impressed with the overall fidelity.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:18 PM on March 9, 2009


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