Monday, May 2, 2011

I Really Don't See The Point In Being So Mean

So it was announced last week that George R. R. Martin is finally, officially, done with the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. The manuscript is by all accounts massive but it is still on track to be ready on time for the scheduled July 12 release date by all accounts.

This announcement was of course met with much joy and celebration, but for every article I saw reveling in the news, the comments were full of people bitterly stating that they would believe it when they held the book in their hands, and not until then. Lots and lots of bitter, angry, and often mean comments. From people professing to love this series and claiming to be eager for the release of the next book.

I don't get it. I really, really don't.

Okay, yeah, it's been six years since the last one came out, and (the hypothetical) you has been waiting (clearly not patiently). You feel (with arguable levels of justification) that you've been burned about this before.

But, well, so what?

The book is actually finally coming out. That's a good thing, right? You've probably already preordered your copy and/or are planning to attend a midnight release party at your local bookstore (you know there are gonna be some of those). So, shouldn't you be, at the very least, cautiously optimistic rather than cranky and disbelieving?

I mean, come on, it is just a book series. Seriously.

I remember at last fall's Brandon Sanderson signing for the latest The Wheel of Time book meeting a guy in line who was decrying his desire to get into any new book series' that weren't finished in case the author "pulled a Martin." (He was also more than a little cavalier about Robert Jordan having the audacity to die before he had completed his book series, despite the fact that the man managed to make arrangements to see the series finished after he had passed on.) His attitude about the situation kind of made him lose all credibility in my eyes (and made me think, at least a little bit, that he was kind of a terrible person).

I am given to conclude two things about this vocal subset of George R. R. Martin "fans" from their behavior regarding this series. The first is that they must not have read any other book series before every volume was published. More on that in a moment. The second is that they really don't have any grasp on how the publishing industry works. If the first book in a new series doesn't sell well because people are waiting for the second book to come out before they start it...there will be no second book, and so on down the line. The publishing house is under no obligation to pay the writer to complete the series if people stop buying the books halfway through just because they feel it is taking too long in between releases. Duh. I could list three or four series off the top of my head that I have read which will likely never get concluded because they just didn't sell that well. I am not happy about that, but they are just stories, my life goes on. Sure I am curious about what might have happened if the story had been completed (as I am when a television show I like gets canceled before it is given a proper conclusion), but that's what my imagination is for.

But seriously, six years? That's the gripe? That's really nothing. It is a little high, but not unheard of.  Let's look at another series for example, shall we? A wildly popular one (arguably more popular than Martin's series), even.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series
The Gunslinger was released in 1982.
The Drawing of the Three was released in 1987.
The Wastelands was released in 1991.
Wizard and Glass was released in 1997.
Wolves of the Calla was released in 2003.
Song of Susannah was released in 2004.
The Dark Tower was released in 2004.

Five years, four years, six years, six years, one year, less than one year. That's an average of a little over three years between books, sure, but the average doesn't really mean anything when you are waiting for the next book, does it? And two of the books had a six year wait. Those last three, I will also note, came after King had his near-death-hit-by-a-van experience, after which his writing output increased exponentially. Meanwhile, from 1982 to 2004 he put out, not including The Dark Tower books, something like 43 other books and short story/novella collections. Forty. Three. Even if you haven't read anything by King, I'm sure you've seen his books in the store--those suckers aren't short.

I've been a fan of King since before I stopped reading The Babysitter Club books, and even though that well predates my awareness of the internet, I don't recall any sort of fan outcry at the delay between books in the series or at the fact that King was writing any books other than those in the series.  Except, of course, for when he was hit by that van, when the collective fandom was going ohgodohgodohgodhe'sgonnadieandwwe'renevergonnafindoutwhathappens but well, that's sort of understandable, isn't it? Even then, most of the concern was for King's health more than for, you know, the books he might or might not have written.

But when George R. R. Martin blogs about working on a project that is not A Song of Ice and Fire, or about doing something that isn't writing at all, his "fans" cry out in anger.  They seem to feel like because they have started reading his series and want to know what happens next, he is somehow obligated to keep doing nothing else but write that series until it is finished to their satisfaction. Look, that's just not how the creative process works. But higher authorities than myself have already spoken to this subject and how ridiculous that mindset actually is.

It seems to me as if these people could care less about Martin as a writer. They certainly don't want him to be successful, if they did, they would be pleased to see he has more in his wheelhouse than one series. They also don't seem to appreciate that this series is indeed Martin's intellectual property. He is willing to share his playground, certainly, but it is still his. The "fans" do not own the world of Westeros.

I mean, I know that this very vocal group of the "fans" are probably the minority and that the way the internet works exacerbates their presence. But I am still of the mind that if you don't have anything nice to say...well, you know. So I am really perplexed as to why this (hopefully) minority is so vocal. What do they hope to achieve with this? I mean, seriously, if I was Martin, I would be tempted just to write a short story killing EVERYONE off and call that the end of the series, just to get them to leave me alone. Geez.

It just seems to me that if (again the hypothetical) you have been moaning and groaning about how long this book has been taking to come out, you would be happy that The Powers That Be are finally confident enough to announce a release date, a "for reals this time the book is actually done" release date rather than a tentative projection based on previous experience (which should always be viewed as subject to change). Being mean about getting the news you've been wanting to get just seems counter-intuitive to me, I guess.

But hey, I've got lots of books to read while Martin writes something he thinks we (and more importantly he) will be happy with. Maybe these people just don't have anything better to do?

How sad.

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