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The art of being late

A minor shit-storm has lately been brewing in the world of SF/F writing: George R. R. Martin, who is rather more famous than I am — and rather more overdue on his latest book, by a couple of years — finally issued a comprehensive response to the vocal and annoying fans who think he can pull a quarter of a million words out of his ass on demand. (And who get annoyed with him for being human enough to do other things, such as eating and sleeping and watching football, rather than spending 168 hours a week chained to a hot word processor.) John Scalzi adds commentary, and mostly calls it right. But nevertheless, lots of folks seem to be upset by the very thought that their favourite author might, heavens forbid, be late turning in installment n of a p-volume series. Why is it such a common problem? What's wrong with these authors?

Here's my take on it:

Firstly — and I only feel the need to emphasize this point because the peanut gallery seem to be comprehensively missing it — GRMM is not wilfully dragging his heels. If he doesn't turn in the next book in the series on time, he doesn't get paid.

We authors typically get paid in installments: first an advance against future earnings, then, once the book has earned out, royalties it has earned above and beyond the advance. The advance is typically divided into a number of tranches -- a chunk on signing the contract, a chunk on delivering the manuscript and the editor signing it off for production, and a chunk on publication. The point is, George won't get paid (at least, the last two chunks of his advance) until he hands the finished MS in. Given that the series in question is by far his best-selling work, I find it rather implausible that he's dragging his heels deliberately. So let me make it explicit: if he's way overdue on this book, it's because he's having real trouble with it.

So what might that trouble be?

Well, I haven't read "A Game of Thrones". Or rather, I got 150 pages in then bounced — it's not really my sort of thing, and there are a few thousand pages more of it before I could get to the coal face of an unfinished series — I'll probably try again when the series is complete.

But I do feel able to comment, insofar as I'm 80% of the way through writing book #6 of a series of my own that has some structural similarities, and I'm having difficulties of my own that resonate with things George has said in the past. So I'm not speaking specifically about George's problem here, but to the problems all authors writing this sort of series face ...

There are, to generalize wildly, two types of series novels. Let's call them type (a) and type (b).

The type (a) series consists of books that follow the same protagonist(s) through a series of adventures or incidents — but in which each book tells a self-contained story. Events in earlier books may be mentioned and may affect the background of subsequent books, but they don't actually continue — other than in the most generic manner (bad guy from book #3 re-appears in book #6 and has to be taken down again). Typically they follow a single viewpoint, or at any rate no more than two or three viewpoints. There is, in other words, a partial plot re-set after each book. It is possible for a new reader to dive into such a series in the middle and pick up the threads without too much difficulty. Examples of this sort of series? They're common enough; my own Laundry novels follow this model, and so do most series works.

The type (b) series consists of books that follow the same protagonist(s) through a continuous, developing story/world. While they may be structured as novels, they do not stand alone and a new reader who tries to jump in the middle will be lost. In effect, each book functions as a chapter in a larger work. There may be many viewpoints — in the case of GRRM's series I believe he mentioned counting 19 of them at one point — and the story unfolds on a mammoth scale. Examples of this sort of series: my own Merchant Princes books, GRRM's series, Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, lots of high fantasy series.

What I'd like to put to you is that writing a type (b) series is qualitatively harder than writing a type (a) series.

Reasons it is harder:

1. You can't go back and retcon problems in earlier parts of the series. Those books are already in print, and if you've set something up in book #3 that interferes with what you want to do in book #6 you have no alternative but to grimly push on and work with it, because it's part of the current story you're telling. Whereas in a type (a) series you can usually ignore earlier errors, or air-brush them out of the picture, because you hit the partial reset button at the end of each novel. (In "The Fuller Memorandum" I air-brush bits of "The Atrocity Archives" out of the picture, glibly pointing out that Bob is an unreliable narrator who was not privy to certain important information early in his career. Whereas in "The Revolution Business" I can't work around the nuclear theft subplot I introduced in "The Hidden Family", but have to engage with it directly.)

2. Viewpoints multiply. In a normal novel with three viewpoints, running to 120,000 words, each viewpoint character gets 40,000 words (about 120 pages) on screen. That's a great length, about equivalent to an old-time short novel; plenty of room to advance their story and show some action. But in a type (b) series with 8 viewpoints and a 120,000 word volume size limit, you've got 15,000 words per character — a mere novelette. Even if you bloat up to a 240,000 word volume (700-750 pages!) they only get 30,000 words. Telling each viewpoint character's story in parallel means that this 750 page book gets to advance the plot by the equivalent of 90 pages in a single-threaded narrative. This is why epic multi-viewpoint fantasy series seem to drag. My "The Clan Corporate" is 300 pages, 100,000 words. It was originally going to be a 300,000 word doorstep, before word came down that I had to work to a 300 page length factor. The subsequent book, "The Merchants' War" runs to 120,000 words but only pushes the action forward by the equivalent of 30,000 words due to this problem of viewpoint parallelism; indeed, books 3-6 should be read as a single novel, and if they were compressed down to a single viewpoint a mere 350-400 pages would suffice for the story. (Except that it wouldn't make sense because a lot of important stuff would be happening off-screen.)

3. 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. I've found juggling eight viewpoints to be murderously hard, although in "The Trade of Queens" I've cut the problem back down to size by context-switching on alternate universes (of which there are only three of any plotworthy significance) rather than characters. GRRM doesn't have that luxury, but apparently must needs track over a dozen major characters at any time. I think it's a miracle he can make it work at all.

4. But the urge to multi-track your plot is a slippery slope. You don't realize what's going on at first. Minor plot threads are very more-ish; you want to illustrate some piece of the story that's happening away from your main protagonists' awareness, so you zoom in on a spear carrier. And the next thing you know? BAM — they're a protagonist in their own right, and you've got to keep following them! (If you don't follow them, your readers will want to know why.)

5. Closure is harder to achieve. Closure is what you get right before "and they all lived happily ever after" — it's the wind-down after the plot climax, the wrap-up that allows the readers to put the characters back in the toy box and walk away, satisfied with the way everything came together in the end. Do I need to explain why achieving closure to an entire squadron of novels flying in loose formation, at exactly the same time and in a manner that wraps everything up is harder than closing off a single stand-alone work? Lack of closure and/or messy endings is a perennial critique of Neal Stephenson's novels, but I'm inclined to say that his problems with closure actually arise from the length and structure of his works (which are structurally type (b) series works, even if they're sometimes shoe-horned into a single dust jacket). But without closure you can't end the series. (Not without your fans screaming at you.) The longer it goes on the harder it is to achieve closure, and without closure the harder it is to end: it's a trap and a snare. I attribute it to one of the strengths of the type (b) series: it is usually a vehicle for comprehensive world-building, but the real world that it strives to emulate doesn't give our life-stories closure — it just goes on and on until we die.

I can't say with any authority that these issues are the actual reason why George is late with his latest book — but they're besetting problems for authors of the class of series he's writing, and in his description of his own issues I recognize my own battle with these problems.

(As for the Merchant Princes books — #6 will close off the current series. There may be another series in this universe, but if so, I intend to write it as a self-contained trilogy, and deliver it in a single lump. I've learned my lesson and it's simple: finish the whole damn thing before you hand it in.)

141 Comments

1:

Considering the fact that a novel, particularly a well-written one, can consume months of an author's time, while the result can be consumed in less than a day, I fail to see what the people ragging on Mr. Martin are on about.

Yes, it would be awfully nice if the next Bob Howard novel or the next Honor Harrington novel or the next 1632 novel or... were out so I could devour it, but... Right now I'm two-thirds of the way through Mario Acevedo's "The Nymphos of Rocky Flats" in my Palm, and I've got Rachel Caine's "Ill Wind", Frederic Pohl's "Preferred Risk", and Adam-Troy Castro's "Third Claw of God" waiting in the wings there with it.

And that doesn't even *BEGIN* to touch my fiction backlog. Considering just how many books are available in every genre and for every taste, my advice to the impatient is either to get a life or widen their literary catchment area.

2:

Cheers, Charlie. I sometimes forget how complex it is writing proper books that people want to read, and a nudge like this reminds me (being a big ASoIaF fan). Technical books, which is all I've written, don't have people baying at the door for the next volume (well, mine don't, at least, and the novels in my head will probably never make it to paper).

The point about Type A and Type B books made many things clear to me that I didn't realise I knew before...

3:

Wow. I was thinking about a corner of this last night as I read Card's Afterword in _Ender in Exile_. Since that ends up running concurrently with the last chapter of _Ender's Game_, written long ago and without any plans for a sequel, he had a hard time getting some of the details to fit. And, amusingly, gave up, rewrote that last chapter, and has posted it on the net somewhere.

Thing is, while I grew up with Card's early work and must have read it many times, all I really remember from the last chapter of Ender's Game is the last bit:

"So they boarded a starship and went from world to world. [...] He looked a long time."

I certianly didn't notice whatever minor inconsistencies Card left in the new novel.

So, how much of this agonizing over getting every detail right really matters to the reader, and how much only matters to those adding endless fancruft to Wikipedia?

And to what extent has fandom with its obsession for detail made it harder for authors to produce new work, and limited what they can do in it?

4:

Being in the middle of both series, I'd say that ASoIaF is an order of magnitude more complicated than your series. (That's not a knock on either series...I am greatly enjoying both.) I don't think I've read anything that approaches it in shear complexity.

Series can be very frustrating to for the reader in that you get the story piecemeal and have to do lots of mental work to figure out where they are in the story whenever a new book comes out. Obviously the longer between books the worse that problem is. I personally try to avoid starting unfinished series. I wouldn't have started "The Family Trade" if your publisher had made it more obvious it was "book 1". (Don't get me wrong...I am enjoying the series...) I only started Martin's books because it seemed like book five would be out by the time I'd finished the first four.

That said, I think the only thing the "social contract" (to steal a thread from Scalzi's blog) requires of authors is to produce books that are as good as they are reasonable able to produce.

5:

Charles, you basicaly put up a strawman argument here, when you say "But nevertheless, lots of folks seem to be upset by the very thought that their favourite author might, heavens forbid, be late turning in installment n of a p-volume series", because that, in fact, is very explicitly not what causes the annoyance. What causes the annoyance is the whole history:

1. Author delivers book N. In the afterward he says "by the way, if you are upset at missing your favorite characters, we decided to cut out half the book and only deliver on half the points of view, but the other half is basically done, and should be out Real Soon Now"
2. Real Soon Now passes into not very soon, no updates.
3. Author posts "I know it's late, but I'm going to bear down and finish it Real Soon Now, focusing entirely on it.
4. Time passes. Author releases many other new works, with no update. The next update finally comes out and it says "It's been almost a year since the last update, but I really promise to focus and get it done this time".
5. Time passes. Author releases many other new works, with no update. The next update finally comes out and it says "It's been more than a year since the last update, but I really promise to focus and get it done this time".

That's where we're at now, and I'd submit to you that it's a combination of all of these things that leads to the fan anger. Because, irrationally or not, the fans feel like they were promised something, and those promises were broken. And I have to tell you that his coming out with a Laurell K Hamilton-style 'you customers of mine can go to Hell' response doesn't really help.

Me? I'm not angry. I'll read it if it ever comes out (though if I had to bet, currently I'd take the under on the series ever being completed).

Other people? Not so much.

6:

"Laurell K Hamilton-style 'you customers of mine can go to Hell'"

Of course, if you're not one of the assholes, GRRM ain't talking to you.

You aren't an asshole, are you?

Promises get broken. Grow up and read another book....

7:

Charlie, I think you're selling yourself short when you say, "George R. R. Martin, who is rather more famous than I am". I've been reading SF for nearly 40 years. You would be in my top 5 favourite authors. I've never heard of this George R. R. Martin guy.

That said, I do understand where you are coming from. I'm a big fan of the type B series, but I can see how they'd be a bitch to write. These days I prefer to only start a series if it's finished. The Merchant Princes being an exception. Damn it will you hurry please! :p

8:

"Of course, if you're not one of the assholes, GRRM ain't talking to you."

This is, of course, a completely untrue statement. His rant was aimed at 'detractors', not 'assholes'. This may, of course, be unclear, so let me illustrate it with some examples.

ex: You meet GRRM at a convention, scream at him 'where the hell is DWD?'

Asshole? Yes.

ex: You see a post on his blog about random_product_X. You link it in an instant message to a friend saying "look, here's another GRRM not working on DWD post".

Asshole? Nope. Not a bit. Detractor? You betcha.

Ex: You post in a forum about Martin possibly pulling a Robert Jordan.

Asshole? Yes, and a tasteless one at that.

Ex: You post in a forum about Martin having obviously written himself into a corner, and postulate that the series will, in fact, never be finished.

Asshole? Not a bit. Detractor? Absolutely.

GRRM was aiming at all of these.

9:

There's late, and then there's being 7 years late with a book, all the while promising fans that the book is 1 year away. It's cruel and unusual punishment for the fans.

10:

Sure the delay is vexing, but what set GRRM off was the fact that several fans were ... less than polite[1] ... about communicating their vexedness.

This is disappointing, *but it is not surprising*. ASoIaF is simply big enough to have, in it's rather large fan base, some very crazy people. Mr. Stross may have some uminteresting[1] fans appearing on this blog now and then, but they are not nearly as uminteresting as GRRM's most uminteresting fans. Give Charlie some time to accumulate notoriety and he may get there though.

Something to look foreword to eh? The Madfan singularity?

[1] "Crazy."

11:

I think most intelligent readers get that such series are hard to write and most of us could have come up with several of the issues outlined if we thought hard about it. GRRM's problem is simply one of communication. Once he said that in the afterword the other half was basically done and would be out real soon he was screwed. Instead of going dark with very infrequent updates he should have just said "Yeah, I didn't really like the other half of the book, I'v trashed it and am redoing things. You might see other work from me in the meantime - it's one way I recharge my batteries." Continuing to say "no, really, it will be out soon" and then not delivering is OF COURSE going to make people roll their eyes esp when you have other stuff coming out.

Had he not said anything at all he'd have been fine. Had he communicated more frequently and said some things about redoing the work he'd have been fine. Continuing to say it would be soon and then failing to deliver with not much other info is a recipe guaranteed to annoy.

This is reason #4,519 that I never read long series which are not complete.

12:

AC @7: I am afraid I remain firmly in Scalzi's camp: the author's sole duty to their fans is to write the best damn book they can. Not to write the book the fans expect, or to deliver it on time, but to be true to their artistic vision and deliver the best damn book they can.

As for being late? Bite me: there's at least one series out there that I'm following that runs to roughly one novel every 5-7 years. Publishers go bust and continents drift faster than this series expands. Am I whining? No: because frankly it'd be easy enough for the author in question to just ditch the whole thing instead of scratching my itch. They don't owe me anything -- I'm happy to take what I can get. (The author in question is P. C. Hodgell, in case you were wondering.)

13:

Skip,

I don't recall GRRM ever suggesting that the only reason the books weren't done was because he wasn't "focusing", promising that by "focusing" he would get it done, or promising that he wouldn't work on other things to "focus" on it. He's pretty much always hedged his bets about when he'd finish. Even in the AFfC afterward, he notes that "hopefully" ADwD will be released shortly. And ... the lack of updates was because he was tired of being jumped on for "breaking promises" he never made.

As to "detractors", one notes that the detractors he's targetting are defined in his post: those who claim he is "wasting time" because of this, that, or the other (i.e. living his life), those who are "attacking" him personally, those who are sending very rude things to his e-mail. I can't read his post and see how one can get out of it that he also considers those who are wondering what the structural issues are as "detractors".

@7 Dorian: You should see if you can find a copy of Rretrospective or Dreamsongs. GRRM wrote some of the most memorable short SF in the 70's and early 80's, IMO. His most famous is "Sandkings". Of his novels, you might enjoy Dying of the Light or Tuf Voyaging.

And Charles borrowed the Githyanki from him lo these many years ago. ;)

14:

I haven't heard about the apparent problems with Mr Martin's output. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that anyone complains at all. Not every author is a Simenon, or would want to be. Writing a good book obviously takes time. I'd rather read a good, solid Stross, Banks or Reynolds every three years than an average outing by any of those authors every 12-18 months.

I read, I consume. Authors/artists/musicians create. I don't expect results to order, despite what the publishing contract may say.

As long as my favourite authors feel the urge to write, I'll read them. I don't really think there's a time-limit on creativity, despite the artificial one created by the contract.

Thanks for all the words Charlie, I'll keep on reading as long as you keep on writing stuff.

B

15:

Reading the GRRM series alongside Kevin J Anderson's Saga of Seven Suns gave me a great appreciation of structure and planning for these kinds of things.

I consider GRRM's prose much better than KJMs, and I think GRRM messes with the tropes in more interesting ways.

On the other hand Saga of Seven Suns came out on schedule, and seemed very well planned and executed and paced. He obviously had a plan, and was ruthless in skipping past things that didn't aid the storylines, but were merely interesting things about character.

GRRM seems to like his characters much more, and gave up his plan pretty early. He had stated there was meant to be a five year (in the fantasy world, not release date) gap between the first and second book, but instead he followed straight on.

16:

I'm surprised that the issues of enthusiasm and inspiration haven't been raised. Writing novels is clearly not like laying bricks. I've got no experience writing novels, but I suspect that GRRM would quickly complete the final novel if he currently had as much enthusiasm for the series as when he started it. I also suspect that when Charlie accidentally produced an extra novel, it was due to an unexpected hit of enthusiasm.

Probably an author could force himself to grind out a novel without enthusiasm, but it would probably be better for everybody if he didn't.

Am I completely wrong here? Are you authors made of sterner stuff than I am?

17:

Tuf voyaging! I knew I'd seen GRRM's name somewhere. I really enjoyed that book.

18:

Long-time fan, first-time poster here. I was recommended GRRM's series by a fantasy-savvy friend in 2001, and enjoyed the first three books available at that point. The fourth one came as a disappointment, though, not because it was late but because it hardly moved the plot anywhere. Which is why GRRM taking time away from this 'verse to recharge batteries and maybe pull together all these separate weaves that right now lead in a score of different directions isn't a bad thing. As long as he doesn't do a Jordan - and by that I don't mean dying before the series is written, but rather getting hopelessly lost in his multitude of stories, sub-plots and red herrings, as Jordan did after approximately book 6 of WoT.
Which leads me to my actual question: what is your take on Jordan's Wheel of Time as one of the most famous instances of type (b) series?

19:

Astrolabe @16: Two examples I know of of authors pumping out books because they felt they had to, rather than due to satisfying any artistic need:

1) The post- Adventure of the Final Problem career of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle bowed to popular pressure to write more Holmes; the stories after Reichenbach Falls went from bad to worse.

2) A really old one: L. Frank Baum's post-The Emerald City of Oz books. Baum was tired of Oz and wanted to move on to more worthwhile projects. Money issues and popular demand forced him to return to the Oz-well again and again; the result was a product of deteriorating quality.

If an author gets tired of a series, by all means they should stop writing about it. That being said, I'm looking forward to the Fuller Memorandum and the two remaining Merchant books. Take as long as you like, Charlie!

20:

Jaysus, that's a long list of rules.

I said something similar to this at Scalzi's blog, but hey, why not spread the love a bit more?

I totally get what you are saying. Hell, I took way longer than most folk on my thesis and needed special dispensations, which were granted. People knew I was dealing with my own shit and cut me some slack. Doesn't mean they weren't pissed off and feeling a bit let down. They had every right to be.

I absolutely agree that the author isn't the servant of his audience, and that he should put out the best book that he can. I absolutely agree that people are being ridiculous, crazy, insufferably nasty ... And I detest the model that much of this seems based on, that the audience is customer, and the customer is always right -- it hits far to close to home for me in its mimicry of the 'I pay tuition, and you work for me' thing I hear on occasion.

Having said that, though, I think that you are glossing over some things that may or may not be right, but I think are true, anyway.

The first is that I do believe the author has a relationship with his readers, and vice-versa. I'm not sure how far that goes, or should go, but I think that recent shitstorms show that the line between a public persona and a private person is becoming more and more blurred. I also get the feeling (admittedly mostly from observation) that the regular interactions between sf/f authors and fen at cons, signings, and online may create a situation where readers feel that they have a sort of friendly, or friend-like, relationship to an author than actually exists. This seems to me to be a very difficult thing, especially when sometimes real friendships do grow from what are essentially professional meetings -- at least on the part of the author. Whatever the cause, readers and authors have a relationship with each other, and it is not a one-sided one.

A second thing is that, when an author promises something, it's a contract. Not a legal one, but an ethical one. Because the reality is that readers could buy something else. I am sure that I'm not the only person who waits till a series is about halfway through before starting, if only so that they don't have to go back and re-read. In my case, I didn't start reading this GRRM series until there were four books out in paperback and I knew that it wouldn't be that long till the last one. The books are horribly complex, and it's hard for us to keep all of the people and events straight, too! Again, speaking for myself, but guessing there are others who feel the same, I would have bought and read different books, different series, and waited for the last book to come out. And honestly? the fact that there will probably be a new binding by the time GRRM finishes? that pisses me off, too. I like matching series. I mean, it's hardly 'end of the world' pissed off. It's not even 'GRRM is an asshole' pissed. But it's annoying, because I don't have a ton of disposable income, and I'd have bought Parker's Engineer books, or even some Charlie Stross had I known.

So yeah, I think GRRM broke an ethical contract here, and people have a right to be some level of angry. But I also think it's very loose contract, and a modicum of communication and courtesy would have made it even looser. Except for the people who are just *way* to invested in this, I think a lot of the anger is that GRRM seems not to have paid due courtesy to people who do help to pay his bills. No, there's nothing that says he owes them. But I know I'd react differently (and again, I'm not any more upset than I am at having to clean up hairballs in the middle of the night) had I seen something along the lines of, "I'm fucked, people. I've got stuck and I need to just leave this thing alone for a while because I've burnt myself out on this and every time I try to write, it comes out shit."

And since I'm not all that upset, maybe I've read things wrong.

21:

Thanks for the essay on the different types of series writing. I hadn't bothered to think it through before, and your words helped me understand the thorny issues involved.

22:

Crap. Last paragraph: '*way* too'

Damned typing.

23:

Well said, sir. I can't imagine the work GRRM has to do to write these things. I do NOT envy him. The book will be out when it's finished. I can wait.

24:

Then there's the flipside risk to the long, complex story with the big gap, is that some of the initial fans may have lost interest and/or forgotten the first few books in the years between the last one and...whenever the new one is coming out. That's where I am with Martin now. The sheer complexity would require a reread of the entire series to figure it out, and his world has a bleakness to it that I'm not really in the mood for these years. Luckily that has not yet happened for the Merchant Princes.

25:

Charlie, I can understand getting bogged down 150 pages into the first book, I only stuck with it because I'd bought the first two together - frankly the first book is mostly setup for the second, which is where it actually gets interesting and really starts to come into its own as a series.

I always feel slightly guilty if I recommend the series because of that, I have to say, well you've got 300-400 pages that aren't really that great (IMO) but then you hit paydirt, but you can't skip those 300-400 pages because then you won't know what's going on.

As for when the next book comes out? Ah well, it'll be done when it's done, the latest one is still in the 50-book pile waiting to be read anyway.

My impressions as a reader are that the story got out of control on him and has evolved far beyond what he has intended at various different points in its lifetime and he's paying the price now.

Anyone who remotely has a clue would rather he sorted that out to his satisfaction rather than rushed out something unsatisfactory that would ruin a great story, and it doesn't matter whether he promised on his blog or in an afterword that he'd finish it tomorrow or in ten years time: if it isn't ready it isn't ready. If someone tells you what's going to happen in the future, you should always take it with a pinch of salt, situations change.

On a somewhat related note, I think there's only three massively-multiple-viewpoint series I've read that didn't suffer from mid-series fatigue, the slump where the characters have all diverged into their separate plotlines and haven't yet reconverged for the climax, so that each novel barely inches multiple plots forwards: Saga of the Seven Suns by Kevin J Anderson, The Deverry Cycle by Katherine Kerr, and The Malazan Books of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Everyone else I've read who has tried it has hit the slump and lost all control over their pacing.

26:

Imagine how much more difficult it must be to craft something like Lost or Battlestar.

27:

Not to belabor this endlessly, but I do think professionals of all stripes ought to be conscious of setting realistic expectations for time required to complete their work.

Does that mean Martin's readers have some sort of right to go all kinds of aggro the way some of them have? Certainly not. Still, I don't think he gets a complete pass here, either.

Art is not factory work, certainly, and to me that implies that creative people whose work is difficult or impossible to predict simply shouldn't ever tell us it's otherwise. I will happily accept that accurately estimating when a novel will be done is not possible, in general.

The only thing the poor guy ever did wrong was believe he could create art on a schedule. Everyone whose defense of him includes the fact that he's not a machine for production of pages I think needs to at least acknowledge that he to some degree did, in fact, imply (at least) that he could deliver his art according to a schedule. Scalzi more or less does this in a comment on his own piece, and I think it's fair to say GRRM's mistake wasn't in doing other stuff he enjoys, but in setting himself up to let people down.

If I do that with my software, my clients get pissed, and while I realize that software isn't a tenth as difficult as writing high quality fiction, it's also not quite as predictable as stamping out metal parts.

Accurate prediction is *hard*, but it's a professional requirement that I learn to do it as well as I can. If the best I could do truly were "I have no idea," then I would consider it a matter of ethics to say so and hope the market for my work would accept that (it doesn't, of course, and shouldn't, for software).

Anyway, my point's made, and for myself, I anticipate the book a great deal, but long ago stopped thinking his estimates were (or could be, or should be) accurate. It's too bad everyone else couldn't do the same and I think it's terrible that an author should have to deal with the hurtful ravings of unreasonable fanatics -- a small minority, I hope, of his fan-base.

I plan to send him a letter and perhaps an Amazon pre-order as encouragement, for whatever that's worth.

28:

Well, it's not like there's nothing else to read, while waiting for book n of p. Come on, GRRM is not the only good writer of SF or Fantasy around (though I grant you, he's quite good), so while you're waiting, branch out a bit; you might be surprised by liking something you didn't expect to. I do that to fill the time until the next Laundry book.

Or you could do something else I do: wander down to Powells Books, or go over to the Amazon website and order some nonfiction that scratches one of your itches. Not to everybody's taste, I know, but yesterday I finally found a decent text on Geometric Algebra that doesn't cost US $150. Reading that should use up a couple of weeks right there.

29:

Charlie Stross @ 12: I posted on John Scalzi's blog that we Hodgell fans have GRRM fans all beat on having to be patient; nothing like waiting nine years for book 3 and then twelve for book 4 ;)

It's not just for my greedy book-wanting sake, though, that I'm glad her twenty personal hells are through and she's writing full-time and professionally for the first time, with the next manuscript handed in only 3 years after publication of the last one ... having a story to tell and not being able to is torture.

That, I'm sure, GRRM is feeling as well. I'm sure he's already beating himself up over it much more than anyone else anyway - writers want to write, after all.

30:

"Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Stannis and Melisandre, Davos Seaworth, and all the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance with Dragons, which will focus on events along the Wall and across the sea, just as the present book focused on King's Landing. -- George R. R. Martin, June 2005"

Charlie, I can understand your (and John Scalzi's) reluctance to criticize an esteemed colleague, but this is just not the sort of thing you put in front of however many thousands of people if you don't know with absolute certainty that you can follow through on it. Martin's been a pro for more than 35 years; it's an odd slip for a person of that much experience. I'm also surprised at the publisher for letting it through. "I devoutly hope" is now doing four years' worth of work, which I think is a lot to ask of three words.

31:

It's not so long to wait. It's an entirely different genre of writing, but Patrick Leigh Fermor's first glorious book about his travels in the early 1930s was published in 1977 (A Time of Gifts). The second, Between the Woods and the Water, was published in 1986. The third one isn't finished yet. 22 years and counting. It will be worth the wait.

32:

Charlie wrote:
4. But the urge to multi-track your plot is a slippery slope. You don't realize what's going on at first. Minor plot threads are very more-ish; you want to illustrate some piece of the story that's happening away from your main protagonists' awareness, so you zoom in on a spear carrier. And the next thing you know? BAM — they're a protagonist in their own right, and you've got to keep following them! (If you don't follow them, your readers will want to know why.)

It occurs to me that the more bloody minded authors (e.g. Ringo) solve this one by killing the spear carrier once he's had his say...

33:

Sorely tempted, having heard the vitriol, to suggest to the poor man to tell his fans to go hang and just stop working on this series and go enjoy his popularity in other projects.

34:

Fearless @18: this may surprise you, but I've never actually read any Robert Jordan.

I have sat down with a friendly critic and a copy of book #8 of "Wheel of Time" and looked at its structure. After the map, the first 80-odd pages consisted of a retrospective: what has gone before. Then we got to the first chapter. Pages 1-4 could be summarized as: "it was a dark and stormy night".

At that point, I lost all inclination to ever pick up another of his books again ...

Rand @25: TV scriptwriting is an utterly different field -- and probably not as difficult, insofar as there's usually a partial or complete reset at the beginning of each episode. (Having said that, I've watched never "Lost" nor "BattleStar Galactica". Nor "Buffy" or "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or most of the stuff you'd expect. I don't watch TV drama, as a rule: its plotting conventions irritate the hell out of me.)

35:

Charlie: In an article I wrote some years ago, I used a very similar classification for series, but I called your "type a" the iterative series, and your "type b" the polytomic series.

ADM@19: I think at least part of the problem is not only that SFF-readers get to interact with their idols in a way that can give an illusion of intimacy, but the culture in general seems oriented towards "breaking the walls", with the media treating anyone famous in any way as if their (private) lives were public property, open for anyone to criticise. It may not be the main point with GRRM, but I do believe it has a certain impact.

Doug@29: Well, he said "hope". Not "think", not "believe", not "promise", but "hope". And I must add another vote to those saying that it's better that he should take his time and write a good novel, than just crank out another book simply to keep the fans quiet. I have a feeling something like that may have happened with Jordan's series.

Disclaimer: I gave up on both GRRM's series and on WoT at about half of book one. And I decided not to even start on book 3 of the Merchant Princes after the announcement that books 3-6 are really one story. I did enjoy books 1 and 2 very much, though.

36:

Your comments on how type (b) series are like the real world brought strongly to mind the 163x series by Eric Flint et al. There are *hordes* of view-point characters, and he only keeps track of it all by having a positive army of authors and co-authors.

It's also perfectly clear that there is not going to be a conclusion, which helps with the plot problems.

37:

Um, I meant to say "not to start on book 3 of the Merchant Princes... until they were all finished", but I clicked too fast.

38:

Hmm, seems to me that writing a good story takes time. I guess some folks don't have much to do other than wait for a book to be published. I think that borders on obsession, and can't be healthy.

39:

Milena @34: I don't mind the wait, as I'm lukewarm on the series anyway, for many of the reasons spoken about here already. It's more of a communications and expectations puzzle.

40:

cod3fr3ak: actually, the time it takes to write a good story varies immensely. My minimum/maximum times for the first draft of a published novel vary from 24 days to five and a half years (Glasshouse, Accelerando). It all depends on the story, frankly.

41:

Leaving aside the main topic of the post, which has been well flogged over at Scalzi's place, I will just touch on a couple of side points.

Firstly, the 'proliferating viewpoint characters' issue of multi-volume series - this at least should have been a problem GRRM was less troubled by than other authors, given his ability to wield the literary shiv. He managed to keep his stable of characters pretty disciplined in vols 1&2, but they got away from him in vols 3&4. It would be helpful if there were a minor holocaust in the early part of vol6 to clear the understory back - maybe you could lend him a couple of the thermonuclear gadgets you are currently peppering the Gruinmarkt with...

Secondly, I will note that Neal Stephenson seems to have figured out your final point about 'writing the whole damn thing before handing it in' for the Baroque Cycle - it's basically a single massive novel that was published in three doorstepping chunks because the market isn't ready for a novel sold in a lectern bible's form factor. As such it doesn't really fit your type (b) category and I think that Stephenson didn't encounter the sort of problems you have itemised (or at least, whatever problems he had were much more manageable).

Regards
Luke

42:

For money I do a variety of computer work (software engineering, consulting, and system administration), for fun I write free software.

On many occasions I have given estimates on when new releases of my software would occur. Such releases depended on me spending as much time working on it as I expected (which is not guaranteed given the requirement to do paid work and the distractions of other interesting free software projects) and the absence of nasty bugs (which is also not guaranteed). I do feel bad about not meeting what some people would regard as my "ethical contracts" in this regard. But it seems that there are few users who call me on it. This would be partly due to the fact that I'm not particularly famous, but also due to the fact that most of the users of my software are also programmers and know what it's about.

I think that the problem in this instance is that the vast majority of sci-fi fans are not writers. Of the minority of fans who are writers, most of them are never going to be professional writers. As opposed to the users of my software who are mostly either paid to work in the computer industry or students who aim to eventually work in the computer industry.

The separation between the consumers and creators of the content is going to cause the freaky fan situation. When free software that I need is delivered late it doesn't make me happy, but I understand that the author didn't want it to be late either as I've been there myself. While a sci-fi or fantasy fan might be tempted to react to a late novel the way that they might react to a late burger from McDonalds.

If we could encourage more fans to write their own short stories then maybe the attitudes of some of the fans would improve.

43:

Luke, Stephenson actually describes the Baroque Cycle as no less than eight different novels, intertwingled. (The real focus of which is of course the Birth of the Modern.) I believe that after "Cryptonomicon" -- probably after "The Diamond Age" -- his book advances were big enough that he could live for a few years off the fat. It's one huge advantage of graduating to best-sellerdom: you have the luxury of being able to give each project as much time as it takes to get it right. (Too many midlist authors are forced to crank out books in haste in order to earn a living. Self included, hitherto.)

44:

A Dance with Dragons is four years late? Big deal! Anybody waiting for the next installment in the Chtorr series, or the new Villiers novel, or...

45:
Rand @25: TV scriptwriting is an utterly different field -- and probably not as difficult, insofar as there's usually a partial or complete reset at the beginning of each episode.
Hasn't been true for years now. Well, I suppose it depends on what percentage "usually" means, and since there's huge swathes of TV I avoid, it's not like I have accurate stats either. But there is certainly plenty of TV that doesn't reset.
(Having said that, I've watched never "Lost" nor "BattleStar Galactica". Nor "Buffy" or "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or most of the stuff you'd expect. I don't watch TV drama, as a rule: its plotting conventions irritate the hell out of me.)
Most of the really good stuff ditches the traditional TV conventions. Some returns to the novel structure. Some gleefully burns TV conventions down and dances around the embers. (Note: I don't watch any of the above-listed shows either.)

Anyway, getting back to the original post, you wrote:

Minor plot threads are very more-ish; you want to illustrate some piece of the story that's happening away from your main protagonists' awareness, so you zoom in on a spear carrier. And the next thing you know? BAM — they're a protagonist in their own right, and you've got to keep following them! (If you don't follow them, your readers will want to know why.)

Am I the only one who doesn't feel that way? Dangling threads is one thing, but a brief side-trip doesn't seem like a problem, as long as it's not structured to give the false impression of a new strand being started.

For some reason, I think of this in terms of documentaries, perhaps because they tend to be so crashingly unsubtle about introducing characters or plotlines, spelling it out in the voiceover: "This is X, he's in his mid YYs and comes from Z. He's looking for P but the Q is causing difficulties." Thanks, Exposition Man! On the other hand, they'll also happily cut away to another location and interview someone without naming them, explaining what they do, or anything -- clearly signposting their status for the purposes of the docu -- but they're talking about the protagonist, or the protagonist's work/crusade/pet theory/etc. If the agency of one of the protagonists can still be felt , you can get away with spawning viewpoints without creating new threads. Coroutines, in other words ;)

46:

For pretty much all the reasons you mention, I am surprised that Peter Hamilton gets away with his paper colossi. I am also very grateful that he *does* get away with it in the Night's Dawn and Commonwealth series.

47:

Here is a re-post of what I said on Scalzi's site. It containts a valuable less for all (fans and aspiring series writers alike):

On the first comment thread, someone basically said that GRRM posted a "Laurell K. Hamilton" bleep you to his critics. I challenge GRRM to do a real LKH: give Cersei supernatural erotic powers that get her out of all present and future difficulties, eventually give her absolute power over Westoros and as a final grace note: said powers evolve to the point where she can change the shape of the planet's orbit so that Winter no longer comes. That should take about two weeks to bang out, get ghost writer to pad it out with incomprehensible, poorly turned "eroticism," publish as 2 Volume set (in a timely way) for $29.95 each; collect underwear, ..., profit. That would get the fans off GRRM's back, make his publishers happy and set up a lucrative, open-ended series of soft porn that GRRM probably would not even have to write himself. See, everybody wins if GRRM just gets with the program and gives us what we want when we want it.

48:

@46 should be "valuable lesson" or "it's contents are value less" as an alternate reading. Sorry.

49:

Charlie - I haven't sat down and counted, but there being eight logical novels within the Baroque Cycle sounds about right (and Stephenson would know of course). That they successfully braid together into one coherent narrative is what I was driving at with my comment about the Baroque Cycle being a single novel in three (physical) parts.

Having the luxury of time to do it right voids #1 in your list o'problems and I would expect it to mitigate #2-5 (how strongly mitigated would depend upon how disciplined a writer is in blocking out the series in advance and then sticking to their plan). For Stephenson it appears to have been a very effective writing strategy.

Certainly I felt that your #5 wasn't a problem for The Baroque Cycle taken as a whole - the individual chunks had the Stephensonian trait of ending abruptly (vol 1 especially) and I recall some snarkyness to that effect when they they first came out, but once you have all three volumes then it becomes apparent that the different plot lines are all convergent, tie up neatly and play into the various themes and sub-themes of the work.

Having said all that, the Baroque Cycle did have some aspects of your type (b) series, in that it is a prequel to Cryptonomicon. Upon rereading that book after having read the Baroque Cycle I was impressed at how well Stephenson maintained continuity between the two. Of course it helped that he had three centuries of downtime to play with when it came to fitting the pieces together, but even so he did a good job of taking what I assume were throwaway lines of backstory and colour from Cryptonomicon and working them up into significant features within the Baroque Cycle.

Anyway, with luck I'll be saying the same sorts of things about the overall structure of ASoIaF in a few years time. I'm happy to wait - although I'm resigned to having to reread the series each time a new volume is published.

Regards
Luke

50:

Astrolabe @16 - I have read a few books that I am convinced the author did not want to write. Douglas Adams' "Mostly Harmless" seemed like a book thrown together to meet demand and designed to prevent anyone from asking for more Hitchhiker's books.

Thomas Harris's book "Hannibal" was that squared - it read to me like a big "screw you" letter to anyone who liked the first two books. Burning your franchise and pissing on the ashes.

If an author doesn't want to write a book - yet or at all - I think the fans are happier letting it go. That's arguably tangential to the discussion of finishing a book, but I think still relevant.

51:

Martin Wisse @ 43

next installment in the Chtorr series,
Gerrold appears to be self-publishing this on the web, in chunks. Even more annoying than having to wait for a whole book is trying to fit the pieces he dribbles out together; there seems to be missing interstitial material. Since I'm mostly waiting to see if he can make the evolutionary theory he's been building work, it's not a big deal for me. His estian rants annoy me greatly, despite my respect for him as a writer and (from what little I know of him) as a person.
or the new Villiers novel
We might get that in Panshin's next incarnation; I doubt it will be sooner. A damn shame, too.

52:

@48: GRRM's remarked that the ideal situation would have been to win a lottery so that he could just write the series in one go and release it when it was done, so Charles (and Neal) are very much onto something there. That's pretty much how Tolkien did it (not winning the lottery, but writing it all first), as I recall.

There are some incredibly detailed summaries of the first four books that might stand you in good stead for ADwD. The creator of them passed away recently, and the site disppeared, but Archive.org still has them. I can dig out the URLs if you're interested.

53:

Elio: Tolkein had tenure, back when it meant something.

54:

Thank you for the run-down! Your analysis is superb, and may provide moral comfort as I take up and try to put together book 3 of a type b series :-)

55:

Nice post. I'm a big fan of the "Song of Fire and Ice" series, and let me tell you, those books are beasts. They're very long, with a lot of moving parts, shifting perspectives and, this is key, very little filler. This sets it apart from most sword and sorcery fantasy (especially since you have to get a few books in before there's any sorcery to speak of). It's not at all surprising that George is taking time to find his way. He spent the last couple books culling protagonists, which is probably the only reason the series can continue at all considering the over-head of view-points (view-pointers?) and concurrent events he's been working with.

Take your time George, we'll still be here when you're done.

56:

This may be an incredibly stupid question (and if so, forgive me) but is it necessary for type (b) novels to have at least twice the number of viewpoitns as type (a) novels?

Regarding TV, there was (literally) a reset button on LOST during the second season. Then the TV show blew it up (also in the literal sense).

57:

I was surprised by the level of acrimony that seemed to have been generated.

Perhaps it's just that I read fast, but I always have taken it for granted that there are occasional days when there is a new Stross/Scalzi/Pratchett/eBear/whoever book available to read, and enormously more days when there isn't.

I think having more information makes this worse -- I used to have no idea when something new was appearing, so it was a pleasant surprise. Now I read authors' blogs I find myself looking for nearly-shipped books even when I know they won't appear for a couple of weeks.

58:

The issue w/GRRM is not that he does other things, but that a) he's overpromised and underdelivered, so far, after leaving his fans hanging on a cliff, b) that he flaunts his 'doing other stuff than writing _Dances With Dragons_ by posting about it at great length on his weblog, and c) never really gets the point across that he has to keep multiple pots stirring all the time in order to pay the rent.

Many readers seem to have some notion that every author they like has reaped the financial rewards of a John Grisham or a J.K. Rowling. GRRM has been quite successful, especially for a genre author, but he does have to work for a living, to sing for his supper. As such, he has to keep multiple projects going at the same time.

He never makes this point, and instead flaunts his NFL watching, his trips to Finland or wherever, his other books, etc., and it enrages some of *his customers* that he's doing so.

Here's a bit of a hint - the customer is always right, even when he's wrong.

GRRM should either stop posting on the weblog entirely until he's finished the damned book, or at least have the good sense not to *post* about 'wasting time' watching football matches or what-have-you. It's a marketing/customer relationship problem.

And, yes, he needs to finish the damned book, heh.

59:

Re #42: "intertwingled" -- exactly!

That suggests that there is a 3rd kind of novel series, closer to hypertext.

When the late Professor Isaac Asimov connected the Foundation, Empire, and Robot novels.

When Stephen King has characters and subplots linking the bulk of his long ficion.

What Heinlein was starting to do in "Number of the Beast."

What was demonstrated as stand-alone novels in Nabokov's "Pale Fire" (a novel in the footnotes of an unreliable narrator), or the oeuvre of Jorge Luis Borges.

For that matter, there's a continuity between Shakespeare's long poems and his plays, thematically.

My 3,000+ publications, presentations, and broadcasts also were consciously conceived (as of my meeting Ted Nelson through my mother in the early 1960s) as fragments of a vast hypermedia entity that would become explicit when the platform evolved in which they could be repurposed. As Ted's said, the Web misses some key parts of his design (micropayments, transclusion) at the infrastructure foundations, but it is a good first draft.

60:

JvP: stop grandstanding. Better still, get your own blog.

Roland @57:

I suspect you don't understand the role of blogging in an author's life.

Blogs aren't just about public relations and marketing, in case you hadn't noticed. I run a second blog (private, friends and family only) for some of the personal stuff -- health, recreation, food, friends, and so on -- so that it doesn't occupy column-inches in this blog, which is to some extent a PR/marketing exercise insofar as it's my public soapbox.

GRRM doesn't, as far as I'm aware, have a second blog. However he has a life, and blogs about it in public. Why?

Being a novelist is an intensely socially isolating job. In fact, if you haven't done it, you might have difficulty comprehending just how weird the lifestyle is compared to any other occupation. We lock ourselves in an office for several hours a day, every day, and we don't interact with other people while we're working. In almost any other job, you deal with co-workers or members of the public and chat around the coffee station: but not if you're a novelist.

Blogs and social networking have, in the past decade, come along and given novelists a vital sanity-oriented pressure release valve. They occupy a much more important role in the life of the working novelist than might at first be apparent to someone with a regular job. They operate in effect as a substitute for the normal workplace social interaction: without which we tend to go a little bit crazy from pure isolation. (There's a reason alcoholism is an occupational disease among novelists ...)

In suggesting that GRRM stop posting to his blog, or stops posting about stuff that interests or entertains him outside of work, you are suggesting that he gags himself in his workplace, that he takes an oath of silence, and totally from everyday workplace socializing. You're effectively suggesting that he belongs in a box, with no everyday chit-chat and no relief from the isolation.

I ask: what would you say to a boss who suggested that you shut the hell up and never speak about any non-work-related matter while on company time?

61:

Charlie@59:

My job is quite like yours, in that I work alone, generally (from home, via VPN). I don't go to the office much at all (maybe 1/month, on average). Right now, I'm heads-down on some deliverables which I have to get done this week - i.e., stuff I have to write.

I've also some friends who're novelists like yourself, and I understand quite a bit about the lifestyle and the pressures, although I freely acknnowledge that's not the same as doing it myself.

That being said, most people who have regular jobs in fact have bosses who 'suggest' that they 'shut the hell up and never speak about any non-work-related matter while on company time', or something pretty close to that, FYI.

There are plenty of ways novelists like yourself can achieve some release and psychological breathing-space without posting everything in your lives onto a weblog. There are technological things such as IM, IRC, playing WoW, posting comments on the weblogs of others, etc. There are non-technological things such as going for a walk, going out to dinner, talking to friends on the telephone, and so forth.

So, I don't buy the weblog as some vital, irreplaceable social release. Nuh-uh. Dickens managed without a weblog, so can GRRM.

GRRM created this situation by a) writing a damned good series of novels, b) being horribly late with the latest one, promising over and over again to meet deadlines he couldn't make, c) flaunting his leisure-time activities in front of his frustrated fans, and d) his asinine response to same.

Now, that's his call to make. He could declare he'll never finish the damned book, and really show us all. These are his choices to make.

Something he doesn't seem to understand, however - and something you do seem to innately understand, even though you're arguing from the opposite viewpoint out of what I believe to be misplaced sympathy for GRRM - is that the author of fiction is an entertainer first and foremost, and in his public life, he needs to keep his customers entertained, one way or another.

At the moment, GRRM is largely failing to entertain.

You, OTOH, *do* entertain, because when you post on your weblog, you generally spark a very interesting and engaging discussion, interact with your customers, and generally give value in exchange for the ill-defined hope of future sales based upon a more intimate and accessible relationship with said customers. You do a pretty good job of it, even though you veer off from time to time by sneering at the political and religious beliefs of some percentage of your customers, the ones who happen to hold views other than your own.

So, while I await your upcoming oevure, I'm kept entertained by your weblog. You're doing a good job of customer relations and providing value which incentivizes me to spend more money with you, and to encourage my friends to do the same.

That's smart. And it's genuine, not some contrived, phony exercise in flackery.

GRRM isn't providing any entertainment value, right now. And remember, these people who're angry with him *want to give him money*. They are his *customers* - except the ones who'll decide that he's never going to finish the damned book, or who grow resentful enough due to his lack of providing entertainment value that they simply don't bother, and so he loses those potential sales.

I'm not suggesting he take an 'oath of silence', I never implied anything of the sort - mere hyperbole on your part. What I'm suggesting is that he provide some entertainment value while keeping all the various plates spinning, and try to avoid actively irritating his customers.

At this point, I really don't *care*, mind you. I'm beginning to suspect that he's going to pull a Gerrold and *never* finish the book. I no longer will be eagerly scanning Amazon waiting to see if it's been released for my Kindle. If the book ever shows up, I *might* buy it.

But then again, I might not. Because he's tried my patience, and failed to entertain.


62:

Re #59: "JvP: stop grandstanding."

You're right.

I'm serious about hypernovels, but admit WAY too much ego in that posting. Back to lurking until forgiven.

"Better still, get your own blog."

Facebook is the main venue lately, and only for those who've opted into "friending" and so no soapboxing on your blog, can do so there.

Sincere apology.

I do wonder if you have a deep intertwingling of your novel series in mind, not evident yet to readers, but allowing delightful surprises later.

63:

One might hasten to add that if he's not entertaining some people, such as Roland, that's hardly the same as "failing to entertain" everyone.

The majority of people who follow his blog remain engaged and entertained, it seems.

Of course, the actual readership of his LJ is probably a tiny percentage compared to the actual readership of his books, to boot. And given Bantam's confidence in increasing the first run of the next book over the already-high levels of the previous book, they seem to suppose that the audience is even bigger and more eager than before.

64:

Roland @57: There isn't a damn thing that GRRM should do other than live his life how he wants to.

This is the fundamental problem, a vocal number of "fans" of his seem to believe they are entitled to a new book in the series, and that he is taking something away from them by not having published yet.

They simply aren't entitled to a new product by virtue of having bought a previous product from him, they certainly aren't entitled to tell him what on earth he should or shouldn't be running his life.

They've bought some of his previous works, not the author himself.

Also, it's a surprise to most of them that A Song of Ice and Fire isn't actually the centre of his existence, personally or professionally. He has actually written quite a bit of other stuff, just because lots of the ranters don't care about it doesn't make it any less important to GRRM, or the fans of that work.

If I was GRRM I'd simply ditch the entire thing and just concentrate on my other projects (if I had the choice), because every day I heard someone else demanding the next installment would be another day I'd find myself unable to work on it, and another week before I'd actually want to work on it.

65:

I am not a writer, but I do take pride in my work. However, I only work 40 hours a week. If I worked more than that, I'd go insane, and start killing things.

If someone were to suggest that I *owed* it to them to work more, I'd be mighty pissed off, even if they paid my salary and regardless of how much they loved my code.

I don't see why writers should be any different.

Roland: I suggest that if you find Martin's blog annoying, you might try not reading it. Honestly, if I was him, I'd be mighty tempted to stop writing just to spite the whiners.

66:

JvP@61: I think Charlie's "get your own blog" comment stems from something I said last night, where I noted that the length and detail of some of your comments were such that they'd make an interesting blog, even if they do come over as excessively self-focussed at times.

67:

1. Short comment on GRRM and author obligations to fans. Get over it fans. Stross and Scalzi are right.
2. Thanks for bringing up Hodgell. I'm checking out her stuff on Baen and will likely purchase the omnibus editions of her work. Reader's Advisory crops up in the strangest places :)

68:

Roland @60: the author of fiction is an entertainer first and foremost

That's like saying that I'm first and foremost [insert job description here].

No. First and foremost I'm _me_. A mere fragment of what I am is defined by my job and my occupation. GRRM is an author; that's his job. With luck he enjoys his job. He's self-employed; he's got a better chance of that than wage-slaves who have do to a 9->5 :-) But it's still just a job and, if he wanted to, one he could quit.

Yes, he's an entertainer now, but that's merely one attribute. Definitely not "first and foremost".

69:

[delurks just long enough to say]:

Thank you, Feòrag! I'm (sincerely, seriously) lost without the advice of wise women with deep common sense. My Mom had it, but died at age 46. My wife has it, but was in Australia 3 months. I am self-focussed at times, as character flaw repurposed as writing/research discipline. I'd be lost without my wife, and thank you thus (by analogy) with all that you do for Mr. Stross, and what Kristine Ann nee Blauser does for John Scalzi.

[relurks, but with gratitude]

70:

Posted by: Richard Gadsden

"Your comments on how type (b) series are like the real world brought strongly to mind the 163x series by Eric Flint et al. There are *hordes* of view-point characters, and he only keeps track of it all by having a positive army of authors and co-authors."

In the latest book('1635 : the Dreeson incident'), that's broken down hopelessly (IMHO, of course), due to lack of focus. The first dozen chapters involve bringing by a gazillion minor characters, many from fanfic, for no good reason. The end result is one of those books which looks more like a reception line rather than a novel.


I'll try it again, and see if I get further.

71:

Charlie @ 12 and Matt @ 29: Two more Hodgell fans! And here I thought we were rarer than hen's teeth. I guess this just promoted To Ride a Raithorn to the top of the fiction heap. And maybe a re-read of the others...

72:

Given that GRRM is of course free to do/say whatever he wants, and being sympathetic to the arguments about artistic freedom and integrity - and by implication the right to call offensive idiots exactly that - I still think don't agree that all criticism is unfair.

The simple fact is that his next book isn't a standalone work, it's the next 'chunk' of an ongoing uber-novel. And it's one that many fans, myself included, have sunk significant funds into to date (going by cover price, at least £60 in my case). Now, I'm happy to wait for the next one, and if he needs another few years to get it right, fair enough. I'll still buy it. I also don't mind what he does in the meantime to pay the rent or live his life.

But if it were - speaking entirely hypothetically - left incomplete because he decides 'to heck with the begrudgers', or because he simply grows bored with the whole thing, that would be like da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa but leaving the face blank. I'd be left with a brown dress and a bit of Renaissance Italian landscape. I think in that situation I could be justifiably annoyed.

73:

Sam@64:

Yes, they are *entitled* to it, because he promised it to them.

Can you think of some other job in which being seven years late with something you'd promised long ago, all the while flaunting everything else you're doing *but* fulfilling your obligation, would be tolerated?

I already acknowledged that I understand that GRRM needs to keep many writing projects going at once in order to keep the wolf from the door. I noted that many folks don't seem to understand this, and that he should explain it to them, if he wanted to have better relations with his customers.

Stephen Harris@68:

I mean professionally, obviously.

The bottom line here is that most of you seem to think that authors can do whatever they like, overpromise, underdeliver, insult their fans, etc., and that it's somehow noble and transgressive and individualistic if they do so.

I don't call it those things - I call it stupid.

I've bought more than 200 books for my Kindle over the last 18 months or so, and have read more than 150 of them. I buy lots of books, I have friends in the business and have a better idea than many folks how it actually works. I'm an author's dream customer, because I'm a repeat customer.

And as a customer, I'm saying that GRRM is mishandling this situation, no matter how much you or Messr. Stross or anyone else defends him.

GRRM has set himself up as an entertaininer, and right now, he's not going a very good job of it, IMHO. That's his decision to make, but I'm perfectly welcome to my own views, and to choose to spend my money on authors who provide better value for money and don't break their promises to me and don't insult me, on top of all that, if I so choose.

*And there's nothing wrong with that*. Just as GRRM can screw around and not meet his commitments to his readership, I can choose not to buy his book. That doesn't make a bad person, or unreasonable in any way; it's my choice.

All I've been pointing out is that GRRM can avoid angering readers like me by modifying his behavior a bit, even as he scribbles away, and that it is in fact reasonable to be exercised at an author who has time and time again failed to deliver on his promises whilst whooping it up with Monday Night Football.

74:
We lock ourselves in an office for several hours a day, every day, and we don't interact with other people while we're working.
That sounds like heaven. Is being able to write and do this characterization thing really a prerequisite for being a novelist? ;}
75:

Charlie @33

Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Buffy are all shows that don't reset. The story and character continuity and development makes them more gripping than shows that reset. It also makes it progressively harder for the writers to stick to canon as the number of episodes increases and harder for new viewers to join the shows without knowing the byzantine back stories.[1]

Such shows tend to have a steadily declining audience of keen fans (people stop watching for various reasons and starting watching in the middle is too hard) and problems tying up all the loose ends to anyone's satisfaction when the end arrives.

[1] There is some slight retconning in Buffy in the last season. 144 episodes after all.

76:

@72: The thing I never get about this argument is the idea that your investment is similar to paying for a fancy model, receiving one piece at a time until you pay all installments, at the end of which you have a complete model. Or, as you say, an incomplete portrait. But these strike me as poor analogies.

Each book has its story, and while it may be a partial story within a larger framework, it's still a story. Did you enjoy the hours you spent reading, considering, and discussing the four published novels?

Then if so, you got your money's worth. You have not "invested" in somethimg that won't see fruition in 10 or 15 years. You've paid for something that, theoretically, gave you the immediate pleasure you wanted, with the promise of more down the road if you came along for the ride ... but the initial pleasure is still there, whether the series is finished or not.

I don't get the whole concept that it's all worthless if it isn't completed, frankly. One would regret, of course, not seeing it all come together at the end and the pleasure you'd gain from witnessing it. But you can't negate the pleasure you've already had.

@73: What promise did he make to you? It's obviously something big, since you're worked up about it.

77:

Roland: Few people work on either Monday nights or Sunday afternoons, so Martin's NFL habit should not have a damn thing to do with his job. He is not your personal slave because you plunked down $60 for some books. You seem to think the man should be working every waking hour.

Also, I am also a "customer", and I find it extremely irritating the way you pretend to talk for the rest of us. You need to ratchet down the self-importance a bit. My suspicion is that the vast majority of people who bought Martin's book have no clue that the man even has a blog.

78:

Elio M. Garcia, Jr.@76:

He promised me (and all the other readers who bought these particular books) a complete story arc. So far, he's failing to deliver.

79:

Roland @60 and elsewhere -- No, really. GRRM doesn't work for you. He doesn't work for any of his readers. He may have a contractual relationship with his publisher, but that's a different thing.

As I said before -- readers aren't really customers, and even if they were, in such cases the customer isn't always right. If the customer were always right, then any and all customers could sue the writer if they didn't like the book.

Now, there is a cliché that actually is suitable here -- the so-called customer can 'vote with his feet' and not buy GRRM's books anymore. But don't confuse the two, and don't try to say that an employee who works at home is the same as a writer or other artist. It's just silly.

Charlie and Feórag, sorry for the lengthy comments.

80:

Roland @73. I mean professionally, obviously.
Clearly it _wasn't_ obvious. And even professionally, GRRM is still entertaining people; just not you. I've just bought one Wild Cards book and put the next book on my wish list. Oh look; he's entertaining me instead. Yay for me! [Nelson]Ha ha![/Nelson]

Now, any sufficiently competent self-employed person (in a sufficiently sized market) can pick and choose their customers; do I pick work that I'm going to enjoy and do a good job in, or do I pick work with an annoying demanding intrusive customer and where I feel I can only do a mediocre job? If I have the luxury then I'll take the first, thanks. During the DotCom bubble this is exactly what contractors did.

In this situation, you're clearly not the dream customer; you may have the money and want to pay, but you're demanding and the work being offered isn't (possibly) enjoyable.

I read, else-net, of a parallel situation that I've been in before. You write a piece of code, release it as open source, say that you have plans to do X, Y, Z in the next version... and all of a sudden people are DEMANDING that you get on with it, that you consult on their projects because your module isn't working the way they want, that you treat their requirements as high priority. Feh. It's enough to drain the enthusiasm from anyone. In my situation, I used to run Spuddy (free Usenet/email from before everyone offered internet access). That got old, real quick with people DEMANDING stuff from me. Even had one user moaning about downtime because his business depended on the email address he had with me.

Feh to that!

81:

Roland@78, obviously, he failed to deliver in 1996, with just the one book written and published. Why so worked about it 12 years later?

He hasn't failed to deliver until he calls it quits, by hook or by crook.

82:

ADM@79:

How wrong you are. Without readers, publishers don't pay. Obviously, you don't get paid for writing professionally - or if you do, you're not very good at it, heh, if you don't understand that your readeres are your customers.

And the customer being right has nothing to do with legalisms, or suing someone. Hyperbole/straw-man.

Stephen Harris@73:

I'm not the only one he's not entertaining, obviously. Quite a few people seem to be irritated, judging by his posts on his weblog.

F/OSS isn't a good analogy, either, since you don't have customers paying you to develop it.

Elio M. Garcia, Jr.@81:

Of course he's failed to deliver, as he's promised deadlines which have gone by the wayside on numerous occasions, as he freely admits.

He should've stopped making promises of that sort a long time ago. That's part of the reason lots of folks are irritated with him.

As we've obviously reached an impasse, no more comments from me on this subject.

83:

Roland @82. I thought the analogy pretty good, because the issue here isn't one of payment or of delivery; it's one of user (reader) expectations and expectation management. Nothing more.

84:

Elio M. Garcia @76:

First, I never said - or even implied - that the work produced to date was 'worthless'. In fact, I think it's a wonderful achievement, and part of my ongoing commitment to it is in no small part due to that quality. Please avoid blanket attributions that aren't supportable by actual quotes.

However, to reiterate, GRRM is not producing an anthology, nor is it a loosely connected series of stories; it is a single unbroken narrative. Leaving aside the scale, this is one 'book', and I would no more expect to be happy about a (hypothetical, remember) failure to complete it than I would to discover that the latest stand-alone novel by Charlie Stross appeared to be missing the last 100 pages.

GRRM's artistic freedom is invoiable, but so is my freedom as a reader who has invested time, money and imagination in the work so far to feel disappointment at a (again, hypothetical) failure to complete it. They are quite distinct, and I would argue, both entirely valid.

85:

MTGlen @84: I apologize. I mistook your point of raising how much you'd "sunk" into it as suggesting that you would consider your investment wasted if the work was not completed.

I'm absolutely with you that it'd be very sad if GRRM did not complete the work, one way or another. But for me, I would not look back on the money invested as not having been paid back many times over in hours of enjoyment.

86:

Trey @ 71: there are more Hodgell fans around than you might think; it's a small following, but an intense one. I have a feeling that, if it hadn't been for the spotty publication history and the things getting in the way that made the novels come out slow, there'd be many more.

(Oh, and once you've read them, check out the Kencyr Wiki at http://kencyr.wikia.com/, which is mostly an effort by me at this point - but not until you read them all, because it's spoileriffic)

87:

We GRRM readers are lucky. I'm closely following Robert Caro's biography of LBJ. Three volumes so far, and he's only got up to 1960 (and that by skimping 58-59 almost completely). It was fourteen years between volumes two and three, and Caro was 68 when volume three came out (any actuaries in the house?).

Seven years for a GRRM novel? Tis but an eyeblink.

Has it really been that long?

William Hyde

88:

Elio M Garcia JR @85:

Understood, and accepted. I think it could be said that to some extent GRRM is a victim of his success, at least in the sense that the quality of delivery seen so far has whet appetites to irrational levels, in some cases.

More generally, thanks for articulating the challenges of the series vs the multi-book story, Charlie. Having read and enjoyed the first three books in Greg Keyes's Kingdoms of Bone & Thorn tetralogy (often compared to the Song of Ice & Fire series), I felt a degree of disappointment with the final volume, and now I think I know why - Point 5 (the closure challenge)!

89:

You want the true definition of long waits? Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming". Volume three was published in 1972. We got part of Volume four in 2005.

90:

I think Charlie nailed it. Roland Dobbins appears to believe that his status as George R. R. Martin's "customer" gives him an unlimited charter to behave toward Martin like the boss-from-hell.

The belief that the customer/vendor relationship trumps all other obligations we have to one another is at the root of a lot of very unpleasant behavior, and Dobbins has provided us with a display of quite a few varieties of that. Certainly I hope Dobbins never buys any book I have anything to do with, because life is too short to waste even a minute of it dealing with people like that.

91:

Roland, you were not promised or sold a complete narrative. You were offered what the author and publisher hope will be a continuous narrative through N volumes. But things change. The number of volumes, for instance. Heck, we could say that we were offered a four-volume series, and have gotten it, so that George's obligations are discharged and everything is gravy.

Meanwhile, you've gone from being laughable to simply offensive. You, with your combination of bad attitude and terrible style, are exactly the sort of person most likely to make an author give up and withdraw from public or just abandon a project altogether. It is because of people like you that I no longer post to most forums where my own work is discussed. You started off ignorant, which is treatable, but have passed into willful denial of relevant information, which can be cured only by a change of heart on your part. A vengeful part of me hope it happens because someone inflicts on you what you're trying to do to George; a gentler part hopes that something gives you illumination without the pain.

You are a bad reader and a bad fan of work and creators you claim to enjoy.

92:

Clarifying my first sentence, since I realized it sucks: We were offered a book, intended as the first of a series. We were not offered the chance to preorder the others, nor guaranteed a schedule for them, nor vouchsafed a list of major plot points. Likewise with the second volume, and the third, and the fourth: we're offered a single book in each case. We can buy now, or later, or not at all, as suits us. But we are at no point offered the chance to buy into anything more than the book for sale. George, Bantam, and Voyager all have hopes, but they're not actually selling us anything but each volume as it comes out.

93:

It's a shame there's so many vocal people complaining that he feels he has to say something, I think.

I normally bounce off fantasy, but A Game of Thrones sucked me in. It's hooked me enough that I'll probably revisit all the volumes - in a genre I never normally read - before the next one comes out, just so I can keep the plot threads straight in my mind. And while I'd love the entire series to magically appear this evening, it wouldn't occur to me to be angry about some perceived delay.

I can imagine getting irritated with, say, a film studio that's kept a movie in development hell for ten years. But I can't imagine getting annoyed with an individual author writing a series. Who else is going to write it? He'll finish it when he finishes it, and I'll read it then.

94:

Roland makes only one valid point -- which is that GRRM has been mishandling communications. Not, however, in the ways that Roland goes on (and on, and on) about, by talking about leisure activities or trips or other such things -- but by trying to use it as a snapshot of his current planning and thinking to his fanbase. His missteps there have then been taken by people like Roland and turned into a vendetta against him for "broken promises" -- when he was just trying to, y'know, keep people informed and in the loop.

Clearly, GRRM gets a lot of personal value out of using his blog as a stress dump -- getting to talk about good stuff. Having to blog "still stuck on ASoFaI" day after day would *suck* -- I'm glad he has other things to think about and talk about. With regards to ASoFaI, though, he just needs to let his publisher's PR outlet handle any further status updates or announcements. That way he doesn't have to worry about professional whiners, can use his blog to talk about stuff that's happening, take his time to deliver a high-quality book, and avoid people like Roland being able to use his good intentions against him.

95:

Devin @93: About the only mishandling of communications that GRRM has made was that he made a qualified statement of intent without realising that a significant number of people seem to think that that is an ironclad contractual obligation between him and them that he has now failed to deliver on.

Unfortunately this happens time and time again whenever any individual or company makes any statement about their future plans that then have to be altered to face cold realities - a extremely vocal minority of people will scream murder on their forums, blog, or any other medium they can get an audience in.

Just look at the screaming mass of idiots on any game developer's forum when they push the release of a game or even a patch back by a week for additional testing.

Somehow it's supposed to be the author or company's fault for "poor expectation management" however.

Result is that anyone who has ever been bitten by this behaviour clams up entirely and refuses to ever say anything about future plans ever again, "It'll be done when it's done.", and retreats behind the bulwarks of PR-speak rather than what started out as an attempt to establish some sort of informal relationship with "the readership".

96:

First time Post but been lurking a while:
1:) first having read my first bok from you (halting state) at Xmas i have now bought all the rest and read most of them - i am a satisfied customer, thank you.
2:) GRRM ive bought all the ice and fire books and am eagerly awaiting the next one but I did buy them on the understanding that he would actuialy finish them in a fairly timely fasion (i havent sent him any rude messgaes but you know i do feel a bit p'd off) and I do worry he is letting best be the enemy of good here.
3:) I really recomend you take a look at battlestar galactica strangly i think its the closest thing to a novel in structure, (in fact one of your novels) and it certainly doesnt reset - and even better (on topic!)with series 4 due to finish in 4 weeks -and that being the pre planned absolute END of the series (with revelations conclusions and everything) you dont have to worry about it either being cancled or going on for ever.

97:

Charlie: "I can't work around the nuclear theft subplot I introduced in "The Hidden Family"".

Err, I see what you mean by difficulty keeping all the threads in focus. The nuclear bomb subplot was introduced in the 3rd book in the series, "The Clan Corporate". Not a mention in the 2nd book. I could be mistaken, but I don't think I missed any mention of this in "The Hidden family".

98:

I have to respond to additional nonsense, sorry:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden@89:

I've never 'behaved' any way towards GRRM - I don't know the man, have never communicated with him, and have no way to directly force him to do anything. All I've said is that he needs to alter his communications style with his fans.

Are you *really* that hypersensitive?

Bruce Baugh@90:

'Offensive'? Man, you people really have thin skins, heh. 'Bad reader'? If you've ever written for a living, you'd understand that there are no 'bad readers', except the ones who read a borrowed copy or visit those temples of evil, the libraries.

;>

Sam@94:

'Vendetta'? You need to look up the word in a dictionary. I've no vendetta against GRRM, I've just stated that I personally think he's poorly handled communications, that he's overprimised and underdelivered, and that he could better explain himself to his readership through his weblog. How does that constitute a 'vendetta'?

To be clear, I have never emailed, IMed, called, written, posted, telegraphed, heliostated, or otherwise communicated displeasure to GRRM. I've merely observed *in this one discussion thread* that I understand why some folks are frustrated with him, and suggested some small things he could do which would help avoid inflaming them while providing some insight into why he can't just drop all his other projects and work on this one book.

It is amusing to me how folks who so passionately defend GRRM against quite reasonable, dispassionate criticism on my part are absolutely indulging in the kind of hyperbole and demonization they claim to decry towards me, who simply wants GRRM to finish the book as quickly as possible so I can give him some more money, while in the meantime communicating more effectively with his readership, heh.

Hypocrisy, much?

;>

99:

The perspectives on the problems of writing a type (b) series are appreciated. Thanks.

GRRM is perfectly entitled to do whatever he wants with his time. When he last signed my copy of his book in Toronto, I thanked him for the joy his books have given to me and asked him to be sure to enjoy his success.

He said in reply, perhaps a bit too earnestly, "I will".

In retrospect George...maybe not so much this year on the enjoyment part, please :)

There are a few throw away comments made by people in this ongoing storm which do tend to annoy me though. The dismissive comments regarding fans that they should be happy if they get a big fat novel every three years...

Well, they did get one every three years for a while. And they were happy with that pace too. Now, they're not. It's been one in the past nine years. And so they aren't happy about that pace at all. The main characters in GRRM's tale were last visited by him publicly when he turned in a manuscript in April 2000.

We're coming up on nine years - and it looks like it will be ten very quickly. There has only been one novel in that time - which excluded nearly all the main POV characters. If it's not clear by now that GRRM's fans aren't happy with that pace and that focus, well, let me spell it out: they aren't happy with that pace and that focus. And they are perfectly entitled to *not be happy with that pace and focus*, too.

GRRM is entitled to write at that pace if he wants. I'm not saying he isn't. But to suggest his fans are not equally as entitled to be unhappy about it, is unrealistic in the extreme.

The real problem in all of this though has been the lack of information on GRRM's website about ADWD - and a surplus of information about other things which most fans of the series are only peripherally interested. It would be great if there was a mix of news...but in the past two years, there has decidedly not been a mix. At all.

That has created an impression among his fans that GRRM isn't working diligently away on the novel and that he's too involved in all these other things he's talking about - and not about SoIaF.

This impressions may not be true - but it *is* the impression that has resulted. While there may be a number of good reasons why GRRM has been very reticent to discuss the progress of the novel,(unfair accusations that he "lied" to his fans chief among them) the fallout has been pretty clear.

In the end, not the best marketing/fan relations from a guy who really is a true FAN of the genre and identifies strongly with the genre's fans as "one of them". Very unjust how that has worked out perhaps, but, there you have it.

The one thing in all of this that reflects well on GRRM, his fans AND even his detractors is that the only reason these readers are so up in arms about waiting for the novel is simply because they love the series so much. It's not simply "of interest" to them - the series has become their passion: the best damn thing they ever read.

So yes, they care. Too much it seems.

The silver lining in all of this has been that GRRM's recent posts on the subject have given the clamouring fans the update that they wanted.

Now he can just get back to finishing it.

(Please!)

100:

As someone who lives in the same (small) town and has watched George writing, I can assure you that he works VERY HARD INDEED.

101:

Roland @97: Please be careful with your attributions, I've not once mentioned the word vendetta. I think you meant Devin @93.

There's nothing reasonable about thinking you have a right to tell someone how to live their life just because you bought a book from them. And whether you think that's what you're doing or not, it is in fact what you are doing when you use statements of the form "GRRM should do X" or "GRRM shouldn't do Y".

"I think he should X" or "I think he'd be better off doing X" is advice and opinion, "He should X" is someone laying down the law. When it's aimed at you, you'll probably find the former "quite reasonable" and the latter to be "rather intrusive" when it's a total stranger telling you what you can and can't do in your own life.

@Charlie and somewhat back to the original post:
Just finished reading The Clan Corporate this morning, had made the mistaken assumption that the first three were somewhat of a trilogy and the next three would be another, whoopsie. Would have held off on reading book three (although not buying) if I'd been paying attention to Charlie's warnings. Definitely a nice refreshing change of pace after the past month reading through some real doorstop novels though.

Having read books 1-3 though, it seems to me that (from memory) Halting State had considerably more points-of-view to tie together, so is it in particular the combination of the larger length of the story arcs for each POV in a multi-volume series and an increased degree of independence of each arc that you personally find to be more troublesome, rather than just sheer quantity of POVs?

102:

Roland @ far too many places. Writing is one of the things I do for a living. It's part of my job. I do it well, from what people tell me. I edit, too, and am damned good at it. But hey, thanks for the ad feminam.

Let me return the favour...

I'm betting that, if you write for a living, it's something along the lines of tech writing. I doubt it's the kind of writing I do, academic writing that depends on my own research, or the kind of writing that professional creative writers do. Those sorts of work can't, and shouldn't be, commodified. But don't try to convince us the two are the same.

Your anti-intellectualism is showing.

103:

Roland's right, people are perfectly free to express their opinions of GRRM's delay. GRRM is free to do whatever he pleases too. BOTH sides are well within their rights in that. Where his fans go overboard is with the vitriol and outrage. THAT, they have no right to do, but if he posted a 'no, really, it will be out soon' post now a mass rolling of eyes would be in order. The 2005 afterword wasn't his only comment that it would be out soon, after all.

Sam - get off your high horse. This is a series of blog comments and Roland's comments along the lines that "GRRM should..." are *obviously* his opinion. Don't be so obtuse. It's amusing that you and others are so vociferously defending GRRM's right to do what he pleases but take such offense at Roland's mild criticism.

104:

Sam@100:

Apologies for the misattribution.

ADM@101:

Then you *do* acknowledge that your readers are your customers, and you work to ensure they're happy with you, that you're meeting their expectations. Which is my point, in a nutshsell.

rick@102:

Thanks for the voice of reason. One small quibble - the fans do have the right to express vitriol and outrage, just as GRRM has the right to ignore it and/or serve it right back to them. My point is that it's poor marketing/customer relations to let things get to that point in the first place, and doubly damning to get defensive about it and then metaphorically give them the finger. It's Not Very Smart.

S.M. Stirling@99:

There's no doubt in my mind that GRRM works very hard, on multiple things, all the time. I've tried to make that very clear. *He's* failed to make that very clear to his readership, as evidenced by the current brouhaha.

Also, I was quite amused/dismayed to see that you had the Giancanas finally whack poor old Dave Robicheaux, heh. I guess it's probably the best way for him to go; Burke's last couple of Robicheaux books have been derivative and formulaic, IMHO.

105:

I've never actually read any of Mr. Martin's books, but I have started my own novel (after having had a fair amount of success as a playwright.) Here's how it went:

1) Dec. 2007-Feb. 18,2008: First 85 pages of StrangeOffice done & presented. If someone had asked me: "When will your first draft be done?" I would have answered: "In the summer, with any luck." Let's pretend lots of fans have read the first 85 pages, enjoyed them, and mark their calendars for the summer for when they'll be able to read

2) Feb/March 2008: Focused exclusively on new play about Miles Davis, with workshop at end of March.

3) April/May 2008: Focused on thesis play and new play getting produced in festival.

4) Summer! But no, I have to work on a spec script for "Reaper" and prep to move to L.A. Very little time spent on novel.

5) August: Score major work-for-hire playwriting gig. There goes August.

Anyway, I've been working on StrangeOffice off-and-on since then. Point is, I'm only up to page 231. Of the first draft. It will need a rewrite. So, believe me, I sympathize with Mr. Martin. It's not as easy as it looks. Here's what I think happened: he got very close to finishing the book, discovered it didn't meet his high standards, and is doing his damndest to make it as good as he possibly can. Rewriting is HARD, people. In the meantime, he's paying his bills by doing things which will pay the bills quickly. This doesn't mean he isn't ALSO working on the novel. People can walk & chew gum at the same time.

Martin owes his readers the best book he can produce. If that means taking more time than he thought it would, the result will be worth it.

106:

Another Damned Medievalist @ #20:

And I detest the model that much of this seems based on, that the audience is customer, and the customer is always right

One of my ex-bosses used to correct any of us employees who said "the customer is always right". 'NO! No, no, no', he'd say, 'the customer is king, but frequently not right and we're better off selling the customer what she needs, not what she wants; that's why customers that leave us come back a year later'.

The business? An actual, profitable ISP (in that more money came in to the business than left the business).

107:

Ingvar@105:

Working in tech, I agree with your former boss's comments - when it comes to tech, which most people, even supposed professionals, don't reallyl seem to understand.

An author producing a long-awaited work for his readership is quite a different proposition, in that it's not a consultative transaction (either explicitly or implicitly).

108:

Rick@102: I think people are rubbed the wrong way by Roland putting forward a rather pernicious theory of author-reader relationships that's more along the lines of more extreme customer-vendor theories (cited by PNH@89), and that he insists promises were made to him which don't actually exist.

Many have already agreed he has a right to his opinions and perceptions. He can't lay claim to determining the facts, however. GRRM has never had it written in blood in a contract with his readers that he would ever deliver by date X, Y, or Z. He notes that he "devoutly hopes", that he "thinks he might", and so on. And while these are optimistic and hopeful remarks, they are not actually promises. The only thing GRRM has promised is that the book will be done when it's done, and that he works his hardest on it.

And yet some don't care. They create promises out of thin air, and ignore the real ones. How does "customer relations" deal with such rank stupidity?

And this -- all of this -- because the author is friendly and gregarious and likes to converse with his fans. If he were a Robert Jordan, with no personal Internet presence to speak of, this would never happen. But he gives an inch, because he's a fan himself, and the trolls climb out of the woodwork to take more and more.

109:

"Has it been that long?" @ 86 ....

Well what about Diane Duane?
Given that the dates of "Doors" into:
Fire, 1979
Shadow, 1983
Sunset 1992 ...
and we're still waiting for "Door into Starlight"
Ummm ....

110:

To all those fans who think GRRM 'owes' them anything at all or has broken a 'promise':

Take it to court.

Everything else is just internet QQ whining shit, STFU.

To everyone else - sorry for the profanity.

I love GRRM's work, Wild Cards, Tuf, and so much else, but there's no way that it's fair to demand of an author (any author) they they produce something _I_ want, no matter what, no excuses.

111:

EMG@107:

What precisely is 'pernicious' or 'extreme' about what I've said? Did you read what I actually wrote?

It's 'pernicious' and 'extreme' to note that GRRM has gravely mishandled this, and to suggest ways he could do better? To posit understanding that he must keep many projects going and couldn't simply devote himself to one book, and that it might be a good idea if he explained this to his readership who don't understand it?

And GRRM did make me a promise, as he did all of his other readers, time and time again, and failed to deliver on those promises, time and time again, *as GRRM himself admits in his own words on his own weblog*. Now, you can sit here and deny that GRRM said that, just as you can deny that the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West, but your denials of objective fact do not remake reality to suit your tastes, I'm sorry to report.

And the folks who're agitating about _Dances With Dragons_ being late, missed deadline after missed deadline, aren't agitated because GRRM 'is friendly and gregarious and likes to converse with his fans' - they're agitated becaus he still hasn't finished the damned book.

Then again, I don't view authors as godlike beings above the realm of us mere mortals, who should kow-tow and tug our forelocks and never, ever offer criticism. I view authors of fiction as entertainers who provide value for money, and I enjoy giving authors who entertain me money, repeatedly.

If that's 'pernicious' and 'extreme', let me assure you that there are many authors out there who are eager to line up for the kind of abuse that people like me mete out to them in the form of cold, hard cash, heh.

112:

Do you own a copy of Catcher in the Rye, Roland?

I bet Axl Rose never had to deal with this sort of thing, while waiting for his muse to return.

113:

Ingvar @105 --

When I was working for a telecom start-up and a dotcom, that was our philosophy, too.

It illustrates better what I meant by the customer voting with hir feet.

114:

As usual, talk of "rights" in this kind of situation misses the point. We all have many rights we're better off not exercising for the pragmatic reason that they make it more likely that people will do things we'd rather they don't. This is one such case.

Readers have the right to hold and express any damn opinion they want, and any expectation. But so long as authors remain human beings, some stances and expressions will provoke them in ways that readers would rather not see. This isn't about permissions in the sense of "am I legally entitled to do this", it's about what makes it most likely that the writer will be able to get over whatever hurdles are in the way and deliver a good book that people will want to buy and read.

As a parent, for instance, you have the right to feed your child a diet that's basically healthy but on the low end of safe when it comes to food value, nutrition, and calories, and to never let them get any extended exercise. You also have the right to expect them to be a great athelete...but they won't be, and you're a fool for expecting otherwise. Same deal.

115:

@ Greg. Tingey

Yes, that one came to my mind also. It will, I think, be worth the wait.

I bet it's hard to pick up all those long-dropped thought-threads, though. Her ideas on where it was going may have changed over time, too.

116:

Elio @ 54,
That URL would be handy. When I bought the last book I had to skim back over the previous volumes to refresh my memory.
And that was several thousand brain cells ago.

As for the delay in publishing the latest volume:
I bought the first book and liked it, so I then bought the other books as they come out.
I enjoyed them and I look forward to the mext volume but I don't believe GRRM has any obligation to produce the book just to keep me happy.
And I can appreciate how hard it is to keep track of plot lines and characters- hell I had problems as the story continued and I was only reading the damned thing.

118:

I've been a consumer of GRRM's "hope-to-have-it-done-later-this-year-but-we-will-see" updates for close on a decade now, and as a long-time reader, this year's version is the most satisfying: he admits he's "overly optimistic" and "bad with deadlines", which strikes a chord with me since I've been trying to root out the same tendencies within myself. Except I write code and muck around with databases and my project timescales are comprised of days, weeks and months, rather than GRRM who has to deal with tasks on the order of a Maoist Long March 5-year plan and such. I solved my optimism problem by using a variation on the "Scotty Factor"
* assess how long I thought it will take to complete a task in days, weeks, whatever,
* multiplying that number by 3, then
* adding one and then
* rounding up.

This has proved to be a remarkably durable method that works well for me. It prevents me from embarrassing myself come schedule and planning time and over-committing by precious few resources. However, I doubt it would work well for GRRM:
"Hmm, gonna take a year or so... wait, gotta go to Worldcon... Finland... Print some t-shirts... Put a roof on the house... Parris is goin to Ireland, ok, maybe a year and a half at most"
"multiply by 3 ... carry the ...."
"add one and round up..."
"hmm... 6 years..."
"bugger"

Still, while it may be a remarkably accurate assessment of how long he's taken to write ADWD (so far), this is not a number George can go and announce to the world, or to anyone, and engender any sense of joyful anticipation. We readers and his publishers want it NOW NOW NOW. We don't want to hear "Thank you for enjoying my book, now go and (choose from the following: buy and pay off a car/have a kid/attend college/change careers), and the next installment will be ready when you are finished, kthanksbye."

Given that George's putative realistic estimate is sure to piss off his fan-base, and estimates in no way effect how long it will actually take to finish a task anyways, being strung along (however unintentionally) is actually his best tactic. It works for him, and ultimately it works for us as well.

119:

Elio @108, Robert Jordan doesn't have a web presence because he's dead.

Greg. @109, I understand that the first three Doors didn't sell well enough so the fourth wasn't going to be published. Then Rowling's work got a lot of older good YA new contracts, and Duane got one for Door into Starlight. She's working on that as well as The Big Meow and others, so I'm not sure when it will come out.

120:

Elio,
Thanks. Much appreciated.

121:

As far that i agree with everybody, who mentioned that an author is no machine that can put out high quality work in short time and that it is in common interest of readers as authors if a book is brought out in the best way possible, i strongly disagree with anybody who simply puts out that whoever is waiting desperately for another volume n of series x should go around and read anything else to keep him or her busy. As a reader you don't simply consume, but with the best of the worlds that were painted in your mind by the masters of this trade you invest a lot of time, interest and fantasy whilst reading. I for my part DO have a limit of how many open ended, never to be finished series i can read and not despair when nothing else seems to follow. There's a large gap inside my mind that calls for filling, that calls for completion and another series simply can't do that. So for most stuff i already follow the "not before it was finished by the author" rule. But every now and then you either can't wait any longer because you just hear TOO much good stuff about a work and you have to join that fandom and read it as long as there is the chance to talk to others that enjoyed reading it... It was hard to wait for Potter seven. It's hard to wait for Martin, Weber. OR you will stumble upon something and no syllable of the praise you read for it mentions that the author has some large goal and wants to write 14 novels of doorstopper dimensions in his universe and you just read book 1 and have been catched already... in my case that was what happened with Locke Lamorra (S.Lynch), but it might very well have been Charlie Stross or Scalzi as the grapewine is also very busy with their works. But i won't start any new epic fantasy whilst the saga is not complete. ten or twelve simultaneous tortures of my soul are way too much to bear.

122:

Everyone who says that author's don't have a contract with their audience is 100% legally correct. I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts that he does have a contract with his publisher, and his publisher has every right to be pissed, seeing as his ROI on the initial advance is going down the tubes.

Am I disappointed and frustrated when author's don't deliver in a timely fashion. Of course I am - I'm a human being. Would I be so gauche as to rant in a public forum, no, probably not. However, I am highly unlikely to purchase other works by that author that are published in the meantime.

One thing that I didn't see any discussion of is "writer's block". Charlie, your initial essay seems to suggest that in the case of "type B" narratives, delays are primarily intellectual problem. In other words, the work was more difficult than originally imagined, and therefore takes longer to implement.

I am not a writer, I don't even play one on TV, but I think that writer's block is more complex than this. I think that it is primarily an emotional problem that prevents some writers from completing a work.

In at least one case that I have been following for years, I believe that the author has committed to his fans to produce a revolutionary work in the next volume of a series. The longer it takes him to deliver, the more revolutionary it must be. I have a suspicion that the author in question is avoiding working on the volume because of this sort of anxiety.

I am in no way suggesting that this is the case for GRRM. I have not read the series in question, nor do I follow his blog.

Charlie, have you suffered from writer's block? What do you think are the underlying causes?

123:

George R. R. Martin's public statements are a valid subject for public discussion. So are Roland Dobbins's. It's mildly amusing, if predictable, that as soon as Dobbins encounters some criticism he's eager to suggest that his critics are "hypersensitive." He's right, in a way: the core of what several people are saying to Dobbins is that he's being an insensitive jerk, so naturally he is going to want to argue against the value of sensitivity.

It's also interesting that Dobbins heatedly insists that he has "never interacted" in any way with Martin. All he's done is write, in forceful language shot through with a sense of personal grievance, multiple statements about how George R. R. Martin should govern his life and public behavior, and then take those statements and post them to a globally-available network. In Dobbinsworld this evidently counts as "never interacting," as if authors live in some faraway alternate dimension where human nature is miraculously different and the ill-considered words of strangers never get under their skin.

As a matter of free speech, of course, Dobbins is of course entitled to express his opinions about various things GRRM has and hasn't done, their relative value, the priorities GRRM should observe, and so forth. Likewise, the audience to whom Dobbins is declaiming these opinions is entitled to say when they think he's being silly and/or offensive. As Bruce Baugh observed many years ago, the internet is phenomenological; if you do a perfect imitation of an unpleasant person, you are one.

124:

Ooo, late in to this one.

I've learned my lesson and it's simple: finish the whole damn thing before you hand it in.)

There could be a missed marketing opportunity here - how about running up, as you go along, a parallel version of the series in which you remove unwanted nuclear theft subplots and replace them with tidier situations...and then release it after the original is complete, as a sort of "director's cut", this-is-what-I-would-like-to-have-done-had-the-exigencies-of-production-not-supervened thing. In a special collectible dustjacket.

Not saying this wouldn't involve an assload of possibly-unrewarded work, mind.

125:

Everybody ignores or is ignorant of the fact that Tolkien took umpteen years and multiple drafts where he went back and rewrote earlier parts of Lord of the Rings so that the whole fit together (Has nobody else read the History of the Lord of the rings? ; The Fall of Sauron;) Does anybody else want to wait x no. of years before reading even the first volume of a new fantasy series? I'm satisfied to wait x no. of years between books 4 and 5 of Feast because I think it's worth waiting for. Tolkien only had the freedom to finish LoTR as he did because, well, actually many reasons. But does anybody think that if he had published today and released LoTR book 1 with Bungo Baggins and Trotter, would it have even been trilogised let alone go on to become the most famous literary fantasy of modern times? (Not sure of Frodo's original name, not have access to my copies of History of LoTR). BTW, i read a game of thrones in 1998 or so in paperback in Malaysia and have been following it most fervently since, some in hardcover and some in TP but always reading the latest within a day or in a weekend. I dont understand others attitude, if its worth the wait its worth the wait. If not read or watch or play another video game. Wait everybody waited x years for Star Wars prequels, and most said George Lucas raped their childhoods. Do you want George RR Martin to rush out a book/whole sreies that he's just moderately pleased with and then have everybody bitch that he raped their memories of A song of Ice & Fire? (I dunno, some might). George, both Lucas and Martin, I think you can't win either way.

126:

forgot to mention that im much more pissed at charlie since he sucked me in to the merchants series with the 1st 2 books out in such quick succession that i got the 4 in HC because i couldnt wait to find out what happened next to Miriam and then he slowed down so much and yet still pounded out books like jennifer morgue and saturns children and also halting state which arent on my to read list yet, but in the spirit of my post above, ill wait for books 5 and 6 as long as it takes him to write and get them published (im in my late 30s, so if someone else of other age disagrees, i understand).

127:

Charlie remarked I've learned my lesson and it's simple: finish the whole damn thing before you hand it in.

Alas, that seems like an impractical solution. Two issues: first, if the writer successfully sells the series to a publisher and scores an advance, the publisher risks waiting a very long time to recoup that advance. This would probably make publishers quite reluctant to agree to any such arrangement. After all, midlist authors like Charlie have a tough enough time getting published as it is, and this "solution" would toss even bigger roadblocks into the publication process. Not just "Do we want another Strossian singularity novel, or is that trend on its way out?" but "Do we want to wait up to 5 or 6 years after giving Stross an advance to get handed a 3-foot-high stack of mss for a multivolume series of Strossian singularity novels?" So finishing an entire series of multivolume novels before handing 'em all in sounds like a fairly good way for an author to sabotage hi/r career.

Second: if the writer bangs out the entire series on spec...yow! What happens if it fails to sell? I doubt many professional writers could or would embark on such a risky venture. I suppose the Kings and Rowlings of the world could manage it...but an average midlist author? Unlikely.

Charlie may mistake the origin and nature of these multi-volume series. In some cases, an author creates a character that so vividly captures the public's imagination that s/he gets forced to crank out more books. In that case, the public finds itself in the driver's seat and the writer must play catch-up. Examples include Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books, the reappearance of Falstaff (back by popular demand), the continual Ensign Flandry reappearances by Poul Anderson, every book in Frank Herbert's Dune series after the original novel, and so on.

But in the second case the author decides on a large-format arc for a multivolume series of novels and in that situation, the author's in the driver's seat. The readers don't get to make demands. Which sounds like what's going with GRRM. For that reason I find myself firmly on GRRM's side. The frustration of the readers of those Fire & Ice novels seems understandable, but in this instance the readers are simply not the ones calling the shots, so they don't really have much of a leg to stand on.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden predictably works hard to piss in the face of readers as well as authors, living up to his usual antisocial standard. "Certainly I hope Dobbins never buys any book I have anything to do with, because life is too short to waste even a minute of it dealing with people like that" admirably sums up Patrick Nielsen Hayden's unique combination of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence, a toxic mix we haven't seen since the recently departed Bush administration launched its war in Iraq. In an era when newspapers have collapsed entirely as viable economic concerns, and in which traditional publishers find themselves staring down the barrel of the amazon kindle and the IRC bookchan, the kind of grossly contemptuous eagerness to alienate his potential audience, so fulsomely expressed by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, admirably sums up the self-destructive bent of today's commercial publishing industry. Now, if Patrick Nielsen Hayden could sue some of his customers, he'd manage to do a complete RIAA -- urinate in the faces of your entire customer base. Yeah! That's the way to expand sales of dead-tree books in the post-digital era!

Talk about arrogance combined with ignorance and incompetence... Wow. You just have to catch your breath when you see an editor like Hayden working so hard, in such difficult times for publishers, to shower as much of his readership as possible with acid contempt. It's like listening to Don Rumsfeld natter on about how "stuff happens" after the looting of the Baghdad museum. Are you listening, Tor? Why do you continue to employ this fool? The only thing missing is clown shows and bright red hair.

To complete the portrait of an ignorant incompetent loon, though, Patrick really should have added the obligatory rant in favor of DRM in e-books, the usual gratuitous insult to his audience's collective IQ (something along the lines of "only fat retarded kids read science fiction, but I don't care, because Tor pays me so much to edit the swill I have no problem with the stupidity of my audience"), and the customary sneer of arrogance along the lines of "authors come and go, like bacteria on a toilet seat, but publishers like Tor will always be here."

How Patrick Neilsen Hayden and his creepy sociopathic wife ever attained positions of influence in the publishing industry remains a mystery as baffling as the re-election of G. W. Bush in 2004. Such remarkable occurrences help us understand why the ancient Egyptians worshiped insects.

128:

GRRM was already on the defensive/feeling heavily harassed by his fanbase with the late finish on a Feast of Crows. When he was on uk tour to promote it he explained that he'd had to completely rewrite the novel as he couldn't make a 5 year leap forward in the timeline work to his satisfaction,. Overall he had come out of the process with enough material for 2 novels which would lead to the next one being barely a year away .

Theres absolutely nothing wrong with having to wait for the next installment in a series of novels, its an art and rushing will do no good. There is something wrong with loudly declaring that a book is ready[bearing in mind that a Feast of Crows, focused on less popular POV characters and introduced new ones to an already heavily cluttered tale, whereas A Dance with Dragons runs with more popular characters and the main threads of the story]and giving a hopeful timeframe for it.

129:

How Patrick Neilsen Hayden and his creepy sociopathic wife

Hey now.

130:

David,

Did GRRM actually say it _would_ come out, or did he indicate that it ought to, it might, it hopefully would, etc. come out at a certain time? Because that's pretty much what he always does, and in the last ... eight years or so he generally says it'll be finished when it's finished, will he or nil he.

As Scalzi says, writers must reserve the right to reassess a work-in-progress and not bind themselves to overly-optimistic progressions.

131:

electrophoresis @127: You clearly don't know Patrick or his wife. Or how to spell their name.

132:

electrophoresis: if the writer successfully sells the series to a publisher and scores an advance, the publisher risks waiting a very long time to recoup that advance

That's why advances are staged -- on signing, on delivery, on publication -- and further subdivided so the three tranches are applied separately to each book on the multi-book contract.

Also? There's a deadline. If the author goes over it the publisher may, at their discretion, demand the return of the advance. And if the author says "piss off", the publisher has every legal right to sue them for it.

As for your subsequent incredibly rude comments about friends of mine, I have this to say to you: fuck off and die (and don't you dare show your nose here again until you've learned some manners). Asshole.

(Posting left uncensored solely so that the peanut gallery know why I'm banning you.)

133:

peanut gallery

Hey now.

134:

Whut? I've been reading science fiction obsessively for one, two, three, four... four! ah ah! Almost four decades now, and I can remember exactly one GRRM novel (written with a partner). It was excellent. But, in no way was it equal to a Charlie Stross novel, which is earth-shattering, mind-bending, and one of the best things I've seen since the polio vaccine.

135:

GRRM's delay may be taken as a good sign. He cares enough about continuity and other factors to turn out quality product. I'm sure those genuinely interested in the series can wait a bit longer for quality product. If GRRM grew irritated enough with his fans, he could always churn out drek as a big ole middle finger to them. That's one thing about this blogosphere-- your fans are always in your face, which I'm sure could grow tiresome.

136:

Some quick notes from a writer with some proximity to GRRM:

Didn't GRRM most likely mean it when he promised to delivery of the next book in a short time, and believe it? What's turned out is not what he intended.

Please realize many (most?) writers spend their time doing one of two things: a) writing; b) avoiding writing. You may not like the fact much. We don't.

If you found yourself facing the prospect of writing something as encyclopedia-sized as this cycle, might you feel kind of intimidated? Might not anything else, even writing other projects, tend to feel less fearsome? It'd intimidate hell out of me. Escape takes many forms.

The frustration fans feel at the delay is understandable. What better compliment is there to a writer than that readers feel passionately about his or her work? Might the sheer pressure of fan expectation contribute, just a little, to the intimidation factor of an author writing a mammoth work?

You want GRRM to finish the next book. We all want him to. Don't you think he might want it most of all? Nobody wants that kind of weight hanging over his head.

And is abusing the man the best way to get him to do what you want?

137:

Victor @136: absolutely on the nail.

138:

I just want to address something that Ronald writes earlier, as variations of this comment have been repeated by lots of people, on lots of different sites:

"he flaunts his 'doing other stuff than writing _Dances With Dragons_ by posting about it at great length on his weblog"


GRRM said specifically on his *not-a-blog* that it was not created for the purpose of updating his readership on ASoIaF. He created it as a place where he could write about other things, his other interests in life (politics, conventions, football, etc). He clearly explained this, in addition to clarifying that any comments he allowed should be in reference to the topic (ie: no "where's the next book?" when he's talking about football). See: the very first post by GRRM on his blog for full details from the man himself.

There is no contract that states that a writer must spend all his time talking about his current/specific work. In fact, when a writer invites you into his life via a blog, etc, it should be considered an honour, and writing nasty comments on his blog is the written equivalent of spitting in someone's face when he invites you to his home.

GRRM, Scalzi, and Mr. Charlie Stross, and many commentators all over the web, all have touched (or bashed) on the fact that writing is a creative process and that it can be hampered by life events, as well as emotional or mental issues. There can be a million reasons why a writer has not yet finished a work, but, Ronald and other detractors, that doesn't mean that the writer does not deserve the opportunity to enjoy watching a sport, enjoy writing about the sport, and reading responses from others regarding the sport, especially on his own, personal, soap box.

But, do feel free to create your own blog, where you can spend 100% of your time complaining about GRRM. Because that is perfectly ok. Just like it's ok for GRRM to talk about anything on his own blog.

And finally - if you have not paid for _A Dance With Dragons_ , then you are not technically a customer, and therefore none of your demands/complaints/bitching is relevant to GRRM and he has no obligation to write a single word for you, give you a single update, or even acknowledge your existence. Unless of course, "you" happen to be GRRM's publisher!

139:

Peony: Please don't suggest that people create blogs dedicated to complaining about GRRM - not even rhetorically (there are many people on the net who tend to take most things literally).

I'm sure that seeing a bunch of whinging blog posts every time that he does a Google search on his own name wouldn't make him happy or help his productivity.

140:

Perhaps GRRM should just get a co-author to wrap things up, or at least to get back on track. Seriously.

(I can see it now. "C'mon Kevin, where is chapter 34? We're on the clock here." "I don't know, George ... I'm not satisfied with it. Give me one more month, okay? Oh, by the way, there will be another viewpoint character.")

141:

I'm a (non-native English-language) Ph.D. writer, so I'm one who writes for a living.

@76:

"Then if so, you got your money's worth. You have not "invested" in somethimg that _won't see fruition in 10 or 15 years_."

I actually think this depends a lot on your larger view of things. Bona fide, we each trust that our friends and relatives are still alive when tomorrow comes; we know they may not be, but faith they will be makes you feel better, more at ease.

In GRRM's case, he has actually ardently hoped time and again that a continuum, such as the one we project regarding our friends and relatives, WILL continue at approximately some date (at least Jesus didn't speak about the date he would return :)). So readers will cease the day and jubilate when the day draws near, or, at least, plan their lives and finances accordingly. But this still hasn't de facto happened and the readers have felt let down time and again.

Making a promise is not a mere analytic description. It can e.g. be more like an act made by an authority in a mutual speech situation where the words of the authority are taken as sincere and conveying something "beyond" the code itself. The authority thus may re-unite a subject (a reader) with an object (a book) just like in a marriage ceremony. And this particular authority has lots of appeal to his fans.

Now, the scheme is aggravated IMO by the fact that he tends to otherwise keep a very _informal_ discourse about himself to his fans. I mean, he reports in such a casual manner about his musings and daily events that the illusion of there being no gap existing between him and his readers may be very real to some. So, his readers, finding him to be close to their own level, tend to trust his word as we all trust, initially, the word of someone we feel easy with (even someone we admire and respect).

Thus, there's some mixed signals sent when this semi-conscious treaty based on sincerity and fairly mutual relations is broken off many times, and Martin seems to some like a prophet and to others like a nice chap, possibly even at the same time. He has offered himself to the fans, but retreats when they make a hungry approach and seems to grow uneasy because of their very reaction (which is puzzling given that GRRM has worked decades in 'the business').

Next, I think an amount of literary criticism may help in how to deal with an author's status. We all know I believe that commerce and art are a very tough pair to mix. As a solution, esp. some Anglophone artists have seen themselves as completely aloof from commerce (and indeed, from contemporary and social life). There's much discussion about this theme in the literature of literary criticism for example.

Now, I think Martin doesn't quite fit into this role of an aloof artist. He again sends a conflicting signal by explicitly touting his commercial products on his blog, his fountain for the thirsty he has struck with his rod; indeed, he seems to accept commercialism fair and square. To conclude, then, that Martin is a high-floating artist out of touch with other people or their, allegedly consumerist, interests seems contradictory. At any rate, if Martin wishes to pose as an artist (which is too grand a title bestowed on him IMO), he is sending the wrong signal again to his fans by not behaving in an artist-like fashion, i.e., aloof from commerce.

It's my firm opinion that most great artists (in also many scholarly fields) view consumer culture as a necessary evil at best but Martin seems pretty uncritical towards it which dents his (albeit PR) image of a perspicious artist. He has of course a right for action like that but it doesn's seem like a very prudent course PR-wise (which mantle he has in any case rather ungrudgingly accepted to bear) to take.

In conclusion, I of course symphatise with the man and speculate on whether he genuinely has done the best he could. My own deadlines have failed me time and again in writing a monograph of research (though I'm quite conscious of focus and planning, perhaps more than GRRM SEEMS to be, without, as yet after more than 3 years, losing 'the joy' of it). It's certainly even probable that he indeed has given his best shot in the manner he feels comfortable with (you sure can't etch a writer's methods in stone) and that he has no "cruel intentions" towards any of his readers. (By the by, some American fantasy writers seem possessed with thoroughness of detail).

Still, he has made arguably considerable tactical and managerial blunders with his approach which may come across some as misleading or disappointing (which in turn can't help but tear at the financial cloak he's donned), and that's something I can, at least to an extent, symphatise with.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 24, 2009 9:48 PM.

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