SF & Fantasy

A Fan Asks After GRRM


martin-dancePolarization comes easy to author George R. R. Martin.

Not by his wish, by the way.

It’s not his novels that does it. Most everyone who reads George’s work loves his grand epic series, A Song of Ice & Fire. It is becoming one of the most important fantasy works in the history of publishing—certainly since The Lord of the Rings—and that means there are a lot of eyes watching its author. While his fan base does not yet rival that of Wheel of Time, it grows daily. And with HBO currently adapting A Game of Thrones into a live-action series for release next year ala Rome or Deadwood, George will have an even larger horde of a fan base to answer to in the years ahead.

While I don’t think writers have to answer to anyone but themselves and their editors, that’s not where the polarization takes place, at least not entirely. It’s not the man himself. No, George is not a jerk. He is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. Soft-spoken. Super nice. Polite. Always giving to the fans at conventions and on tours. More than willing to answer questions via email despite his overwhelming popularity. A true geek in every way.

I mean, the man brought me a ‘Winter is Coming’ shirt the first time he came to my home—and even got the size right!

That takes talent and being nice.

No, the polarization doesn’t come directly from George but rather indirectly. You see, A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in A Song of Ice & Fire, is late. Not only late but late late. It’s been five years since George turned in book four, A Feast For Crows, to his editors, and that’s a long time to not have a published book on the bestseller list. The publishers are annoyed. Bookstores are annoyed. The fans are annoyed. But no one else is more annoyed than George himself.

Since George is such a nice guy and is so dedicated to his craft, it’s tough to watch a small segment of his fan base tear him down with every internet keystroke they can muster. I certainly don’t validate such negative actions, but there are reasons why they take place. Underlying the rancor and hatred is a genuine, all too real worry. A Dance With Dragons is late. George posts on his Not A Blog about things that have nothing to do with the next book. Fans see this and think George isn’t writing.

And no matter the reality behind it all, anger erupts, because perception is 9/10 of the law on the internet.

For me, I’m more worried about the Meereenese Knot. I believe the lateness of A Dance With Dragons has very little to do with George’s time away from the keyboard and his extra-curricular activities—time he was taking before Feast when the books were coming out more timely—and more to do with writing himself into a possible corner. For years George has wrestled with the Knot and it has defeated him at almost every turn.

In short, if he hasn’t found a solution to the Knot by now, he may never. No matter what fans say, writing himself into a corner and the resultant implosion of the series is far worse than how many toy knights he painted yesterday after he finished his writing for the day.

The Knot is what scares me most.

Anyway, sometimes a good discussion takes place about all of this though, one that is civilized that doesn’t devolve into a flame war of epic proportions. Yesterday, I received two good questions from a new member on the Terry Brooks website about A Dance With Dragons and more specifically The Winds of Winter, which will be book six in the series. I thought it would be fun to post both questions, answer them, and see what you all also think:

1. GRRM stated in a recent blog entry he had over a 100 pages ready for The Winds of Winter. Should fans be happy that he has almost 10% of that book written or should we assume he is going to revise/edit/throw away those pages after A Dance With Dragon is released and they will have virtually no impact on the completion time of The Winds of Winter?

Given his track record with completed pages, I think only a fool would think them edit-proof. That said, I tend to be foolish when matters of the craft are talked about. We know Dance has been difficult to complete because it is the middle part of the series where characters and events have to be lined up just right for the march toward the eventual climax of the series. The Knot is the reason, primarily, for the lateness and GRRM has been banging his head against it for years and years. Will there be another Knot in the future? Unlikely in my view, since writing knots like this usually take place in the middle of a story. Once completed and undone, the characters will be set up correctly and he should be past that middle and into the march toward the end.

The better question is: Does his hopeful completion of the chaotic middle part of the book bode well for those 100 pages in Winds? Probably. He has a much clearer understanding of seeing the end and how events will play out now, and those characters don’t have the narrative wiggle room they did before Feast and Dance were written. It’s like water going along inside of a tube that gets smaller and smaller; the water has fewer places it can go and it speeds up accordingly. But I severely caution you in giving the book a completion percentage as Winds could end up being even larger than Storm. So, long story short, I say take it with a grain of salt, because we’ve seen George destroy completed opening chapters before in favor of what he deems better openings.

2. This one is more for Shawn, I have seen a number of entries in this thread where you stated that The Winds of Winter will be complete in 3 years because that is GRRM’s traditional average and the delays in A Dance With Dragons is due to problems that should not be repeated in The Winds of Winter (Meereneese Knot, Book Split, Middle Books Difficult). Would you be willing to state that if Martin takes over 4 years to write The Winds of Winter (3 year average + %33 buffer) then something has changed from his writing habits from 1991-2000 and from 2000-Present?

It is my belief, yes, that George will complete Winds faster than Feast or Dance. I arrive at that opinion solely based on how the craft of writing genuinely works, even for freewriters. But it also depends what you mean by “writing habits.” I know for a fact that nothing has changed in how he conducts his craft, so no, I won’t say something has changed even if Winds comes in later than 4 years, at least from the point of view of his outside-writing life. George has always been a freewriter. He has always been a guy who loves the NFL. He has always been a guy who loves toy knights. He has always been a guy who loves traveling to conventions. He has always been a guy who loves editing anthologies. He did all of those things before he wrote Thrones and he will continue to do so, I have no doubt. If you notice, I just listed off all of the things most angry naysayers say are the reason Dance is late, but none of those people put thought into the fact he was doing those same things when the books were coming out more timely.

No, something else happened that has caused the lateness of the last two books. To me, as someone who has struggled through the middle parts of writing two books, it’s easy to see what it is.

What’s changed for George since 2000 is the complexity of the series and entering the all-too-important middle part of the story where delicate care must be given. That’s why, in my opinion, these last two books have been difficult to write. When freewriters enter those parts of their stories, it causes chaos because they have given no forethought to what comes next. Hell, I’m an OCD outliner and I was still changing my mind back and forth about how to make characters go where I wanted them to go. I guess I will have a better answer for your question once Dance is published and I’ve read it. If George starts offing characters left and right, shrinking down possible paths the story can go down even further, I don’t see why Winds will take a long time. If he still has a crap load of characters to deal with, get ready for a long wait, longer than 3 years. Why? Because that means he’s still in that middle part of the story I talked about up above, the chaotic middle that has caused him so much grief the last two books.

And if he has offed a lot of characters and Winds still takes four years to write, I’ll have to read the book first before stating why it took so long for him to write. If it has fewer characters but is just as complex in execution, I would say its the story that caused another delay and not anything that George is doing on the side. If it’s not complex though, there is only one conclusion I could possibly make and it has nothing to do with craft or story…

I think George will surprise you though. We’ll have to wait and see

Anyway, I thought I would share a nice exchange between fans. Feel free to post your own comments below but please write them in a civil tone. No reason to get all worked up over a book, for crying out loud.

In other news, it seems George has been finishing some of the final POV chapters in the book, although he said two days ago he has more than a few to finish.

During the time it takes him to finish and the publisher to publish, I am considering doing a weekly re-read post of the series beginning with A Game of Thrones, since it has been so long since I’ve read it.

Would anyone else be interested in doing that with me?


24 Responses to “A Fan Asks After GRRM”

  1. PJ says:

    Re-read posts would be interesting to me, certainly.

    From his Not a Blog, I’ve figured the wait for Dance is due to middle-of-story problems. Didn’t he state that in his original plan for the series he wanted to age a bunch of the kid characters, make a gap of years between 2 of the books – then he got there, and found he couldn’t do it? I would expect something like that to throw a kong-sized monkey wrench in his writing plans. Finding a way around that has to be tricky, and if he doesn’t do it right the series could go all to hell, which would be a horrible shame. I’m definitely willing to wait while he works it out.

  2. His decision to age the children, work on that book for 1 1/2 years, and then can that work (from 2000 to mid-2001), definitely contributed to the lateness of both books. It was a choice he made for what he believes to be in the best interest for the series.

    But that was still only 1 1/2 years out of 10 that are accounted for really, and thankfully that happened early on in the process. He originally had a great deal of Dance finished when Feast published but then either destroyed much of that work or had to do some serious rewriting on the rest of it. I think he told me once that only 2% of those chapters escaped unscathed. I can’t imagine what it is like to write the same book three or four different times. It would drive me insane.

    That’s the thing that annoys me so much about people saying he doesn’t write anymore and that’s the reason the book isn’t done. It has nothing to do with that. He writes enough for three books worth of material. That doesn’t just “happen.” But when he writes in a direction for three months and then decides it isn’t working and deletes it all, those three months are forever lost to him and they add on to the delivery date of the book. So it has nothing to do with his ass in a chair and fingers on his keyboard; it’s him deciding which way to go with the story that has taken so long.

    I just hope he hasn’t written himself into a corner. If he has, I guess we’ll find out how truly great he is at getting himself out of it. :)

  3. His decision to age the children, work on that book for 1 1/2 years, and then can that work (from 2000 to mid-2001), definitely contributed to the lateness of both books. It was a choice he made for what he believes to be in the best interest for the series.

    But that was still only 1 1/2 years out of 10 that are accounted for really, and thankfully that happened early on in the process. Can you imagine what would have happened if he had gotten most of Feast finished and then decided to can it. Instead of 1 1/2 years lost it would have been double that.

    He originally had a great deal of Dance finished when Feast published but then either destroyed much of that work or had to do some serious rewriting on the rest of it. I think he told me once that only 2% of those chapters escaped unscathed. I can’t imagine what it is like to write the same book three or four different times. It would drive me insane.

    That’s the thing that annoys me so much about people saying he doesn’t write anymore and that’s the reason the book isn’t done. It has nothing to do with that. He writes enough for three books worth of material. That doesn’t just “happen.” But when he writes in a direction for three months and then decides it isn’t working and deletes it all, those three months are forever lost to him and they add on to the delivery date of the book. So it has nothing to do with his ass in a chair and fingers on his keyboard; it’s him deciding which way to go with the story that has taken so long.

    I just hope he hasn’t written himself into a corner. If he has, I guess we’ll find out how truly great he is at getting himself out of it. :)

  4. TheWall says:

    I would, in fact I started re-reading aGoT about a week ago, discovering so many details I missed the first time. :)

  5. Joe says:

    Hey Shawn,

    Well, you and I have actually become acquainted through our GRRM disagreements. As I mentioned to you via e-mail, I think there is more to it than just George being late. Myself, and many others, think that his behavior at times has been less than professional. Won’t rehash all the arguments. We can agree to disagree.

    I have no doubt that George is nice in person. Even “Ray” at Finish the Book, George seemed to indicate as much when they met (and, I’ll say this for the whole ‘fans vs. detractors,’ debate…at least your side relies less on anonymity). However, he certainly does not come across that way in many of his blog entries/comments. Perhaps what George needs more than anything else at this point is a good PR person.

    I also understand your continuing desire to stand up for George. Writers should stand up for one another, as should any group of people belonging to the same profession. However, it is important to draw the line somewhere, for the sake of maintaining quality standards. It’s good to see you doing it with the delays. As I mentioned to you in e-mail, I find some of the attacks on George of be despicable. His tardiness and unprofessionalism are at issue and fair game for criticism, but his weight and health have nothing to do with it and those types of attacks are outright juvenile.

    Perhaps you are right to attribute all of this to George’s freewriting. After all, if the book was on schedule would anyone mind that he blogs about NFL or miniatures? This might be a lesson for aspiring writers that outlining is a good thing. I sympathize a bit with George’s troubles because I tended to be a freewriter myself, waiting for the muse to inspire me before writing. Since reading your entries about George, I’ve forced myself to take a more disciplined approach, using limited outlines, notes, and trying to stay on a strict schedule.

    You haven’t read A Feast for Crows, correct? I would urge you to do so. It’s not a terrible book by normal standards. In comparison to the first three books, however, the drop in quality is palpable, and it’s not just the plethora of one-off characters. It would truly appear that George has been writing himself into a corner this past decade.

    As always, allow me to clarify that I do not hate George. The first three books of ASOIAF remain three of the most influential fantasy works I’ve ever read. I also enjoyed Fevre Dream. I think the reason it pains me, and a lot of other people, to see what is happening is because we respect George’s work, and would like to see a return to form. Clearly, given the continued delays, something’s got to give because, as you yourself have recently admitted, there does not appear to be any respite on the horizon.

    Your Truly,
    Joe

  6. AD says:

    How would getting upset and being a jerk help the book finish sooner? I trust that GRRM is doing everything he can to get it done and that’s good enough for me. And yes, I would love a re-read of the series. That would be fun.

  7. jeremy says:

    I can’t help but to think the lastest delay’s are connected to the release of the HBO series. It seems unavoidable that the publishers would want to release the book after a new fan base is created with the show. I read Mr. Martins blog. I know he is working hard to finish the series. I don’t blame him for living his life away from his pen. But winter has come and went several times. My dancin’ shoes are laced up where’s the dragon?

  8. Joe says:

    Hey Shawn,

    Well, you and I have actually become acquainted through our GRRM disagreements, minor though they may be. As I mentioned to you via e-mail, I think there is more to it than just George being late. Myself, and many others, think that his behavior at times has been less than professional. Won’t rehash all the arguments. We can agree to disagree.

    I have no doubt that George is nice in person. Even “Ray” at Finish the Book, George seemed to indicate as much when they met (and, I’ll say this for the whole ‘fans vs. detractors,’ debate…at least your side relies less on anonymity). However, he certainly does not come across that way in many of his blog entries/comments. Perhaps what George needs more than anything else at this point is a good PR person.

    I also understand your continuing desire to stand up for George. Writers should stand up for one another, as should any group of people belonging to the same profession. However, it is important to draw the line somewhere, for the sake of maintaining quality standards within the industry. It’s good to see you doing it with the delays. As I mentioned to you in e-mail, I find some of the attacks on George of be despicable. His tardiness and unprofessionalism are at issue and fair game for criticism, but his weight and health have nothing to do with it and those types of attacks are outright juvenile.

    Perhaps you are right to attribute all of this to George’s freewriting. After all, if the book was on schedule would anyone mind that he blogs about NFL or miniatures? This might be a lesson for aspiring writers that outlining is a good thing. I sympathize a bit with George’s troubles because I tended to be a freewriter myself, waiting for the muse to inspire me before writing. Since reading your entries about George, I’ve forced myself to take a more disciplined approach, using outlines, notes, and trying to stay on a strict schedule.

    You haven’t read A Feast for Crows, correct? I would urge you to do so. It’s not a terrible book by normal standards. In comparison to the first three books, however, the drop in quality is palpable, and it’s not just the plethora of one-off characters. It would truly appear that George has been writing himself into a corner this past decade.

    As always, allow me to clarify that I do not hate George. The first three books of ASOIAF remain three of the most influential fantasy works I’ve ever read. I also enjoyed Fevre Dream. I think the reason it pains me, and a lot of other people, to see what is happening is because we respect George’s work, and would like to see a return to form. Clearly, given the continued delays, something’s got to give because, as you yourself have recently admitted, there does not appear to be any respite on the horizon.

    Your Truly,
    Joe

  9. Joe says:

    Shawn,

    I would also add two things to my already long post:

    1) I strongly disagree with your statement that “writers don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves and their editors.” This similarly echoes something Neil Gaiman said about “GRRM isn’t working for you.” While you, and certainly Gaiman (love his work), are far ahead in the publishing industry than myself, as an aspiring writer I truly believe that something is owed to the fans. Otherwise, who are writing for? Yourself? If that’s the case then you and I wouldn’t be querying agents and publishers, we’d be content to self-publish on Kindle or put it up on a website. But we want a larger readerbase, which means we are trying to attract more FANS.

    Does this mean that George should cowtow to the crazies who insult him or act well outside the realm of respectable social norms? Of course not. But does he, indeed all writers, owe something to their fans? I believe they do, if they want the fans to keep reading. Look at JK Rowling’s incredible relationship with her fanbase as a perfect example. Similarly, I really enjoyed your blogging about the publishing process and Dark Thorn updates, which unfortunately you have not done since March 2010. :) I dream of having a fanbase even a fraction the size of George’s, and hope to learn lessons from this so that if it happens, that fanbase does not become similarly fractured.

    2) The overall theme of your post, and others, relating to ADWD has been completion speculation. In this latest post, we are talking about Winds of Winter. The question came to mind, if George is a freewriter, how does he knows it’s going to take two more books to finish the series? Couldn’t he just as well, while freewriting, decide he could wrap it up in this book, or in WOW, or that it could expand into a fourteen book series?

    Thanks for reading. Enjoy the dialogue, as always.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  10. @Joe: First, I’ve enjoyed our discussion, as always, both on the site and off. Now, to get into your reasoned points.

    1) I believe many of the “online PR problems” do not stem from George being a bad person but his inability to converse in a clear way to those people who read into every single little thing he says. Then again, how can someone stop people from reading what they wish, eh, no matter how savvy they are? I do know there isn’t a bad bone in his body. Trust me on that. And I simply cannot see him ever becoming this notorious hater so many of you call him for censoring his blog and certain people. Instead, I see one or two people fly off the handle and others follow, resulting in a beat down that simply MUST happen to stop rumors from flying around. You may hate that but as a long time forum administrator for a New York Times bestselling writer, I completely understand it and encourage it. And I bet him and his assistant will get better at it as time goes on. As I have. Also remember: It takes two people to cause a rift, and I simply don’t see enough people taking responsibility for their own comments and decisions about GRRM.

    2) Writers have one responsibility: Deliver the best book they possibly can. They deliver that to the editor but its also delivered to the fans, I’ll give you that. What too many of the detractors out there want to say is, “We want our great book delivered and we want it on OUR schedule.” Well, sorry, but I simply do not agree with that sentiment at all. The fans should play no role in the creative efforts of the author. No one said anything about JK Rowling because she delivered her books in what most people would call a reasonable time period, but as I’ve said all writers are not the same. Perhaps this is going to be just one of those moments we agree to disagree.

    3) The Dark Thorn updates will happen again once I get this Terry Brooks website move and redesign out of the way. Then my website can have its redesign and move. Hopefully by next week, for those of you who care about my own endeavors.

    4) Yes, speculation is a beast and that’s why I told the fan who sent in the two questions to take a heap of salt with the answers. Anything could happen. George could expand the series; George could wrap it up in the next book. We just don’t know. But George does have a firmer understanding of the storylines and where they are going now that Feast and Dance are almost done, even if the next two books aren’t fully outlined. That knowledge has helped him figure out that there was an extra book needed (Feast) and that he thinks he can wrap it up within seven books. Since he is closest to the project, you have to take him at his word on that and where it stands now, especially since he has been so up front with the additional books being added to the series.

    @Chris, a fan who wrote on Facebook about this post:

    There is one other thing to keep in mind here. Dance is a lot longer than people probably even really know. It is approaching Storm on size. That is a huge book. Dance also brings the storyline in Feast up to speed within its first 800 pages; the next 700 pages are additional content after the events in Feast, where George is wrapping up some of the cliffhangers (and undoubtedly just introducing new ones, Ha!). I think people can look at it this way then: It took George 3 years to write the other book that goes with Feast and he’s spent 2 years writing 700 additional pages for the continuing story. In that regard, fans should be happy, because George easily could have taken those 700 pages and put them in an additional book and charged people for it.

  11. Dawn says:

    Good golly, those readers must not get around much…Dark Tower by Stephen King? David Gerrold’s Chtorr? Melanie Rawn’s The Captal’s Tower? Book whatever it is now from Jean Auel?

    You don’t get irate at the authors. It’s not going to help, and it’s just silly.

  12. Joe says:

    Shawn,

    When you remove the context of this discussion from GRRM and his detractors, it doesn’t appear that our opinions on authorship are too far apart.

    I didn’t mean to imply that an author’s creativity should be dictated by his fans. Far from it. But, I do think that an author owes his success to his readers. They lie at the base of the distribution chain and, if that base crumbles, the structure collapses. Why would a publisher continue to waste money on something that no one will read?

    Clearly, George’s publishers believe he still has the audience, or they would have dropped him by now over the delays. But it’s clear to anyone that his fanbase has become fractured, in a way that you don’t see with many other authors. That’s unfortunate. Sure, some of them are irrational. You also conceded in your original “Defense…” article that fans have a right to be angry about the delays. If there were not repeated deadlines announced, and missed, fans would not have been so angry over football and miniatures. It probably spiraled out of control thereafter.

    Maybe that’s the result of the freewriting. You have often commented “how can you be upset at that writing style when it gave you three great books you obviously love?” Well, I guess because it has also produced one book that was “not-so-much,” a decade of delays, the knot, and an unpleasant rift in the ASOIAF readership. Maybe a change would do him good, to quote Sheryl Crow. Who knows? Fans and aspiring writers probably shouldn’t commit the hubris of pretending to understand the pressures of an established author, but an outside perspective is sometimes beneficial. And here we are, sharing our collectively unpublished thoughts. LOL. Again, I don’t have much of a stake in this GRRM debate. It might appear I fall in the “detractor” camp, but I’m just trying to approach this as I do all things in life – with a moderate, impartial attitude, trying not to let emotions beget irrationality.

    Well, anyway, I think that sums up the point I was trying to make about listening to the readerbase, or “owing” something to the fans. Lessons I will try to take away from this: (1) don’t announce deadlines unless you’re relatively certain they can be met; (2) don’t freewrite. Try to make lemonade from lemons I suppose. :)

    Joe

  13. My whole IN DEFENSE post wasn’t to exonerate GRRM from his lateness. For some reason that’s what the detractors have been trying to paint it as. Far from it. It’s actually placing the blame where the blame is due. That’s the entire point of that article and why I keep bringing this topic up from time to time.

    There are a lot of irrational points put forth out there. People want to point fingers. Well, in this case, they know who to point the fingers at. GRRM. But they then try to break down the “why” of it all and point their fingers in areas that have literally nothing to do with the lateness of Dance. That’s why I wrote what I wrote.

    Is George unprofessional? Sure, he’s missed a deadline. That’s the epitome of unprofessional. Is George bilking his readership — as one person said above “to hawk his wares” or something to the effect — instead of finishing a book? Of course not. George makes vastly more money publishing a book than he does in all of those merchandising things combined and multiplied. Is George waiting until after the HBO thing starts so he can make more money by releasing Dance then? I don’t see how that would help; in fact, it would take money out of his pockets. He should release the book before, get those sales, and then release the hardcover again with the HBO cover art on it to make more money by double selling his fan base.

    Is George a freewriter? Absolutely. Are there pluses and minuses to being a freewriter? Absolutely. Is this a situation when a negative has bitten him in the arse? Absolutely. Do we all as readers need to take ownership of that and understand you have to take the good with the bad? Absolutely. People can’t have it both ways, can’t be hypocrites. Is George taking up time writing by watching the NFL? Nope. He did that before when he was “on time” with his books. The same with traveling. The same with editing.

    Is George still writing three times the amount of pages he actually uses in the book? Yup. Writing those pages takes time.

    If he wasn’t writing them, THEN people could say he’s not writing the same. Since he is writing the same, it’s something else.

    The only thing that is different right now is the HBO thing, which really has had no effect on Dance as it only came together last year. Dance was already late by that time.

    So what is it?

    It’s the story. Plain and simple. And beyond that, it’s the place in the story he is writing from. Readers don’t think about this because they generally don’t see it happening, but the middle part of the story is the most important part of the story. Sure, the opening needs to be done right and the climax needs to have a level of plausibility and greatness, but it’s the middle that connects the two and make them worth anything. It’s the middle that sets up the characters for the climax. If the characters aren’t set up right, the whole thing falls apart. That’s why GRRM is taking such great care at this point. He has to. To get it right.

    Unfortunately, the Knot is a big part of that and I’m worried it has consumed the series.

    Time will tell on that front.

    As for Feast, I have not read it, but I know enough about it from people I trust to at least make a guess — a theory — why it was poorly received. 1) It has extra characters not needed. My view is we have to wait and see what GRRM does with those characters before we say “they aren’t needed.” 2) People generally say the writing was as good as it usually is. 3) My theory for why people didn’t like it has to do with their favorite characters simply not being in the book. I further suggest that either Dance will be the best geekgasm ever for GRRM fans, and/or, if one combines Feast and Dance into one book as best they can, the resultant book will feel exactly like the previous three books. I’m betting the latter is the way to actually read it, since I think there will be a balance to all of the narratives that is needed.

    Anyway, point fingers where they should go. At GRRM. Don’t blame all of this periphery stuff that has no place in logic. Find some understanding for where GRRM is at in the story and why it is soooo important he get it right.

    After all, this is something our children will be reading, hopefully like we read LOTR.

    Something to think about.

  14. Joe says:

    Shawn,

    I’m guessing your last post was aimed at the larger third person “you,” and not just at me in particular, because I totally understand where you’re coming from. Also, I’m willing to let you have the last word, although I will comment on one thing:

    “After all, this is something our children will be reading, hopefully like we read LOTR.”

    It’s certainly not something MY children will be reading. Incest, rape, infanticide, decapitations, etc. will have to wait until they’re a little older, thank you very much. Probably won’t make for a very good bedtime story. ; )

    Also, let me know if you do re-read the series and encourage comments. I would be down. I’ll have to get my copy of Thrones back from a friend. I still lend this series to people, although I’m very careful to warn them beforehand that the series is not currently for the impatient. Regardless, it’s been a big influence on me and I would go through it during the wait, and I’d be particularly interested to hear your thoughts on your first read through of Crows.

  15. Ha! I understand what you are saying about the children. Our children will hopefully grow up though, right? ;)

    And I’m happy you are down for a re-read. It seems everyone here has been so we will definitely be doing it. Together. As a group. It should make for some fun posting. As for Feast, you have no idea how much I want to read it — mostly so people stop throwing it in my face that I haven’t read it. haha That wasn’t pointed at you, but others who are a bit less… nice about it.

  16. Suze says:

    Whenever I read Internet postings regarding GRRM’s “lateness” on the next Ice & Fire book, four words come to my mind:

    Unjustified Sense of Entitlement.

    Speaking as an artist, I can say these things:

    There are two kinds of artists: Those that create/perform because they desire the recognition and appreciation of others, and those who create/perform simply because it gives them great joy to do so. It sounds to me, Joe, as though you fall into the first group. Which would explain why you think that he owes his fans something. But I strongly suspect from what I’ve seen of GRRM that he falls into the second group.

    Art — writing, painting, whatever kind of creating it is — is *hard* work. And it’s even harder when it’s not flowing out of you the way that you would like it to. When that happens, no one is harder on the artist than the artist him/herself.

    If an author *expects* something from his fans, then perhaps it might be legitimate for the fans to expect something back.

    However, it’s certainly my impression that GRRM writes the Ice & Fire books for himself — because he has a story he wants to tell, and because he cares enough to work hard at trying to get it told.

    But at this point in his career, GRRM has proven himself. He doesn’t *need* anything from his fans — and he probably doesn’t *expect* anything from them, either. He’s obviously got a full, rich life apart from I&F. I doubt that he needs to write any more books in that series to survive financially. And fans claiming that he somehow “owes” them something is just… well, it’s just an Unjustified Sense of Entitlement.

    I’d love to see the next book appear as much as anyone. But it’s far more important that GRRM does what *he* wants and needs to do — not what *we* want him to do.

    People who have this much time and energy to whinge and complain just because they haven’t gotten the book they want to read, quite frankly, need to spend that time and energy on getting a real life.

  17. Sue says:

    Suze:

    You pose those two alternatives as if there was an ultimatum. Why can’t an artist perform both for a joyful love of the craft, AND wanting recognition for his or her efforts? It certainly doesn’t strike me as an either/or situation. People in modern society like to create these dualities (i.e. “there are two kinds of artists”) and check off boxes, politics being the best example. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, left or right? Well, in real life there are often shades of gray between those blacks and whites, and far more than two alternatives.

    You say art is hard work. Indeed, it is. Writing a 400-page manuscript from start to finish, then having to rewrite it so many times I lost count, then having to rewrite it AGAIN, all before I even submitted the manuscript, is one of the hardest endeavors I’ve undertaken. It has been a very rewarding experience, regardless of whether or not I get published. But I DO want to get published. So does Shawn. So do most people who write because we’re not social hermits, and we want other people to view what we’ve done. If being an artist to you means seclusion, go for it. There have certainly been others who chose that path. J.D. Salinger (R.I.P.) is one that immediately springs to mind. But that’s certainly not what I want. You say George doesn’t want the attention? I call BS. There are numerous examples of him courting further recognition for his work, such as attending conventions or optioning his book into a television series. But most of all, there is his large Internet presence. It’s caused him so much grief, and he could just as easily shut down his Not-A-Blog and save himself the trouble. But George likes talking to his fans, he appreciates the recognition. Unfortunately, it’s been a double-edged sword for him.

    Also, this is something I once brought up with Shawn. You say that fans have a sense of entitlement. I’m sorry to say, so do many artists. Art may be hard work, but so is digging a ditch. So is being a social worker. So is being a doctor, where failure to perform your job to standard means that people could die, a far bigger consequence than missing a deadline. I’m a practicing attorney. There are serious consequences for violating my Code of Professional Responsibility, not limited to disbarment and sanctions. Is there a similar Artists Code of Professional Responsibility with the same consequences for missed deadlines? No. And of course, there shouldn’t be. Artists do need the freedom to create. But let’s not pretend writing or painting entitles someone to claim “hard work” as if people in other professions don’t have the same, or greater, responsibilities.

    I’ll also say that’s one of the reasons I really respect artists who have grinded in out in another field, and have real world experience. Michael Crichton could write like he did because he was an MD. Carl Sagan was a FANTASTIC writer, one of my favorites in terms of narrative, but it was premised upon his career in astrophysics. Terry Brooks was a practicing lawyer, and that’s one of the reasons I can so heavily identify with Ben Holiday in the Magic Kingdom series. I sense that disenchantment with the legal profession, that desire to escape into a fantasy setting, and I’m sure in many ways that was a metaphor for where Terry was in his own life.

    Salud,
    Joe

  18. Joe makes a good point about the double-edged sword. George is, at this point, damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

    As I said on another forum, I wish George would update his fans every day about the work he will be doing on The Winds of Winter. Something like this:

    Day 1: Wrote 1/3 of a Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 2: Wrote next 1/3 of Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 3: Took a day off to paint an army of zombie knights. Cool.
    Day 4: Wrote 1/3 of a Tyrion chapter.
    Day 5: Realized Tyrion chapter goes against what I am trying to do with Jon Snow, so I have to destroy the 2/3 of Jon Snow chapter from Day 1 and Day 2. Wrote 1/3 of new Jon Snow chapter with Tyrion in mind.
    Day 6: Wrote 1/3 more on Tyrion chapter. Had to tweak first 1/3 to come in line with Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 7: Wrote 1/3 of Dany chapter. Now realize I have to tweak yesterday’s Tyrion chapter in a major way.

    Etc. Etc.

    Just a quick sentence every day. I think people would have a firmer grasp of what it is to be a freewriter like George and how he spends his time, why he writes three times the amount of manuscript pages that are actually used in the book, and then he could post about anything else he wanted to, whether it be NFL or knights or calendars or what have you.

    Or…

    This kind of comment would obviously piss off George and his publisher, but I kind of wish the people who are angry about the books coming out in 2.5+ year intervals would stop reading the new books until the series is done. Like I stopped reading them all those years ago. It’s not going to change. There is going to be at least 2.5 years between books because that’s how George has written from the beginning. I don’t think the people who came late to the series — the vast majority of his readership — have an appreciation for how he has done things from the very beginning and the time it took to write those first three books.

    For me, I just want people to stay focused on the WHY it is late and WHY they should truly be angry, rather than pointing fingers at areas that have nothing to do with the reason the next book is late.

  19. Suze says:

    Sue,

    You assume that artists/creators who do not crave recognition and appreciation are those who want seclusion. That is an utterly erroneous assumption. There are artists who are perfectly social creatures (I am one of them) who are happy for others to see their work, but they don’t care whether they sell any of it, they don’t care whether anyone reviews it, they don’t care whether they make a \name\ for themselves — they just don’t *need* that recognition and appreciation.

    Of course, the other kind of artist can not imagine that this sort of artist can actually exist. They *do* exist — and usually they are like me, someone who is fortunate enough to have the ability to make a decent living in another way, and who does not have to rely on their art — or at least on producing a particular piece of it — for their survival.

    There’s a difference between many writers and other professions such as attorneys, doctors, accountants et al. When you go to someone in those professions for services, and they agree to provide them, you have entered into a contract. You have a right, then, to expect something from them.

    GRRM has no contract with his readers (despite the fact that the Unjustified Entitlers keep insisting that he does). His publisher might have the right to expect something from him. His readers do not.

  20. Joe says:

    Suze,

    You don’t want or need appreciation or recognition for your work. That’s fine, and I can appreciate that. For many years, I felt the same way. I was content to write for myself, and I certainly do not need to sell my book because, as I mentioned, I’m a practicing attorney. I could probably just rely on that for the rest of my life and write for myself and the privileged few who read my books, but for some reason that strikes me as deeply unsatisfying.

    With respect to seclusion, I meant it as much in the artistic sense as the social sense. I mentioned J.D. Salinger who, after achieving fame, wrote in social seclusion, yes, but also artistic seclusion, not sharing his stories with the world up until his death. If you think I’m making assumptions about you, that’s certainly not my intention. But let’s be fair here, you’re making an awful lot of assumptions yourself. “Of course, the other kind of artist can not imagine that this sort of artist can actually exist.” What “other kind of artist?” Again, are you insisting that there really are only TWO types of artists in the entire world? If that is your outlook on the vast spectrum of artistic expression and attitude, then it’s much more limited than mine. I simply disagree. I’m sure the number of professional artistic approaches are as numerous as there are genres and forms of expression.

    My point was not that George has a contract with his readers. My point was that being an artist is not more difficult than any other profession. George may not have a contract with his fans in the legal sense, and maybe he certainly doesn’t owe anything to them in that regard. But if you want your readers to continue reading your work, then yes, you owe it to them to listen, to be communicative, and to be responsive. If you don’t care about your readers, or how people view your work, then it certainly is valid to think otherwise.

    That is my own professional outlook. Yours is that the artist owes nothing to his fans, a position you seem to take because you do not need or desire recognition. Fair enough, others do. I certainly do. I know Shawn does. It certainly seems George does based on his actions (promotions via conventions and blogging), and I don’t blame him for that. His art is, after all, tied to a business – the publishing business. And if you don’t think certain areas of artistic expression tie into big corporate business, you’re fooling yourself. Have you looked at the corporate logo on the spine of George’s books? Bantam -> Random House (runs Suvudu) -> Bertelsmann (aka biggest publisher in the world). If George truly felt as you did and was that “other kind of artist” he could have just dropped the big boys years ago and self-published.

    My guess is that Shawn could further attest to that with respect to publishing. I can attest to it based on my experience in motion pictures. I don’t think that our attitude or experiences in any way diminishes our enjoyment of the creative process. Perhaps we will simply continue to differ in opinion, and that’s fine by me. I’m certainly not seeking converts. :)

    Joe

  21. Slynt says:

    As I said on another forum, I wish George would update his fans every day about the work he will be doing on The Winds of Winter. Something like this:

    Day 1: Wrote 1/3 of a Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 2: Wrote next 1/3 of Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 3: Took a day off to paint an army of zombie knights. Cool.
    Day 4: Wrote 1/3 of a Tyrion chapter.
    Day 5: Realized Tyrion chapter goes against what I am trying to do with Jon Snow, so I have to destroy the 2/3 of Jon Snow chapter from Day 1 and Day 2. Wrote 1/3 of new Jon Snow chapter with Tyrion in mind.
    Day 6: Wrote 1/3 more on Tyrion chapter. Had to tweak first 1/3 to come in line with Jon Snow chapter.
    Day 7: Wrote 1/3 of Dany chapter. Now realize I have to tweak yesterday’s Tyrion chapter in a major way.

    Etc. Etc.

    YOU MEAN:
    Day 1: Watched and rewatched audiotapes of hot as hell chicks for HBO show
    Day 2: See Day 1
    Day 3: Refreshed ad for 2009 calendar
    Day 4: Got angry someone asked about ADWD
    Day 5: Did a bit of editing work on Wild Cards
    Day 6: Had Parris pack my bag, off to AussieCon bye all oh ADWD (((soon)))

  22. Jake says:

    I loved aGoT, but I’ve slowly lost interest in the series. Feast for Crows is so boring I probably won’t finish it before Dance comes out…

  23. dex says:

    I’m not bothering with the series any more until the final book comes out – if/when. Why bother with a story when you may never know the ending? That way lies only disappointment.

  24. tabacman says:

    I am not a writer. I am a consumer.

    I expect after investing 70 odd dollars so far, and over 100 before it’s all done, to be well and truly entertained.

    So far first two provided – that third, not so much.

    Writers are remembered for their stories – don’t care if he flosses his cat with chicken wire at home. I do not have any idea what freewriting is… and don’t really care.

    If he rights this story and brings it around in an entertaining fashion – I will have considered myself satisfied with my purchase of a good tale… and more importantly I think he will be remember as the writer of a great story. And despite all the tics and foibles and distractions, that is what his legacy will be. In 20 years when I hand these hard covers to my kids – it won’t matter that it took 6 years or 16 between book 3 and 4. The story will still be good (so I hope).

    I don’t begrudge any artist success or the freedom to pursue better paying success in lieu of lesser paying success – I would do the same and so would all the alleged \pure\ artists who claim they only write for themselves and their dogs. If enough clams were waved in their face for the rights to their story – they would sell out in a minute. And those that wouldn’t aren’t likely to have created anything all that terribly good anyway (statistical odds alone favor me on that).

    He owes me nothing if he stops now. I am 2/3rds satisfied with my interaction with GRRM. That’s actually pretty good considering the state of fantasy fiction in general now days. I’m typically lucky to be better than 1/3 satisfied.

    I would like to see it finished and finished well – but hey – hassling the guy night and day isn’t going to help. If all the people criticizing him were busy creating as high a quality a product – the fantasy fiction market would be a much better place overall.

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