George R. R. Martin is not your bitch

Came cross this interesting post on Neil Gaiman's Journal. The author received this message from a fan:

Hi Neil,

I've recently subscribed to George RR Martin's blog (http://grrm.livejournal.com/) in the hopes of getting some inside information regarding when the next "Song of Ice and Fire" book is due to be released. I love the series but since subscribing to the blog I've become increasingly frustrated with Martin's lack of communication on the next novel's publication date. In fact, it's almost as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid working on his latest novel. Which poses a few questions:

1. With blogs and twitter and other forms of social media do you think the audience has too much input when it comes to scrutinising the actions of an artist? If you had announced a new book two years ago and were yet to deliver do you think avoiding the topic on your blog would lead readers to believe you were being "slack"? By blogging about your work and life do you have more of a responsibility to deliver on your commitments?

2. When writing a series of books, like Martin is with "A Song of Ice and Fire" what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?

Would be very interested in your insight.

Cheers

Gareth

To which Gaiman replied:

My opinion....

1) No.

2) Yes, it's unrealistic of you to think George is "letting you down".

Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.

People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren't coming out on time.

Both of these things make me glad that I am not currently writing a series, and make me even gladder that the decade that I did write series things, in Sandman, I was young, driven, a borderline workaholic, and very fortunate. (and even then, towards the end, I was taking five weeks to write a monthly comic, with all the knock-on problems in deadlines that you would expect from that).

Click on the link to read the whole piece. This will by no means silence Martin's detractors, but it's nice to get a number 1 NYT bestselling author's take on the issue.

37 commentaires:

RaveAir said...

George R. R. Martin is a cylon. You haven't got to worry about him. ;)

Anonymous said...

hahahahahaha!!! That has to be the funniest thing he's ever written!

bloggeratf said...

Heh, nice find. I get why people get to feel that way though...

Anonymous said...

I do get annoyed that he seems to be milking his series for every penny he can get when he could be working more on his book. I think it is funny how he complains about the the new Star Trek movie being nothing but a cash cow..........The kettle is black.


I will however wait as patiently as possible for the next book, and I bet it will be great.

painbird said...

when he say that martin is not working for us, isn't that wrong? don't we, the fans, allow him the lifestyle and the ability to get paid for writing? so i think he does work for us.... but i don't think he has to write what we want.

if we, as consumers, don't like what an author is writing the we don't have to buy it. if we don't buy books other than the series we want then it will become clear that's all we want. this is a case of talking with your wallet.

Alexander Field said...

HI-freaking-LARIOUS. Why do people feel like they can expect a writer to do anything? This baffles me totally!

Anonymous said...

Neil is obviously totally right, but I think poor Gareth is onto something. I think because we) can now follow some of our favorite authors' blogs, and have more of an insight into their lives, sometimes direct communication, that we do feel more like we know them and thus have a right to expect something from them.

As Neil so eloquently and hilariously points out, this is false, but I don't think people like Gareth are going to go away. And I wonder if this is just the beginning of a growing trend.

Ana said...

Definitely... Gaiman's reply is gold.

Anonymous said...

Even though I agree to what Neil said, there's one small "but".
Any of the books in ASOIAF was advertised as part of the series. The fact that each book is part of the bestseller, award-winning series implies that you're buying a part of something that will eventually be completed.
So, when there are clear signs that there is something wrong with the series, you may begin to feel somewhat cheated. Because, normally you wouldn't buy any of those books if you would have known there will be no ending to them.
I concurr that each book was worth it's price. But having no ending makes them "damaged goods", somehow. Think about it.

On the other issue, GRRM is noone's bitch. Nobody has right to request anything from him only because he or she has bought the book. So, it's a promise broken. So what? Stop complaining and get a life. There is one beyond ASOIAF, you know.

As per authors having blogs, it's their right, not duty to maintain them and post what they want. Some of us find it interesting what GRRM or Pat Rothfuss or (especially) Joe Abercrombie have to say and for most people it's a joy to read anything they wrote. Even cooking recipes. Every person defines boundaries to their privacy and nobody is allowed to violate.

Anonymous said...

It's in Wikiquote now.

Anonymous said...

Apparently GRRM has come down with swine flu :(

Let's hope he gets better...

Anonymous said...

Nor do I want him to be in any way, shape or form.

(shudders)

That being said, I agree with poster above who pointed out that in buying book in series their is expectation that series will end (Robert Jordan books excepted)and that it will be done in a timely manner.

Either I, or George, will probably pass on before this series is ever finished.

Anonymous said...

He may not be my bitch, but I don't have buy or read any more of his books either. Which is fine by me, I wasn't as impressed with him as he seems to be.

TheDude said...

Neil Gaiman might just be the coolest guy ever! He never disappoints.

I can't help but agree with him.

I'm a hardcore ASOIAF fan but there's so much stuff out there to read that I don't see why anybody has to be so angry about the next book being late

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I also feel aggrieved by the lack of progress in ASOIAF. I bought the books expecting the series to be finished in a timely manner. Would there have been complaints if Battlestar Galactica had been stopped part way through a series? Or there had been several years wait between series...
He may not be my bitch but he did take my money under the assumption that the series would be completed..

Luis said...

This whole song of Ice and Fire mess has taught me one thing. It's much better to start reading books of series that are ALREADY FINISHED. That way one can read at one's own pace.
Even it the next book of Song of Ice and Fire came out tomorrow, I would have a very hard time remembering just what the heck happened in the last books.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Pat claim awhile back that he deserved to be treated better regarding the Wheel of Time for similar reasons of entitlement?

Anonymous said...

Quick question: wasn't Martin under contract with his publisher to complete the books within a certain timeframe? In which case, as interested third parties, one might say that we ARE, in fact, entitled to expect the books to be completed in a timely manner ;)

Adam Whitehead said...

Anonymous:

"Would there have been complaints if Battlestar Galactica had been stopped part way through a series? Or there had been several years wait between series..."

It was and there was. Season 4 was broken in half and transmitted at 10-month intervals for absolutely no reason that anyone could fathom (and that was after a 13-month gap between Seasons 3 and 4). The fanbase moaned a lot. It didn't do any good. HBO also sometimes go 18-24 months between seasons and their fans complain about that as well.

"Quick question: wasn't Martin under contract with his publisher to complete the books within a certain timeframe?"

GRRM's contract was for three books, so he's fulfilled that already. I assume there's been a new contract since ASoS came out, but if so it hasn't been made public.

The Amazing Buttcrack said...

Anonymous: Pat didn't claim that at all. The guy is pissed because Tor decided to split the book into three parts instead of two.

Big difference.

Anonymous said...

Buttcrack, nope, same deal.
Pat feels like Tor is his bitch because he enjoys their books. Check again. Gives his posting of Neil Gaimon's reply all the more funny.

"I am thoroughly disgusted by all this. . . Shame on you. WoT fans deserve better than that. . ."

"as fans we are getting screwed"

"I've been reading The Wheel of Time since 1991. That's 18 years of my life that I've invested into this series. . . (etc for many many lines of moaning and entitlement.)

You deserve nothing. You are a consumer. Buy books or not, that is your choice. Nobody is your bitch.

Chris said...

painbird: "don't we, the fans, allow him the lifestyle and the ability to get paid for writing? so i think he does work for us..."

Who, then, do the new writers work for? Take a look at any publisher's upcoming releases list. Who do those people work for? They have no established massive fan-base, and yet they have already been paid for writing when the publisher decided to buy their ms.

Sure, the publishers made those decisions with marketability in mind, which can include 'Genre Fandom' or 'General Mainstream Readership' or 'Book That Oprah Will Like And Make Famous'. But it would make no sense to imply that an author you've barely even heard of works for you based solely on the vague possibility that you'll like their book.

Now, on to the financial matters:

If you bought the existing volumes of ASOIAF in hardcover, the money that has transferred from your pocket to GRRM's in the form of royalties amounts to maybe $50 to $100. That's doing a lot of rounding up, and assuming extremely (perhaps ridiculously) generous contract terms.

If you walked up to a person on the street and handed them a couple of $50 bills, would you presume that you'd then be able to ride them for the next few years, telling them what they're allowed to do and when they're allowed to do it?

Josh said...

@Anonymous: If you believe that Pat's rant and this are the same, please tell us the name of your pusher because you are smoking some really potent stuff!

@Chris: Since authors get about 10% per book sold in terms of royalties, if you bought all 4 ASOIAF volumes in hardbacks you've basically given GRRM about 12$.

painbird said...

chris;

new authors are published with the idea that their books will sell and if they don't we usually won't see more from that author.

my point was martin is a very established author and the things he does now is because we bought so many books from a series he intended on finishing. i doubt anyone would buy a book without an ending which is what we did when buying books 1-4. there is no ending and no ending in sight.

it's disappointing but it is just a story and i don't think we have the right to get angry with him or lash out. i think he ought to finish the series and in some ways i feel he owes it to us but we don't have the 'right' to demand he does anything specifically for us.

if we are that angry with him, stop buying his books.

painbird said...

josh;

he may only get $12 but they wouldn't give him such a big contract if he wasn't selling so many books.

machinery said...

sorry, that's just bullshit.
gaiman has respect for another author, that's ok, but he's just wrong.
martin has started writing the series in 1990, and so far has published 4 books.
the 5th book is being written for the last 8 years, according to him, and because there was a material need, he added the 4th in between.
8 years for 1 book ?
i'm sorry, I know that i'm walking on unclear roads here, and I know that I don't have a say about martin's creative vision and such, but if he can write 5 books in the last 8 years and not the 5th book, then some question could be asked.
he doesn;t have to respond, but fans have the right to ask question.

Muse said...

I cannot top Neil Gaiman's "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch" response.

Priceless!

I don't know if this is an instance of industry vs inspiration, but I can imagine how disappointed Garth or other fans would be if they had read a book submitted just to meet deadlines.

Anonymous said...

My beef with Martin is that each book is obviously part of a series and as such is incomplete. If he didn't want the pressure of writing a series he could have gone down the Bernard Cornwell/ J K Rowling route where each book is a complete stand alone story. Of course I would have been disappointed with the delay between books but I wouldn't have felt annoyed at shelling out my hard earned money for an incomplete tale. His readers would have been excited when a new book appeared instead of felling "about bloody time" I have never seen such a waste of such a fantastic fantasy world.platie

Chris said...

Josh: Well, like I said, I was being extremely generous. Royalty percentages can go up depending on how well the book sells, if it's in reprint, in translation, etc., etc.

painbird: GRRM was an established writer way before ASOIAF came out. You can't really claim to be the wellspring of his reputation because you've bought those four books.

You might be able to make that claim in regards to Patrick Rothfuss and NotW. But then you'd be in the position of riding someone whom you've paid an effective grand total of ~$3.

painbird said...

# A Game of Thrones (1996)
# A Clash of Kings (1998)
# A Storm of Swords (2000)
# A Feast for Crows (2005)

2yr to 5. maybe we will see book 5 in 2010 and the following 2 by 2020?

martin should be happy and annoyed. at least people care enough about his books to complain when it takes too long for our liking.

blah blah blah... none of our comments matter anyway. he will finish when he wants and nothing we say will change that.

Anonymous said...

Hey I'm getting old, I may not live that long...

Anonymous said...

Although I really don't follow the progress of the Great Unreleased Martin Novel any longer, back when I did I could never decide which of two theories was closer to the true reason for the perpetual delays. Was it because the muted response to the are-you-sure-this-wasn't-ghosted fourth novel drove him to extremes of perfectionism? Or was it because he lost the zest for writing the series after he'd reestablished himself as a top fantasy author and made a big pile of cash off the ever-expanding ASOI&F 'franchise'?

Once we get a poor fifth book, no fifth book or a stunningly good fifth book (in 2015), I guess I'll have my answer.

Anonymous said...

GRRM doesn't have to appease anyone and can take as long as he wants to finish the series, or not finish it at all. On the other hand, I also have the right not to buy anymore GRRM books if I don't like the delay. Only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason people have an issue with the George RR Martin Books is simply because it seems like the book is announced to be finished by so and so date, but then it comes to past. So they do it again, set a new date...and again no book. It just keeps getting people's hopes up. If GRRM just said it would take 5 years, then I dont think readers would mind as much...Its more of a disappointment thing

Ross said...

What worries me is the very real risk that Martin might not live to finish the series. You're talking at least five years between books, there's three yet to be released and he's no spring chicken.

What really pisses me off is that there hasn't been an update since January 2008. Every time you check his site though you get to hear about all the other projects he's been involved in that week.

Anonymous said...

Just vote with your wallet.

Don't buy his next book. It will send him a clear message.

I've given up on this jackass. He keeps writing other shit when he himself promised a book within a certain timeframe.

That is HIS word that HE is dishonoring.

If you cant live up to your own promises than forget him.

Anonymous said...

# A Game of Thrones (1996)
# A Clash of Kings (1998)
# A Storm of Swords (2000)
# A Feast for Crows (2005)
# A dance With Dragon's(2009/2010)

Looks mostly he is slowing down for what reason is not the issue.
Which makes the closure of the series around 2020.
Well he will be around 70 then it's easily possible but mishap may happen.