George R.R. Martin is Seriously Starting to Bore Me

In the last issue of UJ, I penned an essay about how I felt regarding the end of Game of Thrones. In that essay, I argued that the spirit of Martin’s work is essentially pagan, and the influence of Robert Howard is far more present than that of Tolkein, who filled his work with a Catholic ethos. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Beowulf is at least as pagan as it is Christian (anyone who argues that it’s basically a pagan worldview with Christian seasoning won’t get much argument from me), and it’s a rich epic. But it ends on a down note, one of death and fear and cold. So does Game of Thrones, which has its one incorruptible hero cast aside like trash, basically so the show could pull one more sucker punch.

And here’s Martin, in his notablog, barbering on about this years Hugo awards, as if anyone cares:

I am not a believer in any afterlife, and I don’t think that Gardner was either… so as nice as it would be to think that he was looking down on us from the Secret Pro Party in the Sky, I can’t.

And there you have it, really. Death is a sleep. The Void is King. Jon Snow was always going to become Nothing, because there’s nothing out there to become.

Which makes me start to doubt about his commitment to finishing. Especially since he’s teasing his fans as to the damn prequel series for HBO. In some part of his mind, A Song of Ice and Fire is already finished, and the idea of putting in the work to actually finish it feels like a gigantic slog. This whole thing was over the minute the series overtook the books.

Garbage Pseudo-Psychology? Possibly. Despair? Definitely.

Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, though.

Lost in Westeros

So a friend of mine texted me yesterday with the words “New Game of Thrones book out 11/20.” And I got all excited and stuff. Because I’d pretty much given up on ever seeing Winds of Winter this year. And that’s a day before my birthday. Serendipity, right?

RIGHT. TWOW CONFIRMED. GET HYPE!

Oh.

No, winter is not coming… not in 2018, at least.   You’re going to have to keep waiting for THE WINDS OF WINTER.

You will, however, be able to return to Westeros this year, as I suggested  back over on Live Journal.

Archmaester Gyldayn has at last completed and delivered the first half of his monumental history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros, FIRE & BLOOD, and Bantam Spectra and HarperCollins Voyager will be releasing the hardcover on November 20, I am thrilled to say.

This is… not… what I wanted.

And I knew this was happening. I’d read Martin’s blog at the end of last year when he teased that Fire and Blood was happening. And it would be unreasonable to expect the man to get two whole ASOIAF-related books out in one year. So that’s fine. More details of the lives we already explored in World of Ice and Fire. The nerdery is endless.

That’s not what annoys me.

What annoys me is the certainty – the surety – that Winds of Winter will not be published at any point in the eight remaining months of 2018. This is now seven years since A Dance With Dragons. And I know. I know. He Doesn’t Work For Me. He Doesn’t Owe Me Anything. And really, I’m okay with that. You spend enough time on r/asoiaf and the misery at the Long Watch becomes palpable enough to ruin your afternoon. I’m fine with letting the man write. I really am.

Still, though.

The hell are you doing over there, George?

This is the third act of the story, or close to it. This should get easier. You should have this. After seven years, you should have this.

So why doesn’t he?

Ultimately, no one who isn’t Martin knows. But I have a theory.

Here’s a website calling itself “A Winterfell Huis Clos” devoted to analyzing and theorizing the Winterfell plotline in A Dance With Dragons. Details that I had missed from these chapters despite several rereads are brought to the surface and thrashed around, sifted to form patterns that answer certain questions, such as “Who is the one murdering Frey and Bolton men in Winterfell?” (the answer is provocative, and well-argued). There’s a novel’s worth of discussion on this one plotline in one of Martin’s novels.

Here’s a theory, based on the infamous “pink letter” Jon Snow receives at the end of A Dance With Dragons:

The presence of heads above the walls of Winterfell is not quite Ramsay motus operandi. In Moat Cailin, the defeated ironmen were flayed and put on post along the kingsroad. Ramsay brings up the flaying tradition over and over, to the point of carrying a flaying knife assorted to his sword at all times. The heads above the walls of Winterfell seem like Roose Bolton’s behaviour. We never saw Roose flay anyone in the story. When Roose conquered Harrenhal, he did display the heads of the people he had executed.

Now, all of this could be wrong. The pattern may not be aptly read. But the level of detail, and the patterns they suggest, indicate how much is involved with creating this narrative, and the world that sustains it, and the characters that inhabit that world. We can see the difference between a dark character (Roose Bolton) and his psychopathic son (Ramsay), and make inferences accordingly. It’s all there, if you read close enough.

The effort involved in creating such must be staggering. The effort in tying it all together, more staggering still. This gets harder with every word Martin writes, probably.

If we ever see the remaining books, I will be thankful.

Winter is Leaving – A Lament on the Unfinished State of Game of Thrones

wow

Because I actually go so far as to purchase HBONow so I can watch Game of Thrones, because A Song of Ice and Fire is the only fantasy series I’ve gotten my wife to read, because I’m a fan, I occasionally check Wikipedia to see if there’s any rumor of Winds of Winter, the long delayed sixth book in the series. That’s how I got warned about Dance With Dragons, the fifth book, so superstition will have its sway. But I don’t read Martin’s blog (which he calls a “notablog” out of some esoteric contrariness that is no longer funny, if it ever was), because I’m never in the mood to read about what he’s blogging about (Football, the Hugos, and Wild Cars, all the time). And I stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire subreddit, because the misery in that place is just overwhelming. But I do care. I do want to read the rest of the series, when it’s out.

I try not to complain about George R.R. Martin’s lack of progress. I don’t, for a couple of reasons:

  1. Complaining is a closed-circuit loop of misery. The aforementioned subreddit is a rhetorical minefield of whining. Why anyone would take the time to obsess over something while pretending not to obsess over it and complain on every aspect of its production continues to elude me. I suppose that’s why I’m not a hardcore sports fan. Until we get the books, nothing else will satisfy us, so there’s no purpose to speaking about it. There just isn’t.
  2. Complaining won’t make the books come any faster. It doesn’t matter if we think George is a great artist struggling with a massive work or a lazy old fat bastard who’s coasting on his laurels. It doesn’t matter how we speculate for reasonable time frames and estimates, and then get angry when they aren’t met. It doesn’t matter how righteous the backlash is. Nothing the fans do will bring the book one day closer. Nothing.

Larry Correia has a good discussion on the proper relationships between fans and authors on his web site. In a nutshell, the proper role is as follows:

  • Authors: Do the Work. Get it done. Don’t mess about, or your fans will desert you. And they’ll be right to.
  • Fans. Shut your pieholes about what you think you’re “owed.”  There is no “moral obligation” to write a book. You have no claim on anyone else’s time. See the 13th Amendment for further elucidation.

All that said, I just… want to know what’s taking him so long. I want to know that there will actually be a series to finish reading. I don’t want to abandon this the way I abandoned Wheel of Time (Because that series got self-indulgent and boring, not because of production delays). And I’m afraid I’m going to have to.

I guess I just better write my own series, then.

(Does this mean I’ve decided what to work on when The Sword is finished? Maybe.)

Is Writing Art, or Commerce?

Why not both?

A discussion of the Great Unsurprise of the New Year – the unfinishing of The Winds of Winter – has prompted Joe Vasicek to point out that for indie authors, it may be more the latter:

In the traditional system, writers were paid an advance on royalties by their publishers. The contract also allowed for royalties, but those figures were set so low that most books never earned out their advance. Publishers made up for it by raising the advances for the writers they wanted to keep.

In contrast, indie writers live and die by their royalty checks. Had a good month? Congratulations, you can afford to eat. Had a bad month? Tsk, tsk. Better hurry up with that WIP of yours, because the longer it takes to publish it, the longer it takes for you to get paid.

Thus, the reason Martin can fart around with finishing A Song of Ice and Fire is that he’s already a millionaire and has a small legion of fans who will drop everything the minute the release date is announced to pre-order it on Amazon. Whereas for the struggling indie artist, delay means loss of income, both from the books you aren’t selling and from the market forgetting about you when you finally do bring your pig to market.

Since I don’t have the weight of Bantam publishing behind me, that means I must needs move. I’ve done a lot of outlining for The Blood King, and I’ve got about 1,000 words give or take in various forms. I don’t feel like I’ve really begun to begin, though. I feel like I need to clear other desks (like the long-delayed podcast) first, but that might not be realistic.

I feel the Devil at my heels, though…

Leave George R.R. Martin Alone

It’s time to deal with some unpleasant truths, Song of Ice and Fire fans.

Full-Metal-Jacket

  1. The Shows are going to Lap the Books. This is going to happen. We are going to get spoiled by a show in which there is no Lady Stoneheart, no Brave Companions, in which the Greyjoys except Theon hardly exist and have the wrong names. Nothing can be done about it. This was built into the cake when the show started and the books were half-finished.

    And sure, you can say, “Then she shouldn’t have started the show!” But be honest. You’ve busted your butt your whole life to create a literary work that is both popular and significant. And the premium of premium cable channels offers to turn it into a massive television series. You’re supposed to say, “No, I’d hate to see my story visualized by creative people and performed by awesome actors. Please spend your money on something else.” Please.

    Accept that this is happening. Enjoy it as best you can, and when the books finally come out, take solace in the fact that it will be better than what you’ve just watched. The book always is.

  2. George is gonna give us the books when he can give us the books. Yep, we’re four years past A Dance With Dragons and no end in sight. That’s the reality. And the madder we get about it, the more nothing happens, because our nerd-rage has no bearing on how fast we get The Winds of Winter. No. Bearing. Whatsoever.

    So don’t be this guy, whining to Martin on Martin’s own livejournal, accusing him of “betraying” his fans. Display some awareness of cause-and-effect. Do you honestly think this sort of moaning inspires the man to write faster? That he says to himself “Gosh, I’d better not disappoint them any more”? Because it it was me, I’d start wondering how hard I really wanted to work to please the same group of malcontents who took a crap all over my artistic process when I was fighting my way through A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not helping him, you’re not helping yourself. So knock it off.

  3. It’s All Gonna Work Itself Out. If George delivers the books, and they complete the story in a satisfying way, then all of the wait will be forgotten, and we can go back to the books or the series whenever we want and enjoy them. If we don’t like the books’ ending, maybe we’ll like the show’s ending. If George should die with ASOIAF uncompleted, someone else will finish it. That won’t be as good, but it will still be better than Wheel of Time (and the chatter I’ve picked up from those that slogged all the way through WoT is that the books that Jordan didn’t write were at least an improvement over the tedium that the series was stuck in. So who knows what can happen?). We’re going to get our books, one way or another. If we stop complaining, we might even like them.

This is what I had to say in 2011, around ADWD‘s release:

The length of the wait caused no small amount of reader acrimony, and I can see why. The Internet breeds contempt. When authors were faraway geniuses who you might meet at a signing if you paid attention, you had no choice but to wait like a cat left home alone for the weekend. But when an author has a livejournal of his own, and regulary updates it, it’s hard to avoid thinking “Yeah, that’s nice George. Now is Dance of Dragons gonna write itself, or…? And while we’re at it, a few miles on the NordicTrac wouldn’t kill you.”

For myself, I got tired of reading Martin’s dull football commentary, his middlebrow center-left political statements, his self-congratulatory merchandising for his less-interesting books (Fevre Dream: there’s $16 I’m never getting back). So I stopped reading them. I left his site alone until a wikipedia blurb suggested some chatter from his publishers that he might get around to being done soon.

Understand that I’m one of you. I’ve been reading the books since 2003 or thereabouts. I feel frustrated,  like my fandom has been abused. But abusing Martin in return won’t save that. In fact, I kind of regret the mean things I said above (why would he not use his success to say “Hey, if you like this book, check out these others”? Honestly…).

So if the current ridiculous state of ASOIAF is just too much for you, then consider leaving it alone until it resolves itself. You’ll only diminish the wait thereby.

Confirmed: George R.R. Martin is Screwing With Us.

hypetrain

Yesterday, Martin’s official Twitter account posted this:

Which prompted the Internet (and especially Reddit) to lose its damn mind. Because, 12 days from yesterday is December 21st, the first day of Winter. The next book in the series is titled The Winds of Winter. Therefore, on that, day, he will announce that book’s release.

logic

And while I would love for this to be true, I just can’t get my hopes up. Writing epic fantasy takes a long time. Doing a good job with it takes even longer. This isn’t some Dragonlance novel you can poop out in a few months; this is A Song of $(*&ing Ice and Fire. He’s got a million threads to weave together: Stannnis’s deathmarch, Jon Snow touching the void, Cersei’s trial by combat, Sam in Oldtown, Arya in Braavos, Sansa in the Vale, whatever the hell is going on with Brienne and Jaime and Lady Stoneheart, etc.

Oh, and Dany riding a dragon with a khalasar at her back.

We’re gonna be waiting, people. Embrace it.

 

 

George Will Not Finish the Book(s)

[The following post will be of no interest to people who are not fans of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.]

This is me, calling it.

(h/t: Finish the Book, George)

When the HBO series started, I knew this wouldn’t work. I knew that the series would go faster than the books, and run the risk of hitting the end with the books unfinished. The third season, which covers the third book, is starting on HBO soon. There are five books total. The math simply does not work. Even if Martin manages to bring in Winds of Winter in his promised two-year time frame, (which, one doubts) what then? Do we really hope that the seventh book will finish it off?

So don’t be surprised if HBO finishes the story. That might end up being for the best.

winteriscoming