Thursday, April 14, 2011

George R. R. Martin Article in New Yorker

The New Yorker today has a lengthy article about George R. R. Martin. It presents Martin, who has sold over 15 million books, as an ideal model of how authors who actively interact with their audiences through blogs and extensive signing tours can foster huge cult-like fan bases to sell lots and lots of books.

The dark side of this model, of course, is the insane level of pestering and taunting Martin has to deal with from hecklers who feel entitled to a more rapid production of words. As most of you probably know, Martin hasn't published an installment to Song of Ice and Fire since 2005...
The online attacks on Martin suggest that some readers have a new idea about what an author owes them. They see themselves as customers, not devotees, and they expect prompt, consistent service. Martin, who is sixty-two, told me that Franck calls the disaffected readers the Entitlement Generation: “He thinks they’re all younger people, teens and twenties. And that their generation just wants what they want, and they want it now. If you don’t give it to them, they’re pissed off.”
To be honest with you, this slow output is exactly the reason I haven't dug into The Song of Ice and Fire. I don't want to read thousands of pages to be stuck with a cliffhanger for five years. I'm not angry with Martin, though. I have plenty of other stuff to read in the mean time...


  1. After being thoroughly entranced by The War Against the Chtorr series, I decided to never pick up a series again until the series is finished. :)

  2. He does need to write faster... which makes the blog posts, travel, conventions, tv shows etc. agony.

    So yes, wait until he is done!

  3. It seems to me that he shouldn't be overly surprised that his fans feel entitled to output, given that his intense activity with them is designed to inspire a following that hungers for just that. Isn't it like advertising your restaurant all over town, in magazines and newspapers, making guest appearances at food festivals, and then calling people an "entitlement generation" when they come to your restaurant expecting food?

    You can't be a consumer pimp AND an artist.

  4. So many new works seem to be trilogies these days it's refreshing to hear the view that the first won't be started till the last is done. I hadn't really given it a lot of thought, and I wonder how much the 'when they're all in place' view is a reaction to the issues of a series itself, and how much a reaction to that glut.

  5. It would also probably help if he wouldn't do stuff like posting one word blog entries with titles like "FINISHED" and then following that up with "Eating my dinner" when people have been anxiously awaiting him completing a novel...

  6. They think they're customers? Uh, what the hell do you call it when you PAY for something? That's a customer. Now if you want to talk potential customer, future sales, etc..., then yeah, take the verbage like a man and move on. All writers have their critics on their WRITTEN MATERIAL. The critics here are being critical of the slow pace. Worlds of difference. When they start calling him a hack and he freaks out about them, let me know. It'll be an entertaining show.

  7. I think part of the problem is, some where along the line authors forgot that writing is a job and they were being paid to work.

    it's like a serial except the last reel never shows up.

    Make a dozen cupcakes in the same pan, rather than make one cake a slice at a time.

  8. I get Gaiman's point with the "the [author] is not your bitch" meme, but when you sell someone Installment 1 in a continuing series, there is an implicit promise that you will, in fact, finish telling that story.

    I would also argue that people having an expectation that "in a reasonable timeframe" is part of that unwritten contract is not, in fact, irrational.

    With that being said, I understand Martin's plight: When he outlined the series, he intended to skip over the period he's currently writing about. He's literally writing books he never planned on writing and covering events that he never figured out how to tell as stories. Whether he's right about the need for this or not is another debate; but I can appreciate the struggle he's having creatively.

    I do have a high degree of hope that once he is back into the material he originally outlined and (presumably) knows how to handle that the pace of production will pick up.

  9. Do you suppose the New Yorker knows what Neil Gaiman's opinion on the matter?

  10. These books are no easy task and are massive in details and descriptions. Plus anyone who's followed the author knows it takes him about five years to write each novel starting with A Game of Thrones which he began writing in 90-91. The fifth book coming out in June took him longer to write but the page count is higher then A Storm of Swords. Honestly, if it was easy to write a 800+ page book everyone could do it.

  11. Utterly unbelievable that people feel entitled to any type of output. That is absolutely ridiculous.

    He doesn't owe them jack shit, and frankly, telling a dude he needs to pump out quality art on a schedule is preposterous.

    How on earth have these people come to the conclusion that he owes them anything? They might want it, and it would indeed be sad if he didn't finish it, but demanding it and criticizing him for having a life outside of a massively involved and complicated writing project? Sod right off!

    If they wanted crappy franchise fiction, they should have stuck with R.A. Salvatore.

  12. Two kick-ass anthologies that happen to have Martin short stories in them are:

    Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance; and

    Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse.

  13. I think three or four years is time enough, enough slack. Six years is a long time, maybe too much time. However, there were bigger gaps in the Dark Tower series.

  14. I see part of the panic as being related to Robert Jordan's passing, leaving his WHEEL OF TIME unfinished. I think fans have started getting panicky.

    I do, entirely, agree that lots of the younger generation of kids are the "Entitlement Generation." They grew up with Twitter and texting, whereas for me, those are still new things--instantaneous communication like that is something I saw on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Instant gratification, however, ends up being cheap, and if A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is exceptionally good, you can thank Martin for taking his time and writing it well. After reading how long it took him to write segments like "The Red Wedding," and WHY it took him so long, I think it's high time for these kids to shut up and grow up. Yeah, they're customers, but Martin isn't churning out potboilers.