So, I woke up this morning.
As I do most days.
And the first thing I did, because I was bleary eyed and hadn’t had coffee yet, was rolled over, pried my eyes open (for the most part), and got on Facebook.
This article, posted by George R.R. Martin, was the first thing I read. On Goodreads, the comments are mostly supportive, with a smattering of negatives or not-too-happy folks for good measure. Facebook was a different story. Same with Amazon (1), (2).
And as Lemony Snicket once said, “Well-read people are less likely to be evil.” So it makes sense that people on Goodreads, who are probably more likely to be writers as well, are going to be more understanding of the unearthly demand resting on GRRM’s shoulders right now. The commenters on Facebook (many a troll lurketh in that foul place…) were particular unpleasant. It seems to me that some readers feel as if, because of their allegiance, they are owed something from GRRM. And they’re just, well … not.
Maybe I’m crazy. I’ve only been reading A Song of Ice and Fire since probably around 2012 or so, when my sister’s husband introduced me to it. So I’m coming into the fandom at a pretty good time; the TV show has been out for a while, there were four books already published when I started reading, and one launched about a year afterward. Perhaps I’m spoiled. Perhaps I’m not as weathered as a ‘true’ fan.
The magical part of Martin’s writing, for me, is the depth of it. His stories are ridiculously rich with culture, history, customs, religions, motives, betrayals, magic, family ties, and house alliances. The biggest thing that astounds me is how he keeps all of his timelines straight, given the program he uses to write. I’m pretty sure he uses just simple plaintext documents. (I would rather die.) So when GRRM writes a blog post about his progress with the novel, of course I’m excited to see if it’s done yet, but I wasn’t in the least surprised or dismayed to learn that it wasn’t. I stopped watching the TV show about two seasons ago, and I haven’t read the newest book because I know I’m going to have to read them all the way through again once they’re all out. So I’ve been waiting patiently for that day, and I recognize the fact that the last book will most likely, given his track record, not be published until the time I’m thirty.
That’s kind of a scary thought.
But I would rather wait than read rushed garbage. I would rather exercise patience than rant online about how the TV show is going to pass the books, especially because the TV show isn’t anywhere near as rich, content wise, as the books. The books are loaded with death and backstabbing and plot twists, but that’s not what I read it for, honestly. I read the books to step into Westeros, to live the insanity myself. I read them to learn the history of a world that, from the beginning, has felt realer, grittier, than anything I’ve come across in writing before.
It may seem to these ‘true’, long-term, hardcore fans of ASoIaF that I’m being nonsensical (especially those who don’t write), but can you imagine writing four enormous novels and then, almost overnight, your fan-base explodes to twenty times its previous size? I can’t even grasp how nerve-wracking that would be. And nerves, I’m sure, have little to do with it.
Martin writes other books. He’s been writing other books his whole career. And now that he has amassed such an exponential following, fans are starting to get nastier than ever. They criticize him for writing blog posts, saying he should be finishing ASoIaF. They get angry that he is editing and writing other works, because again, he should be finishing the series. Here’s a classic example of this abuse, found on Amazon:
He’s wasting his time writing mediocre books in other genres when he should be focusing on dividing this next one into the two books he’s promised his readers for a LONG LONG time.
Can you imagine focusing for more than twenty years on one project? Can you imagine how taxing that would be on your mind, not to mention your inspiration for said project? Yelling at this guy for taking time to start on other projects is like telling J. K. Rowling that she’s never allowed to write anything without wizards in it – which, incidentally, is exactly what people were saying when she published The Casual Vacancy:
The biggest thing that bothers me is when people comment things like, “I don’t care when the book is done, as long as you don’t pull a Robert Jordan on us and die before they’re complete.”
I’m sorry, what?!
Actually, worse are the people who complain about Martin’s health, as if that has any semblance of connection with his work. By making Martin’s health the issue, again you’re only making one giant point: you care more about the books than the man. And while that might be true for some, the books – the entire idea of Westeros – wouldn’t exist without the man.
Again I’ve got to say it: Martin doesn’t owe his fans anything. And the fans, in turn, should expect only what he’s able to give. He’s just as normal as the rest of us, with a life and a family and holidays and weddings to attend and vacations to plan. Expecting magic on a deadline is just begging for mediocrity. And asking him to hurry up a notoriously slow writing process just so he can stay ahead of a TV show – one that doesn’t go into nearly the same depths as the books – is a big mistake. If HBO cared about the material, they would slow down the progression of the show and go into further development of the characters and subplots. But HBO is a television network, and they care about only two things; money, and ratings.
There are some who would argue that in fact GRRM owes us everything; we are his income. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m pretty sure that guy can stop putting out material at any time and never need to rely on a book sale again. The guy is set. He’s made it big. He doesn’t need his fans. So the fact that he’s still writing these books, even though his inspiration has obviously plummeted from all of the deadlines, gives you a pretty good indication that he’s at least trying. He doesn’t want to let us down, and he knows that people are being let down constantly, regardless. It’s a thin line to walk.
In the meantime, here are some books you could be reading instead of sulking on the internet, waiting for updates from ASoIaF (with some other GRRM books mixed in):
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
by George R. R. Martin
Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.
The Mistborn Trilogy
by Brandon Sanderson
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot. But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.
The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. The peaceful villagers of Emond’s Field pay little heed to rumors of war in the western lands until a savage attack by troll-like minions of the Dark One forces three young men to confront a destiny which has its origins in the time known as The Breaking of the World. This richly detailed fantasy presents a fully realized, complex adventure which will appeal to fans of classic quests.
The Ice Dragon
by George R. R. Martin
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember. Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child―and the ice dragon who loved her―could save her world from utter destruction.