Saturday 31 January 2009

A Dance With Delusion

I almost called this post 'A Dance With Dickheads' because that's how I view some of the 'fans' that constantly berate George R. R. Martin for the delay in delivering A Dance With Dragons, but then that would just be stooping to their level. 

I have posted on this subject before, and I'll now post on it again since the issue of the delay with Dance has once more reared its ugly head. Shawn Speakman proved the spark this time, with an interesting article about how whether any of the criticism of George is justified. Since then, other bloggers have given their views on the whole business:

Wert has written an excellent piece that explains the reason for the discussion in the first place, before giving his own reaction to the various accusations of the 'antifans' (I like that term, it has a nice ring to it...). 

Aidan has given his thoughts here (look for the well-considered comment by blogger Thrinidir).

Graeme has also waded into the debate, including an amusing story about the time he met GRRM himself...

I'm a huge fan of GRRM, and naturally I've got my own feelings on the matter. Whereas my fellow bloggers have written carefully considered articles, I'm going to just have a good rant. Apologies in advance if it's a little incoherent...

George R. R. Martin is an amazingly talented writer, and A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant fantasy series. We should be grateful that we have had the chance to read his work, and we should appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that he has put into it. Let's be honest here - the guy's given his readers an unsurpassed reading experience and countless hours of enjoyment (and by that I mean not just by reading the books, but debating their many mysteries online). GRRM's work is something to be celebrated and cherished. 

Yet sadly we have 'fans' who spend their time berating GRRM's apparent tardiness, demanding fresh news on the long-awaited next novel, and whining about how he's being 'disrespectful' by refusing to reveal how close the book is to completion. These deluded antifans think GRRM should be writing 24/7 to deliver Dance, that he shouldn't watch another second of NFL until the manuscript is turned in, and that when he's not writing he should be updating us all on his progress. GRRM, they squeal, 'owes' us.

What absolute bullshit. GRRM owes us nothing, and anyone who says he's being disrespectful to his fans is deluded. The guy's a human for fuck's sake, not a bloody machine (can you tell I'm getting angry now?). He can't write for 24 hours a day. More than that, just like anyone else, he's entitled to his free time. He needs his free time. So what if he blogs about NFL? So what if he blogs about politics? It's his blog - he can blog about whatever the hell he wants (Aidan, I'm afraid I completely disagree that he should only blog about ASOIAF!).

Oh, but it's distracting him from his writing, they say. He's wasting time that he could spend writing ASOIAF. More bullshit - check out Wert's post for the reason why that argument is a load of hot air. 

Look, I'm as big a fan as the next person. ASOIAF is my all-time favourite fantasy series. I am looking forward massively to Dance. But I'm not being a tosser and whining about how long it's taking, and I just don't see why some people feel the need to. There's loads of excellent books by other authors out there, so go and read something else while you wait! 

What many readers don't understand is that writing is an organic process. It ebbs and flows. It's not like a factory conveyor belt, churning out the same product every time. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes you hit a brick wall and can't get past it. Other times, you feel unstoppable. You just can't rush it. You have to take your time. Writing isn't easy, as some people think. It's bloody hard at times - as someone who's had work published before, I know this from personal experience. We just have to accept that Dance will be done when it's done, and only GRRM knows when that will be (or maybe not even he knows). 

Look, I don't deny that GRRM made a mistake saying Dance would follow closely on the heels of Feast. With hindsight, that was the spark that led to all these pointless flame wars and I think GRRM would be the first to admit that he's learned a lesson. However, I wouldn't go as far to call him unprofessional, which is the stance that Speakman takes. Go ask his publisher and see if they give you the same answer - I doubt it somehow. 

I admit the odd update on his progress would be appreciated. But even when he did give us updates, people complained about their lack of frequency. So he's criticised if he does give updates and criticised if he doesn't. No wonder it drove him nuts and he gave up on updates altogether. I think some people would only be satisfied if he updated us every day, and that is just never going to happen. 

You know what riles me the most? The antifans that claim GRRM is rude/discourteous to his fans. That is a total crock of shit. I've met GRRM, and as I've said before, he's a true gent. Great sense of humour, very humble and really down-to-earth. When I told him I dabbled in short fiction, he asked me what I'd had published. He then gave me a few words of advice. Discourteous? Disrespectful? Hardly.

In fact, it's the antifans that are being disrespectful. Hurling abuse at a man that has given them so much enjoyment is childish, petulant and downright stupid. We should show GRRM the respect he deserves, and wait patiently while he makes Dance as good as it can be. If it takes another five years, then so be it. I'll still be here. 


Aidan Moher said...

Rant on, brother.

Can't disagree with a word you say. I've also met George and have nothing but good things to say about him - very kind, humble and passionate about his work.

Perhaps having met him is what helps us come to grips with his writing speed. Either that or we're just level-headed blokes!

- Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

ThRiNiDiR said...

It's nice to know that someone else shares my sentiments :)...almost word for word, cheers! :D.


Swainson said...

Nice rant.

If I were GRRM I might just say screw the lot of you and not publish.

But as it's been pointed out he is a Gent and not a mean, venal, grasping, unreasonable twat like these people who are constantly moaning at him.

Art follows it's own timetable.

Iain said...

Nothing like a good rant to clear the air. Well said James.

These muppets need to get out more, scour the bookshelves, and realise there is plenty of material out there to keep them occupied until the happy day of publication.

Fuckwits...impatient fuckwits in fact.

ediFanoB said...

Well done!!

So let's wait together and in the meantime I read other books and look forward to all your reviews to come.

I'm "afraid" as soon as A dance with Dragons is available a lot of blogs will be deserted for a period of time :-)

Beside this I can hardly wait! the release of WATCHMEN movie in March 2009 !!!!!

Anonymous said...

When I was having trouble delivering the ms of my second book, my publisher said, "I'd rather have a good book than a fast book." I think this is the heart of the matter.

Anonymous said...

There is so much good stuff out there to read. Books wait for me, not the other way around.

Val @ bookspotcentral

Anonymous said...

You've expressed my feelings perfectly! I've no patience anymore for the "anti-fans" and their sense of entitlement towards an author whose work they professedly adore just ticks me off.
Trine, bookspotcentral

James said...

Guys, thanks for all your comments! Great to know there's plenty of folk who share my feelings on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Great comments. I couldn't agree more. Writing to a schedule is very, very difficult. While most of my writing has to do with science and medicine, there is still an important creative process to it. The first stage is to look and understand the data you are working with, and then understand what that information says. Only once you have a good grasp of the message are you able to sit down and competently communicate it.

Yet, I used to work with a guy who demanded that we produce a manuscript a month. That's a really hard thing to do, even if you have a constant flow of data coming in. Even when working all day and all night, writing is different. Sometimes you just can't force things to happen any faster, even if you want to.

Last week, I worked on one of the most soul-wracking documents I've ever had to write. It had to be finished by Friday and I spent seven eighteen-hour days in a row working it to completion. I barely made the deadline, writing the last few edits a mere twenty minutes before it had to be submitted. Still, I was happy with how it turned out. The real kicker, though, is that document was a scant 10 double-spaced pages in length (barely topping 4000 words).; It just needed to include my thoughts and no outside references. And it wasn't even art.

I know that GRRM is wrestling with Dance, and I wish him well in that fight. I've waged smaller battles and it is never fun, regardless of whether you win or lose.

Anonymous said...

While I greatly enjoyed your use of the term "anti-fan," I thought I would (somewhat passionately) argue for a different word. I am an anti-fan of certain series of misguided books. As an anti-fan in the traditional sense of the word, I often think the world would be a much better place without them.

The miscellaneous idiots clammoring for GRRM's next novel aren't anti-fans in the same understanding of the term. Rather than rail against the series and everything it stands for, they are far too enthusiastic in their desire to see the series completed. I would describe these slobbering fools as selfish, entitled and stupid. You brits have a term I greatly prefer for such unique poxmarks on the hide of humanity: wanker.

In the right understanding, anti-fan can be a compliment. Words can have power and I would hate to see the power of this one diminished by attempting to do too much.

Todd Newton said...

I agree 100%. GRRM is a fantastic guy and fantastic writer and we owe him his due rather than the other way around.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.

The writer in my sympathises that he's got to end up producing something that he's happy with.

But at the same time the critic in me says, all very well but really you shouldn't start something you can't finish.

This is an example of why I'm loathed to start reading never ending stories...

This in itself isn't a criticism of GRRM but people have obviously invested time, money and emotion into the series.

What would happen if they said that the next episode of Lost or 24 was going to shown when it was done and they stopped showing them from next week? How long would be reasonable to wait? A month, a year, ten years? All because they couldn't get the lighting right on the first 10 minutes next episode?

It's like bands and albums - it is better to have experimentation and evolution shown between albums or wait 5 years for something that is 'perfect' but has moved on so far that it's nothing like fans wanted or expected?

Writers need some rail roads to go on in order to keep things on track and on time. I'm not saying that you can' slow the engine and fix things along the way but if you start going off country and making your own roads you have no idea of the mountains and valleys you have to get past.

James said...

Rob - great comments. 'Wanker' is indeed a possible expression to use, though one that I judged perhaps a little too aggressive for the blog!

Gav - I see what you mean, though I would argue that GRRM had no idea how big ASOIAF was going to get. It originally started out as a trilogy, which of course would have been far easier to deliver than a 7-book series.

Jebus said...

I believe the main issue at the heart of all the griping is fear. Fear that GRRM has expanded upon an original trilogy so much that he has either lost control of his own creation or at least is mired down in too much minutiae to be able to pull himself through to the end. Not to mention he is over 60 and he is not exactly the healthiest of fellows - RJ's death has helped bolster up that fear.

I actually suspect GRRM has been working on both Dance and the next book and we'll see them come out maybe only a year apart and that he was doing this to make sure the story flowed better after the criticisms of Feast.

Hey, a man can dream right :)

Oh and as someone who detests constantly discussing the ins and outs and theories on books, I'm not "satisfied" with online discussions. I am satisfied with the many books I have read since Feast.

I understand the Wankers, and I pity them. I'm occasionally one of them, usually on Thursdays.

drey said...

Great rant. I am one of those anxiously waiting for A Dance with Dragons. Yes, I'm impatient, and I want it yesterday. However, I also want a well-written book, because I can't stand a rushed product that doesn't fit with the existing storyline, messes up the characters, and is just a so-so read.

With all that said, I'm not one who'll call him names for whatever reason(s) are holding up the book. When it's done, it's done, and I'll read it. Till then, I have to content myself with finding other authors to inhale.

I do not believe in mocking or harassing authors who produce great (or even good!) work. And some people just need to learn what patience means. And go get some.

Anonymous said...

This is some easy apologizing for an author who treats his fans like dirt. Terrible post from your side because you are so willing to overlook the author's behaviour and instead focus on the understandable response from his fans.


witty.nic said...

oooh, fun.

Alot of "anti-fans" love the books just as much as you do. Just because they are willing to criticize the person who wrote them doesn't mean they don't acknowledge that they are great books.

But even that stops there. They aren't THAT good. he writes a good story, but alot of GRRM's writing techniques are pretty basic. There is alot in the books to have a pop at, both in jest and as a real critique.

Secondly, you need to learn to filter the joking from the true message of alot of "anti-fans", of which i include myself. Do we make jokes about GRRM being a prick? yes. Do we say he should be tied to a chair and forced to write? yes. But what is the underlying message?

The underlying message is that when he's got time to write a blog about how he is trying to sell some water damaged books he's had lying around in his basement for a 5 buck reduction, he's probably got time for a "hey guys, last few months have been hell writing ADWD. Managed to get a couple of Jon chapters done, but had to completely replan some Tyrion. Its actually set me back".

And that would be it! All us seething anti-fans would have no legs to stand on, as that is the largest crux of our point; He's taking for fucking ever, and as far as YOU know, he's stopped working on the books. Is there anythin to suggest otherwise?

So thats my point. A quick update, literally a paragraph, would wash away so much. And considering its been over a year since the last one, i think a high tolerance level has been built to complaints of the updates not being frequent enough. Its not like we expect any better now.

James said...

Taliesen: I'm not overlooking anything, because there is nothing to overlook in the first place. And the fans' reaction is understandable, sure, but the bullshit abuse is not.

Witty.nic: To be fair, I never said the 'antifans' don't like the books as much as other fans do. In fact, the reason for their reaction is because of their love for the's just the wrong reaction to have!

I understand your points, and I'd like an update too. And I agree it's not like he's not had the time to do an update. But he's chosen not to, and we ought to respect that.

R.J. said...

Lick ass, it leaves a sweet taste on your tongue. GRRM can give us an update about the progress and it takes him no less time than trying to sell swag and/or write about something as unbelievably useless and uninteresting as American football.

witty.nic said...

But why should we automatically have to accept that and not question it? As Consumers we have just as much right to ask whats going on with the product as with anything else. If a computer game gets delayed fans often want updates of whats going on, and Developers have the good customer relations sense to keep people updated. If a film is experiencing difficulties, Studios have no problem letting everyone know. Heck when the last Harry Potter film was delayed Warner Bros had no problem standing up and saying "hey, we can make more money from it if we release it in the Summer, so all you dorks will just have to wait!"

It wasnt a message that many people appreciated, but at least we knew what was going on, and what to expect. Can you imagine if the film was due on 12 December, and it still wasn't out by now, with no word from Warner Bros on why?

In fact i can't think of many products or services where a delays of years and years wouldn't result in people asking wtf is going on, in rather harsh tones. My personal theory is that GRRM defenders do it because he is just one guy, and it seems somehow "unfair" to ask "Dude, are you even still writing the damn thing?" As if such a question is completely unreasonable.

Yes its his project, but considering his lively hood is based on us wanting to buy the damn thing, its really not that much to ask.And the time and money we have collectively invested in it means its at least partly our project too.

Anonymous said...

GRRM is a good writer. I love a ASOIAF. I have no reason to doubt that he is a good man.

And GRRM is deserving of a certain amount of respect, both as a human being and as a writer. He gave us the beginnings of an awesome series, after all.

But this does not mean that he is above criticism. His readers, including the anti-fans, also seem to be good people. It was their involvement in the series which made it every bit as much possible to succeed as GRRM. After all, it does no good to create a product unless someone is willing to buy. Both sides are necessary to the transaction.

Personally, I'm not breathlessly awaiting his next book. He'll get to it when he gets to it. And when he does, I'll buy. As I suspect will most of his anti-fans.

Adam Whitehead said...

"But why should we automatically have to accept that and not question it?"

Well, you can question it and certainly have that right. But it's not really going to change GRRM's mind or make him give answers beyond those he's already given: he's tired of getting abuse from people and he's tired of making promises he hasn't been able to keep, and won't say any more about it until either it's done or he changes his mind.

"As Consumers we have just as much right to ask whats going on with the product as with anything else. If a computer game gets delayed fans often want updates of whats going on, and Developers have the good customer relations sense to keep people updated."

Actually, computer game developers are far worse than any author about letting people know what is going on with their products. Valve split the sequel to HALF-LIFE 2 in three, promising to ship them at six-month intervals. Instead it was eighteen-month intervals and Episode 3 has been indefinitely delayed so they could work on a totally different game. The current status of Ep 3 - more than three years overdue - is totally up in the air. ALAN WAKE from Remedy is also three years overdue, despite the fact that their fans don't really care about it and want MAX PAYNE 3 instead.

And do I even need to mention DUKE NUKE'EM FOREVER? Thirteen years and change in the making and the devs still claim it will be released one day.

Anonymous said...

You know what, I'm tired of so called authors "feeling the pain" of other authors and making excuses for them - get a life for gods sake - writing is just like any other job! It's not like brain surgery we all do "writing" every day and it annoys the hell out of me when people try to make out like it's some super special skill. It's just sat at a keyboard for Pete's sake!!

Too many artists are pampered and pondered too and those lovely chaps over at FTBG are just saying what a lot of us (non authors) really think

Anonymous said...

What this whole thing reminds me of.

Anonymous said...

I have one question. how long have you been a Fan of GRRM?

I somehow doubt you were one of the first people to read and start suggesting his books to others in the early 1990's, I was. I also joined his fan club, paid 1000.00 to fly to Calgary to one of his first book signings here and then attended his second here as well.

I agree the personal attacks are lame, I dont agree with attacking the man personally at all, however his actions on his not a blog (censorship and banning anyone who asked when the book would be done)selling every cheesy asoif product including out of date calendars and books that nobody cares about, were so over the top that as much a fan of his work that I remain, I am no longer a fan of the man himself. and thats sad because he is a decent and well spoken person.

The thing that irked me was not that the book has taken such a ridiculous time (his others werent exactly fast either)but that He flat out lied when he gave us an inferior book (after a long wait) and then said "the next one is almost complete its gonna be a couple months" and then proceeded to attend every convention, go on several tours, and basically slap the face of every fan who not only started his career by buying his books but also by suggesting them. its been how long now? its become a joke. It was almost funny how even his company stopped bothering to give release dates because of his piss poor work ethic. and yes it boils down to work ethic.

will I get this book when it comes out? Im torn, ive considered joining one of those book clubs where several people buy the book and then share it, simply out of protest, after all it would seem he makes more than enough money without mine.

I do respect your opinion though.