Hello there, ladies and gents! Sorry for the shortage of updates recently. I got hit with a pretty severe cold and was laid up in bed for a couple of days. Just when I started feeling better, Winter Storm Nemo buried us in two feet of snow and knocked out our internet, phones and cable for about three days. We were fortunate not to lose power.
Now that order has been restored, I want to jump back into blogging with a few words about fan entitlement.
I just had to mention this incredible site, http://mywatchbegins.com. Developed by HBO as a promotion for “Game of Thrones,” this site lets you record yourself swearing the Night’s Watch oath, led by the Bastard of Winterfell, Jon Snow himself. Your voice is then mixed with the voices of hundreds of others who’ve visited the site and recorded their own oaths.
The result—one truly epic sound bite. George R. R. Martin even recorded his own version for YouTube.
I felt I needed to give HBO credit for thinking up this brilliant marketing strategy, and for making me feel like a badass when I listened to my voice right alongside Jon Snow’s. To hear my recording and to record your own Night’s Watch oath, clicky the pic below!
The George R. R. Martin Complex
Last week, I wrote an article over at my friend Dave’s site, The Sonic Saber, about the deal George R. R. Martin signed with HBO, and fan reaction to this news.
It got me thinking about fans (of books, television shows, musicians, etc.) and what makes them feel entitled to a constant stream of new content from the writers/actors/musicians they claim to adore—content, by the way, that they dictate.
I have dubbed this phenomenon “The George R. R. Martin Complex.”
Here’s an excerpt from my post:
One individual (ironically named Rob) left this considerate message for the celebrated author:
Oh for fuck’s sake, George – just cease with all this extraneous rubbish and finish the books. You produced two sub-standard works in eleven years, and written to nothing in the last two, other than your mandatory one GOT episode per season (hardly multiple episodes). No one cares about your side projects, or ever will. Just finish the books … or hand them over to someone who will.
Wow. What a bunch of entitled a-holes, eh?
As a writer myself, I resent this particular brand of ignorance. Writing is hard. It takes time. It’s exhausting. The monumental undertaking of a seven-book fantasy epic is not something to be hurried or taken lightly.
And who are you to tell Martin when and how and what to write? He doesn’t owe you anything. In fact—you owe him. If it weren’t for his genius, there wouldn’t be a Westeros or an HBO series for you to watch.
Neil Gaiman said it best: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.
Martin is notorious for missing deadlines, and his fans are equally notorious for their incessant demands that he write faster. The comedic musical duo Paul and Storm even wrote a song about it:
But, comic relief aside, what right do fans have to feel that way? Is an author obligated to write a certain number of books, or have the plot go in a certain direction, or meet a certain publishing deadline just because the people who bought his book say so? What in Seven Hells gave fans the idea that they get to take charge of another person’s creative talents?
My theory: It all stems from the internet.
Try to think back to what life was like before the internet. If (like me) you were born in the early ’90s or even earlier, you should be able to remember. “Research” meant hitting up your school’s 20-volume edition of Encyclopedia Britannica—the Wikipedia of then. The information was usually outdated and sometimes just plain wrong. “Movie night” meant driving to Blockbuster or the local library to rent a videotape. If the person who’d watched it before you was a jerk, you had to wait for the tape to rewind before you could watch.
In those days, if you loved a certain book series, but the most recent book was dated four years ago, there was no author website or Amazon.com to advertise future publication dates. If you wanted to know when you’d get to read what happened next, you either had to write a letter to the author or just, you know, wait.
Since the invention of the web, entertainment is never more than a few clicks away. Type a string of words into Google, and you’ve got access to near-limitless tailored content: movies, books, songs, art, recipes, hilarious talking cat memes, etc.
“But that’s what we love about the internet!” you say. “It’s everything we’ve ever wanted! The world is at our fingertips!”
Yeah, and that’s all fine and dandy, but the instant gratification of the search engine has taught us to expect guaranteed immediate access to whatever content we want.
This isn’t just unrealistic; it’s pathological. The world is not our personal playground. Writers, singers, artists, and game developers are all people with lives and hobbies that probably don’t include catering to the whims of their fans.
“That’s not fair,” some might argue. “We’re the ones buying their books and mp3s and video games. Without us, they couldn’t make a living doing what they do.”
That’s true. But if you ask George R. R. Martin, I’m pretty sure he’ll tell you that he doesn’t write to make money. He writes because he’s a writer. Even if he wasn’t paid a cent for his books, he would still write.
In fact, he did. In 1983, he thought his fourth novel, “The Armageddon Rag,” would launch his career as a big-time novelist, but the book tanked. In an interview with the Financial Times, Martin admitted, “It was the worst-selling of all my novels and essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time.”
But Martin never stopped writing. He wrote for television and continued selling short stories until 1996, when he published “A Game of Thrones,” the first installment of his magnum opus, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” That series would eventually make Martin the owner of a global franchise that includes an HBO television series, expanded universe books, and—yes—even “Game of Thrones” plushies.
“But now that Martin’s famous, he has a responsibility to his fans to finish the books!”
No, he doesn’t. The fact that writers like Martin choose to share their works with us is a privilege, not a right, and telling him he’d better hurry up and finish or else isn’t going to get you anywhere. Most creative types don’t work well under pressure. As I said before, writing isn’t something that can be forced. It’s incredibly rewarding work, but also mentally exhausting. Each writer finds his or her own pace.
Obviously Martin’s publishers have accepted his pace, or they wouldn’t keep paying him to write amazing books. We need to accept his pace, too.
So while you’re waiting for “The Winds of Winter” to hit shelves R’hllor-knows-when, how about demonstrating a little bit of empathy and patience? Reread the other books in the series. Read the books on this list. Watch Season 3 of “Game of Thrones,” scheduled to air next month. Play the “Game of Thrones” video game. Maybe even read some of Martin’s earlier works.
Just don’t tell Mr. Martin how to spend his time.
He’s not your bitch.