Sunday, May 17, 2009

Internet whipping boy

George R.R. Martin

Imagine, if you will, that J.K. Rowling wasn't able to finish the last Harry Potter book on time. And it's been almost 4 years since Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince so you're literally dying to get your Harry Potter fix. And what if Rowling was keeping mum over the progress of the last book, offering no clues whatsoever as to when the last book will be finished. I wonder how you would react. Perhaps you'd book the next flight to England and storm Rowling's house shouting "Finish the bloody book, you lazy, raisin-faced English tart!" Knowing how fiercely loyal HP fans are, I believe this scenario wouldn't have been that far-fetched.

Currently, this is what's happening to George R. R. Martin, the American sci-fi/fantasy novelist. In 1996, the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series came out and it became a hit, earning critical and commercial success for Martin. It was inevitable that the first novel, A Game of Thrones, established a loyal following for the 7-part series. A Feast for Crows, the fourth book, came out in 2005 and it's still the last book to be published. Considering that it has been almost 4 years since the last installment, fans have become increasingly insistent that Martin finish the fifth novel, A Dance with Dragons. Their comments have lately turned into rude, hateful, and unapologetic arguments.

The issue has caused a divide among concerned people, both readers and those in the publishing world. One group thinks that Martin should take his time writing, and the other group states that Martin, as an author with a devoted reader base, has an obligation not to disappoint his fans. Even Neil Gaiman has his own take on the matter, somewhere along the lines of "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch." If you're keen enough to notice, most authors are taking Martin's side. Martin's publisher, however, has remained silent about the issue, but I'm assuming that they wish that the old man just type away and finish the damn thing.

As someone who's read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire, I somehow understand strong reader sentiments on Martin's apparent silence on the subject. However, I do have a problem with the apparent lack of respect for the author. Books -- both fiction and non-fiction -- take time to write. If you've read any of Martin's, you know how well-written they are. Readers should know that there's a premium for novels with well-developed characters, wonderfully complex plot lines, and engaging storytelling. Novelists who manage to come out with more than one novel have a year have a very uneven oeuvre. Take, for example, publishing wet dreams who are Patterson, Grisham, and Steele. While they do manage to come up with a brilliant story every now and then, their novels are formulaic, crappy, and just plain awful.

A Song of Ice and Fire is worth all the attention it's getting. If you're not a big fan of high fantasy, you should give it a try. The novels have something for everyone. And unlike others in the genre, the books have become better and more satisfying as the series progresses. I'm not even a big fan of high fantasy and yet I was glued to all the intrigue and political drama that Martin effectively weaved into the narrative. Just when you're starting to relate to a certain character or predict where a sub-plot is going, Martin throws a curve ball at you. He'll have the character killed or take the storyline in another unexpected direction, and you're left with no choice but to read on.

HBO has bought the rights of the first two novels and will be adapting them into a TV series. Happy, happy, joy, joy! HBO better not screw them up. So far, the series looks promising as they're bringing in the director of The Visitor and the writer of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The first to be cast is Peter Dinklage, who'll play Tyrion, a midget but belonging to the powerful Lannister family. I doubt whether this piece of good news will appease fans, who'll probably be blogging how Martin let them down by selling out.

Peter Dinklage

So what do you think, dear reader. How much do authors owe their readers?


fantaghiro23 said...

Go Gaiman!

Read about this in one of the Guardian blogs and went to check Gaiman's post. He rocks!

I guess he's defending the same kind of freedom that we bloggers cherish. We don't write for others because we get paid to do it. We just write because we enjoy doing it and we have something to say.

And sometimes what we want to say comes easily and quickly; sometimes it doesn't.