George R. R. Martin is Your Bitch

Sunday , 25, November 2018 19 Comments

George R. R. Martin was on the Stephen Colbert Show Wednesday night. Colbert asked him about The Winds of Winter. Colbert said to him:

“Aren’t you supposed to be finishing The Winds of Winter this entire time? Not to add to the chorus of ‘what has taken so long,’ but this is a 700-page detour!”

Martin had this to say in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:

“I know there are a lot of people out there who are very angry with me that Winds of Winter isn’t finished. And I’m mad about that myself. I wished I finished it four years ago. I wished it was finished now. But it’s not. And I’ve had dark nights of the soul where I’ve pounded my head against the keyboard and said, “God, will I ever finish this? The show is going further and further forward and I’m falling further and further behind. What the hell is happening here? I’ve got to do this.”

Fire & Blood by Martin came out on November 20th. That is his long history of the Targaryen family in events leading up to his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Parts of it have appeared in the Martin-Dozois anthologies including Dangerous Women, Rogues, and The Book of Swords. Narratives with lots of fratricide and incest.

Let’s recount the sequence of publishing for Martin’s epic fantasy series:

A Game of Thrones          1996

A Clash of Kings                1998

A Storm of Swords           2000

A Feast for Crows             2005

A Dance with Dragons   2011

So Martin was getting a large novel out every two years with the first three books. Then it took five years for the fourth, and six years for the fifth. He is now up to seven years for book six and counting. I would not hold my breath anytime soon that The Winds of Winter will be in bookstores next year. The final novel A Dream of Spring has been mentioned as “perhaps.”

So, a good chance this series will never be finished. Back around 2003, I used to go to Amazon and read hate reviews for amusement of the latest Robert Jordan big, fat fantasy. There were a lot of negative reviews by former fans angry that Jordan was just taking up paper space and not advancing the story.

I gave up on Martin after A Feast for Crows. He was spinning his wheels. The series had become a fantasy soap opera.  Looking back, the series was a soap opera from the beginning.

I have read the three Targaryen family pieces in the anthologies though without enthusiasm.

Neil Gaiman wrote a piece in 2009 called “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.” I disagree, I signed on reading A Game of Thrones over Memorial Day weekend in 1997. I read each succeeding book as they came out.  When the wheels came off after the third book, I walked away. It might not have been a written or verbal contract but it was a reader-author contract. Martin broke it.

How many fans out there have been on board since 1996 waiting for that hope that Martin will carry himself across the finish line and finish the series?

I read modern fantasy anthologies but few fantasy novel series. I became very wary of tackling any unfinished series. I would imagine publishers have also.

19 Comments
  • David says:

    I also read up through AFfC. I have a copy of ADwD but have never cracked it open. No plans to revisit unless and until Martin finishes the series and actually pulls off a satisfying conclusion that is hopeful rather than nihilistic. I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Thank God I never read anything past the first miserable book. By luck or instinct, I never put my head in this particular noose. After seeing GRRM hold humblebrag court at a convention, all I could think was “why aren’t you writing, you bastard? You made an implicit promise to the fans that pay your bills. Why can’t you deliver?”

    Is there something about commercial success that (in some) kills the creative spirit?

    • 'setting says:

      Thank you. ‘First miserable book’. Its good to see that there is more than one of us out there who read the first GOT book and spat it back in disgust.

  • deuce says:

    I liked the first novel, slogged through the second and threw A STORM OF SWORDS across the room when I got to the ridiculous “Unsullied”. I never looked back.

  • Emmett Fitz-Hume says:

    Robert Jordan used to get a lot of crap, and rightfully so. But his series, bloated as it is with protagonist angst and descriptions of fabrics and buttons and such, is vastly superior to GRRM’s “magnum opus”.

    It’s like GRRM looked at Jordan’s mistakes* and had “Hold my beer” decade.

    *I think Jordan’s biggest problem was he got to big to edit. At some point, someone in the company that published Wheel of Time told the editors that Jordan was gold and to crank giant doorstop books out. Very writer needs an editor who will unflinchingly help them “kill their darlings”.

  • H.P. says:

    Martin may not be our bitch, but neither are we his. We have no obligation to continue to buy his books.

    Though people will likely continue to do so. His history book was the #4 overall bestseller on Amazon when I checked earlier this week.

    The real people hurt by Martin and Rothfuss and Lynch are n00b tradpub writers who are on pins and needles that their series is going to get dropped by their publisher because people don’t want to buy unfinished series because they’ve been burned by…Martin and Rothfuss and Lynch.

  • Bz says:

    ASOIAF was supposed to be three books but became a megahit that just had to be drawn out as far as the taffy could go. Too bad GRRM ran out of creative juices a long time ago. (The last good book was really number 3, wasn’t it? About 20 years ago by now.)

    Rothfuss is a somewhat interesting example too. I haven’t read the books myself but I get the impression that he’s built up a Lost style situation of mysteries and generous promises and now can’t deliver. (Same with David Gerrold if anyone still remembers Chtorr.)

    Not like GRRM who basically lacks the interest and energy to get something pretty straightforward done. Though perhaps it’s smarter to churn out the tie-ins while people are still interested and leave the conclusion for later.

    I’m not sure anyone cares that much once the TV series is done.

  • Alistair says:

    I was deployed to Africa in 2011 and had alot of time to read. That’s when I read all the ASoIaF books straight through. I also read both Kingkiller Chronicles… I would have never imagined almost eight years later that neither had a follow up published.

  • Dan Wolfgang says:

    Who wants to bet that this new book was ghost written?

  • MegaBusterShepard says:

    Mercedes Lackey has been writing about five books a year for nearly twenty years. Anne McCaffrey wrote 24 novels all about Pern. What is Martin’s excuse?

  • Rothfuss…gave up after book two. It ws like the author had discovered sex and martial arts, and that was all he was writing about. Plus, the lead character Kothe came across as a moron about the “unattainable goddess.” Sheesh.

    Choose not to do Game of Thrones…life is too short.

  • K says:

    I’d say the book will be unlikely to sell as well once the tv series ends – and that’s what’s stopping him. Fear of failure! If you never put it out, it can’t tank and ruin your time spent revelling in its success.

    Everyone just wants an ending to the thing. Any ending will do! Only the most die hard fans (of which I was one 6 years ago I suppose) will bother reading the door stop it’ll need to be to tie up the millions of loose ends, if the tv series ties up the most pertinent.

    I certainly have better things to do, and much much better series to read these days, than returning to Martin.

    Let’s be honest Martin, Rothfuss and their ilk opened the door at Orion and other big trade pubs to put out a crap ton of new fantasy – but now it’s those same people’s inability to deliver a complete series, that will stifle newbie writers their chance in the spotlight.

  • Blume says:

    That is a great point about Mercedes Lackey. But hell Andre Norton is dead and still manages about a book a year.

  • Richard says:

    The long and the short of it is that Martin can’t finish it, because as soon as he does, he’s dead. It’s not as if a man of his age is going to follow up ASOFAI with something bigger and better. This is it. As soon as he finishes the series, he’s finished as a writer and artist. Which is precisely why he can’t. I would not be the least bit surprised if Sanderson had to be hired to finish it after Martin’s death.

  • james says:

    Him dying would get the series written quicker.

  • Alexander says:

    I was reading ASoIaF from the beginning, but I’m done with it. I won’t buy this, and I won’t buy Winds of Winter, if it ever comes out. I do not care about this story or this world anymore.

    I’m also a long-time Robert Jordan fan. Honestly, I don’t find there to be much filler in his books. People call them “bloated,” but the difference is that RJ had a plan. Like some plans, it’s only apparent when the entire thing is complete, but if you go back and read the entire series (if you have a good calendar year to spare, that is), you can see this. RJ also believed in heroes and heroism, so there’s that in his favor as well, in addition to his work ethic.

    GRRM is a rare beast: A writer who appears to hate writing. Fascinating, really.

  • Constantin says:

    I’m grateful to Martin because years ago he wrote a post on his blog recommending fantasy for his fans to read until his next book was finished. It’s how I discovered amazing authors like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Roger Zelazny, C.L. Moore, Michael Moorcock etc.

    So I’m not as hard on him for doing this to his series, but at the same time, I’ve also abandoned A song of Ice and Fire because I don’t think he’ll finish it and I don’t care about it anymore. It doesn’t help that the last book was awful and the TV show became shit from season 6 onwards.

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