On George R.R. Martin, writing, television, and pressure

Have I actually put this on the blog yet? No? Yes? Well if I have you get it again:

Let’s talk about George R.R. Martin.

I’ve been open, repeatedly, about what I think about the Song of Ice and Fire books.  I think the first one is one of the greatest works of fantasy ever written and the series has gotten steadily worse with each book.  The first one was good enough that it took four books to get to “bad” with A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons was so bad that frankly I don’t even really care when The Winds of Winter comes out.

(Disclaimer: GRRM is a better writer than me, and I cannot do what he does.  I’m going to be comparing myself to him a fair amount in this post. This is true regardless of what I think of what he’s done with the latter ASoIaF books.  Clear?  Good.)

330858_800.jpgGeorge just announced on his LiveJournal that no, The Winds of Winter won’t be out before Season Six of the television series starts in April– that he’s already blown two deadlines and that he needs “months” more to finish the book.  He hints but does not directly state that it would probably take three or four months from the moment he turns the book in for it to hit shelves.  One way or another, mid-April’s not happening.

couple things about that.

First, let me repeat Neil Gaiman’s take on this: George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.  He is still not your bitch.  You’re allowed to be disappointed that the book isn’t here yet.  That’s fine.  You want to do a thing and you’re not able to do it yet.  It’s okay if you’re disappointed.

That’s where it ends, though.  I’ve already seen way too many people hinting or outright stating (assholes tend to not be especially subtle) that George R.R. Martin did X last year, and that instead of doing X he should have been working on his book.

Fuck you, if you think that way.

The thing is, I know exactly where the guy’s coming from.  I was really, really hoping to have Sunlight ready for C2E2 in late March.  It’s still possible, mind you, but it’s getting less and less likely every day.  I know what it’s like to have a deadline and blow it because the words aren’t coming.  And I suspect that Martin’s and my methods are not terribly different because of the way he describes working on TWoW in the post– he is not a word-count-every-day type of guy, because some days those words are not going to happen because what is in your head is Wrong and no wording is going to happen until Wrong becomes Right.  He is absolutely not working on this book every day and he doesn’t fucking have to be.  I haven’t written a single word of Sunlight in a couple of weeks because 1) I’m at a critical part that I need to get right and 2) I wrote a short story and 3) I’ve been the kind of busy that doesn’t allow me a lot of headspace for other stuff.

If I were GRRM, somebody might point at #2 and get on my case.  How dare you write a Jayashree story when Sunlight isn’t finished!  

Well, I wanted to write a Jayashree story, and Jayashree was what the Create-O-Matic in my brain was working on at the time, and shut up, I’m not your bitch.  Hell, I’m juggling two different series right now, and there’s at least one more rattling around in my head.  I’m not remotely famous enough that people are getting mad at me for working on one and not the other, but if/when one of them hits?  It’s gonna happen.  And I suspect that I will not react with calm equanimity when it does.

But what about the TV show?

Fuck the TV show.

No, seriously, fuck it.

game-of-thrones-jack-gleeson-purple-wedding.jpgI know George doesn’t feel that way; he says in the piece that he feels like he’s letting the show’s producers down.  He shouldn’t.  I’ve said this before, too: what they should do for the next two ASoIaF books and the Game of Thrones TV show is just never talk to each other again at this point.  Let the TV show end the story its way and let George end it his and let the fans argue about how things really should have gone.  That’s not the choice they made, though, and everybody wanted the book out before the TV show, and oh noez the TV show will spoil the books now!

Deal, chirren.  Y’gonna be okay.  At least now there’s something to spoil; one of the most tiring things about this show (which I’ve watched maybe a couple of episodes of) is that motherfuckers are insisting that it’s still possible to spoil something that happened in a book that came out thirteen years ago.  So far the show seems to diverging from the books mainly just to add more rape.  I can live without it, I think.  You still get the story, or some version of it, you just get it in a (maybe) different way than you used to.  Suck it up, Buttercup, you’ll be fine.

Here’s the other alarming thing: George R.R. Martin is 67 years old.  And, honestly, after reading that post and getting stressed out myself over the borderline depression and stress leaking through the words, I halfway think he ought to wait until the show is done before he puts any more effort into these damn books.  I’m worried about him, and not in an oh no my story might not get finished!!! sort of way, but in a he’s human and holy shit does the stress seem to be getting to him sort of way.  Now, George has already expressed his feelings on the folks worried that Brandon Sanderson will be writing A Dream of Spring:


But … goddamn, George, you have proven your shit by now.  It doesn’t matter that I haven’t liked the books lately.  You’ve earned the right to fucking relax and I’m pretty sure the guy left writing for the money behind a while ago.

Fuck these folks.  Write this book the way you want, how you want, as fast as you want, or, hell, not.  No more stressing out about fucking HBO or people who watch TV, and sure as hell no apologizing to us again.

People have been reminded plenty of times that George R.R. Martin is not our bitch.  But this is the first time I’ve felt like he needed to be reminded of it.

6 thoughts on “On George R.R. Martin, writing, television, and pressure

  1. Have you told us WHY the remaining books after 1 are so bad? Do tell. I want a proper critique rather than mere grumblings. I’ve enjoyed them all, even with George’s propensity to talk rather a lot about food. He’s a wonderful writer. Personally I did notice a slight slackening off of ideas around book 5, but I can’t see why you hate the later books so much. DO enlighten me! I’m a keen reader but no great fanboi of this type of stuff and I’d rather George on a bad day than Peter Hamilton on a good. That being said, I recently revisited Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles series, and was SO disappointed. What I had loved in my 20s was now rightfully not very good in my 40s.


    1. The first three books are all good books and well worth reading; GoT is good enough that dropping off in quality from it still results in a good book. It’s not until Feast for Crows, where he got so sidetracked that he had to split the characters in half and we went fourteen or fifteen years in between chapters about Tyrion and Arya– the series’ two most interesting characters– so we could hear more about the Greyjoys that the series started to fall apart, and then when Dance with Dragons finally did come out literally nothing of note happened in it.

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      1. I agree about Tyrion and Arya being the most interesting characters, and I would agree with you that the plot doesn’t move forward precisely. I treated it as a kind of pause in between plot points, as I guess it is. I was also slightly annoyed by the long waits for characters I preferred to read about but I guess GM is setting the scene for more forward momentum in future books. Frankly, when the writing style is this good I don’t mind. I’ve read a lot worse so-called “serious” literature where nothing stretches on for half the book. And there’s no sequel. I actually think we all just hate the Greyjoys and there’s no getting away from it.


  2. Wait a minute, does this mean that you don’t think A Storm of Swords is the greatest epic fantasy novel of all time? Buh-buh-but, the Red Wedding! The Purple Wedding! Arya stabbing the Tickler to death while repeating his questions to his face! (Is it bad that that’s my favorite scene in the series so far?)

    Otherwise I completely agree with you. Every time I hear about George R. R. Martin’s lack of progress with his book, I just feel so bad for the guy.


  3. As a fan of both the books and the TV show, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the show will end long before the books. I don’t blame Martin for that… shit happens. I just remind myself that the books are canon, while the TV show is just an interpretation of his world. I’m more interested in his version of events.

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