On George R.R. Martin and stress

This is not a review of the Game of Thrones finale. I might write one of those, but for right now, no. Feel free to read this without fear of any spoilers. It is also not another why won’t he finish the booooooks whine, because 1) George R.R. Martin is not your bitch and 2) I have plenty to read. So adjust your expectations accordingly before you read further.

Y’all, I am, honestly and sincerely, kinda worried about George.

Here’s the thing: you may be aware that I wrote a book called Skylights, a book which ends in such a way that strongly suggests that at least one sequel is forthcoming. Skylights was released in 2014 and the first draft was completed well before that, and was set in a near enough future that it now demands a second edition where I’ve elided most of the actual dates.

I have been thinking about the Skylights sequel for, I think, close to a decade now, if not longer than that. I have taken several serious stabs at writing it, all of which have failed. In that time, precisely zero people have pushed me for a release date or tried to buttonhole me about what happens next. Have people liked the book? Yeah, generally. But there’s no popular groundswell out there for a sequel. Nobody’s chewing their nails or mad at me that the book’s not done yet. If it were to never come out absolutely no one would be upset. The pressure is entirely, 100% internal.

And that goddamn unwritten-ass book is a source of stress in my life every single fucking day. I literally do not go a single day, ever, without chiding myself for not working on the Skylights sequel. Does it make me continue to work on it? No. No, it does not.

And Skylights is a sequel to one book, featuring a constrained cast of characters, and not the sixth (or seventh!) book in a massive doorstop series that a huge chunk of the world knows exists and has been clamoring for for decades.

I think about what this dude must have been going through, having sold this series to TV, and having to watch the slow-motion nightmare apocalypse unfold as the TV series gets closer and closer and finally passes the narrative in the books, and having to have a conversation with people about where he sees the ending going (and I will never believe that he had actually decided on the ending long enough ago to talk to HBO about it) and then, to make things so, so much worse, to have the first ending to his story be so universally despised as this one was.

I want to say something like “Oh, he can just lie down in his giant pile of money and not worry about it,” but you know, I really don’t think GRRM is actually that type of person. I don’t know him; I’ve never met the man, but I just don’t see that. (And if he is, that’s fine! Again, GRRM is not your bitch, or mine, either.)

I’m just picturing myself in this situation, and thinking about how I literally cannot conceive of any way that this deal might have gone any worse for him than the way it did, regardless of the money. Even cancellation would have been better, because then he wouldn’t have had the indignity of having to watch someone else finish his story while he continues to struggle with these massive, unwritable books– and to have to watch them do so in a way that nearly everyone agreed was terrible.

I would not be able to cope with this shit, y’all. Just would not. And no amount of money would help me with it. Again, I’m stressing about Sunlight, or Moonlight, or whateverthefuck it’s going to be called if I ever release it, and no one cares about that but me. He’s literally going through what I’m going through times several million.

So yeah. I’m worried about him right now. Maybe he should be trying to take a swim in his huge pile of money, if he’s not already doing it.


gameIt’s been all over the news lately: this will be the season where the TV version of Game of Thrones finally laps the books, or at the very least it’s going to catch them this season and next season will have to be all-new stuff.  George R.R. Martin, famous for being a slow writer (and note: I’m not complaining, at least not with an intent to be taken seriously by anyone) simply cannot keep up with the speed of broadcast TV, and there is absolutely no way that he’s going to be able to get two books written before the show hits the plotlines of the sixth and seventh books.

Those of us who had read the book when it came out fifteen goddamn years ago snickered at the poor saps who didn’t know what was coming when the Red Wedding happened.  Now, it seems, the tables have turned, and the TV people get to know the ending of the saga before, or at least at the same time as, the folks who have been reading the books.

My relationship to A Song of Ice and Fire is complicated, guys.  I’m almost compulsive in my need to complain every time someone mentions these books around me; I think Game of Thrones is one of the best works of fantasy literature ever written, and I think that the series has gotten asymptotically worse with every book that has been published since then.  They became actively bad with the publication of A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons was execrable.  At this point I may not even read The Winds of Winter.  If I do, it will be a hate-read.  I don’t even want to contemplate what the seventh book might be like.

Nonetheless!  A suggestion:

TV people!  Finish this season following the books as carefully as you always have (which is to say as carefully as you need to; the books and show, which I don’t watch regularly, have already diverged on a number of points) and then once you are clear of the published books, never speak to George R.R. Martin again about how the show should go.  Send him his checks, and end the series however you want.

George R. R. Martin!  Dance, naked and gleeful, upon the huge pile of money you have made off this show, and then write whatever the hell you want.  Don’t watch the show anymore; you can Netflix it when you’re done with the books.  Do not collaborate with these people and do not tell them your ending.  (Note: I am aware he already has.  He’s not listening to me anyway so I’m going to ignore this aspect of reality.)

Make the show and the books entirely separate cultural artifacts at this point.  We’re big folk; we can handle it.  Both of you, end the series however the hell you want, and don’t talk to each other about how you’re going to do it.  

Yes, this will lead to two wildly different endings. That is the point.

As evidence that this will work, I present to you The Walking Dead.  One of the show’s great strengths as a reader of the comics is the way that they gleefully remix everything that the comics do, sprinkling in a heavy dose of their own stuff, introducing brand-new characters, killing off people the books kept alive, and keeping alive folk who have been dead in the comics for years.  The Walking Dead TV show is the best adaptation of a story across media that I have ever seen.  Period.  Point-blank.  And part of the reason for that is that I never have any idea what’s coming next even if I’ve read the comics until they’ve fallen apart.  It is awesome.

Listen to me, Hollywood people and writer much more famous and powerful than me.  Stop talking to each other.  Right now.  Go do your own thing.  Both stories will be better for it.

On epic fantasy

originalGoogle Search Result of the Day:  the phrase “men fucking nen” led someone here. Yes, nen, not “men,” and no, I have no idea.

Also, yes, that’s Maisie Williams.  I don’t actually watch Game of Thrones— no cable, and we haven’t bothered to pay for season passes to download it– but literally every single time she does something as her and not as Arya Stark I find it hilarious.  Sixteen-year-old girls shouldn’t be able to deadpan the way this kid does.

Today’s plan was pretty simple: quick blog post, do no work, sit around read books, maybe give the PS3 a workout for the first time since I finished The Last of Us.  Today’s actual events: quick blog post, do no work, somehow lose three hours, abruptly realize I’m starving and eat lunch, read for an hour, fall asleep, get up just before five.  I was home sick on Monday, remember, and I am officially sick to death of this quasi-ill low-grade recurring semi-mononucleosis bullshit that has plagued me off and on since this school year began.  I don’t normally complain about naps but I did not want to take a nap today and so it was not the pleasurable experience that they normally are.

What I wanted to do: finish The Eye of the World, the first Wheel of Time book, which I’m only about halfway through.  I’ve read the first… six? seven? books in the series, and put them down a long time ago when 1) Robert Jordan wrote an entire book without mentioning my favorite character and 2) I realized just how many books he still had to go before the series was finished– and that was before he died, leaving Brandon Sanderson to take over, and what was supposed to be one final book turned into three final books.

Here’s the thing: other than the omg long nature of the things, I don’t recall having any real complaints about the story or the writing itself– I’ve been looking forward to finally reading the series in full and was excited about picking up the first volume again a few days ago.


Ahem.  I’m okay now.

It was quite a while ago when I read the series, and to be honest I remembered very little of it, but, like, the nouns are getting to me: he doesn’t have trolls or orcs, he has trollocs, and he doesn’t have ogres, but he has ogiers, and there’s a guy named Thorin in there and you can’t do that, and the bad guy actually has “Ba’al” in his name, and then there’s the scary guy in the ruins whose name is actually Mordeth, like, be a little subtler and call him Lord Evilkill or something like that.  The tuatha de danaan are Irish fairies; he has a group of gypsies called tuatha’an.  I know naming things in fantasy stories can be a pain in the ass, and I’m not blind to the fact that my Grond shares a name with a battering ram in The Return of the King, so maybe this is all a trifle hypocritical, but this stuff just keeps happening.  That and the whole thing is very, very Tolkien in a way that didn’t annoy me the first time I read it through but on reread, much like the formerly-one-of-my-favorite-books-and-now-entirely-unreadable Sword of Shannara, it’s really getting on my nerves.

And I have, like, thirteen more of these things to go.

I may be somewhat less excited about this project than I was when I started it, is what I’m trying to say here.