George R.R. Martin made headlines last week when he commented on the potential release date for The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series. He made the comment on his NotABlog after a fan asked him for an update, the fan’s idea being that a progress report would deter further inquiries. Here’s Martin’s response:
You really think statements like that would make a difference? Ah, you sweet summer child. I have years of experience with this that tells me otherwise.
But okay, I will try it your way.
Not done yet, but I’ve made progress. But not as much as I hoped a year ago, when I thought to be done by now.
I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year).
We used that comment as a jumping off point to discuss what, if anything, Martin owes to his fans. Many of you voted on a poll to that effect, and a lot of you sounded off on the subject in the comments. Let’s take a closer look.
The poll results weren’t as interesting as the comments, though. You all left some fantastic opinions covering a wide variety of perspectives. For example, Zeuxis came up with this involved extended metaphor for how Martin has written the series:
I am an artist, a painter. Consider this:
I have a client who is interested in obtaining a cycle of five paintings called “Heroes”, which I told him about.
I just finished the first painting; he is overwhelmed and buys it on the spot.
Now I tell him, the second painting will take some time. That’s fine with him. He does not want to rush me.
After a couple of months I have finished this second painting – my client is fascinated, buys the painting and looks forward to the third painting.
This I finish in due course – same stuff happens, client enthralled, buys it, looks forward to the next painting.
Now I have made lots of money with these three paintings. Time for some rest. I travel, finish a couple of serial drawings, visit to museums and galleries, and, after a slightly longer period of waiting my client receives his fourth painting.
I tell him, I will expand the cycle from 5 to presumably 7 paintings, as new ideas and stuff popped up while working on these paintings. It’s okay with him, he is actually excited about that.
I travel a bit more, publish a couple of catalogues, finish more drawings, work on other paintings and enjoy my growing fortune and fame.
After some time my client asks how I am proceeding with the next painting of the cycle. I tell him, well, it still needs some time. Ok. Months go by, seasons change, and still I have not finished the fifth painting.
My client gets slightly restless. Well, who is he? I am working on a piece of art. So I travel, publish a couple of catalogues, finish more drawings, work on other paintings and enjoy my growing fortune and fame.
My client is pissed. So am I. What’s he complaining about? He should be honoured to have obtained four paintings. I travel, publish a couple of catalogues, finish more drawings, work on other paintings and enjoy my growing fortune and fame.
My client is furious. He shouldn’t be. Now I am pissed. So I travel, publish a couple of catalogues, finish more drawings, work on other paintings and enjoy my growing fortune and fame. At last, I throw together the fifth painting of this “Heroes” cycle.
My client is mollified and quite likes this work. Bet he should! He buys my outstanding piece and I tell him the next painting won’t take this long.
…Years later, I enjoyed lots of travels, published and sold lots of stuff, am rich and famous…
Can you imagine?? There is this unbelievably impossible person that, years ago, was hooked on this “Heroes” cycle of mine, still annoying and pushing me to finish that cycle. Who am I? His bitch? Me, the most famous artist of the world??
I think this ascribes more anger and haughtiness to Martin than he deserves—for example, when he wrote a year ago about having not yet finished Winds, he seemed more crestfallen than anything else—but I’m not one to turn down a good extended metaphor.
I also wonder whether Martin has promised us a sixth and seventh book in the same way that the artist in Zeuxis’ analogy promised his client sixth and seventh paintings. After all, we didn’t commission Martin to write A Song of Ice and Fire—he’s writing it and we buy it. To whom, in the end, does he owe the final books, if anybody? Davos 4 King weighed in:
George owes his publishing company if he is contractually obligated he be done by certain date predetermined by both sides. As far as us the fans are concerned he owes us jack because there’s not one of us here who have paid a cent for TWO or ADOS…It’s certainly okay to be disappointed or even aggravated at GRRM slow writing but the man doesn’t owe any of us anything.
But at the same time, Martin is writing a series. (Ibbison calls it “5/7 of a story that he is releasing as a serial.”) While we may not have commissioned the full series from the beginning, does Martin have an obligation to follow through on with some degree of predictability if he wants it to keep that label? JMP thinks so:
As for GRRM, I do think he owes the fans who have bought books 1-5 of ASoIaF, a good-faith effort at finishing the series in a timely manner. I feel this way bc when he put out GoT, ASoIaF was advertised as a “series” so all of us who bought into this series, should feel it’s reasonable to expect GRRM would be diligent in finishing said series, otherwise, in a way, he’s guilty of false advertising.
Ibbison sums the viewpoint up nicely:
Think back to when you first started reading the series. If there had been a big warning label on the cover stating, “Series will probably not be completed until 2023,” would you still have read it?
Me – maybe not. Or I might have decided to wait until it was done.
And what of the argument that Martin is taking a long time to write The Winds of Winter because he’s making it as good as possible? After all, most of the poll respondents above didn’t care how long it took to write—they just wanted a great book. Mike has an interesting take on that:
The whole “give him time to write a great book, don’t rush him!” argument makes sense if time actually helps. I’d argue that Mr. Martin hasn’t written a great (or even very good) book in the ASOIAF series since 2000. I know not everyone agrees, but many do, adding to the chorus of complaints. The longer writing time for Feast and Dance didn’t help.
I think there’s a general sense among fans that the first three books in the series are the strongest, so Mike’s overall point that more time doesn’t necessarily equal better books is a good one. However, he’s also right that mileage varies greatly when it comes to which books people enjoy most, as the results of this poll developed by BryndenBFish attest:
How about the posts on his NotABlog? If Martin is taking a long time to write The Winds of Winter, would regular progress updates at least ease the pain of the wait? Here’s the delightfully named TrashCanMan on that topic:
As far as his Not A Blog posts, yeah, they can be annoying as he posts about all manner of subjects, seemingly anything and everything EXCEPT winds but that’s what his blog is for. People who visit should go there understanding that it’s not a asoiaf news center. It’s for him to post what’s on his mind.
TrashCanMan thinks there’s a better way to update fans:
That said, my thing is, if he had so much left over from ADWD and has written enough that he thinks he can be done in months, why not release what he has? Appease the fans with something and buy himself some time. But obviously it’s his right to hold off on releasing it until he feels it’s up to par and with the fickle nature of fans I don’t blame him.
Still, he owes us nothing. And some readers whine way too much. Here’s hoping it gets released this year.
Martin does periodically release advance chapters from The Winds of Winter—the most recent one is written from the perspective of Aeron “Damphair” Greyjoy—but that’s a far cry from releasing everything he’s written so far. Fans might love that, but I don’t think Martin’s publishers would.
Thanks again for all the great comments, both the ones posted here and the ones still in the original post. The debate rages on…