Kingkiller author Patrick Rothfuss decries “the George R.R. Martin effect” on fantasy

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Author Patrick Rothfuss attends Heifer International’s 4th Annual Beyond Hunger Gala at the Montage on September 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. Heifer International works to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. . (Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for Heifer International)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Author Patrick Rothfuss attends Heifer International’s 4th Annual Beyond Hunger Gala at the Montage on September 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. Heifer International works to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. . (Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for Heifer International) /

Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss can’t get into The Wheel of Time, praises George R.R. Martin but not his imitators, and HATES The Witcher.

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of The Kingkiller Chronicle, the popular fantasy book series currently consisting of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, with the third and final novel (hopefully) coming along soon. Of late, Rothfuss has been talking online a lot as he raised money for Worldbuilders, a geek-centered nonprofit that supports humanitarian efforts worldwide. That included some streams where he shared his thoughts on other major fantasy series, and some of his opinions might surprise you.

Patrick Rothfuss on…The Wheel of Time

"Eh…I mean, I read a couple of them back in the day. My main thoughts on them are that there are a lot of them, and most of my friends at one point loved them, and then at a later point then gave up. And everyone seems to give up at a different place, where they’re like, ‘Ugh, y’know I finally hit Book 8 and I just quit.’ Also, just the thought of dropping into a series that long exhausts me. If I were to do it on audiobook it would take me months to get through them."

Shrugging off The Wheel of Time?! I am aghast!

After my initial bout of nerd rage subsided, I was intrigued by Rothfuss’ point of view. It also started to put some things in perspective about his own work.

Rothfuss does a great job in the video of breaking down the difference between a multi-volume story and a series. As he tells it, a series often contains self-enclosed or discrete parts, be they trilogies, single novels, etc. Some good examples he uses are Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, the works of Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey. All are series, which is to say they benefit from you reading all of them…but you don’t have to read all of them in order to enjoy any one of them.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have multi-volume stories like The Kingkiller Chronicle itself. These are a single, continuous narrative told over the course of many books. For example, you won’t get the full Lord of the Rings experience if you start with The Return of the King.

When multi-volume stories get huge like The Wheel of Time, they can be intimidating time-sinks. “If what I want to experience is a complete story, I know I have to commit to reading the entire arc, because it’s a multi-volume series with, what, like 14 books in it, and each of those books is at least half a million words long, or a quarter of a million words long?” Rothfuss asked. Yeah, close enough.

Another very popular multi-volume fantasy story is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted by HBO as Game of Thrones. Rothfuss has some very interesting thoughts on that…

Patrick Rothfuss on…”The George R.R. Martin Effect”

At one point, someone in the stream notes that fantasy authors seem to be in a competition with each other to have as many characters as possible, which is true. Rothfuss thinks he knows how this trend got started:

"I think of that as the George Martin effect. Where Martin is an author who has a ton of craft under his belt — he’s been writing for ages in many different ways — and he started Game of Thrones, and all of those books had multiple point-of-view characters to achieve a specific effect in this huge world-spanning story he was telling, and he had the craft to pull it off. And then everyone’s like, ‘I wanna do a Game of Thrones, too.’ And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t, it’s too many characters, you’re not that good.’ And you certainly don’t get that many point-of-view characters. Here’s the rule: if you’re starting a novel, you can have three point-of-view characters, and that’s it. And you probably shouldn’t have that many."

Rothfuss also talks about Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series (he enjoyed the first two books but eventually dropped it) and touched on the work of Brandon Sanderson, who finished off The Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan died and has several long multi-volume fantasy stories of his own. “I’d read a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s books, for a while I’d read most of them. But now, he’s got so many, he just writes so much, I’m far behind.”

The thing I found most fascinating about all of this is that while Rothfuss seems to enjoy reading shorter, more discreet stories, his own Kingkiller Chronicle is a long-form epic. “My books…[are] a multi-volume story,” he admitted, “which is part of the reason why everyone is so cheesed that they don’t have the end to it yet.” He’s even joked that his current trilogy is just a “prologue” for what’s to come next.

So he’s avoiding reading those long, wending epics while simultaneously trying to write one. Could that disconnect have anything to do with the oft-delayed The Doors of Stone?

On the other hand, Rothfuss says in another video that he has ideas for other novels set in the world of Kingkiller that would stand apart from the main story, so maybe he could have it both ways.

In that video, Rothfuss weighs in on another big-name fantasy story currently making the rounds. In this case it’s The Witcher, specifically the Netflix series, not the books by Andrzej Sapkowski, which he hasn’t ready. But Rothfuss definitely has strong feelings about the show:

"Who saw The Witcher, right? You saw The Witcher, and it’s like, ‘And here’s these two characters, here’s the sexy guy and the sexy girl, they met for the first time, what a cool meeting.’ And then the very next f**king episode, they meet again, and they hate each other because of a bunch of things that happened…at, like, the very next f**king episode! That’s bulls**t, that is lazy storytelling, even though I could give a s**t about that TV show."

That plot point he’s referring to is the time jump between Episode 5 and 6, where Geralt and Yennefer go from their first meeting to very abruptly having lots of beef with one another. Also, I would definitely watch him rant about The Witcher for an hour, as he says he can.

Next. 10 epic sci-fi/fantasy book series to read and fall in love with. dark

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