Tuesday, September 01, 2009

George R.R. Martin is not my bitch

Daniel Keys Moran's latest comment threads point me to this driveling idiocy, which, given the source, surprises me not at all with either of those two qualities. In that comment thread, I respond thusly:

As for entitlement issues, and Neil Gaiman:

It's interesting that Gaiman opens that essay complaining because American Airlines won't provide him with what he considers to be a necessary tool to facilitate his writing while on one of their flights, at a price he thinks is reasonable. American Airlines provides him with a service (getting him from point A to point B within an acceptable time frame) for a price he's willing to pay. Gaiman seems to feel there's a contract between him and AA, that they will also, for the price of his ticket, facilitate his word processing while he's in their care, just like, apparently, all the other airlines he normally flies with do. But, as he points out later on in an entirely different context, the contract doesn't exist. His sense that they should give him this thing that he wants cheaply, that is not part of the service they render, is, er, hm, what should we call it... oh, yeah... an 'entitlement issue'.

Then he goes on to say this, in re: the astonishingly lazy George R.R. Martin:

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

Yeah. We want to know what happens next. And the author isn't telling us. Know what he's doing instead? He's taking the money we've paid him to tell us this story and he's spending it doing pretty much every other thing in the world except what we're paying him to do, which is, finish the story.

There is a contract. When you pay your money to the storyteller in the marketplace, the contract is, he tells you a story. Now, I'm willing to accept that when I toss a shekel in his upturned turban, maybe I won't LIKE the story, but unless the motherfucker dies before he chokes out the ending, at the very least, I believe that the implicit contract betwixt him and me that came into existence when he said "I'll tell you a story for a shekel, my good man" and I said, "Very well, here is your shekel, prate onward, o scribe", encompasses him telling me the ENTIRE story. Not just half or two thirds of it, at which point, he'll decide it's much much more important for him to watch a Giants' game, or go off to some storyteller's convention where people will kiss his ass for a week or so, or head back into his hotel, where he can sign a lot of merchandising and film contracts regarding the half or 2/3s of a story I've paid him to tell me and that he hasn't finished yet.

I'm not paying for a book, I'm paying for a STORY. He hasn't finished the story yet. And sure, if it's a long story he's entitled to breaks and meal time and some rest & recreation, but when I keep coming back to the marketplace looking for him to pick up where he left off and he's still over by the fountain under an awning watching the Punch & Judy show while good looking matched Swedish twins put butter on his toes, and it's pretty obvious that the operators of the Punch and Judy show and the good looking Swedish twins are both being sponsored by my shekel, I'm going to start feeling a little bit put upon, a little bit aggravated, a little bit as if someone is failing to live up to their end of the unstated contract.

But there is a contract, and the contract is this: You start a story, you finish it, and if you're having trouble finishing it, you at least show that you're making an effort to do so, that your contract with me is a priority for you, that it matters, that it's important.

You want to break that story down into increments and charge me for each increment, that's fine, but I want to see that you're making progress. I want to see good faith. And if I don't, I'm going to scream my head off about it, and why? Because that's really all I can do. If the storyteller is indeed so feckless and faithless that, while continuing to take my shekels through all his merchandising contracts and such, he still puts every other thing in his life ahead of continuing to tell me the story I'm paying for, well, there's not much I can do, except scream my head off, which I'm going to do.

This is one of those things where you're either a paying audience member or a story teller. If you're one, you simply have no sympathy for the POV of the other. I can understand this, vaguely; there are only six people in the world who have read my first novel UNIVERSAL MAINTENANCE, but I regularly hear from all six of them, wondering when I'm going to write the sequel. And I tell them all the same thing: when someone wants to pay me a realistic amount of money to set aside a year or so of my finite lifespan to turn out that sequel, I'll write it. Which I think is fair.

George R.R. Martin has been fairly compensated for not only the entire projected SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, but, most likely, at this point, for every single other thing he's ever written in his life, and, most likely, he's been compensated at a pretty high rate for every football game he's ever going to watch again before he dies, too.... all of it, out of the coin that has been generated by A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE... a story that he has, as yet, to finish. The contract is for the story, not the increments of the story. If he can't finish it, he can at least keep working on it. He can show us it's a priority for him.

Or he can start issuing refund checks.

And if he can't do that, or he chooses not to do that, then, at the very least, while he's living in the million dollar home the Ice and Fire fans bought for him, watching football on the big screen high density TV the Ice and Fire fans bought for him, jetting to various exotic foreign lands using tickets that his Ice and Fire fans bought for him, and staying at hotels that his Ice and Fire fans are paying for, and going to cons to receive the adulation of his Ice and Fire fans, when we ask him "say, George, when's the next Ice and Fire book coming out", he could not whine and shriek and stamp his feet and wave his arms and cry like a giant fucking grey haired baby and call all of us names because, you know, we've given him millions of dollars for this story and he doesn't even want to bother pretending he's actually working on finishing it.

There is a contract. There is. I'm sorry if other authors of serial fiction out there take all this personally and find it all very inconvenient, but there is. And it's not for the book, it's for the story. You start a story, you need to at least make a pretty game attempt at finishing it. George R.R. Martin not only wants to cop out on his contract, but he also demands universal respect, admiration, and adulation from his fans while he takes our money with one hand and flips us off with the other.

Beyond all that, let me say this: Nobody, not one single Ice and Fire fan, has ever assumed that George R.R. Martin is our bitch. That's a straw man, and an egregiously dishonest, ludicrously stupid one, at that. We just think George R.R. Martin undertook to tell us a story, and he's fucking off, on our dime. And it pisses us off.

Or at least, it pisses me off.

Here endeth the lesson.

It's not exactly succinct, and given that nobody reads this blog any more, it's not going to inspire any fawning sycophant to record a catchy little You Tube ditty, but, still, I think it's much more cogent than the entirely self serving nonsense it refutes.