By Rachel Krueger
George R R Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, while long a big deal in fantasy basements, is now officially a Big Deal™. The HBO series based on the first installation, A Game of Thrones, has both brought the series into the fantasy-abjuring eye and put a much-appreciated amount of pressure on his GRRRRRRMness to move his ass, the aforementioned first novel having been published FIFTEEN! YEARS! AGO! The fifth book comes out (allegedly and after a slew of false release dates) in July of this year.
It’s like that joke Lewis CK tells about traveling cross country in ye olden days, where a bunch of you would die along the way and babies would be born and by the time you got to where you were going you were all new people. When I started SoIaF I was a young, newly married student, working on a BA, and now I am . . . okay, I am a terrible example. But other people, people who started the series when it started and who have managed to do things in the intervening 15 years (have children, change careers, give up on the project altogether, die and reincarnate) are, metaphorically, all new people.
Which is always dangerous in publishing, because the new people these people are might not have the same urge as the old people these people used to be to snap up your product. You must CAPITALIZE! Strike while you are still a hot iron, etc. And I’ve been hearing rumblings around the Tubes that authors need to bump up their production, and that it’s not fair to make readers wait MORE THAN SIX MONTHS (or, ye gads, a YEAR) for the next installment, an attitude for which I blame Netflix Streaming. You want me to wait a FULL BUSINESS DAY and then put on PANTS and go to my MAILBOX before I watch this movie? You presume too much.
Ultimately, it is a question of value. I don’t really want to spend my afternoon watching “Outsourced,” but if I can stream that instead of waiting a day for the infinitely better “Community,” I will. But where I am lazy about my television diet, I am passionate about my literary one. Yes, some authors churn out subsequent books every six months, but I strongly suspect those books of not being terribly good (or those authors of having James-Frey-style fiction factories in their basements). There is a certain ballsyness in asking your fans to wait six years for Book Five (particularly when Book Four ends with something like, I wrote the thing and it was too long so here’s half and the other half is soon forthcoming), but those balls are predicated on a confidence in your work’s value.
So I will (willingly, if not cheerfully) go about my business and grow old while I wait for Martin (or Diana Gabaldon, or Robert Jordan before he pulled a Robert Jordan *coats both Martin and Gabaldon in bubble wrap*) to do what they do. I am not a toddler. I will choose a cheesecake later over a Ding Dong now.