I took a nap on Saturday night, and had this really strange dream. It involved a small town caper where I was the one in charge of figuring out whodunit, but my husband woke me up before I could solve the mystery. I was very groggy when he came into the room to get me up (cos, Doctor Who was about to be on and he knew I’d be pissed if I missed it) and shouted something to the effect of “NOW I’LL NEVER GET TO FIGURE OUT WHO DID IT!” at him. He just stood there with concern on his face. My shouting dream remnants at him is (sadly) nothing new. He just had to wait for me to realize that I was now awake.
(I promise, this touches on a point I’m about to make – please stay with me.)
After shouting, I got a little sad because the dream had stuck with me, and the part of it that remained clear in my head was that the news had come out that George RR Martin had passed away before finishing ASoIaF. Coupled with my current group read of The Elvenbane (the series will never be completed because Andre Norton died in 2005), this got me to thinking about the way we react to our favourite authors and their work…finished or not.
Show of hands among my Stephen King fan friends/readers – how many of us remember our thoughts in June, 1999? How many of us will admit that our VERY FIRST THOUGHT wasn’t “Oh, I hope he’s okay!” but more along the lines of “Fuck. If he dies, we never get to find out if Roland makes it to the Tower!”? If you tell me that thought didn’t even cross your mind, I will call you a liar or weep because you haven’t read that series yet. Maybe both.
This brings me to my point. As I was sitting on the edge of my bed on Saturday evening, I thought to myself “Man, I’m such an entitled asshole, aren’t I?” In my dream – and in real life – I was more concerned about the fact that I’d never get to learn what happened to Jon and Arya and Tyrion and Daenerys than I was with the fact that an author whose work I’ve evangelized for years HAD DIED.
And we’re all like this. Those of us that are srs-series readers all have this thought in the back of our heads most of the time.
“Man, what if something happens to Jim Butcher before we get our Bad Ass Trilogy?”
“God forbid something should happen to Jasper Fforde before he writes more Shades of Grey books!”
“Did you hear that Gaiman is writing more Sandman? WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO HIM BEFORE I HAVE IT IN MY HANDS?!”
“WHAT IF CASSANDRA CLARE NEVER GETS TO WRITE THE REST OF THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES THAT WE ALL THOUGHT WAS FINISHED TWO BOOKS AGO?”
(Okay, so maybe that last one is kind of a joke.)
You know what happens then? We get stuff like the myriad VC Andrews series, still being published almost 30 years after her death.
We get things like the execrable And Another Thing…, which almost completely soured me on the future work of Eoin Colfer.
You know what happens when we put the pressure on our favourite authors to write at a faster pace? Books that feel rushed (like Deathly Hallows or Cold Days). Books that are…yeah, okay – but that are probably only a fraction as great as they could have been. Because they need another round of rewrites or because they haven’t been edited as well as they could have or were left with dangling threads because it had to be RELEASED RIGHT NOW to meet the demands of the asshole fans.
…or we get the last few books in the Earth’s Children series. A series that Auel should have stopped writing (at the very LEAST) after Plains of Passage.
And I’m including myself in this number. I’m not calling any of you out without calling myself out too. I may be many things, but I am not a hypocrite.
So – I guess my question is this: what gives us this right? What lets us think it’s okay for us to pressure these authors who give us countless hours of pleasure in the form of the worlds we lose ourselves in? Yeah, sure – we’re the customers. But those of us that are readers/writers/bloggers should know just as well as anyone that sometimes the words just aren’t there. Sometimes they come, but we realize they’re crap so they either get deleted or just never see the light of day. Sometimes we need more time to make things decent. Sometimes…it just doesn’t happen at all.
Guys, what do you think? Why are we all so full of self-importance that we fail to realize that our favourite authors are people just like us? Why do we allow ourselves to sink to this level? Why, really, is it such a big deal when we all really have more books available than we’ll ever be able to read in our lifetime?
(Also, this is my official apology to Chris F. Holm who has been absolutely lovely when dealing with my WHEN DO I GET THE BIG REAP ALREADY? questions on twitter. Thanks, Chris – and I’m sorry.)