The Game of Thrones creator still hasnt finished the sixth volume in A Song of Ice and Fire placing him in a long tradition of writers, from Chaucer to Dickens
When George RR Martin announced this weekend that he still hadnt finished the sixth volume in A Song of Ice and Fire, the reaction took two broad topics. One, as we chronicled here, considered fans of the books being broadly supportive of his slowness and evident agony over the same. The competing attitude was more usually subtly expressed, surfacing in aggregated news tales that observed that Martin might become less relevant to the series if he did not catch up to the television depict soon.
Get off the pot, old man , ran the not-so-subtle subtext of such tales. His problem to them seems unfathomable. The human now has all the money and time in the world, and yet he cant be bothered to produce this volume? To them, the statistics speak for themselves. In the four years from 1996 to 2000 he published three books; in the 15 years since hes published part of one, wrote Tim Marchman at Deadspin, in a piece published a few days before Martins admission. Plainly, this line of supposing held, Martin is physically and intellectually capable of producing faster. Does he ever plan on finishing the thing, before he succumbs?
Well, the muse doesnt quite work like that, most writers would cluck. In fact, Martin is just another in a long and sometimes highly literary line of authors who have conceived grand projects and ultimately cant finish the performance of their duties. Both Chaucers The Canterbury Tales and Spensers The Faerie Queene are, for example, technically unfinished. Those two examples would suggest, actually, that leaving a grand-scale creative project unfinished at your death is actually a trade mark of greatness. Not that Martin is dead yet.
Things get worse when your notoriety is not posthumous, of course. Dickens the literary patriarch of popular serials was lucky that he could crank out copy for most of his life without suffering writers block.( The one exception was Dombey and Son, but there his interruptions were all of a personal nature, the endless illnesses of his extended family .) Dickens always preferred to neglect his family rather than his fans, as youll learn from just about any volume on him published after about 1935.
Still, he died mid-novel, simply a few months after beginning to publish The Mystery of Edwin Drood in serial in 1870. At the time of his death, Dickens had completed more installations than hed published, but has still not been the entire series. As a result we dont actually know who the murderer is in Drood, having only supposition and guess. Thus followed a century of devoted fans guessing the answer for various stagings and BBC television productions.
So obsessed were some prominent Dickens fans with the outcome of Drood that in 1914, the Dickens Fellowship staged a full taunt trial of one of the suspects.( Mindful of spoilers, I shall not here expose the name of the defendant or the outcome of the trial .) GK Chestertonacted as magistrate, and George Bernard Shaw as foreman of a jury of fellow writers that included the likes of Hilaire Belloc. Yet none of this cultural ephemera threatened to eclipse Dickens involvement in the tale , nor stimulate him less relevant to it in the first place.
Granted, Martin has constructed things more complicated for himself by handing the tales over to HBO, creating a competing cultural product in a time when far more people probably watch prestige television than read books.( Though one longs for a study about that, actually .) That told, the existence of an energetic Dickens fandom, one which long before the era of snarky users of internet message committees saw theorizing about his books delightful, suggests that authors are always running against got a couple of pressures: mortality represent one, but the craving of loyal readers another, an appetite which can grow so all-consuming
But perhaps reasonable people can disagree over the appropriateness of comparing Martin to Dickens. A closer analogue might be the case of Robert Jordan, a former military man from North Carolina who wrote a series of bestselling fantasy fictions, inflected by the authors personal interest in ancient history, called The Wheel of Time.( I havent read them so shant attempt to summarize with any authority, but suffice to say there seems to be lots of Dark Forces and channeling involved. And a large wheel .)
Whatever their merits, these books were at the top of the listings all through the 1990 s and have a dedicated following. Yet Jordan, like Martin, considered his project spiraling out of control, from a six-book original plan to a 12 -book actual one. When he tried to take time out from the project to do other things, online fan communities bristled about it. Then, as he was working on the 12 th volume, in 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer and died within months. He had assured his fans, though, that he was leaving plot-prescribing notes so that the books could be finished by someone else. His widow choice a young novelist named Brandon Sanderson to write the books.
Sanderson was chosen in part because he was a big fan. Ill be perfectly honest: when I heard the news[ of his death ], my first thought was of the big loss of someone extraordinary, Sanderson told the LA Times back in 2008. My second thought was he was working on the last book, would we ever get to see it? In the world of fiction and science fiction, heavily reliant on serialized work, this was seen as a heavy responsibility, of course. But they continued to greeted( Sanderson published the last volume in three instalments, ending in 2013) as the work of Robert Jordan.
Martin may, as such, take succour. David Benioff and DB Weiss, the producers of the television depict, may be ahead of him, story-wise. But those characters and events will always be his.
Read more: www.theguardian.com