Daily Archives: February 23, 2009

Filed in the Drawer Marked “Bitter Irony”

The following quote, from CNN’s polling director:

You know times are tough when Republicans have more confidence in a Democratic president than they do in bankers or Wall Street investors.

Tough indeed! Wonder how they got that way.

Pissy Fans

My attention has been drawn to George RR Martin’s recent posting on his LiveJournal, in which he notes that some of his fans have begun to get testy that Dance With Dragons, the next installment of his fantasy series, is not already on their table to be read, and that they think he’s spending too much time doing other projects, or traveling to various places, or watching football, or sleeping, or whatever. His response was to quote Ricky Nelson at them, which, aside from probably confusing the substantial chunk of his fans whose only aquaintance with Nelson might be a vague recollection of the musical twin terrors his sons turned out to be, is also ironic because Nelson died relatively young, leaving fans who were hoping for a comeback well in the lurch.

But that wasn’t GRRM’s point; the Nelson song GRRM was pointing to was “Garden Party,” which was Nelson’s reaction to pissy fans who were upset that he was doing things he was interested in, not things they were interested in. The relevant quote in the song is this one: “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” There is irony in that the song, in which Nelson basically told his fans to piss off, became one of his biggest hits. But never mind that.

What you should mind is the fact Nelson was right, and GRRM was right to quote him. Some fans do have a tendency to forget that the creative folks they love are not simply black boxes, who produce desired product at regular intervals. They’re actually real people who do other things than just what the fans want them to do, because humans from time to time want to do the things they want to do, not the things other people want them to do. Yes, some fans don’t like that, but you know what, screw the type of fan who thinks a writer (or musician, or actor, or whatever) exists only to provide them with the entertainment of their choosing.

I’ll go personal here and talk about my own experience. As most of you know, the books in my Old Man’s War series are my most popular ones; each of the four novels have done very well and even the shorter works are pretty popular. There are people who would be delighted if all I did was write OMW universe books from now until the hopefully long-future date at which I drop. But thing is, at the moment, I have no plans to write any more OMW books. It’s not to say I never will, if I figure out what I want to do with that universe from here. I expect I may. But at the moment: Nope. I’ve got other things I’m working on which at the moment interest me more.

Now, I know this annoys some people — my matrix of ego-surfing search engines alerts me to many incidents of fan entitlement, particularly as regards the OMW universe — but I don’t think they understand what they’re asking for. Yes, I could write OMW #5 at the moment, but I guarantee it would suck, because at the moment I don’t know what I would write about, and thus OMW #5 would simply be a bit of commercial hackery, and it would show. And these same fans would say “Yeah, the series used to be good, but then he started phoning it in around book five.” You know, if I’m going to annoy a fan, I’d prefer to annoy a fan by not writing a book that sucks, than by writing one that does.

Bear in mind that my success, in terms of sales and notoriety, is a notch or two down from GRRM’s; I have fans who are annoyed that I have no OMW books in the pipeline, but he has legions of fans enraged that he’s not finished with his book. And I guess my question for them is: Well, do you want the book now, or do you want the book that GRRM is happy with? I suppose we could shove GRRM into a room with a word processor and put him on the Brian Wilson diet, in which we all give him a cheeseburger only after he’s completed a new chapter, but the book you’d get isn’t the book those fans would want.

I don’t want to hazard guessing how GRRM does his creative thing, but I’ll say this: The reason GRRM’s series is so damn popular is because he’s created this immense, complex world strewn with characters readers love to follow. When you do this, it doesn’t get easier building on it, it gets harder, especially if you’re trying to maintain quality control. This isn’t like a television series (or their literary spinoffs), where you have several writers working in the universe sharing the load; it all comes down to this single guy, pulling it all out of a single brain.

Seriously, people, WTF? Give the man a friggin’ break. Yes, it’s taking a while. Yes, he’s doing other things. But I assume it’s taking time because GRRM believes it’s worth getting right, and I assume he’s doing other things because he wants to stay sane. Let the guy do what he needs to do to make himself happy, and happy with the writing. You’ll benefit from a book that you’ll actually want to read, as opposed to a book that is simply there to have.

All of this comes around again to the question of what authors owe their readers. My opinion on this is that what authors owe their readers is that when their book comes out, it is, in the estimation of the author, as good as the author can make it. Everything else — how much time it takes, what else the author is doing with his time, so on and so forth — is neither here nor there. Now, certainly some fans may think differently about that. But they’re not writing the book. It’s a subtle yet telling difference, there.

Various and Sundry, 2/23/09

Bits and pieces and things and stuff:

* First, a picture of me and the bride whom I married this weekend (to someone else, to be clear), Emily Weise-King:

Emily and I have known each other for the better part of a decade; she and I were part of that first generation of bloggers (“online diarists” or “online journalers,” since we hadn’t thought of the word “blog” yet), and then became real-world friends not too long thereafter. She’s basically very cool, so when she and Michael (her now husband) asked me if I would officiate, I was there with bells on (Note: I did not wear actual bells. It would have interfered with the ceremony). I will note that the Weise-Kings did briefly consider changing their name to something else; had not sense prevailed, I might have introduced the married couple to congregation as “Michael and Emily Lazer-Awesome.” But sense prevailed. Alas. Regardless, the happy couple, is, indeed, laser awesome. And don’t you ever forget it.

* For those of you in the crowd who apparently didn’t know, yes, in fact, I am able to marry people; I’m ordained in the Universal Life Church and it’s all legal as beer sales on Sunday. I’ve been marrying people for ten years or so. It’s more of a hobby than anything else; I do it for friends when they get married and they don’t have a regular minister or someone else they’d like to stand up there and direct traffic. If I may say so, by this point I’m pretty good at, because I do my officiant duties with the philosophy that the congregation wants two things: To see the happy couple kiss, and to get to the partying. When you keep those two things in mind, it’s all very easy.

* But before you ask, no, I probably won’t perform your wedding for you. As noted, I tend to do them for long-time friends, at weddings I was likely to attend anyway. And at this point, most of my long-time friends are well and truly hitched (Emily, who’s more than a decade younger than me, is an outlier, wedding-wise). I suppose that when the children of my very good friends start needing an officiant, I might see an uptick in the business again, but that’s one of those things I don’t really want to think about at the moment.

* Moving away from wedding and to the Oscars, I was delighted that I went 6-for-6 in last night major categories, not that any of you would have known that, since the Oscar prediction piece I wrote got eaten by WordPress the day the nominations came out. You’ll have to trust me on this one. That said, I’ll note a lot of people who were not me flubbed the Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor categories; in the latter, a lot of people expected Mickey Rourke to get the award, while the Best Supporting Actress award predictions were all over the board, but mostly not to Penelope Cruz. Nate Silver, for example, who famously pegged the election at FiveThirtyEight, applied his stats models to the Oscars and blew both of these categories, picking Rourke and Taraji P. Henson, the latter of whom had almost no chance of winning, frankly.

Silver is excellent at politics in general but doesn’t understand Academy politics much. In my mind Penelope Cruz was the easy pick because a) statistically speaking, the Best Supporting Actress nominee who is in a Woody Allen film is always a safe bet (see: Dianne Weist, Mira Sorvino); b) she’s been Oscar-nominated before, and recently, which also inclines votes to her; c) she’s gorgeous and well-liked and that matters. As for Rourke, to put it simply, being nominated was his reward for getting his act together, and it’s still not completely together because the dude’s still walking around in day-glo jump suits and clutching a chihuahua. There was no way it was going to happen this year. He needs to keep his act together, ditch the public exhibitions of a toy dog, and make a few more good films before he can clutch an Oscar (hint to Rourke: Get nominated in the Supporting category next time, and Oscar gold is yours).

* I will say early on I thought Benjamin Button was going to be a lock, because it was both a safe and relatively commercially successful choice, but I was amazed at how quickly the backlash smacked that film around, and how quickly Slumdog slipped out from behind. I thought there might be an outside chance for Milk, but that film got Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, so it can’t complain. And I’m delighted Kate Winslet finally got a Best Actress Oscar, because she deserves it for being so good for so long but also because now that means, pace Halle Berry and Charlize Theron, that she will now immediately make a God-awful action film in which she wears very tight black latex, and I’m all for that.

* Finally, on a more personal note: I’m waaaaaaay behind on personal e-mail, so if you sent me a personal e-mail in the last couple of weeks, I probably haven’t responded yet. I will try to do so today and/or tomorrow. Sorry for being a bad friend. You can kick me the next time you see me.