10 Things to Remember About Authors

Because it appears someone needs to say these things out loud, some thoughts, for the consideration of readers, about authors, particularly novelists. Warning: This is long.

1. Authors aren’t machines: Which is to say, we do not reliably and through a purely mechanical process extrude Novel-Length Textual Product with Extra Added Plot and Character Flavors™ on a predictable schedule. Like all things that live, we do our thing imprecisely. Sometimes the novels come out regularly and uniformly; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the novels conform to our own expectations of what they should be; sometimes they come out malformed and need to be fixed before they can be sent out into the world. Sometimes they just don’t work at all and have to be tossed. Sometimes production is easy, sometimes it’s not.

Certainly many authors strive for predictable process, which is why so many of them block out a regular amount of time every day, and try to bang out a regular number of words a day. But working at a regular pace and time and with a regular amount of output does not mean that any individual novel will thereby come out on a predictable schedule. Some of those 500 or 1,000 daily words will be unusable; some of those will be spent rewriting other words; some of those words will be so great that it takes the novel in a new direction that the author has to follow to see where it leads, to the exclusion of finishing the novel on a schedule. Predictable process in this case does not necessarily lead to predictable output.

Corollary to the above:

2. Authors are human: Our brains, the organ we use to create our novels, are touchy and imprecise things. They get bored. They get confused. They lose track of plot and narrative threads. They think too much about some things, and not nearly enough about others. They are sometimes ambitious beyond their actual grasp. They are likewise sometimes tremendously poor estimators of their own capacity. Our brains, in short, are a hindrance as much as a help to us — as they are for all humans.

And like all humans, we authors are a vain and rationalizing group, wanting to look good to others and rationalizing when we do not perform to our own expectations or the expectations of others — and often doing a better job of rationalizing our failures than others, because, after all, we’re pretty good with that fiction thing, and what is rationalization but self-serving fiction? Like all humans we screw up and succeed in nearly equal measure, and hope merely that the screw-ups are smaller overall than the successes. As a class of human, we are not notably different than any other class of human, in terms of performance and behavior. Wish we were better (and more attractive!), but we’re not.

Because of the above, the next point naturally follows:

3. Authors have lives: Writing is not all we do. Many of us conned other people into becoming spouses or otherwise being significant others and are thus obliged to spend time interacting with them in a manner that hopefully fosters their inclination to continue said intimate relationship. Some of us, as a consequence of above, might have spawned and are thus obliged to contribute in ways material, intellectual and spiritual, to the development of such offspring. Some of us have even managed to create and maintain familiar association with others in a phenomenon known as “friendship” — which also requires tending.

Beyond these things, we authors also have some required and desired physical and mental activities. We need to eat, sleep, poop, (somewhat more rarely) exercise and (even more rarely, alas) get laid. We may also choose to pursue activities that have no immediate profitable purpose but which refresh our brains through amusement: Watching TV, playing sports, arguing with people about absolutely pointless things online, collecting stamps, traveling, attending conventions or conferences, staring at pictures of other nekkid people, and so on and so forth. Likewise, there are some things we would prefer not to do but have to anyway, like take out the trash, do the laundry, pay the bills, call up publishers/editors and ask where our damn money is, be civil to people we don’t like but have some reason not to say “kindly piss off, would you?” to, attend meetings or therapy, and so on. While none of these things is directly related to writing, it’s likely without doing them, our interest and/or capacity for writing might be in some way compromised.

And beyond these things are the “Life is a drunk driver and you’re the poor bastard pedestrian what just stepped into the crosswalk” items: Someone we love dies. Our day job disappears from under us. We get a divorce. We or someone we know develops a dependency. We get sick (and, if you’re a writer in the US, as a freelance person, likely have no health insurance). Not only does this kick us in the ass because we’re human, it kicks us in the ass because it’s hard to be creative/funny/interesting/engaged in writing when your world is falling apart around you. This isn’t asking for an extra dollop of sympathy. It’s pointing out that being creative often works best in congenial surroundings.

Following all that:

4. Authors frequently won’t tell you about the details of their lives: Which is to say sometimes when you’re wondering why that favorite author of yours is late with a book you’re expecting, you won’t get an explanation that, say, someone close to her is suffering from severe depression and she’s spending her time tending to them, or, say, that he’s decided that what he’s written is crap and he can’t in good conscience inflict it on his readers, or, say, that he’s spent the last nine months playing World of Warcraft and has now totally leveled out all his characters, which is good, but didn’t do any writing, which is, well, bad. And why won’t you get an explanation? Simple: Because it’s none of your damn business.

No, really, it’s not. Perhaps you think it is, but you’re wrong about that. Just as the particulars of your own life need not be discussed with anyone else not actively involved in it, so too are the particulars of an author’s life beyond your purview, unless the author chooses to share them with you (meaning, most likely, sharing with the public in a general sense). And even then you probably shouldn’t expect a full accounting of details, because authors, even the ones with blogs and active public presences, quite naturally decide where their public sphere ends and their private sphere begins.

And no, being a fan of an author’s books or series doesn’t count as being actively involved in that author’s life. You are actively involved with his or her books; that’s not even close to the same thing. Following the author’s blog/Twitter/Facebook page and even commenting there doesn’t get you into their lives either. As personable as an author can be, live, online or in his or her writing, personable is not the same as personal. Authors are under no obligation to keep you informed about things in their lives. It’s nice if they do, but it’s not required. Frankly, it shouldn’t necessarily be expected.

Intimately tied into this: Authors frequently won’t tell you the details of their business lives, either, for much the same reasons.

This is related to the following:

5. Authors do many things for many reasons: Let’s say your favorite author, rather than working on a novel you want him to release, instead decides to edit an anthology. You ask: What is this idjit thinking? I and many other fans are waiting for that novel! He could make so much more money by putting that novel out! What on earth could possibly motivate such a bonehead maneuver?

Off the top of my head, here are some reasons:

a) The author was contractually obliged to edit the anthology before he signed for the novel you’re waiting for.

b) The author has painted himself into a corner with the novel and needs time to think it through, and while doing that wants to keep himself busy and getting paid.

c) The author is bored writing the novel and needs to do something else, otherwise the completed novel will suck.

d) The author is using his name and influence to help out some fellow writers by editing an anthology, which will allow him to help their careers and throw some money their way.

e) The author is curious about this whole editing thing and wants to see what it’s like.

Or: some combination of two or more of the above reasons, or perhaps none of those reasons at all. Point is, what the author does and why he or she does it might not make sense to you, but makes perfect sense to the author. Why the disparity in opinion? Because you’re not the author, and per point 4, you’re likely not get a full explanation of his or her reasoning.

6. One author ≠ another author: Now, perhaps one of your favorite authors jams out a readable novel every six months (or every nine months, or every year, whatever).  If she can do that, why can’t this other author whose books you love do the same thing? Simple: Because they’re two entirely different people. They don’t have the same writing habits, the same writing process, the same life circumstances, the same business circumstances or even, likely, the same career goals and aspirations. They produce similar consumer objects (i.e., novels), but everything else is likely quite different.

Now, one thing to keep in mind here is that the publishing world, in general, tries to select for the writers who can produce good, competent prose on a more-or-less predictable schedule, because people follow authors and want more from their favorites, and publishing wants that pipeline filled. One side effect of this, naturally, is that bookstores are filled with authors who produce good, competent prose on a more-or-less predictable schedule. It does not mean, however, that every author does works this way, or can work this way, or should work this way if the quality of their work suffers because of it. The business practices and tendencies of the publishing industry, and the type of writer those practices and tendencies favor, shouldn’t be used by fans as an argument against the writer whose own schedule does not conform to them. Because, among other things:

7. One novel ≠ another novel: Even the novelists skilled at churning out prose fast enough to make their publishers happy have wide variances in the time it takes to finish one book and another. One novel might take five weeks to finish, another could take five months, or five years — or it might never get finished. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Why the variance? Because some novels are harder than others, and because one’s life is never the same one novel-writing time to the next. A novel that might take an author three months to finish when nothing is distracting her might take her two years if she’s getting a divorce and trying to get her life back together. A novel that she blocked out six months to write might take two months if it suddenly all comes together in her head, and she races to get it on the page before she forgets how all the puzzle pieces fit together. The kicker is as a reader you might not be able to tell a five-week novel from a five-year novel; process doesn’t work that way.

This variance takes place not only from novel to novel but sometimes also within a series; very frequently the first few books of a series are kicked out in rapid order while the final books take longer. This is sometimes an artifact of the series’ world becoming more complex and the author having to keep track of more things; sometimes it might be an artifact of the author deciding not to rush; sometimes it’s an artifact of the author getting hit by a car. Beyond this there’s another salient fact:

8. Authors and their circumstances change over time: It may be the author who earlier in her career could bat out three novels in a year finds she’s only capable of one a year now, or vice-versa. It could be an author plans to write a whole lot of books now in order to build the sort of name that allows her to write at a more leisurely pace in the future. It could be that an author who has built her name writing in one genre gets bored with that genre and wants to write something else entirely. It could be an author decides that being an author is too much damn work for not nearly enough money and decides to do something else with her life. It could be that an author becomes so famous that she decides she no longer needs to be edited, even when she does. It could be whatever creative spark that animated an author to literary heights abandons her and everything else she does from that point is merely competent at best. It could be an author just stops caring — or decides to care about something so intently it colors everything she writes.

Authors change because they are people, and people change, even the ones who hardly seem to change at all (if nothing else, they get older). Most of this change from the reader point of view happens offstage, because your primary experience with the author is their books, but you’ll notice the change nonetheless. Expecting authors to stay constant, in terms of output, quality or novelty, is not necessarily the most realistic thing a reader can do, unless they genuinely feel they are exactly as they were five, ten, twenty or thirty years ago. In which case they might want to get a second opinion from someone a little less subjective.

When we talk of an author’s circumstances changing over time, incidentally, here is something else to remember:

9. Authors’ careers (and choices therein) are not always entirely under their control: An author can write a fantastic book no one ever reads because the publisher goes under before the book is published, or decides to promote another book more avidly, or because the book comes out the same day as a blockbuster hits and it gets swamped. An author can write two books in what becomes your favorite series only to be told by the publisher that they’re not selling, so the series is canceled. An author can write good books that sell well and still get dropped because the multinational his publisher is part of is trimming costs and his next book didn’t get its contract written up in time. Conversely, an author could write something he believes is a silly, pointless trifle, have it become unspeakably huge, and find himself with the really interesting position of being able to become really rich and famous… if he just keeps batting out more novels about something he doesn’t actually care about all that much, which will consume the biggest portion of his creative life.

Lots of stuff that happens in the careers of authors happens to them, with the author then maneuvering either to take advantage of it or to get out of its path of destruction. And while I pointed out events specific to an author above, sometimes it’s industry-wide events that happen, like a massive change in how books get distributed, or one of the big bookselling chains going under, or it’s global events, like recessions, wars or just some really big, stupid fad. Authors are subject to the same chain-yanks and unexpected events as everyone else; the difference is that these will have an effect on the books you were hoping to read. Sometimes there’s not much we can do about it. Sorry.

What does this lead up to? Simply this:

10. Keep all of the above in mind the next time you go snarking off on your favorite author for not jumping through your hoops. I’m not saying don’t snark; that would be like telling the tide not to come in, and besides, I’m the last person to tell people not to snark. I am saying to be aware that behind the books you read is a single person who is trying to bring you something worth reading, while also dealing with all the same basic crap you have to deal with, plus some extra crap that is specific to his or her chosen field.

Unlike in a lot of creative fields, we don’t get to farm out some or all of the creative work to someone else; we’ve got to deal with it ourselves. It’s a fair amount of work, particularly if you’re one of those authors who wants his or her readers to feel like they’ve gotten value for their money. Yes, some writers are lazy; yes, some are inveterate fiddlers who don’t know when something is done; yes, some writers are just basically screwed up, or hostile, or stoned or whatever. Most of them are trying to do a good job for you and get you something you’ll be glad to have read.

So, a small request. Before you lump an author who is not performing to your immediate expectations into the “slacktastic asstard” category, won’t you at least consider some of the above points? Just consider them, is all I’m asking. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, especially regarding someone you’re hoping will give you something good, and who, most likely, is hoping to do the same thing.

157 thoughts on “10 Things to Remember About Authors

  1. Durn it Scalzi! Do you have to be so rational! Doesn’t my narcissistic and obsessive sense of entitlement trump all other considerations?

    I don’t know what these GRRM “fan’s” are so worked up about; it’s not as though as he’s Robert Jordan!

  2. Bill:

    Remember that part where I say it’s none of your damn business? Yeah, that.

    Also: Dude. Nice way to start a comment thread. Your socialization report card for today = FAIL.

  3. I don’t recall ever getting mad that an author was taking their time getting the next book in a given series out to us readers.

    Perhaps because it always seemed like common sense to me that a) writers are not machines and b) have lives just like everyone else and c) lots of other things can interfere with that Next Book that have nothing to do with the writer.

    Alas, what I perceive to be common sense is not necessarily as ‘common’ as I think it is?

  4. Thanks for this. Several points hit pretty close to home for me.

    When I was doing mostly comics in the 90’s, I’d fallen behind schedule on them (for personal health reasons I didn’t want to talk about then because 1) they were personal and 2) I didn’t want it to look like I was making excuses). To help with the cash flow, I’d started writing columns for a retailing magazine.

    At one point, I was actually quarantined to my house because of severe asthma, and was on a nebulizer around the clock.

    Some retailer who had been critical that I was wasting time writing columns when I should have been getting my damn comics done misheard the details of my health crisis, and thought I was on a respirator – as in, critically ill.

    His next response was that if someone would just unplug the respirator, then I wouldn’t have to worry about deadlines any more, and they wouldn’t have to deal with my comics being late.

    I turned off the computer and didn’t go online again for almost a year.

  5. Yeah, but this doesn’t apply to that son of a bitch Mark Twain right?

    I feel like I’ve been waiting for the third Huck Finn book for like a hundred years.

  6. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can say that. I haven’t had a contract in 3 years.

    Now where the hell’s THE HIGH CASTLE, Mr. Scalzi?

    (The appropriate response is, “Well, Winter, what have you sent YOUR agent lately?” To which I will smile sheepishly and crawl off to the basement.)

  7. If I’m reading this correctly, judging by the quality of his work, Jorge Luis Borges must have spent a great deal of time watching TV, playing sports, arguing about absolutely pointless things online, collecting stamps, etc., etc. “The Tigers of Annam” started as a blog post about bacon, I believe.

  8. @Romeo Vitelli

    I think all the fame went to his head, what with all that nonsense about “inventing the epic.”

    I guess we’ll never find out what happens when Odysseus goes into outer space and stops Sith Lords from invading ancient Greece.

  9. I’ve been lurking on the GRRM discussion here and at the Charlie Stross site, but I really haven’t seen any authors defending GRRM respond to the “we’ve been repeatedly misled!” anger of the fans. And this one doesn’t either. The closest someone came was saying that just because a book is marketed and publicized to Borders as available for sale in 6 months, that doesn’t mean anything and fans should know that—i.e., ‘hey, it’s totally okay that the publishing industry lies to you.’

    I’m not a GRRM fan—but lurking, it seems like really this is a communication issue as much or more than it’s a selfish fan issue. Maybe that’s the topic that needs a manifesto?

  10. “…And why won’t you get an explanation? Simple: Because it’s none of your damn business…”

    Wonderful! Many, many of us need to learn that. Just because we read an author’s blog doesn’t make us friends with, or experts about, said author.

  11. Maybe I’m just a reasonable person, but all of this seems really obvious. You mean authors are human and have lives like mine? Duh. Seriously, who are these people who have the audacity to think they can set expectations on the creativity of other people? Uncreative people who can’t relate?

  12. dance:

    I did note it in the comments in the other thread, which was to say I doubt very seriously that GRRM mislead anyone; he was just incorrect, and underestimated about how much time it would take. Being incorrect is not the same as misleading. Moreover, being incorrect happens, and doesn’t merit anger.

    Brian W:

    I entirely agree all this should be obvious.

  13. If I had more Photoshop-fu I’d love to take that picture and do it up to look like a stack of pre-wrapped pasteurized process cheese food product slices.

  14. Also. If publishers waited till books like GRRM’s was actually finished to schedule and start preparing sales materials, then YOU the Reader would have to live with the knowledge that the book had been done for a year before you got a chance to read it.

    Big Name Author: I’m pretty sure I’ll have it done by the end of the year.

    Publisher: OK! We’ll schedule it for April, then, and rush production. Now, can you give us a scene so we can get started on the cover and copy? The Spring catalog closes next week.

  15. Scalzi, It is all about timing.

    When I read your post, I was three quarters of the way through a freaking tub of Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, I had just finished up 4,800 words in the word processor, and I was keeping a close eye on the bit torrent progress bar for the latest piece of porn to come down the pipe.

    So, it might not all be about timing after all, but about priorities.

    I did enjoy your piece though, and more than enjoying it, felt that it fit with my world view. So thanks for writing it.

  16. One thing that bugs me about author-snarking is that authors are not the employees of their readers. Sure, they get paid because readers buy what they write, but authors’ careers are determined by so much more than the tastes of those who read any given novel/article/series written by those authors.

    When you’ve purchased a book, the contract has ended, because the author has supplied you with what you paid for. You’re under no obligation to buy his or her next work, and he or she is under no obligation to write another word for you to read.

    (Contracts exist between authors and publishers, of course, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

  17. This whole thing–getting all upset because Favorite Author So-and-So isn’t churning ‘dem out fast enuff–is patently ludicrous. Never mind the author having (or not having) a life; I’m reasonably certain that anyone can find SOMETHING else to read at their local bookstore to fill the void. Seriously; why don’t people just try new authors to fill the time rather than whining? Besides, if you branch out and find more authors that you like, the likelihood of at least one of them having something new available at any given time goes up dramatically.

    It has never made sense to me to just pine away for a particular author’s newest book when there’s bound to be something else worthy available. Obsessing over why someone you’ve never met isn’t working fast enough for you is just silly; there are way better things to obsess about. Bacon, for example, immediately comes to mind (but that could be a function of where I’m posting….).

  18. Perhaps some of the frustration comes from those of us with more regimented jobs. I know that if I tell someone I will have something finished by a date and I miss that date, then it is noticed. If it’s because of an outside life problem, then fine up to a point, but if I repeatedly miss deadlines or miss a particularly important one due to non-work issues then I fully expect the people who pay me to have an issue.

    I’d expect to be fired outright if I didn’t accomplish anything for 9 months because I was playing World of Warcraft, or for just about any other reason. I’d expect to be fired if I pulled something like that for two weeks (I could swing a week using vacation time, I suppose).

    That being said, one advantage of being self-employed is that one doesn’t have someone scrutinizing one’s daily work. And you are absolutely correct: it is none of business why an author chooses to write or not write any given item unless he or she makes it our business.

    But I suggest that an author who starts a series is asking for substantial faith from readers if he (or she) expects customers to purchase the initial book before the series is complete (presumably because the author would like to get paid in the meantime), and the author has made an implicit promise that the series will be completed (or minimally, continued) in a reasonable time frame. The author shouldn’t be particularly surprised when folks get frustrated when it isn’t completed in a reasonable time frame.

    Of course, as reader/customers, the best way to demonstrate frustration isn’t to whine and moan, but to stop buying the stories (or at least the problematic specific types of stories) from authors who frustrate you.

  19. Todd:

    I think you’re correct that the job of a writer, particularly of a novelist, doesn’t easily translate into the day-to-day metaphor for work that most people have, and it’s compounded by the fact that most writers do, in fact, work every day on their writing.

    There’s an extra level of irony when you consider most writers and novelists have day jobs — which are sometimes keeping them so busy they have to steal time for writing.

  20. And that this time is “stolen” from such vital projects as:
    – Time with the spouse.
    – Time with the kids.
    – Other creative “relaxation” projects.
    – Time that would be best spent sleeping!

    It’s amazing writers aren’t half-crazy and divorced by the time they start bringing in real money for their (usually years and years) worth of build-up effort.

  21. I’m pretty sure that it’s _Odyssey II: Full Throttle. The Next Day_. Anyhoo.

    I know that you’ve already responded to complaints like mine (in comment #16, as a matter of fact), but I’m going to make it anyway: My particular beef with GRRM wasn’t so much that the books were late, it was that we were told that they were nearly done for years and we had been spoiled by the regular appearance of the previous books. I know he didn’t do it just to tick me off, but if he’d just said “The book will be done when it is finished and I don’t make predictions about when that will be – now go play WoW or something” then I wouldn’t be complaining (as much).

    Sorta related question: I’m wondering how a projected trilogy can expand to five (six?) books. Is it because the author didn’t really know where they were going at the beginning and figured “Yeah, three books were enough for Tolkein, so I should be good” or did they know (or think they knew) but discovered that they hadn’t planned as well as they thought they had (“Wait, if this character dies then how does Voltag escape from The Prisons of Grrga?”) or got excited and added some extra stuff (“You know what this book needs? More lesbian vampires!”). How does a book/series get away from a writer?

  22. I’m going to wait for the directors cut of Odyssey 2: The Quickening. Where he gets rid of the stupid Ulysses is an alien plot line.

  23. 6. One author ≠ another author: Now, perhaps one of your favorite authors jams out a readable novel every six months (or every nine months, or every year, whatever). If she can do that, why can’t this other author whose books you love do the same thing?

    An addendum to that is: Sometimes, even your favourite sausage machine author can’t manage it. One of my happy-clappy dance moments last year was the news the the University of Chicago Press is re-printing Donald Westlake’s early Parker novels. But even the terrifyingly prolific Westlake hit a point where he just ran out of ideas, and in 1974 put Parker in cold storage for twenty three years. (Also interesting that his other great series, featuring the misadventures of comically incompetent master thief John Dortmunder and his eccentric crew, started life as an inappropriately funny attempt at another Parker novel.)

  24. A lot of your middle numbers here make me feel a lot better about the wall I’ve hit with the novel I’m writing now…I’m not alone in getting bored, or stalling, or getting bound up in the rest of life. It helps to be reminded of these things as an author, too.

  25. Todd @ 25 & Scalzi @ 26: The problem (as I see it) becomes the fact that there’s nothing for you not to buy. That leads people to start carping, which becomes the unacceptable behavior that you describe here.

    Scalzi @ 16: The misled vs incorrect information argument is a red herring from the end-user perspective. It’s not a perfect analogy, but whether you deliberately told people the flight was going to arrive at 10:00 p.m. when you knew it wasn’t going to arrive until 2:00 a.m. or you really thought it was 10:00 p.m. is moot from my perspective: I thought it was going to be 10:00 p.m., it’s now 2:00 a.m., and I’m not happy. You can (correctly) argue that it’s not your fault, but people (regrettably) often don’t care. The question becomes what to do from here. While I empathize with the writer being inundated, I’m not able to look at things through his prism, and he’s more than able to tell the lot of them to sod off, the consequence is the sound of crickets when it does happen.

    I know nothing about what level of expectations the author has set in this case, nor by any stretch am I defending the behavior of the “beck-and-call” fans who demand their 75,000 words *now.* I do know this: acting surprised that people are upset that you’ve missed repeated deadlines, regardless of the reason, strikes me as rather out-of-touch with reality.

  26. Prefatory Note: I’m not disagreeing with anything said in this post, and I’m not personally involved in this issue. But I don’t think posts like this will change the tone of the discussion unless there is also recognition that fans can have some reasonable expectations too.

    @16, thanks Scalzi—I may have missed that comment—although semantically, I consider “misleading” closer to “being incorrect” than it is to “lying”. IMO. Also, I do think being incorrect justifies anger, if not bullying. (Eg, my students can justifiably be angry at me for changing my syllabus three times. I hope they won’t, I don’t think they should be as they haven’t lost by it, but I wouldn’t consider it unjustified on general principle if they were.)

    @20, beth meacham—proving my point. What you’re saying is “it’s totally fine that the publishing industry lies to you” and therefore you shouldn’t be angry about it. Really? People aren’t allowed to be angry when corporations lie to them? It’s not a reasonable expectation that the editor for GRRM might already be familiar with the common series issues that Stross laid out, and therefore able to offer good counsel on whether anybody should be making the statements that were apparently made?

    @22, patrick—“book 2 in the XXX cycle”, sometimes with titles of to-be-published works listed in the frontmatter, doesn’t carry any sort of implicit contract or obligation about what you are paying for?

  27. Woohoo! More of the gift that keeps on giving. Solidarity is nice. Just make sure you don’t go the way of MLB and defend the players at the cost of the sport. Because everyone knows that ‘roids would just ruin sci-fi… Though the ‘cons might be interesting in a whole different way.

  28. Any idea why the publisher let GRRM’s now-notorious note get into A Feast for Crows?

    I wasn’t following the saga back then (and indeed, following would be overstating my current interest), but apparently Feast was very long in arriving, and the author’s acknowledgments in that volume start, “This one was a bitch.”

    I would think that one of the things a publishing house wants to do is to help their writers look good, and one of the ways they could do that is to guard against unforced errors. And since Feast was late (here’s a reference to its being “long-delayed” a year and a half before it was published), implying that the next volume would be coming soon without having the book in hand and practically ready for production looks to me like an unforced error that the publisher should have helped the author not to make.

    Eventually, I think, people will chuckle about it. If Martin is fortunate enough to have the books remain in print for another 10 or 20 years, if anyone notices the gap it will probably be to say, look how much later next year turned out to be.

    Tempest in a teapot, really, but a decent enough reason not to express hopes about books coming out very soon in front of however many thousands of people.

  29. Joe Hass:

    “I do know this: acting surprised that people are upset that you’ve missed repeated deadlines, regardless of the reason, strikes me as rather out-of-touch with reality.”

    I don’t suspect any author would be surprised, but I think it’s to the point that the frustration runs both ways. Readers are frustrated that writers are churning out the text, but writers, I think, are often equally frustrated that (some) readers appear to think they just turn a crank and text appears as if on command. Doing this stuff actually can be difficult.

  30. Well said.

    There’s a Ray Bradbury story this reminds me of called The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone, which is about an author who wrote an awesome book (maybe several–it’s been a long time since I read this story) but then stopped writing altogether. Of course, everyone wants to know why, and eventually somebody hunts him down and asks him, and the explanation is thus: He wanted to salvage a friendship, and so he stopped writing. When he stopped writing, he got to experience a lot of life that he was missing, and thus he would prefer to stay “dead” to the literary world.

    Incidentally, I used to be semi-frustrated and upset that a novelist hadn’t finished the third book in her series, when the second book had ended on such a cliffhanger. But then I found out she had been suffering from depression, had needed surgery for another physical issue, and had some relatives pass. The book still hasn’t come out, but I can’t force myself to get more than wistful at this point, because….hey, life happens.

  31. Ah, thank you!

    As to comment #16: you mean like finding that Scalzi guy while pining away for the next Vorkosigan book?

  32. Sorta related question: I’m wondering how a projected trilogy can expand to five (six?) books.

    Well, if my memory serves, Dan Simmons originally delivered Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion in one go, but was told by his publisher that they’d only take it as two separate volumes. I could see the logic of it: A thousand page novel from an author who, up to that point, was more known as a horror writer wouldn’t have immediately struck me as a good investment. But considering they were both commercial and critical successes, I don’t think anyone walked away unhappy.

  33. Says John Scalzi:

    “There’s an extra level of irony when you consider most writers and novelists have day jobs — which are sometimes keeping them so busy they have to steal time for writing.”

    This seems like a perfect opportunity to explain my circumstances, which strike me as applicable.

    My editor’s been screaming at me (politely) for a while now. I’ve had trouble producing copy because I’ve been broke and stressed, and that’s because payment promised for other copy (written for an entirely different account) was disbursed a month later than promised.

    Some of us are like the proprietor: in stable households and remarkably self-actualized. Others… aren’t. I would definitely fall into the latter category.

    In order to deal with my crisis, I was called upon to dig up work that would cover the late pay, so now I’m committed to two accounts. Why? The work on the first account was postponed. The time I’m spending to write this comment constitutes a break from work that needs to be done for the second account (what amounts to my “Plan C”) as soon as possible.

    Meanwhile, on Tuesday I have an interview for a Day Job™ in a market several hundred miles from where I presently live. If I get the job, that will disrupt my writing schedule further.

    Through all of this, my editor and I have discussed (on the by and by) what he calls “black dogs” — presumably a subconscious allusion to Cerberus and/or the Hound of the Baskervilles. Fear of broadly-defined failure is one cause of these Jabberwockies, especially in my case, and there are others, many already been mentioned under the heading of crap that’s not even remotely under an author’s control.

    If one is to take the common advice and write what they know, that necessitates digging through personal experience, which oftentimes runs to the unpleasant in flavor — and even the pleasant memories can raise twinges of melancholy precisely because they stand out as exceptions to what once might have been a rule (e.g., a time when the then-constant suckiness took a long awaited coffee break).

    In sum, writing is hard, and tends to raise issues that make it harder. It’s quite the feedback loop.

    …And I’m not enough a fan of William S. Burroughs that I would trade my favorite authors’ sanity for more to read.

  34. The thing is, that you are a person with a highly active imagination and I know that you can imagine a scenario in which an auteur was dicking around his fans. And I am pretty sure that you would be one of the first to cry bullshit on it.

    See, I said “auteur” there even though I am not entirely sure what the word means, because I am thinking of George Freaking Lucas. The most I will say in public is that I’ve moved on. Because I think it’s fine to have purely evil thoughts about someone, and even snark about them over a glass of wine, in your living room, with your friends. It’s different to post about turning off respirators on people you hardly know.

    But everyone gives in to temptation sometime. Remember when you linked to the Patrick Rothfus post where he talked about being recognized at the seven-eleven when the cashier asked when the next book was coming out instead of asking for his ID? In my deepest heart I know I would have been jumping across the counter and seizing the poor man by the necktie and shouting “MybookmybookmybookthesequelWHERE IS IT?”

    So, um, I try not to cast stones.

  35. Joe Hass:
    “I do know this: acting surprised that people are upset that you’ve missed repeated deadlines, regardless of the reason, strikes me as rather out-of-touch with reality.”

    If you want to talk about being out of touch with reality, and using our host as an example, I believe the only contract John has for The High Castle that isn’t written in fairy-dust is with Tor. If Tom Doherty and his merry band don’t have a problem, (or if they have, have resolved it in a professional and private manner), then what the frak does it have to do with me?

  36. So Bush didn’t lie about WMD’s in Iraq, he was just incorrect. ;-)

    I think quite a few readers forget, or don’t care, about how much time and energy (and sacrifice) an author spends to provide those few hours of escape. That said, I think GRRM could have saved himself a lot of grief if after the first couple of missed deadlines he had said “It’ll be done when it’s done, and I don’t know when that will be.” Those few words at the end of the book about how the rest would be ready “soon” raised quite a few expectations, and in this age of entitlement failure to deliver is worth than death for some people.

  37. Wow…so glad I don’t write sci-fi or fantasy….apparently a not too small portion of those who read it are out of their effing minds.

  38. Well said, John. Joe@24: The airplane analogy really doesn’t work. It is the airline’s *express job* to deliver that plane on time, and you’ve *already paid* for that flight.

    It is the author’s job to deliver *the best possible book he can write*–and no one’s paid any money for it. Martin’s writing this thing on spec. It is very, very *probable* that lots of people will buy the book when it comes out. But no customer’s put any money down on *that specific book.*

    Ask yourself this: Would you want volume 5 published if now if it were just below mediocre, or do you want it later, and brilliant?

    I suspect Martin himself thought he was done, had a brainstorm whereupon he realized he could make the book better, but it would take longer. It would have made his life easier if he’d told his readers this.

    (Just as an addendum: Martin’s apparently gotten a lot of support from many of his readers since his original blog post, so the supportive fans seem to outnumber the cranky fans.)

  39. Scalzi wrote “staring at pictures of other nekkid people”;

    When I read that, the distinct impression I get is that Scalzi is, at the time, naked. In the context of the full sentence, I am now left with the impression that Scalzi (and all writers?) spend an inordinate amount of time without their clothes on.

  40. Mark G:

    Yes, because as we all know, sports fans (as an example) are never stupid and crazy.

    As Doug says, get any group large enough, there are going to be some irrationals in there.

    Ashman:

    I was, in fact, fully clothed. As I am now, YOU DIRTY DIRTY PERSON.

  41. Hear hear! I hope everyone equates “Authors” with all the other creative authoring types like artists, musicians, filmmakers, animators, etc…

    Now if only they’d still pay us steadily for unsteady output…

  42. Ashman @ 51

    I thought I was the only one, but yes, I had the same thought. John, you evil thought-putter-in-our-minder.

  43. “Yes, because as we all know, sports fans (as an example) are never stupid and crazy.”

    Actually, not all sports fans are created equal. And some are “stupider and crazier” than others. There are golf fans who occasionally yell “you da man” and football (european) fans who gouge each others’ eyes out and sometimes attack the players in a blood orgy of violence.

    You, my friend, have crazy, demanding, demented, whacked-out european-style football fans, as evidenced by the neccessity of this blog entry and the one about Stargate a few days ago. I think I would shut down the blog, change my email account, and tell the loonies to get fucked (they’ll still buy your books, you just won’t have to keep pleading with them to be reasonable).

  44. Mark G.

    “You, my friend, have crazy, demanding, demented, whacked-out european-style football fans, as evidenced by the neccessity of this blog entry and the one about Stargate a few days ago.”

    Nah. My fans are fine. It’s GRRM’s fans who were nuts. I don’t mind it when people get a little nuts, though. It just means I get to break out the Mallet of Loving Correction. And I do love that.

  45. #11: He is busy writing long justifications for why he hasn’t done another OMW novel.

    Back to work! If you’re not writing me novels, you better be taping cured meat to something!

  46. Thanks John! I love “this is how my world works” posts, even when they’re written in anger (or maybe just mild consternation).

    I spend a big chunk of every day learning how people do mundane tasks, like operating power-drills, or raking leaves. It’s fun to see how the cerebral stuff happens too.

  47. I came into say that being an author doesn’t sound like very much fun. Then I saw comment #1 and I had a hearty chuckle. Call me unsocialized if you want to, but that was funny.

  48. “..he’s spent the last nine months playing World of Warcraft and has now totally leveled out all his characters, which is good, but didn’t do any writing, which is, well, bad.”

    Raiding Naxx as I read this. D’oh!

  49. Hmmm… I wonder if my editor will accept “I was reading a comment thread on Whatever” as a good reason for why my outline isn’t done on deadline?

  50. #51–yeah, plus those nekkid authors have been rounded up on some crazy viking ship set up. “Crank out the product or you’ll ne’er see land, ye slackers.” I ‘ve gotta stop mixing Dayquil and Nyquil.

  51. Going allllll the way back to the start of the thread, there was actually a sequel of sorts to the Odyssey:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telegony

    Unfortunately only two actual lines from the poem exist today, but we have the gist of the story from other sources. Basically Circe had a son by Odysseus, Telegonus (“Far-Born”). He grew up not knowing who his father was, voyaged far from home and ended up shipwrecked on an unfamiliar island called Ithaca…and you know how those stories end up (cough, cough, Oedipus)…

  52. @41–Ironically, I first came across OMW after learning there was no new Vorkosigan book available….

    See? Just go with the flow and find something else. The fun of reading OMW was way better than any potential fun from grousing towards Lois McMaster Bujold or whining in general.

  53. Here’s a fun and relevant link about the daily routines of famous people, many of them writers:

    http://dailyroutines.typepad.com/

    By the way, John, I think you should expand on this theme a bit. I think we need another 25 or so bullet points. What about writers and cats? What about writers and booze? You haven’t even gotten started, here. :-)

  54. I, lacking any writing talent, admit that I am unworthy to demand any author hurry up and keep writing that series they’ve been writing because I want to know what happens. But authors should accept that my demands for more is because I have become invested in the worlds and characters they’ve created. I love what you write and I want more. That is my motivation for asking when the next novel is coming. I completely understand and accept that you and all authors have a life away from your writing and fans. Ultimately, I stand in awe of all authors/artists/performers that they willingly share their creations with me.

  55. Count me as part of Team Duh on this one.

    As far as I’m concerned, the circumstance under which an author would “owe me” a book is if they had signed a contract that obligated them to write me one. Inasmuch as I’m unlikely to make the financial commitment that would elicit such a contract, I am not owed anything.

    As far as fans being misled, authors are not, as far as I’m aware, generally responsible for liaising with booksellers about when their novels will be available. What they do or do not say to those who are responsible for liaising with booksellers is none of my concern–see above re: contract.

    (on an unrelated note: darn you an your inasmuch, Scalzi! It’s creeping! If you’re not careful, you’ll be responsible for the next “ironic.” Well, actually, that would be a good thing, because inasmuch is harder to misuse and therefore less annoying than ironic).

  56. I thought this was a more erudite crowd.

    Every Classics major knows it’s Odyssey 2: Electra Boogalo.

    Sheeesh.

  57. To continue of #46’s thought: Another idea, too, is that perhaps GRRM said “soon” because he actually *believed* that it would be soon. Us writer types, we have high hopes for ourselves that a story/novel/what-have-you that we’re working on is going to go well, and we sometimes tell ourselves “This will be done on Tuesday, May 6 at 5 p.m. or I’m going to jump off the roof” because we NEED to believe that the damn thing is going to be done then.

    What many non-writers don’t understand is that a 100K-word book for sale on the shelf is almost NEVER 100K words when the first (or second or 23rd) draft is done. It’s too short or–more likely–it’s too long and it takes so fraking much time to fix it. And then the editor get a hold of it and who knows what kind of work you’re going to have to do to really REALLY finish it this time.

    And one more thing (and this is just a pet peeve, but bear with me): people who, when they hear that you’re a writer/that you’re working on a book, say “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be a writer/write a book.” These people have NO IDEA of the time and energy, etc. that goes into it. Writing a book or a short story or a poem is *not* just like building a bookshelf or baking a cake. And I’m pretty damn sure that it’s these kind of people who are the ones having kittens over GRRM–or other authors–not finishing that damn book yesterday.

  58. As far as I’m concerned, the circumstance under which an author would “owe me” a book is if they had signed a contract that obligated them to write me one. Inasmuch as I’m unlikely to make the financial commitment that would elicit such a contract, I am not owed anything.

    Certainly, and there’s something else to think about here: You don’t last long in the publishing game by being a fraking idiot. I don’t mean to pick on George Martin (again), but while ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ isn’t my cup of tea, a lot of people obviously beg to differ. Whenever ‘A Dance With Dragons’ hits the stores, it’s about as close to a sure thing you’re ever going to get in the book game.

    What does Random House get out of badgering Martin to hack out a piece of shit that ultimately ends up on all the best remainder tables? And, perhaps, piss him off so severely he tells his agent to start shopping around for a new publisher?

  59. Speaking of authors having lives, here is my favorite “why that book isn’t out yet” story. Apparently Orson Scott Card had a similar problem.

    (I cast no stones. I was a contract programmer when I got Civilization and I don’t want to think about how much cash I lost because of failing to work because I just needed to get the UN built.)

    People bring up analogies to other jobs, but most don’t work because in most cases, the person doing the work is essentially anonymous. Few, if any, people go and hunt down the programmers to complain of “Grand Theft Auto IV” is late.

    Or even technical books. From a business perspective, writing technical books is no different from fiction, but I doubt anyone* would be loudly complaining at the author because “Advanced C++ programming 4.0″ was late.

    * Other than the publisher.

  60. @ 13, as Beth @20 says, the “publishing industry” is really the target here.

    The thing is, GRRM has repeatedly told people to never trust Amazon.com or any other bookseller who claims to know when the book will ship. He’s often mystified as to where exactly they get these figures (and by extension, I think he really means he’s mystified by how publisher marketing teams figure these things out). So if these people who hang on his words so much, they would know that it’s done when it’s done.

    So in a round-about way, I think the vitrolic trolls don’t care what Amazon.com and such claims — they already know from GRRM that these figures aren’t true. Their beefs lie elsewhere.

    @28: It was, as I recall, notionally a trilogy when he started, a 4-part series when he was done with the 1st book, and then as he started work on the 2nd he realized it’d take more and outlined it out, and figured 6. Then after the 3rd book, he tacked on one more book for a total of 7. That was before the 4th book was split into two separate books, but he has (so far) stuck to his guns that he’s aiming for 7 despite having one “less” book to do it in due to the split of book 4 into books 4 and 5.

    How it happened… At a guess, it’s probably that lack of experience with writing a series of novels (everything else he had published in that format were standalone s) that made him think he could get a satisfactory story that hit all the points he wanted in just three-four novels. Just a guess, though.

    GRRM has always had the broad outline of start, middle, and end, but it seems the actual process of getting there was ultra-compressed in his earliest conception of the series.

    It’s kind of interesting to think that ASoIaF would likely be far less popular if he had managed to stick to three books. The popularity of the series really exploded between books 3 and 4, after all.

    @46: He actually has done that for about 2 years now. Didn’t help. The trolls, they know no reason.

  61. Addendum:

    11. Most novel writers, unlike TV show writers, work by themselves. That’s one reason why their output is not as regular. It’s individual craftwork, not teamwork.

  62. Sometimes, although authors may not owe their readers explanations, a bit of plain truth and an apology go a long way. Last year, in the middle of a series, I became very ill. Ill enough to blow my publishing schedule by a year. I put a note up on my website once I was healthy again and, without going into details, said, “I’m sorry that I fell down on the release schedule. I was seriously ill and sometimes life and health gets in the way. I apologize and I hope you understand and I hope you can stick by me when I come back.” My readers were amazing in their support and kind notes and emails.

    Readers had invested in me and my success and I thought they deserved my apology when books I had promised didn’t show up (without explanation at the time).

    And to the commenter who is understandably frustrated that he or she meets his deadlines and works every day, while writers sometimes don’t, all I can say is that it’s different. When I was practicing law, I showed up at work or in court no matter how I felt, even once with pneumonia. But the creative process, or Muse, or whatever the dark well in my subconscious is that creates stories and characters, well, it refuses to work under conditions like that. It’s just different.

  63. Agent 31290:

    Your propaganda efforts seem especially successful at convincing the Earth-Monkeys that our agents are also Earth Monkeys. The Hive Mother is pleased with you and the Cognatoguorbs have accordingly increased your ammonia allowance by 64.7%.

    Keep of the good work.

    P.S.

    The Hive Mother would like to see more Salted-Earth-Suidae-Bits attached to Living-Peeved-Earth-Carnivora with polymer strands.

  64. @ John: Yes, I’ve read it. I was just going along with Catherine’s idea of more items in the list. Well, minus the cats!

    And the point seemed to me to be worth stressing, because (I think) it may be part of the problem with fan expectation…

  65. All good points, and not being a reader of GRRM’s series I don’t have a horse in that race, but I do have a beef with another author.

    Ending a book in a cliff-hanger and then leaving the fans to hang for seventeen freaking years is just rude to the fans. Seventeen freaking years is beyond having issues with the book and having a real life away from the keyboard, it’s being an ass to the people who followed the writer through the first four book expecting theauthor would keep his promise to tell a whole story.

    Yah, I’m talking about David Gerrold. I used to buy all his stuff, now he gets not one penny from me.

  66. I’m a writer professionally, not fiction although I’m sure my boss at the Defense think tank I work for from the beautiful mountains of northern New Mexico might think so from time to time, so I have an inkling of the creative process. Fits and starts seems a good description, sometimes progressing at warp speed, other times at furlongs per fortnight. Nonetheless, as an avid reader of SciFi I’m just simply, and profoundly, grateful when authors I like, John among them, produce something for me to read. To somewhat paraphrase RAH, there are miracles and magic. The first, a pregnant woman; the second a book. How poor would life be without that magic to take us beyond our own imagination? So even when in a whinny mood over the next book in a series, or just stressed out over whatever is the latest defense crisis de jour (de heure?), I just go back and read my favorites, ones that become like old friends, dependable and comfortable to be with. Or, god forbid, follow some of the zillion (a technicial term) suggestions for new magic that this blog has produced in just the few months I’ve been a reader.

    Then again, I can also pounce on John @ 60 with delight at an implied NEW OMW book. (now cringing back to anonymity while abjectly whimpering at the thought of the dread Mallet)

  67. So, I just imagined I wrote a silly Sci-Fi/Fantasy which takes the world by storm, and I mistakenly mention that I could write another epic which happens before the just finished series.

    Dear George Lucas,
    I am sorry for all the harsh words. Please make a place in your heart to forgive me. I have now seen the error of my ways.

    Your Fan,
    DouglasG

  68. This whole thing fills me with anguish. As a chronic procrastinator, I know in my bones the horror of being late for a deadline and not being able to do the work because starting it would mean tackling the guilt, shame and dread of Having Let People Down.

    Plus, as a writer, I know how it is when point of view proliferate.

    I think what’s happened is that GRRM let his story become so complex that it is almost humanly impossible to go on writing in. On top of that, he has built expectations to the point where uncounted millions are screaming angrily at him to do a job that would be difficult even before the “years past the deadline” thing got in.

    I would like to read the rest of the story, but at this price, I almost don’t want to. If I didn’t know anything about this saga I would be mildly annoyed at the non materializing of the book, but then, I have more or less forgotten about them, by now. Knowing what’s been going on, well… I cringe whenever I think about them.

  69. Things that were out of my control on my first book:

    1) To all of the reviewers and fans that wished it was longer: I was contractually obligated to write 65K words, give or take 1K.

    2) To those who say it’s not well-researched enough because there is neither an index nor works cited: Because of my contract, I would have had to personally pay for any backmatter.

    3) To myself who thinks I should be doing more to promote the book: Dude, you just had a baby! Give yourself a break.

    4) To the dude who wrote: “it’s actually hard to imagine anyone as clueless as Timmerman.” Thanks that cracked me up.

    5) To the folks who thought I should have spent more than one month investigating the garment industry in Bangladesh: You spend more than a month in Bangladesh earning $0 trying to pay your mortgage.

    Thanks, I feel better.

  70. Alyssa@84: What you did was way classy, but at the same time I find it a little sad that any author feels the need to issue a public apology for being seriously ill. When I read things like that, the more I sympathise with people like Georgette Heyer — who, over her forty year writing career, gave exactly one interview (even that was granted reluctantly) and didn’t reply to fan mail. I just don’t understand the mindset that comes to the conclusion that the act of buying a book is some Faustian pact where you have the right to make vulgar and impertinent demands of another human being, and expect to be taken seriously.

  71. John ,

    don’t you think that if some of the fan activity you come out against would have been pointed against Walter M. Miller Jr then the world of SF today would have that much brighter ?

  72. I see that you sort of alluded to this in your reasons but the following happened to a friend of mine: she sold one book but the publisher bought it on the condition that she write, I think, three more –making it a series. She didn’t originally set out to write the series, but that’s how the contract got negotiated. So, you see, publishers can ask a writer to make a book into a series. And, depending on the writer, some of the very things may happen like, they get tired of writing the series and take a break to write something else or they’ve written their characters into a corner and need to step a way for a little bit to see how to fix it. And, as a consequence, may end up totally rewriting the book. This may happen more to newer writers than veterans. I have learned much from my friend’s experiences as a published author and wait patiently for the next works of my favorite authors. Not that I complained anyway, there are lots of good books out there to read in the mean time.

  73. I am bookmarking this post and will probably refer to it often. Thank you. I write four books a year, which means I have no life. I try and answer all my fans’ mail as soon as I can, I keep up a MySpace page and Facebook and do a number of personal appearances every year. Reading through your post reminded me that I am contractually obligated to write the books, not be a one-woman dog and pony show.

  74. Conversely, an author could write something he believes is a silly, pointless trifle, have it become unspeakably huge, and find himself with the really interesting position of being able to become really rich and famous… if he just keeps batting out more novels about something he doesn’t actually care about all that much, which will consume the biggest portion of his creative life.

    This happened to Anthony Burgess. He wrote A Clockwork Orange as a lark, hated that it overshadowed all of his other books and despised the film but because it often introduced fans to his other books, had to put up with talking about it to endless reporters who couldn’t be bothered to ask about the other dozen or so books he wrote.

    I wish I had that problem.

    But yes, good points all around.

  75. Almost forty years ago I wrote to Alexei Panshin wondering when The Universal Pantograph was going to appear. He replied, but he never answered, and now I know why.

    But I still miss Anthony Villiers, and wish I knew the outcome of the Great Ian Steele Contest..

  76. I was going to make a witty comment about professional writers adhering to “professional standards of conduct.” I was going to link to a definition, which would have included:

    “Ethical or legal duty of a professional to exercise the level of care, diligence, and skill prescribed in the code of practice of his or her profession, or as other professionals in the same discipline would in the same or similar circumstances.”

    I was going to focus on the “ethical duty” aspect as opposed to the contractual or legal duty aspect. I was going to ask whether SFFWA had a professional code of practice and whether it required its members to adhere to it as a condition of membership. I was going to acknowledge the bit about “same or similar circumstance” and posit that, to some extent, we are all victims of circumstance–and note that until one understood the totality of the circumstances facing GRRM or another author, it was manifestly unfair to criticize.

    It was going to be a gently pointed, yet witty post. I going to make sure to be fair and even-handed.

    But then I saw the two posts about Highlander: The Source, and I decided that the comment thread should be ended now. Posting about Highlander: The Source is an example of Godwin’s Rule, or at least it should be.

    Also we should end this thread so Mr. Scalzi can get back to writing the two novels in front of the next novel in the OMW universe. That’s three books I need to buy.

  77. maaan and I just bought all those hoops for my favorite authors to jump through…

    But in all seriousness I prefer to remain semi ignorant on what the names on those book covers are working on. Sure I keep tabs on them and any new releases or prospective ones but I do have a life and too few hours in the day. So I don’t pay too much attention and as a reward I tend to get pleasantly surprised from time to time.

    Although there ARE some stories that I’d like to see the sequels to before I run the risk of something like Alzheimer’s (hint, hint).

  78. Roger @95:

    The Illiad 2 was called the Aeneid, and just goes to prove my point about not letting someone else finish your series. There’s no way Homer would’ve linked Trojans to Romans.

  79. There’s no way Homer would’ve linked Trojans to Romans.

    But it would have been admirably prescient if Homer had produced an elaborate piece of political propaganda about a thousand years before it was required. I’ve heard of beta testing, but that would be ridicuous. :)

  80. I liked what ID software used to say. The next version will be released when it’s done. Or something to that effect.

    I’m sorry but I just can’t get all that excited about this whole thing. An author missed a deadline? So? Somebody in fandom got their panties in a bunch and is writing mean things on the internet? So?
    The book will eventually get published, or not, and people will continue to explain exactly why their panties are all bunched up.

  81. #74 Alternative Eric S.

    That is one of the worst puns I’ve ever heard and the world seems a little darker because of it.

    Thank you.

  82. David Weber expressed much the same sentiments, and I’ll give you the same response:

    Thank you for writing what you can/want/need to, at this point, it’s pretty much given that if you write it, I’ll buy it and read it. How could I begrudge you your life when it’s that life that is making the magic, so whatever keeps the magic going, do it, I’ll wait, and be happy whenever it’s ready, whatever it is.

  83. Damn. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I’m the poster child for number three, third paragraph, but there I am plain as day. Damn. Good thing I got that World of Warcraft thing out of the way earlier on.

  84. As someone who has a day job (7th/8th grade teacher). Who has a family, friends, dishes, laundry. Who has to steal time to do any writing. I am thankful for anyone who has the ability to put words on paper for my enjoyment.

    I want to read Martin’s next book but I just can’t get to wound up. I have lots of books I want to read and I am massively behind on them.

    I am a little wound up about Scalzi’s fans being fine and Martins fans being nuts. Clearly John has a high water mark for nut ball fans. We are simply not trying hard enough. Now instead of writing I am going to have to obsess over no sequel to Android’s Dream, write a properly crazy letter and stir up some kind cranked out controversy. My night is ruined!

  85. Sorry, but, I had the Naked Scalzi mental image as well.

    As a result, I feel that you now have a moral obligation to write an OMW book about pupies and kittens and rainbows. And rewrite the first chapter of The Android’s Dream to illustrate the phrase “cinnamon-scented rainbows”.

    And if you don’t, I’m going to whine unceasingly.

    (Yes, I got annoyed at the hecklers, who, now that they have the bit between their teeth, will not be satisfied with any outcome. Because some fans love feeling hard done by even more than they love reading.)

  86. Pretty much agree with the article. I’d summerize it as follows
    ABOUT SNARKING:
    1. Readers are in no position to decide wether an author deserves a spanking for like taking an eternity to bring out the book your losing sleep longing for
    2, Your not the Author’s Daddy there are people called editors and husband/wife’s who do that job.

    On the other side totally not getting into blame sometimes the reader gets a raw deal . Would it have ruptured Shultz to have written a tieing up of loose ends for PEANUTS? Phillip Jose Farmer left maybe 4 series uncompleted when he had the bad manners to die recently. I’m blleding from unstounchable wounds never going to find out what happened. Not the guys fault of cou. But tough tiity for me as welll

  87. You do have a way with words, Mr Scalzi.

    All you people discussing the Odyssey! In Space! With Explosions! –did none of you ever see Ulysses 31? Which was exactly that. I’m not kidding.

  88. Excellent points, all. I’m as frustrated as all the other GRRM fans at the delay on the latest “Ice and Fire” book, but y’know what? I deal with it. The man has a life and he isn’t a puppet dancing on my fucking strings. When the book comes out, I’ll buy it. Till then, I’ll read something else (there ARE, after all, many other good books out there, for example the ones written by the author of this very post!) and let him live his life.

    cheers,
    Phil

  89. @ John re: #60

    Every OMW ending has been satisfying enough that you could have left it there, at least as far as I’m concerned, so more novels are cake. Now Westerfeld, with his cliffhangers in the middle of trilogies, he better keep typing, dammit!

  90. The other thing that happens when a writer slaves away just to make a deadline is that we get the equivalent of the Star Wars prequels and Jar Jar Binks *spits on floor*.

  91. I am sort of stunned that those 10 points even needed printing. Obviously they did, but…whoa! Maybe you should have added something about don’t throw sand and don’t grab other kids’ toys.

    Not that I want to imply any fault with a particular author or indicate readers should not want upcoming books, but…DAMN…there is so much to READ. Go read something else! The book will show when it shows! My current TBR list is so long that I don’t have time to harass anyone about when the next book in the series will be out. When I see it, I’ll get it, and it will go into the pile.

    Life is unpredictable, and it’s better to get used to it. Saves a lot of time whining that could be spent reading.

  92. Speak for yourself John Scalzi.
    Point 2 – Human? I’m not and I have serious doubts about any number of other authors, including one who tapes bacon to a cat. This whole coming down from the trees thing was a bad idea, I tell you.
    point 5 ‘but makes perfect sense to the author’ Oh no it doesn’t. I must have ‘now why the hell did I do that?’ moments at least twice a day. Often while staring blankly into the fridge while supposedly looking for a book on Ancient Greek miltary history.

    Serious: well put.
    Thanks
    Dave

  93. Kudos, John. I’m someone who drives herself crazy trying to make everyone happy. This was as good a lesson for me as it will be for my readers. May I post a link to this from my website?

  94. Teemu Kalvas @ #17:
    No, I quite like doing the laundry in a well-equipped laundry (industrial-size machines, industrial-size spin-dryer, the like). With my current lack of laubndry facilities, it’s neither boring nor exciting, but just “another household appliance that needs used”.

    John Scalzi, in general:
    Excellent writing, man. Remind me to offer you a beverage of your choice, should we find ourselves in the same establishment and you have a beverage-shaped hole in your schedule.

    Authors missing actual or perceived deadlines:
    These things happen. It may make you angst for the book, but taking it out on the author will not make the book appear any faster, may make it appearing later and might even make it not appear at all. But, once published, one can buy it, read it and (hopefully) enjoy it. I bought one delayed book earlier this week, finished it yesterday and is happy, because it was good reading and with two books now out and a third (as far as I know), matey should be happy when I next see him.

  95. A friend gave me the grrm books and I started the first. Then couldn’t put down the others. I was entranced with the books. On the other hand, it made me want to scrub my brain. To wade through that and get it onto paper must be so hard and to do that consistantly… I can’t even imagine.
    I don’t yell at authors, cause I figure they are like me and the more flak they get the less they want to work on the project. I try to send them encouraging words about how I love their worlds or people or whatever and wait till they can get the next one out… Though my mother is eagerly awaiting the not robert jordan wot book… And fusses at me when a book is not available on schedule… course I am the one who introduced her to most of them… =)
    Anyway, luck to all the authors. Someone loves your work and is eagerly awaiting it!

  96. [Deleted because I find "Yawn... boring" comments the very height of stupidity. If you're going to contribute, contribute. Otherwise, take a hike -- JS]

  97. So, I guess the above could be summarized as “we have many reasons for not finishing our work, some of which may be quite good, but we shall not feel obliged to tell you, and you’re a bastard for asking.” Oh well. I don’t really mind spacing (for whatever reason) between finished work. But, dear authors, if you’re basically writing a serial, do consider planning your installments with some care.

    Good point about David Gerrold from OP: wrote himself into a corner and couldn’t get out, as far as anyone can tell. Very annoying. (Those with children might want to try that experiment on a bedtime story sometime.) On the other hand, Jack Vance did finish his Demon Princes after a seventeen year hiatus for the fifth and last part, I believe. And John Crowley in 2007 actually did finish the final fourth part of AEgypt, with the first published in 1987. Perhaps GRRM can salvage his wreck too.

  98. Thomas Lindgren:

    “But, dear authors, if you’re basically writing a serial, do consider planning your installments with some care.”

    I find it very amusing that you assume there wasn’t careful planning. “Planning,” however, is not equal to “execution,” and things change in the actual writing.

  99. [Deleted because the poster obviously didn't pick up the clue that been laid before him when his earlier post was deleted. Seriously, dude: Following an entire discussion just to declare it boring is like complaining the food is terrible, and in such small portions. If you find it boring, stop reading and leave -- JS]

  100. Ben@43, the “black dog” was Churchill’s name for being depressed. Depression can rather significantly impair the ability to get things done; Churchill was hounded by it, and an awful lot of creatives sure seem to be. (Maybe also in part because a fair number of folks who make their living from their imaginations seem not to long-term like how SSRAs may alter their experience of their own minds? Which brings things back to one of JS’s points — it’s not feasible to force authors to submit work for production that they think doesn’t feel quite like their work somehow.)

  101. Wow, I just always figured if a book was late, it was the publisher’s fault…Never occurred to me to snark at the author. But then I’m more the type to fall at the author’s feet and sing praises…I’m usually too in awe of my favorite books to whine about one being late. Where I live, if the book comes out in April, the freaking public library probably won’t have it until August anyway (and I am too damn strapped for cash to pay retail right now, with a possible layoff in my near future), so I’m used to waiting. Meanwhile I explore the library and see what else is there that’s new to me, or re-read my favorite books. Life is too short to spend any of it whining…!

  102. O.k. I don’t usually comment on things but I think I’d like to make one here. I remember seeing an interview quite a long time ago with Harlan Ellison where he was asked “What do you owe your fans?” and he immediately replied “Nothing.”. Basically his point was that there is only one required point of contact between an author and the reader, that is the point of sale. You pay money and you get a book. The only thing owed to the reader is the content of the book they just purchased. If they don’t like it they can not buy the author’s next book and tell people the last one they bought was crap. I have always thought this was true so I have never really even tried to contact an author for any reason. I really don’t care who they are as a person, just that if a book has their name on it its probably worth buying. I follow several author’s personal blogs not because I care who they are but
    1)because being an author, their blogs are usually worth reading for literary content (sometimes not but you take the good with the bad)
    2)since they write what I like to read it often occurs that they also read authors that I might like. So I follow their blogs etc. to find new authors to read and as a direction pointer for things I might be interested in.

    I have to wonder how often does this type of complaint occur that you would need to post such a long piece to address it? Isn’t this like complaining that your too popular? How much of a burden for an author is it to literally have their work being demanded? Isn’t this the definition of job security for an author?

    One final point, since the communication between author and “fan” is almost entirely defined by the author why even respond to these complaints? If they bother, just ignore them. Maybe just thank them for being a “guaranteed sale”. Since 100% of anything beyond writing something people want to ready is optional, if it irritates, just stop. If an author has a “life” they can live it without any requirement for them to be in the public eye beyond their published work. I know of a few authors that have had literally no contact with the public at all that still produced good work.

  103. Reader:

    “How much of a burden for an author is it to literally have their work being demanded?”

    If it means that someone feels they can be an asshole to you in demanding the work? Burden enough.

  104. Mr. Scalzi,
    Thank you for the books and your entertaining comments. I must say though i am deeply upset. That you expect rational behavior from people. How dare you think that your fellow man could ever live up to such a high standard. So i probably failed miserably at writing sarcastically. I find this utterly entertaining especially your responses to people.

    Thanks the peanut gallery.
    JT

  105. But how can someone be an asshole to you if you don’t let them? The communication channels are all those that you as an author have defined. You don’t have to read my comments and could delete them completely if you liked with no problem at all. Why would anyone’s comments mean anything more to you than the wind or the weather if you didn’t assign importance to those comments yourself? Everyone has to deal with assholes every day. Unlike most of us authors have the ability to ignore them. Most people have to work directly with them and/or for them every day without the luxury of being able to dismiss them. And their the same assholes all the time which can get really tedious. At least authors get a variety. At most “asshole” comments should be nothing more than a gross gauge with with to measure your work. If you get 2 assholes out of 100 fans then your work is read by 98% nice people! And you have to consider that some fans don’t comment because they respect you as an author and don’t need to interfere with your life or repeat something someone else has already said (whereas in my experience the typical asshole just won’t shut up) so that pushes it to better
    than 99% nice! What better commentary on an author’s work? 99% asshole free! What a benefit to the public at large. All you have to do is ask people “Do you read (author’s name)?” instead of “Are you an asshole?” And if an author’s work is attracting more than say 30% assholes they might really want to sit down and take a harder look at their work and eliminate the “asshole factor”.
    If someone is really being an asshole they would have to find out where you lived and actually be at your house at which point their not an asshole they are a stalker call the police! I think that would be creepy in any one really.

  106. But how can someone be an asshole to you if you don’t let them?

    Fairly easily. This has been another Answers To Easy Questions ™.

  107. Reader:

    “But how can someone be an asshole to you if you don’t let them?”

    People are assholes independent of anything we do.

    “The communication channels are all those that you as an author have defined.”

    Short of living in a hole into which my paid assistants combing through my comments and mail (and indeed entire life) allow only happy thoughts to seep through, this is completely wrong.

    I don’t think you’ve thought this one entirely through, nor do I think the way you’re proposing that authors think about their work and structure their lives is anything close to realistic. It is much simpler to say to people “here’s what to think about before you act like an asshole in this manner.”

  108. Reader, a big part of it is rather simple. All (or virtually all) professional authors write with the intent that their work finds an audience. Part of the motivation for doing this for many comes from caring deeply about what readers think of their work. Now, some authors are content to gauge reader reaction entirely from sales, but I think that most of us are also interested in actual reader feedback. For those authors with anything but a will of steel and a cast iron ego, that means leaving themselves open to being hurt by having readers say hateful things–see caring deeply about reader opinion as part of the motivation for writing.

  109. Mr. Scalzi,

    “People are assholes independent of anything we do.”
    True, but their effect on you is entirely within your control.

    “… this is completely wrong.”
    I disagree. I think more than a few authors have been at least partially successful in separating their professional and private lives. I’m not sure if you started as a blogger first and then became an author but I see these as two very different things. A blogger has already exposed much about their private lives that an author would never have to. It may be that you can’t imagine being any less exposed to public scrutiny but there are quite a few authors that are no where near as exposed as you yourself are.

    “It is much simpler to say to people “here’s what to think about before you act like an asshole in this manner.””
    I completely understand what your trying to achieve but I really don’t think it will have any effect what so ever. Assholes, by definition will not see that what your saying applies to them in any way. I’m sure that many of the people the article was written to directly apply to, read it and saw nothing in their own behavior that was applicable. I think you might have a better chance of effecting a change by ignoring them as eventually, when no one will respond to them at all they might take the time to consider they need to make a change. Until that happens I don’t think they will see they have a problem at all or have behaved in any wait that is inappropriate .

    Kelly McCullough,

    “All (or virtually all) professional authors write with the intent that their work finds an audience.”
    This is, I think, self evident. Why else would you write? But as to an author’s motivation? I hesitate to define that in such narrow terms. Caring about feedback can mean quite different things to different authors.

    If you have time you might want to take a look at this about 3 minutes 39 seconds in (but the whole “fans” episode of Prisoners of Gravity is well worth watching)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNWcq7xijxU

    although I suppose this might qualify as “a will of steel and a cast iron ego” ?.

  110. Reader:

    “I disagree.”

    So what? I don’t expect that you are a professional writer; I actually am a professional writer, however, so my personal experience in this matter trumps yours, and my personal experience on this matter says that you are completely wrong. Likewise, I know socially or better probably close to a couple of hundred professional writers, many of whom I’ve discussed this topic with over the years, so I rather strongly suspect my knowledge base there trumps yours as well.

    When I say you’re completely wrong in this specific regard, it’s not really a matter of your opinion being equal to mine, because as noted my opinion is backed up my specific and relevant knowledge, based on personal professional experience and the experience of others in similar professional situations. Unless you wish to reveal yourself as a writer of a similar professional level, I’m going to have to say I know more about this than you do.

    So disagree all you want. You’re still completely wrong on this particular subject. I realize I’m coming across a bit touchy, but as any professional in any field might, I get exasperated when people who are not in my profession try to suggest they know as much about it as I do.

  111. Reader, like John, I am a professional writer and know quite a large number of other writers in my field, and this is a topic of common discussion. It’s certainly only one motivation among a number for most authors, and I so noted, but it’s definitely there for many.

  112. John and Kelly, this is a common complaint among authors, the sense of ownership our readers often feel about us and the stories we write. But as an author of genre fiction (erotic romance) I’ve learned to roll with the punches as much as I’m able. Feedback, both positive and negative, is always welcome. It’s the anger I don’t like, the sense that in some way or another I have somehow insulted/injured/reviled/or otherwise failed a reader in some personal manner if they don’t particularly care for a story I wrote. I have to remind myself that my books are not about them–they’re about the characters in my head and how they relate to the world I’ve created…which is just another way of saying it’s about me. The readers can say what they will, based on their baggage. I’ll stick with mine.

  113. Kate, I tend to have fairly serious dragon hide myself because I come out of theater where the rejection used to happen to my face and the post-performance criticism often include some pretty brutal personal stuff. But in my experience of writers that thickness of hide is unusual.

    It would be great if every writer could shrug off the darts that easily. It would also be great if every writer could enjoy the success they wished they had. I think the likelihood of those two things coming to be is about equivalent. That being the case, it’s probably worth pointing out to people that ripping away at writers can cause real harm and trying to explain why that is.

  114. Wonderful, John Scalzi. THANK YOU. I’m going through just this right now:

    [small] Name Author: I’m pretty sure I’ll have it done by the end of the year.
    Publisher: OK! We’ll schedule it for April, then, and rush production. Now, can you give us a scene so we can get started on the cover and copy? The Spring catalog closes next week. [thanks Beth]

    I was a publisher for a gazillion years, and I know how it works from the other side of the table. But – that’s sort of fading now, in the panic of being over here… ha!

  115. Mr Scalzi,
    I had no intent to irritate you in any way and I must bow to your greater knowledge but I would like to say one thing. This entire discourse is unique in my experience. I have never been able to contact any author so directly or immediately even when I have wanted to. Every author I’m am used to reading has some intermediary between myself and them which filters communication in some manner.(usually the contact point/filter is the publisher) I expect this if only
    because I cannot conceive of any author getting any work on a project done if they have to read and answer every piece of reader generated fan mail. I am still surprised to even have been a part of a discussion that actually involved so may authors. Thank you.
    Yes I have all your books and will buy your next one whenever it comes out. I guess the reason I don’t usually try harder to contact an author I may like is I can’t imaging they haven’t heard the previous statement before to a point where its lost all meaning. What can I say that hasn’t been said?

    To all authors:
    I guess what prompted me to comment in the first place is that the article itself is to me, a statement of the obvious that I have been able to understand (if not articulate) since I was 8 years old. How bad has the sense of entitlement gotten in the readership that this needs to be addressed, not just here but in so many other author’s blogs/commentaries and all seemingly at nearly the same time?
    Frankly this scares me. I read quite a bit and its sometimes quite hard to find something I really like. The idea that an author, no matter the amount of work they have produced to date, can be made to question if they should be an author or not by the comments of a few vitriolic fools is frightening. Especially in light of the fact that I don’t see the number of fools going down any time soon. What can I do?

    A last point. Mr Scalzi’s “So what?” is exactly the attitude any author should have about comments from readers/fans they don’t agree for exactly the same reasons given.

  116. Reader:

    No worries.

    “This entire discourse is unique in my experience. I have never been able to contact any author so directly or immediately even when I have wanted to.”

    Interesting; most authors I know at this point do, in fact, have a public e-mail address. Somewhat less commonly (but not uncommonly) they now also have blogs and Web sites which allow comment/communication. It’s entirely possible that it is now easier to communicate with authors than it’s ever been before. But even in the old days readers could still do it through regular mail or author appearances, etc. And of course there was never anything to stop readers (and critics) from talking about authors and their books, with each other or with an audience, of which the author was not presumed to be part of (but sometimes was).

    Relating to me specifically, I should note that I’m not personally put out that much by pushy fans, partly because my own personality is of the “you get what I give you when I give it to you and if you don’t like it, tough luck” variety. It also helps I was a professional critic for a number of years and understand the process. But there are a fair number of authors who don’t possess such a thick skin, and have to balance the laudable goal of staying connected with readers/fans with the need to give themselves a bit of distance from some of the harsher (and sometimes unfair) criticism and fan expectation.

    Also, you know, some of the fans who are being pushy might not realize how pushy they’re being. Thus the entry this comment thread’s related to.

  117. “you get what I give you when I give it to you and if you don’t like it, tough luck”

    Catchy, but not enough that I would buy it on a T-shirt.

  118. John Scalzi,

    “I find it very amusing that you assume there wasn’t careful planning. “Planning,” however, is not equal to “execution,” and things change in the actual writing.”

    Oh, of course things can change midroute, though careful planning is realistic planning.

    In the case of David Gerrold, I guess we can write that Chtorr thing off. A bit like X-Files: the real solution to the problem, if it existed, will never be revealed.

    In the case of GRRM, I would at a guess have thought the original plan was three books (1. civil war, 2. dragons, 3. ice and fire cataclysm) and then it swole, for whatever reasons. Into something that for the last nine or ten years, alas but obviously, doesn’t seem to have enthused the author.

    But it’s not like the basic structure of the story has been invalidated, it just seems like the road to getting to the end has been getting longer and longer. My advice to GRRM would thus be to make a new, simpler plan.

  119. Ashman@51 said:
    “I am now left with the impression that Scalzi (and all writers?) spend an inordinate amount of time without their clothes on.”

    Ashman, if it helps them write, authors can dance the Macarena naked to the tune of the Imperial March for all I care. Anything that doesn’t hurt other people unnecessarily seems fine to me.

  120. Thomas @ 147,

    GRRM thought it was a trilogy when he started writing, four books when he was deep into the first book, and then six as he started writing the second book. He stuck to that into the struggle with the fourth volumel, and then allowed himself one more book to deal with the loss of the very important five year gap that he had intended from the time of the A Clash of Kings.

    So in essence, the first four novels all exist because GRRM’s plans evolved. The very popular third novel would never have existed if he “stuck to an outline”, as so many now seem to urge in retrospect.

    He’s now stuck to seven as his plan, in any case, even after the split of the fourth volume into two books. Could well be that he’ll have to add an eighth, but he seems to be doing his best not to have that happen.

  121. In the words of Eminem (slightly changed to keep it clean):
    “And no, I don’t owe you a motherfracking thing”

    It seems like a lot of readers think their favorite authors owe them to finish that sequel or that next book. Writers don’t owe their readers anything, other than to just put out the best product they can on their own schedule.

    I would never, ever, ever call out a writer for being too slow. Writing’s a different process for all and everyone moves at their own pace. You can’t hurry genius!

    GRRM and Patrick Rothfuss and anyone else… just remember that quote above next time some whiner whines about how long it’s taking your next book to get published.

  122. I think I love you.

    One of my fans pointed this out to me. It was like reading a breath of fresh air. FINALLY! Someone who gets it!

    Thank you so much for your thoughts.

  123. *applauds*
    thank you, firstly for giving us all (me specifically) a clearer view of how thigns REALLY work, secondly, for being so straightforward, polite, and yet still harsh about it. This was very well done, to tell rude people to shut up and remind polite people why it is that people deserve our respect.
    :)

  124. The only legitimate complaint about author delay seems the “fat book” (or perhaps “fat series”) syndrome. Once an author has a “hit”, there does seem to be a tendency (in some authors) to lose the discipline imposed on the newbie author by (i) editors, and (ii) the realities of needing to sell a book, in terms of conciseness and focus.

    In sequels, tedious tangents, new and unneccessary characters, and disconnected themes sometimes spring up and seem to waste the writer’s, reader’s, and editor’s time. If these flaws were not a part of Book #1 of the Darkwind/sword/storm/dragon Saga, then the readers would seem to have a basis for complaint.

  125. Dude, the expression “slacktastic asstard” alone earns you my unquestioning loyalty to your blog. Why, it’s positively terminologically tubular.

    Separately, I’ve always said that the less I know about an artist, the better. If I want to listen to drama queens bitch and moan about their private lives, I’ll call up my friends who can at least reciprocate.
    Video didn’t kill the radio star, Rolling Stone and Vibe did, right before the vivisected it and printed a full page spread of its bowel movements.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbhnRuJBHLs

  126. Tangential to Circumstances Beyond the Control of the Artist, #9:
    I am a fan of Donald Kingsbury’s novel Courtship Rite, which did make it onto the Hugo ballot — against Asimov, Clarke, Gene Wolfe, and C. J. Cherryh. A snowball in hell might have had a better chance.

  127. I think the main argument is “Authors are human”. All other arguments are just part of that series ;-). It’s good to reiterate since that fact get’s forgotten quite often. For a reader it is easy, to associate such great writing with all kind of superhuman powers….

    On the other hand i would like to peek into the process that is behind writing a novel. Is there a proper way to apply for a job as “beta reader”?

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