I don’t like to read book series that aren’t finished yet. My husband knows this about me. It’s too stressful for me to wait until the next book comes out. The anticipation kills me. I was late to the Dark Tower waiting game but it was still tough – especially when Stephen King was struck by a van. What if he had died?! It took him 22 years to finish that series of seven books. And no, that doesn’t come out to a book every three years because the last three books all came out in a little over a year span. Readers were waiting five or six years between books.
Speaking of authors dying before finishing their masterpieces, I found my way to The Wheel of Time before the series was completed and not long before the author, Robert Jordan, died, work unfinished. That fourteen book series took 23 years and two authors and introduced me to Brandon Sanderson, the author brought in to interpret Jordan’s notes and finish the series.
Betwen Harry Potter and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (another not-finished series I’m engrossed in) and Wheel of Time, I had been caught up in a small circle of authors for a number of years. When I came up for air, my first instinct was to read some more Sanderson. So I did.
I read a great novella called Legion. I read his Mistborn trilogy. I read the Rithmatist and Steelheart, accidentally stumbling into two more incomplete trilogies. And then I paused to consider what to read next. My husband suggested I try another author besides Sanderson.
He suggested The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A friend of ours had met Mr. Rothfuss and even had him sign a copy of the book for my husband. The note the author wrote to my husband made it clear he was of a similar personality to the friend, which is, to say the least, a bit off-kilter.
I was blown away my Pat’s writing. The fantasy world he created was impressive, as was the characters, the magic system, the storytelling. But it was the writing that really stood out to me. It was like reading poetry in novel form. In the epilogue of the book, he described silence. Specifically a silence of three parts. I could feel that silence. My ears pulsed with the absence of sound. I was mesmerized.
I’ve read many fine authors who have told gripping stories. Many deliver great dialogue. Gabaldon, in particular, tells a story with such an impressive vocabulary that I’m in search of a dictionary. But I cannot recall another author that created such vivid imagery, who described what I should see and hear so beautifully. I quickly started the second book.
And then my husband dropped the bombshell. The series wasn’t finished. That’s right. It wasn’t finished. I was furious – not with Patrick Rothfuss, whose third book I was now dying to read. But with my husband, who had led me into this trap.
As is the case with most readers, though – well, as it should be with most readers – I eventually fell into a comfortable state of waiting. The burn for the next book died down as I went on with my life and other books. I’m now in a state where I’ll need to re-read the books to regain that eager, give-it-to-me-now state of anticipation.
And then I followed Patrick Rothfuss on Facebook. He tells really cute stories about his kids and posts some funny stuff. That’s why I followed him. Then I learned that not everyone is capable of falling into that comfortable state of waiting. Some people get downright irate if authors don’t publish within a window that these readers think is appropriate. And they tell the authors about it every chance they get. And they get pretty ugly about it. And then other people defend the authors.
The arguments don’t change much and it doesn’t seem to matter what post is there. They’ll complain on any post, whether it’s about his books or not. I found it laughable. And sad. But it also got me to thinking.
Do authors owe anything to their readers? The complainers say yes. They say that the authors are getting paid to do a job and they need to get off Facebook and quit operating charities and do their job. Dammit. The supporters say the authors are sharing their creative talent with us and they don’t owe us anything. They can share or not share, their choice. The complainers turn red in the face at that and remind the supporters that these authors are getting paid! They aren’t sharing – they are selling a product.
I basically fall on the side of the supporters. I mean, of course, if an author is on contract, he or she needs to finish the book(s) on whatever schedule he or she agreed to. But otherwise? Are movie makers required to make more movies after a big success? Are artists required to draw more or paint more? Does Annie Leibovitz have to keep taking pictures even if she’d rather operate a charity or become an accountant?
And the complainers seem to forget this is a creative process. If the writer gets writer’s block, he can’t just churn it out anyway. It’s not like building a house. He’s creating a world and immersing us in it. The complainers will remind us all that Rothfuss said the books were all finished – he was just editing. Ok, so he has since said he regrets making the comment and for him, the bulk of the work is in the editing. He’s kind of obsessive about it. So get over it. He’s not ready to share the story.
Ironically, the complainers have often presented one of my other favorite authors for contrast: Brandon Sanderson. They talk about how many books he publishes and how good they are. I like Sanderson. I enjoy his books. A lot. He’s a great story teller. But his books are not Rothfuss quality. They don’t have the same artistic imagery. He’s pulp fiction in comparison. So of course his books don’t take as much time.
But even if they were as good… who the bleep cares? I know a lot of computer programmers. Some of them code really, really fast. Others take longer. Some have more bugs in their code or it’s not structured well or not easy to read. Whatever. Fact is, you can’t ask the slow coders to code faster. You either accept their pace or you don’t. As a supervisor of computer programmers, a person can decide the person’s pace is good or fire them. That’s it. Readers have the same choice. Accept the author as he or she is… or move along.
So if I could, I’d tell all the complainers this: grow up. No one owes you anything. You are just being ugly and childish. There are so many good books by good authors out there that there is absolutely no way you could get through them all before Pat finished the final book in his Kingkiller Chronicles – even if it took him twenty years. So go read some of those. Read Sanderson. He’ll keep you busy. I get it. I know what it’s like to want the rest of the story. But yelling at the author won’t do any good. Get a life. Please. Let the rest of us enjoy the person without your vitriol.