Several days ago, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist posted an excerpt from George R.R. Martin’s upcoming novella, The Mystery Knight. I don’t think anyone was prepared for the volume of vitriol and caustic commentary that would follow. Nearly 250 comments in a matter of hours, most condemning Martin for the usual reasons: he’s fat, he’s old, he’s lazy, he likes Football, he should be writing, not sleeping or shitting. These are his most die-hard ‘fans’, remember. Pat had to turn off comments on his very popular blog, something he’s never done before.

Shawn Speakman from Suvudu first caught the attention of Martin fans a year ago with his article In Defense of George R.R. Martin. I wrote a response of my own with an article titled Why You Should Cut George RR Martin Some Slack. Now, spurred by the response to the excerpt from The Mystery Knight, Speakman and Suvudu have rounded up a few bloggers and posed a series of Martin-related questions. Is new ground tread? Likely not. But it’s a subject that keeps rearing its head with every year that passes and A Dance of Dragons is not on store shelves.

Below you will find my answers to the questions posed by Suvudu. Also involved are Adam from The Wertzone, Jeff’s Fantasy Review and, of course, Shawn from Suvudu.

The Interview

Don’t George’s other pursuits—watching football, editing anthologies, traveling to other countries and conventions, blogging about his merchandise—hamper his completion of the new book?

No more than blogging, watching hockey, reading books, writing and editing a novel, playing Dragon Age: Origins or having a social life hampers my day job.

We don’t know what Martin’s schedule is like. He may work on A Dance with Dragons for 15 minutes every day, or eight hours every day. Either way, I don’t think he’s neglecting his bread and butter series for side-projects and hobbies.

Are readers of A Song of Ice & Fire entitled to be angry that George has missed his own created deadlines?

Sure. You’re entitled to get angry over anything that raises your ire. It’s the rude insults that bother me. Complain about Martin and his progress, but let’s keep it a bit more mature than calling him fat and old, okay?

Every time I think about those missed deadlines, I sigh, then go read something else. I don’t have time to wait for A Dance with Dragons.

Is it unethical for George to write on his blog about his other merchandise opportunities when the majority of people visiting his website are only interested in A Dance With Dragons?

Ethics I’ll leave to PETA.

As for his blog. Well, it’s his blog. Does it hurt his relationship with some of his fans? Yeah. But Martin is a guy like any of the rest of us. Hell, his blog is on Livejournal, of course he’s going to wax philosophical about his life.

Do I care about the Jets (Martin’s favourite Football team)? No. Am I interested in hearing about miniatures? Nope. But, many of my readers likely don’t give a shit about all the cover art I post or for updates on my writing. I do it anyway because it’s what interests me.

What boggles me is when people get angry about the Wild Cards series or Anthologies that Martin is working on. Isn’t it a good thing, getting more books that he’s had a hand in crafting? I suppose the issue is that there are George R.R. Martin fans and there are A Song of Ice and Fire fans. Some are happy with anything Martin puts out, some only want the mainline stuff.

Is it legitimate for a fan who has bought his previous books to criticize George since their money has helped his success?

No. They paid for a product then received and consumed that product when they purchased the previous four volumes of the series. I suppose if they were dumb enough to pre-order A Dance with Dragons two years ago there might be a claim for whining.

I don’t complain about the money I spent on my boxset of the original set Star Wars films because Episodes I-III were shit.

Does a reader have the right to critique an author’s professional conduct simply because they have purchased a book by them?

I don’t think someone needs to have purchased a book by an author to examine and critique something about them. Someone who borrowed the books from a friend or taken them out from the library is just as invested in the series. Neither do I think it’s a worthwhile endeavour to spend time examining the schedule of Martin’s bowel movements.

Doesn’t George have an obligation to finish books in a timely manner so his fans don’t have to keep re-reading his previous books over and over again?

Sure. If they want a hack-job ending that the series doesn’t deserve. There’s a reason Martin’s books have captured so many minds. Find any of the various dissections of the series, dive into their complexity and then ask yourself if it’s surprising that each book takes so damn long to write.

Does George have writer’s block?

It seems to me that Martin is the only one that can answer this. Has he written himself into a corner with the Meereenese Knot? Looks that way. Is it taking him an unusual amount of time to hack through the knot? Yeah. But he’s also just recently completed a Jon Snow chapter (though he admits that he’s finished it a few times) and thrown a different angle on the situation in Meereen by changing Point-of-View characters.

I suppose, in the end, it depends on what your definition of ‘Writer’s Block’ is. I’m sure Martin has enough material (whether A Dance with Dragons or his side projects) to keep himself from banging his head against the keyboard all day.

Isn’t the best way to show our displeasure with George is to not buy A Dance With Dragons when it is published?

What? No. Why bellyache if you’re not going to read the book? I suppose you could wait until the entire series is complete and then read it all back-to-back on your Space-tourism cruise to Mars.

If it has taken George five years to write the last two books, how long will it take him to write The Winds of Winter?

Who knows? It used to take Terry Brooks a couple of years to write a novel, now he publishes one every year. Because of the complexity of this middle section of the series (A Feast for Crows was going to be a very different book, for some time, and was half-written until Martin decided to scrap the idea of skipping the story forward by five years), we might see an increase in speed once Martin gets things back on track, presumably at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Or it may take seven years for the next volume.

Isn’t it insulting that George thinks he doesn’t owe his readers anything? Doesn’t he owe us, at the very least, the conclusion of the series since he is living off of the money that we paid him?

I dunno. A lot of authors take a fair amount of time to write. Robert Jordan, at the end of his life, was taking years between volume and never finished his opus. Stephen R. Donaldson and Diana Gabaldon take a fair while to release books. Christ, Melanie Rawn published the second volume in The Exiles Trilogy in 1997 and still hasn’t completed it, despite releasing two volumes of a new trilogy since then. There are worse case scenarios.

Has George ever apologized for the lateness of his last two books?

I dunno. He’s probably done so in passing on his blog somewhere, or at book-signings. Certainly many times to his publisher.

Don’t readers have an obligation to be patient with a man who is arguably writing one of the best fantasy series of all time and wants it done right, one that will be read long after his grandchildren are gone?

I’d say so. But not in the wait-eagerly-outside-his-door-patient-and-quiet-as-a-statue kind of patience, but with a more proactive patience. Seek out those authors that Martin includes in his anthologies – Daniel Abraham, Tad Williams, Diana Gabaldon, Robin Hobb, Dan Simmons, Kage Baker, Lucius Shepard, Jeff Vandermeer, David Anthony Durham and all the others – and see what inspires the man behind A Song of Ice and Fire. Hell, in the meantime we all might find an author we enjoy even more than Martin.

Do his other activities and hobbies like conventions, traveling, editing anthologies, and watching football actually help his writing?

Again, I’m not sure this is really a question that we can answer. Not without knowing Martin on a personal level. From my own perspective, I know that travelling and my other more leisurely pursuits have certainly added to my own skill-set as a writer. Hell, I wouldn’t have written a novel set in Ireland if I hadn’t travelled there and fallen in love. My second novel will see action in Prague and Paris, two other cities that I fell in love with when I took a break from my ‘day job’ and travelled.

On a baser level, everyone has their own way of winding down and resetting themselves after working all day. Certainly reading and editing fiction from some of today’s sharpest writers helps Martin hone his understanding of the craft. If Martin plays Fantasy Football in the evening, and that allows him to hit the keyboard hard the next morning, then I suppose you could say that it is beneficial to his writing. Does it make him a better writer? Probably not.

So, there you are. Agree, disagree? I’d love to hear the opinions of some people on the other side of the fence, since Shawn, Adam, Jeff and I are ‘defenders’ of Martin and his right to work as slowly as he needs to. I love controversy and heated discussion, just remember to keep it civil and respectful. Don’t make me turn off comments!

  • Luke Allison February 1, 2010 at 9:36 am

    The fact of the matter is, reading books is consumption of a product. Writing books is a serious conflagration of talent, technical skill, artistry, and probably something akin to spiritual luck. It takes NONE of those things to read a book in a day. All it takes is a vibrant imagination and a somewhat working brain.

    If a person’s life revolves around an author finishing a product, no matter how late or how unprofessional said author seems to be, then that person needs to do “the painful work of self-examination” in order to see if their priorities don’t need a little tidying.

    Our culture is one of the few in the world that allows peoples’ lives to revolve around entertainment. There is always plenty of it, and there will always be plenty more coming. My encouragement to those people who are experiencing grave emotional tremors over a fantasy series (which I love and look forward to reading more of) is this: go to a foreign country where the average concerns of the day involve food and water and not getting killed, or at least read about one. Put it in perspective. Then go live a joyful life due to the fact that you have one. Not due to the fact that you have entertainment. That is all.

  • aidan February 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Well said, Luke.

  • Robin of My Two Blessings February 1, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I didn’t read the comments from Pat’s post of Martin’s book so missed the brouhaha. All I can say is people really need to get a life if they are upset over Martin’s other activities. I guess they think he should be spending all the hours of his day writing and doing nothing else. There are some writers, like Patterson for example, who turn out several books a year and unfortunately they aren’t that great,(my opinion) but the masses thrive on it. Then you have George and others who take their time and write fewer books but turn out stories that really are interesting, entertaining, thought provoking and well written. I’d rather wait for a well written story. I just read A Game of Thrones, so by the time I work my way through his other books, Mystery Knight should be more than finished. :)

    Great post!

  • Jonathan February 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Thank you guys for putting your thoughts out there. I wonder how many of these people flooded Jordan’s wife with negative comments when Robert Jordan died. Take it easy people, it’s a book (If you haven’t already, read Luke’s comment above for perspective). Read some of George’s other stuff (I dunno, like The Mystery Knight?)As much as I’d enjoy reading A Dance with Dragons right now, I can’t. So I’ll read other stuff. There is more than one good series out there. And some are even finished.

  • Jason February 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    “If a person’s life revolves around an author finishing a product, no matter how late or how unprofessional said author seems to be, then that person needs to do “the painful work of self-examination” in order to see if their priorities don’t need a little tidying. ”
    Wow, I couldn’t say this better if I tried. Its entertainment, and even though its arguably the best entertainment around, its not worth the emotions some fans bring to the table.

  • Mega Man February 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    While I will agree with you on some points, and not others, I will say one thing which is a certainity.

    The long drawn out wait for A Dance with Dragons, coupled with George’s behaviour on his own blog (the constant peddling of ‘signed’ ‘limited edition’ ‘numbered edition’, the consistent censoring of any negative comments against him, the whining, child-like behaviour when anyone mis-interprets anything he says, as seen on Januray 31st post where he is angry that people have mis-interepreted his post to mean that ADwD is now complete) has cost him one thing from a large number of readers and that is respect.

    I can assure you that quite a few people, while they may respect GRRM the author, have lost respect for GRRM the man, and when that happens, it can be very hard to recover.

  • Shawn February 1, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    If you respect me, I’ll respect you, Mega Man.

    1) George has every right to “peddle” his other ventures. As I explained in my piece, he can’t write 15 hours a day. He has other hobbies and business associations to take care of. He uses the time he CAN’T write to write on his blog. It’s his blog, his life, and his prerogative.

    It’s your prerogative to read him or not.

    But not your prerogative to criticize him when he has done nothing wrong.

    2) Censoring the content of his blog? Of course he does! What did I open this post with? Respect me and I’ll respect you. His angry fans don’t respect him at all. People calling him lazy or fat or able to die on the spot. These are not nice things to say. He has ever right to censor those remarks on his own blog. It’s a personal attack that is not needed.

    The sad part is, those very same people will say these nasty things that they would never say to his face, try to get away with it, and THEN STILL get to read the next book. And you know they will. My contempt for such people grows every day.

  • Tom February 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Anyone personally attacking George needs to get a life, seriously. I can see why some people have become angry though- by starting a ‘series’, I think the author enters into an unspoken agreement with his readers that there will be a timely resolution to the story. By purchasing your book and supporting your lifestyle, the reader has in turn given up let’s say 8-10+ hours of their own lives to read each book. Over the course of the series, while in no way comparing the time the author spends writing it, that’s no small amount to be taken lightly.

    If I had known things would go on this long, it’s unlikely I would have A) purchased his books and supported his career and B) Spent 40+ hours of my own life so far reading what he has published in the series.

    I think those two reasons are why people are so touchy about this whole subject. The readers have sacrificed their own time and money and feel ‘entitled’ (wrongly or not) to get what they bargained for when this whole series started.

    I don’t personally hold any ill will towards Martin over this and I would never attack him for it. Hey, we as readers might get screwed on this- get over it. I gambled and lost on this one. In my mind, it makes what Erickson has done with his Malazan books that much more remarkable.

    Sadly, I’ve given up on ever seeing an end to the series from Martin. George doesn’t exactly appear to be the most health-conscious guy and given his current age and the pace of his work on this series, it seems iffy at best that we’ll ever read the final chapter of this saga.

  • Drewids February 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I read all of the posts on Pat’s site and have to say that the majority of the posts, whether they were for against GRRM, were well made arguments and not insulting personally to him. There were a couple idiots who took personal shots, but most took professional shots.

    And Shawn: Anyone has every right to criticize someone’s profeesional conduct or product. Bloggers do it everyday. We’ve done it with GRRM and Goodkind the most. To say people cannot criticize, and in GRRM’s case, for many different readers, is ludicrous. But, I do agree that anyone who criticizes someone personally for something professional they are upset with are childish and should be ignored. But someone who has a well thought out and logical problem with any author, I will read and make my own judgement.

    By the way, I think the last 50 or 75 posts was a troll who just copied and pasted idiotically. I’m pretty sure that was why Pat closed the comments.

  • Shawn February 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Drewids, professionalism takes place between two entities under contract. That’s professionalism. George is a professional writer and he is under contract with his publisher — he is not under contract with his fans. If he is, show me the contract. The only entity that can criticize the ‘professionalism’ of George is his publisher.

    As a web developer, if an author hires me to create their website and their fans are waiting for the website to be put up online, do those fans have ANY say in anything whatsoever? Of course not. The author does though.

    It’s the same thing.

    That said, his fans can call George a liar straight to his face if they want. Just as I said in my article last year. He stated deadlines he could not keep. At worst, George is a liar. People can be upset about that.

    Professionally, I don’t think Goodkind has done anything wrong, has he? He delivered his books on time and they were published on time. He toured the cities his publisher wanted him to go to. People however do not like HIM, who he is as a person. Again, personal attacks, that have nothing to do with professionalism.

    My entire problem with most of what you call “professional shots” are shots founded in untruths. That’s why I wrote my article last year and it’s why I decided to revisit it this year with bloggers I know are in possession of the facts.

  • Shawn February 1, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    In my post, I made a good point I think I will mention here.

    Personal accountability. Tom up above mentioned that he wouldn’t have read the series if he had known George would take so long.

    Here is a fact: Every single first book of a series can lead a reader into this exact situation, where the writer doesn’t deliver a book and finish the series in a “timely” manner.

    Every debut book has that possibility.

    That means that every reader who picks up a first book is taking a risk. It’s a real risk. The reader is choosing to read a book in a series that has not been finished.

    I see far too many people not taking responsibility for their own actions in most of this.

    Personal responsibility, people. Personal responsibility. I choose not to read very many series that are not finished. Why? Because I choose to not be anger George fans. haha

    Here is a question for all of you?

    When did you first read A GAME OF THRONES?

  • Mega Man February 2, 2010 at 2:53 am

    @ Shawn

    Heh, well, I’ll agree with you on one point and disagree with you on the other. Disagreement first: I’m just speaking personally here. GRRM has written a blog, he has opened parts of his life to his readers, allowing the public to form an opinion on him. I have formed an opinion on him based on the things he has written about himself, and, to me, the peddling of wares on his Forum have left a very negative impression of him upon me. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was once in a while, but it is constant and endless. Yes, he has a life and commercial interests, bu surely let his business associated take care of that. His blog seems manipulative sometimes. ‘Buy before they run out’ ‘This is the last of my stock’ etc, etc… And some of his readership seems so devoted that they can be lulled into buying stuff just because of idol-worship. And none of the stuff he sells comes cheap either.

    I know some people won’t understand what I am saying or why it portrays GRRM in a negative light, whilst some people will understand perfectly the point I am making. It makes GRRM seems desperate at times. It’s not good. It makes me lose a lot of respect for him. I have a high regard for you Shawn, because you conduct yourself with decency and decorum and I think of you quite highly because you have integrity and do not try to take advantage of your readership.

    Now for where I agree with you. Yes, it is despicable that people resort to personal name-calling. Awful and pathetic, but those people are in the minority, not the majority. There are a few trolls, as there are everywhere, but some of the comments removed pertain to simply asking about the progress of ADwD. However, I am fully in agreement with you that any name-calling and personal attacks is fully inexcusable and low.

  • Mega Man February 2, 2010 at 3:35 am

    I think I should address this point that you made as well Shawn:

    “Drewids, professionalism takes place between two entities under contract. That’s professionalism. George is a professional writer and he is under contract with his publisher — he is not under contract with his fans. If he is, show me the contract. The only entity that can criticize the ‘professionalism’ of George is his publisher.”

    because I feel that it is one of the most highly damaging things you could actually say about George R R Martin. It is somewhat ironic that although you have written a couple of interesting blogs in defence of GRRM, this one point is very damaging because the message it gives to people is this: the fans don’t matter.

    While you may be right that GRRM is not under contract with fans, it is thanks to the fans that he has a contract with a publisher in the first place. If the masses did not buy A Game of Thrones in droves and, in turn, recommend his book to their friends and those friends recommended it to their friends and so on and so on, GRRM almost certainly wouldn’t have recieved an advance for the future novels. I seem to remember reading that A Song of Ice and Fire was originally intended to only be 4 novels. Were it not for the large sales of AGoT, would the original punlishers have allowed the series to be stretched out? Suppose AGoT flopped and sank without trace. Would it have dragged out into the 7 book series it has become today?

    So yes, he may not be under contract with those fans but it’s thanks to those fans that GRRM has become more then a niche author. Don’t denigrate the same fans with a simple dismissal like ‘he is not under contract with you’. Without those readers, there would be no little miniatures, no board games, no HBO TV series, no various limited edition, etc, etc…

    Because each time you dismiss the fans like this, it is more damaging to GRRM. It makes it appear to fans that they are a nuisance, an irritance, pests who won’t go away. And slowly, but surely, GRRM the person, will be held in the same regard as Terry Goodkind… as someone who has a contempt for any fans that get in the way of his genius. And no amount of appearance at conventions will make amends for that.

  • Øystein February 2, 2010 at 4:13 am


    I think your reasoning here is a bit strange. It is correct to say that if the fans hadn’t bought AGoT, well, GRRM wouldn’t have enjoyed the position he has now as an absolutely fantastic writer. But that does not mean he has an obligation towards the readers to finish the story.

    The way I see it: if GRRM puts out something subpar (and heck, by his standards, that does not take much – what he has written so far is excellent) – is not that disrespect for his fans? GRRM wants ASoIaF to be as good as it can be – both for his own sake, as a writer, but also for his fans. Letting his standards slip because he wants to wrap the series up, that would be disrespectful.

    And you really do not know how he works, right? I know I don’t. But I assume he works better if he enjoys life. So I’m happy that he keeps doing things that he enjoys. And if he wants to share that, let him. He’s not harming you in any way, is he?

  • Drewids February 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

    “Drewids, professionalism takes place between two entities under contract. That’s professionalism. George is a professional writer and he is under contract with his publisher — he is not under contract with his fans. If he is, show me the contract. The only entity that can criticize the ‘professionalism’ of George is his publisher.”

    Professionalism is does no take place between two entities. Just a basic definition from states:
    1. professional character, spirit, or methods.
    2. the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from an amateur.

    Bloggers, critics, fans and general audiences have loudly complained about professionalism from a wide variety of professions. From doctors, lawyers, authors, film makers, etc., so people can and should be allowed to voice their professional concerns as they will, including GRRM.

    Personally, I feel it has taken way too long for ADwD, same way I felt with AFFC. But I also usually don’t post online about it, nor does a majority of fans. Most suck it up and move on with other authors, as I have. I think the majority of fans who believe it has taken too long base their frustration solely on GRRM’s own predictions and dates. I think if AFFC wasn’t labeled as half a book and ADwD would be a year out from AFFC, along with following that missed “deadline” with more missed “deadlines.”

    And as for your personal responsibility debate: what responsibility do I have as a purchaser of a book? TO be honest, it doesn’t make sense to me. If I buy a book that says it’s part of a series and that more will come, the responsibility is then that of the author and publisher, not me. Now, I understand that the next books may never be written or may never come out, which is fine, another case of “buyer beware.” That author then also puts himself out there to be criticized for promising something and not delivering. But, to state I, as purchaser, have a responsibility is just silly.

  • Mega Man February 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

    @ Oystein

    You wrote “But that does not mean he has an obligation towards the readers to finish the story”

    I find your reasoning to be even stranger. So do you, personally, buy the first book in the series, happy in the knowledge the story may never be finished?

    That’s so unbelievably stupid to say he doesn’t have an obligation to finish the story. Of course he does. Readers are buying the book in the expectation that the story will eventually reach a conclusion. If an author publicly came out and said ‘Here’s the first book in a series, but I’m never going to finish the story’ do you think hundreds of people are going to rush out and buy it? Of course not.

  • Øystein February 2, 2010 at 9:59 am


    I’m sorry to say your logic is faulty. But let’s start at the beginning: no, I won’t be happy if a series I’m starting to buy is not finished. That the author has to finish the series as an obligation to me does not follow logically.

    The problem with your reasoning is that you presume to know what will happen in the future. Do you believe GRRM set out to write four books and then end, leaving the series unfinished? Of course you don’t. He intends to write the series, but he’ll have to write something he’s content with publishing. No-one will be happy if he just finishes to end it (I guess.. you might be happier with a crappy ending, for all I know).

    If you are unhappy about delays, or series unended, there is only one foolproof way to avoid the unhappiness: don’t buy any unfinished series. Otherwise, you’re betting against the unknown, and may end up in the situation you find yourself in. But what you have on your hands is a lost bet, not a breach of contract.

    Oh, and please refrain from ‘unbelivably stupid’-comments. Just because you happen to disagree does not make your argument Gods Own Truth.

  • aidan February 3, 2010 at 12:08 pm
  • Tom February 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm


    Point taken. Starting a series before it is complete is indeed a risk we as readers take. I think most people are fine with a 2 or even a 3 year gap between books. As stated elsewhere, George made this worse by repeatedly missing deadlines he himself put out there. As also mentioned, I think we’d be a bit more forgiving if it wasn’t implied that a great deal of this book was already written but too large to publish as one volume when the last book came out 4 years ago.

    And to answer your question, I first read A Game of Thrones back in Spring of 1996 when I got an ARC from the publisher at the bookstore I was working at. Wow, 14 years. I think it’s a bit much to expect ANYONE to remain firmly behind an author who’s taken 14 years to publish what amounts to little more than half of a series.

    I still have that ARC in excellent condition if anyone is interested… ;)

  • Luke Allison February 4, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Again, I’ll just say that the primary issue here is one of “consumptionitis”. That is, we have become so used to consuming products pre-packaged for us that we allow our emotions to become wrapped up in them to the point that life’s varied hues of joy and brilliance are dulled. Hear me when I say that life has a LOT of varied hues of said joy and brilliance.
    Most authors (and musicians, and directors, artists, etc) have hugely varied, rich lives that extend far beyond the world they create when they write.
    It’s the consumers of the product who don’t have quite as varied a life. How many rabid fanboys are skilled writers themselves? How many intensely angry fans of Scott Lynch or George Martin or Scott Bakker have even the slightest idea how to create something like they’ve created?
    Martin has been unprofessional. I have not let it affect my emotions, my behavior towards my wife, my work, or my own writing.
    I imagine Aidan’s life is more varied than just writing, too (travel, etc).
    My plea is more philosophical than anything else: remember that it’s a huge blessing and a gift to be able to have a life that revolves around a fantasy saga.
    I like you people, though.