Authorial Obligations

We’re living in a golden time of literary dramatizations. Tolkien has been a box office smash not once, but twice. Marvel has built an empire out of it’s movies. And dare we mention Game of Thrones. Epic.

But it’s not finished yet.

Within the fantasy genre, Mr. Martin is not alone. There are multiple high profile series by multiple authors. Think Patrick Rothfuss or James Corey.

But we’re still waiting.

And we don’t like waiting.

This has generated quite a bit of pressure on these authors to put out new work faster. They owe it to their readers, after all. Just ask the readers!

But authors aren’t taking this lying down. As well they shouldn’t. As well they couldn’t. This entitlement of fans of Game of Thrones was most famously answered by Neil Gaiman’s quote: He’s not your monkey.

But this has led to assertions that authors don’t owe their readers anything, and I mean anything. Start a conversation about this with professional authors, and you’re likely to get something that feels less like a back off, and more like a fuck you.

So are simple fans of these authors caught in some no man’s land between unreasonable demands on the authors and disdain of their fandom by those authors? So let’s try to put a little nuance into this discussion.

Assertion 1: If you are dedicated to your story, then you are dedicated to the consumers of your story. Conversely, if you don’t care about your reader’s experience, you are not dedicated to your art. And your story will suck. So if you wrote an awesome story, you have already proven that you care about your readers. Declaring that you have no obligation to them is insulting and glaringly false.

Assertion 2: A narrative series, one with a narrative that spans multiple books rather than simply recurring characters, is really a book writ large. One of the ways you judge a book is by looking at the promises made to the reader in the beginning and whether they were fulfilled by the end. As I am justified in criticizing an author who does not fulfill promises in a book, I am equally justified in criticizing an author who does not fulfill promises made in a series.

Caveat 1: Unless the author is an asshole, then they do understand assertion 2 and want to fulfill that obligation. They just want the freedom to choose how they fulfill it.

Assertion 3: An author who plans to write a narrative series should have a plan. Pressure to deliver will come from multiple sources, fans, publishers, etc. If this comes as a surprise, then the author did not do his homework. Some won’t, but for career authors, they should bear this in mind before the series is first released.

Caveat 2: For those dependent on publishing to eat, this may seem like a severe burden, but I would counter that they don’t have to begin with a narrative series. They can write it while writing things that are stand-alone and immediately publishable.

That is my contribution to the discussion. Based on previous discussions, these assertions will displease everyone; but I wanted to write down what I think. And I want to never have another conversation about how an author who writes great stories is behind schedule or how I’m an asshole for wishing they weren’t.


Short Rothfuss Fan Fic

I have recently been catching up with an author that some friends suggested, Patrick Rothfuss. In one of the books he has a character named Auri. She’s in an odd mental state and she lives below the University. Her character is sufficiently interesting that Patrick wrote a novella just about her, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I decided to follow suit and use her in fanfic mode for a writing prompt in my writing group. They liked it enough that I decided I’d share it here as well.

No light ever reached the Abyss. For most people that was probably frightening. Auri smiled. How odd people were? The Abyss was simply pure, steadfast in itself, not needing the affirmation of others. It was an elder of the Underthing.

Without light Auri was a creature of texture, temperature, and sound. She moved lightly forward, her shift billowing slightly in a light breeze as her foot touched water. Not much further. Another step. Another step.

With barely a splash she slid down into the water. Not cold. Just wet. Very wet. Covering her. Hiding her. The rest of the world could not intrude on her here. Maybe she could forget him here. Currents pulled at her shift as she floated below the surface, breath held. In the moment. Her hair floated free, forming a halo of gold around her head that no one could see.

Just be.

Just be.

A voice spoke to her, slowly, comfortingly. Eventually it decided it was enough. She pushed down and returned to the surface, thoughts slowly returning. She climbed back out into the Abyss’s cloak of darkness. Shivers. But there was an answer to that. With a small hiccup she moved into a skip, headed toward Bellows. He would dry her. He always knew what to do.