I read today that George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire, might extend his series to eight books. The hint came from his editor, of course, and there’s no indication of whether or not it will actually prove to be true – but given Martin’s fairly complacent writing schedule and the long time between books, it’s not impossible to believe.
I grew up on fantasy novels, and I’m no stranger to waiting what seemed like forever for new novels to arrive that might complete the story I loved and to which I clung desperately. But I’ve read a lot of backlash in the articles about Martin’s maybe-eighth book, and I can’t say that I blame anyone at this point for being profoundly irate.
Good books need to end. And many of them, maybe most of them, need to end sooner rather than later. I struggle with it myself, when I write – wanting to flesh out the world more, wanting to give a clearer picture of x or y, wanting to write in an extra character or two or twenty. I get it. But aside from the obvious economic temptations of extending a series forever (which certainly applies to A Song of Ice and Fire, which will go on making money no matter how many books are added), I don’t think it makes good writing sense to force a story on forever and ever and ever. There’s a danger of repetition, a danger of self-indulgence, a danger of presumption that all of what you’re writing, every word, is worth reading.
And more than anything there’s the danger of losing your audience. And I don’t mean losing it in terms of numbers, per se, but rather losing your audience’s passion. At some point the “oh god oh god what happens next” becomes “I just want the stupid series to freaking finish so I can see if x character or y character makes it out in the end.” There’s an irritation and a displeasure that comes of being made to wait, sometimes to no real purpose, and it’s that kind of irritation and displeasure that dampens the pleasure of reading, and of the journey.
But what do I know? Martin is not particularly obligated to care about any of these things; he’s found his success and what works and I can hardly blame him for it, or for the desire I experience myself to tell every single inch of a story. Or every single throbbing inch, in my case. Ahem. Still, as a reader, I know that kind of waiting can be difficult, can throttle everything you look forward to in a story over time. I hope that isn’t the case here for those who loves the series so much.
Any A Song of Ice and Fire fans in these parts? How do you feel about it?