I made a mistake yesterday, I read comments on the internet. Every time I do, no matter what the comments are about or where they are found, I promise myself I will never practice such an enraging and depressing exercise again. Yet, every few months, I backslide. Nearly every time the reason I read comments is absentmindedness. They are sitting there at the bottom of an article I just read or a book I was just checking out on Goodreads, and I am reading a few comments before I even realize what I’m doing. Mistake. Every time.
Yesterday, the comments I started reading were at the bottom of the Goodreads page for Patrick Rothfuss’s upcoming book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. For the uninitiated, Rothfuss is the author of a fantasy series called Kingkiller Chronicle, which is successful in every measurable category: fans love it, sales are great, and critics rave about it. Fans of the series have been waiting for the third and final installment for several years, growing more impatient as time passes. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a short book that takes place in the world as The Kingkiller Chronicle, but is not the long awaited final book. This led to some folks in the comments section railing about how Patrick Rothfuss is basically the worst person of all time, and should be ashamed of himself for not finishing a book they are looking forward to… concluding a story that he invented… featuring characters he imagined… and shared with them.
Many of them started calling on the name of George R.R. Martin as an example of how terrible artists can be for not creating art on a customer’s timetable. But here is the thing, as Neil Gaiman now famously wrote six years ago, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” The fact that you bought something an artist created doesn’t mean you somehow now own a portion of their soul and can forevermore dictate how they spend their time and what their schedule looks like.
Would you really want Martin or Rothfuss or any other artist you love to crank out a bunch of shit just to satisfy your impatience? Would you rather wait for a really long time in the hopes that a satisfying conclusion will someday come, or get a terrible conclusion immediately that you now have to live with forever?
I mean, think about what these writers are dealing with! The pressure on them is immense, and then they have to do one of the scariest things in the world and sit down in front of a blank screen or page and make something good. It makes me think of the feeling I get at a sporting event when fans boo a hometown player who is struggling. Every time I want to get up on the jumbotron and chastise the fans, “Yeah guys, that’s really going to help. He’s already having a miserable time so let’s heap more pressure and shame on him… that will help him turn things around.” What if folks like Martin and Rothfuss actually read these comments on some terrible day? Now, as a fan who supposedly loves this fabricated world, you have taken active steps to make it harder for the artist to finish the story you want to hear the end of.
In Martin’s case, the pressure just grows and grows. The success of the series and scrutiny he faces has grown astronomically in the almost two decades since the release of the first book. Which led me to an idea that, while not helping Rothfuss much, would at least help Martin lighten the load a bit.
Let’s make things fair! Martin’s first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series came out in 1996. Just about everyone I know who has read the books didn’t start until 2011 when the HBO show started. This means that most fans waited a minimum of 15 years before picking up the first installment. 15 years! And all fans have to do is read the books, Martin has to fucking write them! What I propose is that fans aren’t allowed to bitch about how long Martin is taking until they have been waiting for the next book for as long as it took them to pick up the first one. This means that the vast majority of you will be able to start complaining in 2026.
Sure, it would be better if people just stopped being assholes. If folks think it’s so easy to write the entirety of a satisfying story then they should just go and do it. Or, they could imagine what their work life would be like if they were subjected to similar sorts of scrutiny and criticism. Since that isn’t going to happen, maybe we can at least make things even in the sense that you can be expected to wait as long as George R.R. Martin waited for you to buy one of his books.