With the beginning of new year I was at least expecting an update about the status of the book. Good news, bad news, even the same rhetorical lines, I was only hoping in some kind of update to know where he stands. I expected it because the last one was written the 1st January 08, where he wrote he was hoping to finish the book before the summer. Then the summer arrived and it became obvious that he was not yet done (like Iktovian). One year later, not yet done still. But I was at least hoping that he would write us a page. Not of apologies, just of honest update.
As always there are plenty of fans that defend GRRM and the books, and justify every kind of delay as something ultimately good. The arguments are usually two. The first is that more time equals to a better book. The second comes right from GRRM, saying that in the next years it won’t matter when the books came out or how long it took to write them, but just their quality. Meaning that he wants to write for future readers as he wants for current ones, and he cares more about doing the thing right than do it in time.
I write about this because I kind of disagree with both arguments. Against the first I already argued many times. Statistically it seems that the best books from an author or in a series are the ones that took LESS time to write. When the author starts to struggle and need more and more time to complete a book, said book is usually disappointing and below expectations when it is out. Specifically I also believe that more than time = quality, the more meaningful equivalence is: necessity = quality. If you look at the past of Fantasy and Science Fiction genre you see a number of writers that at the time wrote for specialized magazines. They wrote to make money and eat, out of necessity. This means that they HAD to write quickly and favor quantity over quality. Today that time is considered a Golden Age. Only few writers have the luxury to break deadlines without worries and I believe that this can be useful as it can be detrimental. Sometimes better things come out of a scarcity and strong determination, opposed to the whimsical, fickle inspiration.
The other aspect is about considering the book outside its time. Tolkien is still popular today, as are plenty of other classics. It’s the vocation of every writer to transcend time and embrace immortality. The book is in itself immanent and defying time. But at the same time I consider this an unrespectful claim. If you truly like a genre, you hope it to flourish. You’ll try to write books the best you can, you’ll hope to reach people and have success, but you ought also to be willingly to see it exist and flourish WITHOUT you. I don’t know where the genre will go, if it will expand or slowly fade into a niche. A lot depends on how the culture goes. As long there’s a focused interest, good things will continue to come out. So, sure, let’s hope that Martin finishes the book and it kicks ass, and then completes the series in the way he wants. But I also sure hope that in the next years new writers will come that will try to match and even surpass Martin. I think that ultimately that should be the hope, that the apprentice surpasses the master.
If that doesn’t happen then the genre is as good as dead, and the role of the master diminished.