Monday, September 20, 2010

Emotionally Invested

a-game-of-thrones eye_of_the_world way-of-kings Sometimes a series grips me so deeply that I lose a part of myself to it. Almost like a relationship I feel a strong emotional connection to the characters, the story, and even the author. And because I feel so strongly it happens that sometimes an author does something that disappoints, or even hurts my feelings a little bit. Such has been the case with two modern fantasy series. A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time. Both are sweeping fantasy epics, both are insanely popular, and both are unfinished.

I came to the Wheel of Time when book 8 was just about to be published. I devoured them all quickly and was left waiting for more, then waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The remaining books dribbled out sometimes with years between them. Soon I became frustrated with Jordan, I questioned his choices, then I got angry, I condemned him, the pacing of the tale, the seemingly endless number unnecessary characters, the superfluous POVs all combined to turn me off the series that I loved. The straw that broke the camel’s back, he published a PREQUEL. I could not understand it, but I read it, and I loved it, one of my favorite books in the series. But it still annoyed me enough that I decided I was done with the series. Why, in the middle of this long drawn out affair, did he feel like the flow needed to be interrupted with a prequel? It was too much for me, I have not picked up a Wheel of Time book since.

When Robert Jordan got sick I made up with him, I visited his blog often to see how he was doing. I was really pulling for him, and still had decided I was not going to finish reading the series, but a big part of me wanted to know it was finished. Like a long departed girlfriend, I cared about the series once, and I wanted the best for it. But things did not work out the way I had hoped and Mr. Jordan passed away, I felt silly about the things I had said in frustration. I celebrated his accomplishments, and I hoped the series would be picked up and finished to his original notes. But I still had not planned on reading it, even less so now that I would never know if it was Jordan’s vision on the page or someone else’.

I have still been feeling some resentment towards Mr. George R.R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series. In my opinion this is the best epic fantasy series I have ever read, and the fact that I am still waiting for another book is really hurting my feelings. Doesn't Mr. Martin understand how much I have invested into his characters!? What bothers me most about the way Martin is handling the series is the cavalier attitude he has towards his fans. He has not updated on the progress of a Dance With Dragons on his official update page since Jan. 1, 2008, and the last book was published in 2005. In his blog Martin once stated he does not understand his reader’s frustration, that statement made me feel like he was not connected to his fan base. In the meantime he has completed a handful of other projects, with no update on the progress of his half-decade awaited novel. In the end it is Martin’s prerogative to work on what he pleases, he could scrap the whole series now and would not have to justify it to me or anyone else. Yet there is a sense of anxiety when something you love is in the hands of someone else, and I keep finding myself taking out my frustration, as unjustified as it is, on the authors who created and love these stories as much as I do.

Enter Brandon Sanderson and The Stormlight Archive Series. I am sitting here with The Way of Kings on my Nook, chewing my fingernails in despair. Sanderson has stated this will be a 10 book affair published on a 2 books per 3 year schedule. That means by picking up this novel I am risking the same sort of attachment and a 15 year commitment. Am I the type of reader who can handle it? I would like to think I am, but I just do not know. One thing is certain, however, Sanderson is a fantastic fantasy writer. He has single handedly reignited my interest in the Wheel of Time, and in an ode to Mr. Jordan I will one day finish the series. It makes me happy to write that, like I have found closure.

I think I have erred in approaching these types of series. Instead of a whirlwind love affair, an involvement with epic fantasy is a lifetime commitment one that requires patience and understanding. It is important that a reader leave his sense of entitlement at the door in favor of respect, the author wants the best for his books as well. And a show of support will probably go a long way in making sure the stories you want to read are released in a timely manner. The best part of these series is not in the initial read through but the anticipation of the next plot twist, the entertaining discourse with fellow fans, and the lasting mark they make on the reader. A great thing about epic fantasy series, is one thing I have often condemned, they don’t end quickly, I am not left feeling a little sad that I have read all there is to read about my favorite characters. I feel like the frustration is a sign of how much I love a story, if I did not love it I would not care.

So Mr. Jordan, Mr. Martin, accept my apologies, please, and know I am a loyal fan. Mr. Sanderson, I am about to let you hook me.


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