DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 1 2011

Perilous devotion

by Dea Anne M

I’ve become hooked on the HBO series A Game of Thrones which is based, of course, on the first book in the wildly popular epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice written by George R. R. Martin. My fellow blogger Jesse has posted here before on the excellence of Martin’s work and I have to say that  I am now looking forward to reading the books myself.

So what’s it like to be the creator of such a beloved series of books? Maybe the title of this post overstates the issue, but the New Yorker recently ran an interesting article about George R. R. Martin and his unique relationship with his fans. The devotion of of Martin’s readers has inspired such actions as naming children after characters in the books and establishing series related blogs  (like this one featured in Jesse’s recent post).  The series, originally planned as a trilogy, is now supposed to ultimately encompass seven books. Four books have been published already and a fifth volume,  A Dance With Dragons, will be appearing on July 12th this year.  Given the passion with which some readers regard A Song of Fire and Ice added to the fact that the previous title in the series, A Feast for Crows, appeared in 2005, it might not be surprising that some readers behave in a fashion that might seem a little…unhinged. Apparently, Martin has received unpleasant comments when he has posted about sporting events or vacations on his blog and there are a few blogs run by disaffected fans including one called Finish the Book, George.

How far will readers go to make their displeasure known and to what lengths will writers go to keep fans happy?

In 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle, who wanted to devote more of his time to historical fiction, “killed off” Sherlock Holmes. The outcry from fans of the intrepid detective was so great and prolonged that Doyle finally brought Holmes back to life in the 1901 short story “The Adventure of the Empty House” (included in The Complete Sherlock Holmes).

In 2008, fans of Stephanie Meyers’ extremely popular Twilight series were so disappointed with the final book, Breaking Dawn, that calls went out for readers to return books to their point-of-purchase place as a form of consumer protest. Meyers’ reaction on her website was a fairly sensible (to me, anyway) statement  “In the end, it’s just a book.”

In 2002, Maori novelist Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider,  began re-writing five previously published novels because he felt that they did not accurately reflect the political realities of the time in which they were set. He guaranteed to pay refunds to any reader unhappy with the new version of a title. As of the summer of 2009, he had paid out $673.

Finally who could forget the ultimate dissatisfied fan, Annie Wilkes? Memorably played by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film Misery based on Stephen King’s novel by the same name, Annie’s deadly antics as a novelist’s “number one fan” could chill the blood of even the most stalwart of writers. It’s enough to make you think twice about killing off a character…or even approaching the keyboard at all!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lesley B June 3, 2011 at 8:39 AM

Some people might be interested in Neil Gaiman’s take on the George R.R. Martin/reader entitlement issue – http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html

Warning: It’s brief and a bit rude.

Jimmy L June 3, 2011 at 4:38 PM

I couldn’t agree more with Neil Gaiman. Why do people think the world owes them something?

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