You see, a long time ago, there was a great fantasy author. His work was astounding in its complexity. He took a genre that was (largely) knockoffs of Tolkien and created a new world with new magic and new characters and deities and politics and everything else and made it work. I loved reading his books. This author's name was Robert Jordan, and the series was The Wheel of Time.
Now, about book 5 or 6 (and these books are between 800-1000 pages each) I began to get worried. It was so obvious that he had so very very much planned that it was going to take him . . . a while, definitely a while, to finish it all. In fact, the books were getting more worrisome. Characters that died (or should have died) kept coming back. There is one way to "permanently" kill characters in this universe, a spell called balefire, but it had only been used a handful of times, and I bet in his heart of hearts that Jordan regretted killing those characters with balefire. Less happened in each book. The plot moved forward more and more slowly. In book 7, hardly anything happened at all. I don't even think I made it through book 8. My brother Nathan assured me that nothing happened in it. That might have been book 9. I don't recall.
However, the other thing was that in the little bio of him at the back of every book there was a tantalizing line with a hint of prophecy and a taste of things to come. "He (Robert Jordan) intends to continue writing until they nail his coffin shut." I worried that he would have his coffin nailed shut before he finished the series, and that was another reason I stopped reading.
Turns out I was right.
Now, the story has a somewhat happy ending. A young fantasy writer posted something on his blog about how Jordan's books had inspired him to start writing, and Jordan's widow asked the publishing company if this young author could be the one commissioned to finish the Wheel of Time series. That's how my wonderful BYU professor Brandon Sanderson was commissioned to finish writing the last book.
There was so much planned for that last book that Brandon convinced them to let him split it into three, bringing the total books of the series to 14, with over 11k pages and 4 million words total. Wow.
Now, I'm eventually going to read the Song of Ice and Fire books, because they are in NPRs Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and I have a goal to complete the entire list, but I have a policy of not reading books until the entire series is out. Incidentally, this is also a policy adopted because of the Wheel of Time series, which is also on that list. Anyway, reading books before the series is finished is too frustrating for me. I don't have this same policy for TV shows, because if nobody watched them as they came out, they would all get canceled. I talked about a lot of the problems about TV and movies and good storytelling in my last blog post. That being said, I'm not sure my viewing counts, because it's frequently online through Hulu or Netflix, and those aren't counted, stupidly, in ratings. Shows like Stargate: Universe are cancelled because the ratings are low, even when they're actually very popular, and the ratings system is severely outdated. (SGU is currently rated at 4.1/5 stars by 584,831 people on Netflix, which is a rather large sample size if you ask me.) I myself actually really liked the show and was sad to see it cancelled.
Anyway, the Song of Ice and Fire books are known more commonly as the books the hit HBO show Game of Thrones is based on. I've stopped watching the show, because it's pretty vile. But even before I stopped, in the second season, it was starting to exhibit symptoms similar to the Wheel of Time series. Too much going on, not enough plot development, characters getting the short shrift, etc.
This picture rings pretty true to me. But after watching this youtube video today, I decided that I'm staking my claim down.
"If you keep writing so slow/
you'll hold up the HBO show" indeed.
George R. R. Martin will not finish the series before the HBO show catches up. You read it here first.