We’re taking a little R&R for the next few days, and maybe even taking a much needed internet/Twitter-cation. Check back daily for special features in the meantime!

Apropos of time off, Neil Gaiman discusses some fans’ “entitlement issues” and the working process:

Some writers need a while to charge their batteries, and then write their books very rapidly. Some writers write a page or so every day, rain or shine. Some writers run out of steam, and need to do whatever it is they happen to do until they’re ready to write again. Sometimes writers haven’t quite got the next book in a series ready in their heads, but they have something else all ready instead, so they write the thing that’s ready to go, prompting cries of outrage from people who want to know why the author could possibly write Book X while the fans were waiting for Book Y.

I remember hearing an upset comics editor telling a roomful of other editors about a comics artist who had taken a few weeks off to paint his house. The editor pointed out, repeatedly, that for the money the artist would have been paid for those weeks’ work he could easily have afforded to hire someone to paint his house, and made money too. And I thought, but did not say, “But what if he wanted to paint his house?”

In the meantime, here’s some art by Aidan ‘BRUTE! Hughes, best known for his cover art to KMFDM’s catalog.


  1. Ah, Heidi, you left out the best bit of the quote above, which was based on a reader question:

    [quote]Look, this may not be palatable …, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:

    George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

    This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.[/quote]

    Truly, I’ll refer back to this when I read that artist so-and-so is late on Book X.

  2. I’ve always been flabbergasted by the idea that creators “owe” their fans (Peter David has written excellent “But I Digress” columns on the subject). I’m a fan of certain creators because they consistently provide entertainment that’s worth more to me than the time and money I trade for it. By what logic does that lead to the conclusion that they owe me something?

  3. Yeah… go read the entire journal entry.

    Surprisingly, J .K. Rowling did not seem to suffer from fans’ anticipation.

    Another author I follow blogs regularly, which also helps to stem “fanticipation”. She has a percentage slider which shows progress on her latest draft, has a countdown clock (she had a contest for her fans to create one for her) for her next title, and has been posting teaser quotes from the upcoming book.

    Now… if an author announces a date for a title, and then fails (sometimes repeatedly) to meet that date, then, yes, fans have a right to complain on whichever forum they wish, with the understanding that it will not speed the publication of the title. (This is similar to honking horns in traffic. Traffic does not move more quickly, but it allows drivers to vent.)

    “Blankety-blank Harper Lee… when’s she gonna…”

  4. I suppose this is another example of how “commercial artist” is an oxymoron. Most people don’t really get to decide when they are going to work or on what. There’s usually some boss dictating what we do.

    But then you get into the artistic side of things and that’s where allowances have to made.

  5. It’s always wonderful when the self-loathing of the comic audience is reinforced by pros. Instead of commenting on how George R.R. Martin is not the readers bitch, Gaiman might have remarked on how fortunate George R.R. Martin is to have fans that care enough about his work to want more of it as quickly as they can get it. Is there any other area of entertainment where the audience is so consistantly told that they should care LESS about the product being sold to them?


  6. Heidi sez:
    “We’re taking a little R&R for the next few days, and maybe even taking a much needed internet/Twitter-cation…”

    I’m on Twitter-cation myself.
    I got plenty of work done thanks to not following those time lines. I’ll return, but on my terms, and when I bloody well feel like it.

    As for the Gaiman quote, I’m right there with him. I couldn’t agree more. What if he wanted to paint his house? I’d rather read inspired work than some chopped out hash that made the deadline. It’s not like there’s only one writer in the world. In this day and age there is TOO much to read as it is. If one creator needs the time then it provides me time for another.

    However, I’m not running about like a dog in bliss, I understand the publisher’s / retailer’s / industry’s / reader’s side of it, too. The trick is always the balance, and how that comes varies with each creator.

  7. The way I see it, any time an author spends appreciating the good fortune of a sizable audience that wants more work from them is time that could have been spent ass in seat making me more words to read.

  8. “Is there any other area of entertainment where the audience is so consistantly told that they should care LESS about the product being sold to them?”

    I don’t know, but there are certainly plenty of places in entertainment where the customers are disdained. There are even names for customers in some of them: “marks,” “fanboys,” etc.

  9. As I’m trying to seriously approach a writing career, I’ve been derailed, sidetracked and burnt out. I completely appreciate all the writers and artists who provide me with entertainment. I may forget that at times and lash out illogically, but I honestly am in awe of creators who produce 22 pages of script/art in 30 days. Hopefully someday I can reach something approximating that level of dedication.

  10. I would love to paint my house for the next few weeks, but I have a job with deadlines and a boss who doesn’t want me taking a vacation. In that context, then yes, I have no right to expect to just take off and paint my house. Now, if I was my own boss and didn’t really have a deadline, than that’s a different thing. I feel this is often where the whole discussion goes off the tracks. If we’re talking about a serial work, where some sort of promise has been made to the audience that the next installment will be delivered by a certain date, then the whole wanting to paint the house thing is just being a jerk. On the other hand, if it’s a bunch of one-off projects and there’s really no promise on when the next is coming, then go ahead and paint all the houses you like.

  11. Thing is Nate, Gaiman is talking about people who are in the top tier of writers and can spend time “growing roses” or painting their house. Once you get out of the big leagues, the money is seriously dire – a friend of mine cranks out tie-in fiction, I was amazed at how poor the money is and how many projects they have to have on the go to have some decent standard of living.

    Fuck – I even *paid* a writer friend (who’s name would be familar to fans of a certain franchise) to paint my house so he’s have money to pay his rent.

  12. People need to get over themselves.

    Reading something a person has written is not an invitation to be a consultant on the next one.

    This is why message boards exist. You go to message boards to rant about a common interest with the other members, and I believe that’s justifiable as long as it’s within reason. Contacting the Author directly and telling them to write with the quickness isn’t really helpful or reasonable. Even insulting the Author on a message board doesn’t really help and only makes you look like an asshole even if you have hundreds of people chiming in with a resounding “Yeah, what you said!”

    I’d rather have it good than now. Relax and get a life.

  13. Charles, I’m sorry if something I said somehow implied a “working stiff” writer doesn’t have every right to go and do other, better paying work, to get by. I mean, yeah, a non top-teir guy…I feel bad for them because even I know if you’re working in that world, you’re doing it for the love, not the money. In that sense, yes, absolutely go and paint houses or anything else that can make life better for yourself.

    I’m talking about sort of the Rob Liefeld thing where it’s like if you tell your audience you’ll produce work by this certain date, and you left them on a cliff-hanger – no matter how crappy that cliff-hanger may be – then I feel like you should have that work done by that date. I mean, sure, things happen, but if it’s just that you got the urge to run off and go skiing – you’re being a jerk.

    Like, here’s an example…. Alan Moore is notoriously late on projects. But 99% of what he does, he kinda goes in saying “Look, you really shouldn’t get your hopes up, but I’m looking at this date.” If he wants to go paint houses, cool, paint away, he just gave us a ballpark, not a definitive date. On the other hand, if he was to be like “I promise to have books out every month…” then it’s like, well show and prove.

    And Vox, you’re absolutely right. Harassing people to write or draw or whatever is just uncalled for. Would I like more Alan Moore work? Sure, who wouldn’t? But will I call him up once a week and be like, “Hey Alan, put down the sock puppet and hit the keyboard!” No, that’s just silly.

  14. All I know is your blog has been such a staple in my information diet I am going through withdrawls. Makes me realize how good your blog is when it’s not there in my RSS feeds…hope you enjoy your well-earned R&R.

  15. I don’t see anything wrong with thinking a writer owes you something, being pissy and childish when they don’t “deliver,” poking pins in voodoo dolls of them or any of that other dumb crap people want to do.

    What you DON’T have the right to do is harass the writer in question. Besides, his editor has a bigger cudgel than you do, anyway.

  16. “I don’t see anything wrong with thinking a writer owes you something”

    This is where the problem begins because they don’t. Their job is writing not giving you what you want when you want it. Dates of publication are the assurances of the publisher not the writer.

    Some people understand that their outrage is to vent about their anticipation of the work, and some people are actually outraged that the author isn’t chained to the desk with their eyes pried open and an I.V. drip of stimulants in the arm hammering away at the work they’re waiting on. Unfortunately, these two factions are not easy to identify by their comments alone. I’m part of the first group. I say if a weekend in vegas with some hookers gets the creative juices flowing (no pun intended) but forces a delay in publication, then that’s fine with me.

    You can’t rush perfection.

  17. I think the expectations work both ways. I don’t expect a writer or artist to crank out product just because “I” want to read it. Not all creatives like to work to inflexible timelines.
    But when I want to buy something, and there is nothing new from that writer or artist when I have the disposable money to spend, I’ll look around and buy the work of someone else.
    This is a pretty open arrangement, with neither party having “rights”, but maybe expectations.
    The writer and artist provide a service of entertainment. I’ll buy their stuff but am under no obligation to support them. They are under no obligation to write or draw for a living either.

  18. Sorry, E360. I’m with Neil.

    Creative types don’t dig ditches or build roads–that’s hard, physical work.

    But anyone who thinks writing serial fiction or drawing a monthly comic is easy has attempted to do neither.

  19. “This is where the problem begins because they don’t.”

    Of course they don’t. But lots of people walk around thinking stupid shit all day, and the sky doesn’t fall. Just leave the creatives alone and everybody will be okay.

  20. Is it ok to agree to a point? I’m perfectly fine with author X taking time out to deal with life issues, paint their house, whatever. Particularly with books, where there is no set time frame that the audience should anticipate that the next part of a series comes out.

    But with comics, there do tend to be expectations. Solicitations come out saying “expect this issue of Captain Wonderful in August”, which, while not a contract, should constitute at least an informal understanding between the consumer and creator. And when that deadline isn’t met… well, the root of all anger is frustrated expectations.

    Rob Liefeld isn’t my bitch. But isn’t it reasonable to expect he will finish the second of a two-part series that he started months and months ago before he starts on another book? Where is the line between “respecting the creative process” and “anger that a creator got bored with a story after they made the real money putting out the first issue”?

  21. I think in the case of George R.R. Martin it depends whether he indicated the book would come out at a certain time or not. If he said, “It’ll be ready when it’s ready,” then no delivery date was ever implied. If he said it would come out in 2007 and here we are two years later, some might have reason to wonder why. J.K. Rowling did issue statements during the time she was writing the Harry Potter books so that if it was going to be 3 years between books, she basically said so and her fans lived with it.

  22. “You can’t rush perfection.”

    A) There is no such thing as “perfection” in art, and B) even if there were, 99 percent of the stuff that gets delayed the longest actually, in an ironic twist, tends to be the FURTHEST removed from perfection – unless, of course, your definitions of “perfection” include Kevin Smith’s Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, or Damon Lindeolof’s Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine.

    Yes, delays are sometimes necessary, sometimes inevitable, and sometimes even preferable, but not in most cases. Now, if you’re not making any promises as to when your next work will come out, then, hey, fair enough, but if, like a LOT of creators, you make REPEATED promises as to when your work will come out, and you repeatedly BREAK them? Then go fuck yourself, really.

  23. “Then go fuck yourself, really. ”

    I feel the same way about you taking what is obviously a glib phrase meant to bring some semblance of levity to the discussion and using it as your personal soapbox for crying about your comicy bookies not coming in every week.

    Shit happens. Sometimes you need to paint your damn house or take a vacation to get out of your head for a while, and if it’s too much for you to handle having to wait for a story you supposedly care about reading, then go fuck yourself, really.

  24. “Shit happens. Sometimes you need to paint your damn house or take a vacation to get out of your head for a while…”

    I need to do those things, but my boss says I still have to come to work.

  25. How unusual would it be for a writer who has a multi-book contract with a publisher to not be committed to producing a number of books within a certain timeframe, say, three books in four years? If he doesn’t have a contract, if every book he produces is an independent business proposition, then he can do whatever he likes.