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Ser Scot A Ellison

Does starting a series create an implied agreement that the series will be completed?

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Hmm...if we start a series is there an "implied agreement" with the author to buy/read the entire series?

I don't think so.  But then I don't feel there is an implied agreement, guarantee, or obligation in either direction.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

What constitutes a "Good Faith Effort"?  Why is Rothfuss not offering one but GRRM is?

 

It's obviously an abstract term, but everything that Rothfuss has done leads me to believe he isn't making an effort to write the book. Martin, on the other hand, I believe legitimately wants to finish the books. This is just my own interpretation based on what they have said and done in public in the years since the last releases. 

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Grrm finishing or at least providing the end in some form helps too. 

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Let's differentiate a series from a multi-volume novel.

A series is a bunch of stories that are self-contained in their own right, but which also constitute part of a wider whole. Discworld being a good example, along with Conan, Sherlock Holmes, and so on. By contrast, a multi-volume novel is really just one very long book chopped up into smaller books. LOTR (by accident), ASOIAF, Kingkiller, and so on.

I don't think anyone really has a right to complain about the former - there's nothing left hanging, and it really is up to the author if they write any more (though the publisher can certainly have a thing to say. Just ask Frank Baum and Arthur Conan Doyle).

The latter is trickier. Would you buy a book with half the pages missing, on the promise that you'll be getting the other half later? That's pretty much the way multi-volume novels work, and the problem arises when the other half aren't delivered.

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While I get the "GRRM is not your bitch" argument, I personally find it extremely annoying.  The implication (or often explicit statement) that artists don't owe their fans anything is ridiculous to me...artists without fans are poor and grumpy so where does a Rothfuss get off being rich and grumpy?  His fans made him successful and pretending to be on some high mount where the little fans' complaints are but mutters on the wind is ungrateful at the least and, yeah, pretty immoral at the worst.  Disdaining the people who enabled your success is not what I'd call a positive character trait.

I do think there's a degree to this and not all examples are created equal.  I admit I'm probably biased because I like GRRM and can't stand Rothfuss but GRRM seems to be working his best and appears to truly be a gardener.  Rothfuss wouldn't be so irksome if he hadn't engaged in all that heavy-handed and arrogant marketing at the outset.  This guy has done the exact opposite of what he said he would...in what other field or career could you say "I'll do x and y and be done by this date" and then just bomb the whole thing and play the victim?  If he'd do some sort of mea culpa and shine some more light on the issues and show some humility, I think it would go a long way towards earning good will.  But as long as he's faffing around with this and that and the other thing and telling people to shut up about the whole reason anyone cares about his "art," why shouldn't the fans feel cheated?  

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unJon, look what you did :P

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4 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

The latter is trickier. Would you buy a book with half the pages missing, on the promise that you'll be getting the other half later? That's pretty much the way multi-volume novels work, and the problem arises when the other half aren't delivered.

I agree that it is trickier (and also that loose series should not create any expectations, even less obligations). But it is still somewhat different.

If I am honest I have to admit that I would have bought, say Harry Potter 4 (I had borrowed the first three) or Game of Thrones even if there had been a high uncertainty about these series ever being finished. I did not really think about the problem at all so it did not really enter into the decision process. Admittedly, I got into Harry Potter a few months before the 4th book came out and the books had appeared regularly in the past, so there was probably a silent and reasonable assumption that the remaining volumes would follow in decent intervals. Similarly, I got late into ASoIaF (Janurary 2011) and had only been dimly aware of the fact that books 4 and 5 had taken longer to finish than expected. So I cannot really claim to have entered into an agreement about later books when buying the earlier ones.

But I have talked to people who claimed that they never start multi-volume books before all have appeared because they would be too impatient or too disappointed if the later volumes took very long to appear or would never show up at all.

I cannot deny that I was quite disappointed both by the quality of DwD and by the extreme delay of the 6th volume. I feel mix of annoyance and pity with the author who seems to be stalling because he fears that he will not be able to finish the series at all, at least not on the level of quality he has set for himself. But it would be unfair to say that my enjoyment of the first three books in early 2011 is now marred in retrospective because the series got worse and might never be finished. This is simply not true although I am disappointed at the slow and weak continuation. And I do not really care anymore. I'd love to get the threads tied up and some kind of conclusion (although I am pretty certain that the level of the first books will never be reached again). But if not, it's no big deal anymore for me. In that case I will eventually watch the TV series (I have seen it up to the Oberyn-Mountain duel and Tyrion's flight) to get some kind of wrap-up.

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I agree that there is some nebulous form of obligation to at least try to finish. If no-one bought uncompleted series, no series would get completed, unless writing was not for the primary purpose of making a regular income, and who can do that these days? Essentially, therefore, the author is saying, I cannot afford to wait 20 years in the uncertain hope that my seven volume completed series gets published all in one go, so I'm going to ask you to fund my existence as I finish what is essentially a single book. Having done so, in some cases very lucratively, the least the author owes to their readers is, illness or other unavoidable circumstances apart, a genuine effort to finish the damn book. If the readers have contributed to such an extent that you get rich and decide you don't have any further need to finish the book, the readers have a justified reason to be very, very pissed off, and the failed author has no right to be pissed off with their anger and disappointment.

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14 hours ago, Kalbear said:

And I think it depends a lot on the why.

If (for example) an author has a long history of taking time to write, is fairly honest about it, and attempts reasonably to keep people up to date, it's a lot easier to give them less anger about it. If an author instead states that the trilogy is already basically written, it'll be out every year (unlike that Other Author, hah!) and you can expect quick hits - well, getting angry at that author because they basically lied is pretty reasonable, as they were using their supposed speed of releasing as a feature to their series. 

In either case, I think that an explanation of why things didn't happen the way they were implied to by the 'first in a trilogy' thing is something that is owed. And I think outrage over that is reasonable depending on what the explanation is. Promises are broken all the time to kids too, and sometimes the reason why is totally acceptable and fair, but if you make a promise and break it saying what the cause was is about as big a norm as we have.

Rothfuss is an extreme case. No other author is trying to sell "completed trilogy/series" from the start. He has basically been caught in a lie. He has no valid excuse for what he did. Period. People are reasonable when they expect the finished trilogy from him when that is what he CLAIMED they will get. It is not a case of "I will do my best to finish the series", but rather a case of "trilogy is already finished and you will get the whole trilogy within two years from first book's release". There's a huge difference between the two.

A disclaimer for Scott - I'm not saying that some legal action can be taken against Rothfuss. I'm just saying it's a dick move from his side.

9 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

What constitutes a "Good Faith Effort"?  Why is Rothfuss not offering one but GRRM is?

Basically, because it's not allowed to claim GRRM is not offering a "good faith effort" on this board. ;) 

Joking aside, like every other author I can think of at the moment, GRRM hasn't claimed that the series (originally intended as trilogy) is done and one book from the series will be released every year. Could you imagine the backlash he would've gotten had he done that?

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Rawn is apparently writing The Captal's Tower right now, and has been for the past two years. There's been no update or progress report, but that's perhaps understandable. If we go another year or two without any news and maybe the announcement of a new trilogy, we can assume she couldn't get back into finishing it.

 

Quote

 

Joking aside, like every other author I can think of at the moment, GRRM hasn't claimed that the series (originally intended as trilogy) is done and one book from the series will be released every year. Could you imagine the backlash he would've gotten had he done that?

 

We should note that, even given the massively increased interest from the TV show, the wait for Winds of Winter has been far less rancourous, angry and spiteful than that for ADWD. The primary reason for that appears to have been GRRM's infamous note in the back of AFFC indicating that ADWD would follow a year later. What genuine anger there has been for WoW followed his New Year's Day 2016 update indicating that he hoped to get the book out in a year or so, even caveating that this was an aspiration, not a promise. This just seems to vindicate GRRM's instinct not to provide any updates at all.

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I tell or read my kids bed-time stories and there always comes a point where I tell them that now it's time to sleep and tomorrow evening I'll continue. I could of course decide that I have better things to do or that I'd like to begin another story or whatever. And sometimes I find it very, very tedious because I am tired myself or the story is not interesting at all (my kids love it though), so the temptation is there.

Of course they couldn't sue me. That's a ridiculous idea. But of course they would feel disappointed if I were to break our agreement and they would tell me in no uncertain Terms.

And that's a bit how I feel about this: Of course there are valid reasons and I am an adult man who can deal with his emotions (hopefully), but there's a certain disappointment with Rothfuss and also GRRM that makes me wary of future annoucements and projects.

Edited by Alarich II

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If we're talking expectations and promises: ASoIaF was promised as a trilogy. It's now up to five books and will likely be at least seven, if completed.

How does that scenario (very common in the genre) affect the alleged 'implied agreement'? You were promised three books and got more, so is the agreement fulfilled? What does 'completed' even mean, here? The number of books? No? Ok, the 'end of the story'? But Robin Hobb 'completed' the story of Fitz and the Fool, and then it turned out it wasn't completed at all, so... has she broken an 'implied agreement' to end the story at the end of the trilogy? Is that bad? Or is it OK? If the first three books of ASoIaF are arguably a trilogy, just one that ends before the story as a whole is complete (as some do), then has that agreement been fulfilled?

What about prequels that change the original story in some respect? Breaking an 'implied agreement' by altering the 'complete' story, or not?

What about series handed off to another author? Completing the story, so fulfilling the agreement? Or can the 'promise' only be fulfilled by the original author?

I'm not really serious with any of these questions, just trying to point out how nebulous and absurd this whole discussion is, and how the premises go unexamined, and people ignore how complicated real life (and storytelling) actually is.

The root of this whole debate boils down to: sometimes in life, people are disappointed and frustrated. Human nature in those situations is to relieve those negative feelings by finding someone to blame. That is not always a healthy reaction, or a fair one, but there it is. So people will always look at stuff like this vague 'moral obligation' to justify that reaction. If it works for you, OK: just so long as you don't take it to the point where you start spitting venom and harassing people who, bluntly, don't owe you another single word.

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Comparing adults to children in all this is an interesting approach. 

Now imagine you couldn't continue reading the story because you literally could not continue it -- lets imagine that, for a time, you lost the ability to read, or perhaps you could with only enormous difficulty and much squinting. Or perhaps you've come down with some more benign but very uncomfortable illness.

Your first instinct, I guess, would be to go to bed (if you have the flu) and get some rest, or perhaps (if suddenly finding it impossible to read) to go to the hospital to find out what's happened. Assuming you tell your kids what's going on as to why you can't continue reading to them, what would most people make of children who's initial response is, "But you promised!" and not, "Oh, I hope you feel better, Daddy!"?

Edited by Ran

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My kids reaction would probably be something like this: But Daddy, when you get better, you will continue the story. Which basically means that the story will need an ending. And sometimes I just declare that the story is now finished. And that any open questions will be part of another story for another time, that I may or may not tell them, depending on [insert whatever].

Kids and adults - depending on their emotional maturity - will accept that there are circumstances where the continuation of a story to it's end is not possible even if the author did imply or outright announce that there would be a continuation. However, this is a matter of communication and not all cicumstances are considered equally valid.

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1 hour ago, mormont said:

 

I'm not really serious with any of these questions, just trying to point out how nebulous and absurd this whole discussion is, and how the premises go unexamined, and people ignore how complicated real life (and storytelling) actually is.

The root of this whole debate boils down to: sometimes in life, people are disappointed and frustrated. Human nature in those situations is to relieve those negative feelings by finding someone to blame. That is not always a healthy reaction, or a fair one, but there it is. So people will always look at stuff like this vague 'moral obligation' to justify that reaction. If it works for you, OK: just so long as you don't take it to the point where you start spitting venom and harassing people who, bluntly, don't owe you another single word.

 

I don't htink it's nebulous or absurd at all. Authors sell books of partially completed series to fans with the expectation that those series will be completed. Yes, life gets in the way, things happen.  But if an author is just choosing to not write the story, that's problematic. That is what Rothfuss's public actions and words have led many of us to believe. If that's not the case, it would be very easy for him to dispel that by making a statement similar to what Martin has done. Instead, he's chosen to berate the fans who have purchased installments of his incompleted series and are justifiably wanting to know when they can expect the final volume.

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15 minutes ago, sperry said:

 

 

I don't htink it's nebulous or absurd at all. Authors sell books of partially completed series to fans with the expectation that those series will be completed. Yes, life gets in the way, things happen.  But if an author is just choosing to not write the story, that's problematic. That is what Rothfuss's public actions and words have led many of us to believe. If that's not the case, it would be very easy for him to dispel that by making a statement similar to what Martin has done. Instead, he's chosen to berate the fans who have purchased installments of his incompleted series and are justifiably wanting to know when they can expect the final volume.

I don't like the way Rothfuss has addressed his fans either.  But the core question here is what does an artist owe to the people who buy their work?  Is the work they have made available for purchase enough or do they owe us something more.  You seem to argue they do... I don't believe they do.  It's nice when they communicate as we might prefer but that is coming from them gratis, it is not owed to us.  

Rothfuss appears to be an unusual case as he has actively expressed disdain and anger at his fans that is wrong of him, but, that doesn't mean we are owed anything from him and I suspect his anger comes because of the somewhat entitled attitude some take when it comes to the long overdue third book in his series.

 

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19 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

How is it a promise?  The author cannot know if they will be alive the next day to finish the series.  It is a statement of intent, perhaps, but that doesn't, necessarily, constitute a promise.  I really think it can also be seen as a warning "first book might not finish buy at your own risk".

In that case there would not be such a thing as a promise.  Nobody can know if they will be alive to fulfill any promise by the very nature of how it is defined.

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10 minutes ago, aceluby said:

In that case there would not be such a thing as a promise.  Nobody can know if they will be alive to fulfill any promise by the very nature of how it is defined.

Ace,

See my post just above yours.  It clarifies my position.

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Does starting a series create an implied agreement that the series will be completed?

Yes, because without this implied agreement not many people will buy books marketed as "Part 1 of series X". It's not like the author is giving out the book for free. If it's sold as book one of a series then there is definitely an implied agreement that finishing the story will be attempted, if the author can't finish the story for whatever reason then that's out of his/her hand.

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20 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

 But the core question here is what does an artist owe to the people who buy their work?  Is the work they have made available for purchase enough or do they owe us something more.  You seem to argue they do... 

 

And he's right to argue that. There is an obvious moral obligation on the part of the author of a multi volume series such as a trilogy to continue and complete the story. Implicit agreement between supplier and reader that the remaining 60% of the book's chapters will follow. 

Of course this has now been pointed out to you by several others as well, such as Kalbear who made a couple of very apt points on this subject, and Sperry and Hereward as well. I could continue the discussion I had with you in the Scott Lynch thread as well but this gets us absolutely nowhere, you will bang your head against the wall until it's bloodied on all sides. I don't think there is really any discussion going on here, just a constant restating of " there's no obligation whatsoever, authors are artists and they can do whatever the hell they like!" vs " of course there is a moral obligation, authors are not exempt from normal values, the expectation is perfectly reasonable". 

In addition, this is not about Rothfuss, he's an outlier. Any author that publishes book 1 of a marketed trilogy has an implicit agreement with and moral obligation to the reader who gives his trust to him, to continue to produce the rest of the story. Obviously they might fail, and obviously it is not a legal obligation, but without the implicit understanding that the trilogy will be continued and the reader actually gets to read the conclusion to the story, this stuff is going to get sold to a much smaller degree.

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