George R.R. Martin and Black Gate

I know, I know. I should have a post up on fantasy besides the medieval. But, I’m still not sure how I should approach it. Should I rattle off a list and give ideas or should I give one or two specific examples of non feudal fantasy? I should have it figured out by tomorrow or Saturday.

Anyway, on to a quick defense of George R.R. Martin. Over at Black Gate, Scott Taylor has a post up arguing that the perceived decline in quality of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons is attributable to Martin’s age. He is, according to Taylor, past his prime. He points to sports where most players start to decline after their early thirties as an analogy. To prove his point he lists eleven writers, their “best” work, and their periods of best writing.

As has been pointed out by Matthew David Surridge and Sarah Avery in the comments, there are a lot of problems with Taylor’s argument. Surridge is right to point out that most famous does not equal best and provides a longer list of writers who do not seem to have an “expiration date.” Avery points out a brilliant reason why Martin’s output on A Song of Ice and Fire is so long.

The reason, and I happen to agree with her, is that Martin has a huge amount of information to keep track of. While most readers may not catch mistakes, some readers will (and make a stink about it). Yes, Martin can hire assistants and utilize fan made reference works, but the onus is on him to get it right. There is also the issue of the Merrenese Knot. That and the abandoned time skip has likely caused much of the problems that Martin has faced in the past ten years.

Now, I won’t deny that A Song of Ice and Fire is out of control as a narrative and needs some serious pruning. The series has likely expanded far beyond what Martin had originally intended it to be, and it will be an interesting test of his skills as a writer to get everything back under control for the final two books. And maybe he’ll actually start killing more pov characters. I mean a wholesale slaughter.

Now, this post has brought to mind other recent posts by Black Gate bloggers that have bugged me (and not all of them by Theo). Sometimes, I wish the magazine would focus more on fiction on their website rather than review and criticism. If there is a huge back log of fiction submissions and the print magazine only comes out maybe twice a year, then maybe it would be wise to include more fiction online (rather than just excerpts and the single complete story from each issue).  Many readers have pointed out a desire for more adventure fantasy, and Black Gate could reassert its position as the paramount magazine of this form of fantasy by publishing more stories and less criticism.

Okay, that’s it for today. Any way, look to tomorrow for a post on fantasy beyond the medieval.


Posted on January 26, 2012, in Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Well, I already had a response to the Black Gate article long before Scott Taylor wrote it:

    The time machine behind the outhouse sure comes in handy sometimes…

    • Ah, yes! Thanks for reminding me about that post. I just reread it and remembered how much I liked it the first time. I don’t think Martin is past his prime, I agree that he is in the middle of the Epic Fantasy Series Doldrums. He’s faltered on some scores, but how he finishes the series will rightly determine how the series as a whole will be looked at. (But I still think he should still slaughter the POV cast).
      One thing that I’ve wondered about is how manga artists with long running series handle the continuity and keep their series fresh.

  2. > If there is a huge back log of fiction submissions and the
    > print magazine only comes out maybe twice a year, then
    > maybe it would be wise to include more fiction online
    > (rather than just excerpts and the single complete story
    > from each issue)

    Hey SFTheory1,

    This is a great idea, and we’ve thought about it.

    The trouble is that selecting and editing fiction for the website takes up that most important asset — editorial time. I’d rather use what little extra time I have every week selecting fiction for the magazine.

    The great thing about the blog is that the posts don’t take up ANY of my time. About 75% of them are written by folks other than me, and I don’t see them until they post (sometimes my jaw hits the floor as a result, like with Scott Taylor’s GRRM article, but anyway).

    So saying we shouldn’t have some much criticism and reviews on the site, and replace it with fiction, sounds great in theory, but isn’t likely to happen soon, no matter how much we want it to. It’s not a zero-sum game, and I consider myself lucky to have so many talented folks blogging on the BG site as it is.

    Speaking of which, I’ve enjoyed your blog, and you should do a guest spot for us on the BG blog next month. Drop me a note and we’ll set it up. (But not this week — I’m leaving the country for 10 days on Saturday).

    John O’Neill
    Black Gate

    • John,
      Thanks for the comment. I see the problem adding more fiction to the site would cause (given that blogging takes up no editorial time). Maybe, like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m just growing tired of criticism (especially when I don’t know if the discussion is advancing). It does add fuel to some of my blog posts, though.
      I’m happy that you’ve enjoyed my blog, and I’ll definitely get in touch with you after you get back from your trip. Hopefully, your trip is a good one.

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