Okay, first off I have to say I’ve had a HUGE crush on Neil Gaiman for over a decade (his works include The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and Stardust, to name only a few out of a vast amount of work he has accomplished in his years). Not only is he multi-talented, he also had the cojones to tell a fan the famous quote for which this blog post is titled. Not your bitch. So, what was he talking about? He was responding to a fan letter asking him about reader entitlements regarding George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. The letter on Gaiman’s online journal said this:
I’ve recently subscribed to George RR Martin’s blog (http://grrm.livejournal.com/) in the hopes of getting some inside information regarding when the next “Song of Ice and Fire” book is due to be released. I love the series but since subscribing to the blog I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Martin’s lack of communication on the next novel’s publication date. In fact, it’s almost as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid working on his latest novel. Which poses a few questions:
1. With blogs and twitter and other forms of social media do you think the audience has too much input when it comes to scrutinising the actions of an artist? If you had announced a new book two years ago and were yet to deliver do you think avoiding the topic on your blog would lead readers to believe you were being “slack”? By blogging about your work and life do you have more of a responsibility to deliver on your commitments?
2. When writing a series of books, like Martin is with “A Song of Ice and Fire” what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?
Would be very interested in your insight.
And how did Gaiman respond? (Melissa chuckles.) He responded with:
2) Yes, it’s unrealistic of you to think George is “letting you down”.
Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, 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.
People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.
You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.
No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.
It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren’t coming out on time.
There is more if you are interested in reading it. I provided the link his journal above. So, why am I talking about Gaiman’s famous quote? Because just recently I was reading an online article about fans complaining about Stephenie Meyer – that Stephenie really “let her fans down” in her last Twilight book, Breaking Dawn, that she can’t take criticism, that she is selfish and said she only wrote the books for her enjoyment, and blah, blah, blah, on and on and on. This isn’t even mentioning the Twi-haters, which I won’t even go into right now.
Okay, for all those people who want to bad mouth Stephenie, I wish to say officially:
Stephenie Meyer is not your bitch!
There I said it! I feel much better. Look, I’m not a Twilight fan. I couldn’t get past the first book. The movie wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t watch the rest of them. I just couldn’t. I’m not into vampires, especially sparkly ones. It’s just not my thing but I have to say this poor woman has taken so much abuse from the world and it is time for it to STOP!
Even Stephen King has been bashing her and her books. A couple quotes:
“The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
Here’s the thing. Stephenie is not a bad writer! She has a different voice and storytelling style than he likes, than maybe a lot people like. But, her voice is unique to a certain age group, particularly girls, who love her story. It has been read by millions … let me say that again, MILLIONS of people around the world. There has got to be something to that. Why? Why do so many people like her story? Because of her voice.
Dave Farland recently addressed King’s remark against Twilight in one of his Daily Kicks. I read it and I agree with Dave. Stephenie’s story is much more than that. In the story, she addresses many more issues teenage girls face during their adolescence. One of those issues is premarital sex. Here is an excerpt from his kick:
Let’s go back to Stephen King. He’s a fine entertainer, but what have I learned from his novels? In criticizing Stephenie Meyer, King recently wrote that “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
It’s easy to trivialize the work of other writers, particularly in speculative fiction, where even the best stories sound stupid. One could easily say that “Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is about confronting racism, growing up, and standing up for what is right in the face of public pressure. Carrie is about how important it is to be Prom Queen.” Or “Misery is about how writers can escape mentally challenged fans by beating them to death with their typewriters.” Or “It is about the threat posed by evil clowns.” Or “Christine is about the horrors that lurk in possessed classic cars.”
See how easy it is to trivialize the work of other writers? I can do it all day.
At the very best, King’s analogy sounds like “the pot calling the kettle black.” One might be tempted to think that its jealousy talking, but I don’t think that’s the problem. Nor do I think that his judgment is fair. I’ve read some of Meyer’s work. I was her writing teacher in college. As a first novel, Twilight definitely earned an A+.
Here’s the only problem with Meyer’s work. When an author writes a novel, he or she must tailor it to an audience. They may be young, or old; male or female. Stephenie is writing to young women—Stephen King’s granddaughters. Of course he doesn’t like her story. It wasn’t written for him!
There’s another important difference between the two. Stephenie Meyer is consciously more of a teacher than Stephen King is. Part of what she’s teaching deals with making right choices concerning romance.
In Twilight, Bella is falling in love, and she has to wonder what to do about it. For a young teen girl, that’s a powerful conflict.
At age 12, a young woman is deluged with hormones as she’s entering puberty. One textbook that I read on the topic pointed out that for a 12-year-old girl, the most common fantasy deals with having sex with multiple partners. At the same time, a 12-year-old’s mind is just beginning to mature to the point where she’s capable of symbolic thought. In other words, she begins to spend a lot of time wondering what others think of her at the very time when puberty strikes. It’s a powerful one-two punch.
So romance becomes one of the most consuming topics in her life. She wonders “What is love?” “How will I know when I’m in love? What should I do if I fall in love?” and so on.
Stephenie Meyer understood the power of the buttons that she was pushing. So she wrote a romance for young women. But it’s not just a romance. It’s also a morality tale. Stephenie has Bella fall in love, but she sets a goal to save herself for marriage. Bella tries to make a choice, and the story revolves around the difficulty that she faces—the constant tug of the hormones, the draw of other men, and so on.
One mother, in referring to Bella’s desire to remain abstinent, called this a “revolutionary teaching.” The mother had gotten pregnant at age 15, and she asked, “Why wasn’t there anyone around talking about that when I was a teen?” She hoped that her own daughters would become fans of Meyer’s work.
So in the end, what am I saying here? I’m saying that it’s easy to hate an author because of this or that, even if you’re an author yourself. As far as I’m concerned, King should have known better than to bash her. He knows that as an author, it takes courage to put your work out there. It’s like putting part of your soul out there for people to see. And when people start thinking they are entitled to something from that author or that they are somehow better and therefore are entitled to bash said author, they should think again. That author is not your bitch.
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