So if you have not seen it there is a great moment from San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) when Paul and Storm are singing their song “Write Like the Wind” about the fact that George RR Martin (GRRM) needs to write faster so he finishes the Song of Ice and Fire series before he dies. Well during the performance of the song who walks on to the stage, but GRRM himself. The crowd goes wild when GRRM walks onto the stage and Paul and Storm slowly stop singing as they notice that he is on stage. Then GRRM walks over and smashes the guitar. The grand finale is that Neil Gaiman comes on to the stage and makes Paul and Storm say that “GRRM is not our bitch”. (The reason this is particularly telling is a blog post Gaiman wrote)
It is a fantastic moment and everyone needs to watch it. At the same time it brings in to question whether an author has a responsibility to the fans of a series.
So my personal opinion is that an author does not owe you anything. The people they owe is actually their publishing company and they really are the only ones who can make them do anything because they have signed some sort of contract with them. At the same time they want to make sure they get good product out of the author. As a reader when you buy a book you are not creating some form of agreement that the author will complete the story.
I have a friend who will not start a series unless she knows it is completed because she does not like the wait between stories and does not want to get stuck without an ending. We as readers do not have to start reading a book that is a part of a series. This would probably mean less series would be written or they would rework how they release series, but part of that would be how we as consumers react.
In the end we are going to buy the books whether it takes 2 years or 7 years. Personally I would rather have the story be good than rushed. At the same time David and I definitely spend time discussing how we wish the story would be out quicker and worrying about another Wheel of Time situation, but that does not mean I will bitch to GRRM himself. Partly because I know it is a totally selfish desire, it is all about what I want.
Patrick Rothfuss had a great discussion about this recently. He had told fans that the next book in the Kingkiller Chronicles would be out in 3 years and he stuck to that date, but he learned something. The final book in the trilogy Rothfuss did not give an estimate on because with the second book he felt like he basically had to not spend time with his family and stress himself out to get the book out. He could not live his life like that again for the sake of his sanity and his family.
I really appreciated his perspective because his family is his priority, as in my opinion it should be. My desire for the story is my desire, but he needs to do what is good for him and his family. At the same time I think as a writer you want to finish the story. You have invested years in these characters. Many, not all, authors have mapped out the story, over and over again until the details are probably second nature. They know where this is going and how things need to fit together.
The investment that the author has made to the story is much more than what any individual reader makes by buying and reading the books in the series. An example of this is the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. King actually got hit by a car and survived. One of the things that he realized was that he could have died without finishing the series and ended up pounding out the last three books so he could get the series wrapped up. Someone might face a near death and want to do other things, but an author who has invested so much time does not want to leave a series hanging they want to finish the story.