Does Patrick Rothfuss Hate His Fans?
Not too long ago, Patrick Rothfuss wrote this:
Just when I was growing fairly certain my readers were clever people who actually have the ability to read and comprehend text, a brave contingent of souls rush boldly forward with comments, eager to prove me wrong….
The vast majority of you: Thanks for being a delightfully non-representative sample of what the internet has to offer. I love you with great love.
The others: I understand if the above sentences were too long for you to make it to the end. It must be hard to read an entire 70 words in a row, with that painful repetitive stress injury caused by your knees endlessly jerking in response to half-glimpsed imaginary insults.
I am sympathetic to your condition. So here’s the tl;dr…
I am disappoint.
Is that short enough, or do I have to slather it across a kitten picture for you?
That left the internet wondering: does Patrick Rothfuss hate us?
I don’t think so. The first piece of evidence I would submit to you guys is an example of the kind of person Pat is talking to when he writes the above message. You will notice his own tone matches his/hers pretty well:
How would you react to this guy? =/ I think Pat reacted much as I would (minus a punch to the face).
Anyway, my point of view isn’t really worth this post. Do you care…really? No, of course not. So, you’ll be glad to hear there’s more from a much greater man that I.
In an exchange with a fan who had congratulated him on writing so much, writing so well and being so approachable by fans, Brandon Sanderson found himself giving his thoughts on Pat ‘blowing up on his fans’. Brandon’s reply was typical Brandon: Classy (with a capital C). Here is what he had to say:
Don’t be too hard on Pat […]. I wish I could explain a few things to his fans that might help. Many writers, particularly discovery writers, have difficulty talking about a book they’re working–because for them, talking about it with someone “mimics” writing it. And that takes away the discovery and enjoyment for them. (Stephen King is like this, I believe.)
I get the feeling that if Pat talks too much about his book, the thing will become harder for him to write–and he’s trying to avoid that. I know for a fact that he’s a heavy reviser (meaning he could toss out any chapter at any time) which makes it very, very difficult for him to guess when a book will be done. (I, being more of an architect, spend all the guesswork time doing my outline–which could take from months to years. When I’m actually drafting, that part is over, and I’m able to project quite accurately when I’ll finish.)
This doesn’t explain how he can get snappish with fans, and I do agree that he could maybe back off a little on that. However, I’ve been his friend for many years, and have watched him interact online quite often. He just gets very tired of answering these questions politely, and has found that if he does, he just gets a ton more people asking for details pressing him on the issue in a way that–if he answers–might undermine his own writing process. (I can’t say this for sure, as I haven’t asked him. It’s just my instinct.)
So, like most of us, after many times answering politely and getting a snappish response, he’s just started dodging the question or making jokes instead of answering.
The first part of Brandon’s answer suggests that he knows something fans don’t. Whether this is personal, work related or otherwise doesn’t matter too much – an author is entitled to have secrets and we (fans) should always keep in mind we may not know everything about what is going on.
The second part makes a lot of sense to me too. As someone often called a perfectionist and, for that reason, someone known for not getting a lot done (despite having grand ideas), I can relate to planning/doing something then destroying it and starting again. In fact, I’m sure most creative people and authors would be able to relate in some way.
The part about being snappish with fans: I have to say that when I met Pat and asked about book three (a year or two ago), he was fine with me. Maybe that is because I was there in person and didn’t have Google at my fingertips. However, I think it’s because I asked about it in a friendly manner and he realised I wasn’t being a dick, I just wanted to know. That said, even I was thinking: ‘you know this guy can’t answer your question’ and ‘he must be sick of this’, so perhaps I should have shown a bit more self-control.
In defence of fans who do ask: Pat’s mistake, I think, is that he said on publication of The Name of The Wind he thought the books would be out at a rate of one a year:
The next two books will come out in one-year intervals. I’m able to do this because when I started writing, I had no idea how long a book was. I just kept blazing a trail until I came to the end of Kvothe’s story. When I finally finished, I looked back and realized I had a trilogy’s worth of material.
Fans have, and always will, hold Pat to that. Indeed, when you consider that the first was released in 2007, he has overshot the 2009 deadline he gave himself by eight years. I should tell you, that having spoken to dozens of debut authors over the years, many fall into this trap: thinking that once you become a full-time writer you can throw a book out a year. I can guarantee you that now Pat has had experience working with publishers and real-life editing, he’d tell you that although his plan was noble, it was the giddy ambitious chatter of a debut author.
And, of course, there are times when I think, “Why doesn’t this guy just sit the F down and write the damned thing to get these dicks off his back?” The thing is: Perfectionism. A person with this trait just can’t do that. You also need to consider that there is something special about the Kingkiller Chronicles and that’s because Pat wrote them. Something Pat does makes those books ****ing fantastic. How he does it, I don’t know. Neither do you. Maybe time is the key – we know he worked with Kvothe in his head for around a decade before the thing was published. Based on how great so many of us find these books, to try and force him to just ‘get them done’, seems a huge risk on our part.
If you want something tangible though, ask yourselves: how much debate, speculation, excitement, fan fiction, fan art, etc. has been created as a result of the delays to The Doors of Stone? If you truly love these books, go out there and find it. It’ll enhance your reading experience immeasurably and although you won’t have the next part of the tale any time soon, you will have a far deeper understanding of the material that is already out there. You’ll also have some new friends you can vent frustration with, but channel it in a way that has you speculating rather than screaming abuse (not that you, dear reader, would fall to such lows, I’m sure).
As for whether book three will be worth it, I’ll hand you back to Brandon Sanderson for his views (which, again, match my own pretty closely):
I’m confident that book three will be worth it. I think it is plainly obvious that Pat’s prose is simply better than that of any of the rest of us in this generation of writers. (Well, maybe not Nora Jemisin, but she’s kind of doing something different.)
Thinking about it a little further, here’s what I think I’m trying to say: If you put a line between the storytellers and the prose stylists, you’ll find people like me, Brent, Naomi, Scalzi, and Hobb on one side (though some of those are closer to the line than I am.) You’ll find people like Nora, Susanna C., and Erikson on the other side. Not that they don’t tell stories, and we don’t occasionally turn a phrase–but for them, prose is important enough that sometimes IT becomes the point. For us on the other side, we prefer writing prose that isn’t distracting, as story and character shouldn’t be lost. (I’d put GRRM here too.)
Pat sits right in the middle, like Tolkien and Pratchett did, with prose that is at once gorgeous and great at telling a story. We all do things well, and I think there might be one or two things I can edge out Pat on. But his prose is capable of straddling that line; it’s a thing of beauty, and it takes serious time to craft something like that.
What do you guys think? Are you on the ‘give the guy a break’ or ‘gimme my damned book’ end of the spectrum?