Why Doesn't George R.R. Martin Just Release Shorter Books?

Jon (Kit Harrington) prays for The Winds of Winter, but there is no answer. (Image: HBO)

JoHalloa, my friends, and also any foes who have nothing better to do! We’ve got a hell of a mailbag this week, so let’s get right to it: Is it worth returning to The Walking Dead if you rage-quit last season? Could Luke Cage and Iron Fist’s cancellations open the door for a Heroes for Hire series?


GRRM Warfare

Ryan S.:

Why doesn’t GRRM just publish three 500-page novels instead of one 1500 page novel? One would think publishers would be down, and it might lessen fan outrage over how long it takes...

The only reason I can think of is that he doesn’t feel like he can tell a complete story that quickly... but none of them are complete stories anyhow—they’re all parts of a larger whole.

Of course, this is assuming he cares one bit for what anyone else thinks I guess.

Well, let’s start here: You’re especially correct on the last point. I think most artists create art with themselves as their intended audience and most important critic, so George R.R. Martin needs to be satisfied with his work before anyone else gets to see it. Also, GRRM has made enough money for his publisher that he gets to pretty much do whatever he wants and take as much time as he needs; besides, what company would ever end a contract with him for taking too long, knowing his next book will still sell a zillion copies whenever the hell it comes out?

But as to your larger question—why he doesn’t just publish shorter installments of the series—it’s because books tell a story, even if that story is part of a larger story. Each book has its own plot, trajectory, and conclusion. Think of it like TV. A Song of Ice and Fire is an entire show, while each individual book is a season. Seasons are made up of episodes just like the books are made up of chapters, but the seasons/books are still telling a complete story. Take any of the DC CW shows, for example; there’s usually one major threat that the protagonists battle and must defeat over 22 or so episodes, and often various other plotlines reach their conclusion at the same time, giving the season a satisfactory sense of finality, even if we know there’s more seasons to come, or a larger story being told. Or think about A Game of Thrones, specifically—Ned’s death is a conclusion to the first section of A Song of Ice and Fire; it’s the end of the first big storyline, and it also reestablishes an entirely new status quo. If GRRM had ended that book 200 pages later, like after a random chapter of Joffrey being a dick for the umpteenth time, that wouldn’t be satisfying at all. It would feel like something is missing.

I think there’s proof of this, because George R.R. Martin has already done this very thing already. A Dance With Dragons was getting so huge that he decided to split the material into two books, the first being A Feast for Crows—but instead of keeping them chronological, he split up the characters into the two books. If you’ve read the two you know that didn’t quite work. Having characters’ stories overlapping chronologically between the separate novels felt awkward, given that the books had eschewed it before, and it was also very frustrating that Feast had zero point-of-view chapters from Jon, Daenerys, or Tyrion, the three most important characters of the series. Plus, despite GRRM’s attempt to divide the characters equally, Dance still had to finish up a few of the Feast characters’ storylines anyway.

There was some critical and fan dissatisfaction with Feast/Dance, and I think it stems in large part from this forced attempt to split up what is clearly one “season” of the series. For those people who feel the same, I highly recommend you go check the brilliant critic and pal o’ mine Sean T. Collins’ suggested reading order for the combined chapters of the two books, and see if it doesn’t feel like more satisfying overall. I certainly found it so.

I know it’s frustrating to still be waiting for The Winds of Winter (although I think at this point many of us have processed our frustration and have reached a sort of peace with its unfathomable release date). But I think you’ll end up happier overall for him to do it right, no matter how long that takes.


Luke Cage (Mike Colter) seen tolerating the existence of Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the Iron Fist. (Image: Marvel Entertainment/Netflix)

Heroes Available for Hiring

James M.:

What are the chances Iron Fist and Luke Cage were canceled to make room for Heroes for Hire and Daughters of the Dragon series?

None. Word is that there are several reasons Luke Cage and Iron Fist were canceled, but “making plans for the future” wasn’t one of them. The shows were expensive to make, and needed pretty sizable audiences to justify. Netflix doesn’t release viewer numbers, but I suspect Iron Fist season two didn’t win back enough viewers turned off by its lacklustre first season. Luke Cage is iffier, but Deadline says there were a lot of creative differences, too. We can only speculate if Netflix’s spate of cancellations means that its Scrooge McDuck-like vault of money is nearing the bottom, but I think we can assume that tensions between Netflix and Disney are rising since Disney is making its own streaming service which is absolutely going to beat Netflix up and take some of its lunch money.

Netflix won’t be in danger of folding or anything when Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel-filled platform debuts—but for a lot of nerds, if they had to choose between the two, the service with a new, live-action, totally-in-canon Star Wars TV series, along with several Marvel series (ones that will star honest-to-Thanos Cinematic Universe stars like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, making them much more official than any other Marvel’s TV products out there) is a no-brainer.

The good news is that there’s at least a small chance that Disney could choose to pick up Luke Cage and Iron Fist for its streaming service, because the shows both already have an established audience, although it might prefer to spend it infinite piles of cash on newer, shinier projects. In this regard, a Heroes for Hire series might make a hell of a lot of sense, since it’s one show with two stars—quite the value! Surely even Netflix was or is at least considering it, given that it would combine the audiences of both shows, but couldn’t be too much more than one show to make.

Personally, if Marvel or Netflix happens to make this wise decision, I see no reason why the Daughters of the Dragon couldn’t join Luke Cage and Iron Fist to form a four-person Heroes for Hire business. I think it would definitely be a stronger series than one that just focused on Luke and Danny. To be fair, I also think a Daughters of the Dragon series would be more interesting than a traditional Heroes for Hire series, but between the two I know both Disney and Netflix would go with the more recognisable heroes no matter what. But an MCU without Simone Messick’s Misty Knight and Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing is a poorer place indeed.


What’s red and white and black all over? (Image: AMC)

Undead and Buried

Brad K.:

I gave up on Walking Dead last season and I haven’t had any desire to watch it since. But now I’ve seen you and a few other people say season nine has gotten much better, but I’m having a hard time believing it’s really worth me trying to catch up. Can you convince me to give it another chance?

I can try, but I don’t know that I will succeed. But we’re both going to be fine if I don’t.

Yes, season nine is an immense improvement over the last few years of the show. I think I said this in last week’s recap or the week before, but it’s as good as it’s ever been, although I will fully admit that it’s hard to gauge its quality accurately because the show was so bad for so long before this that I don’t know if I’m inadvertently giving it extra credit merely because it’s so much improved.

But is it improved enough that you need to check back in? It probably depends on how much you hated it before you stopped watching. I would have rage-quit the show several times last season had 1) watching and writing about the show not been my literal job and 2) my rent didn’t need to be paid. I definitely don’t think TWD has gotten so good it’s made up for all that awfulness in only four episodes (because goodness knows how things will change after this coming Sunday’s rather monumentous instalment). But, as I’m still paying rent and thus still watching, I can tell you the show’s storytelling is much improved, and it seems to have lost the hatefulness and time-wasting that’s dominated the last few seasons, and that it’s doing a really good job of keep viewers interested in what’s going to happen. For the first time in years, I have been genuinely excited to watch next week’s episode, and that is shocking to me.

I guess here’s the short version: If you currently miss the show, I promise that it very much appears to have changed for the better, and stayed consistent enough that you could probably watch the season eight finale and these season nine episodes and enjoy it again. If you’re still irritated, it’s not so amazing that you’ll immediately forgive it and get sucked back in. Definitely let those scars heal a bit more. Meanwhile, you can keep checking my recaps to see if the show stays good or if it goes to shit again.


Legion of the Doomed

Edge In My Shorts:

On one hand, it’s exciting as a long-time comics fan to see Doom Patrol characters Robotman and Crazy Jane brought to life on the TV screen. But if I were someone encountering the team for the first time on TV, why would I take a team called the Doom Patrol seriously? The image that comes to mind is either a group of suicidal pessimists or people continually crapped on by the universe. What would you say to convince a sceptic to check such a show out?

Eh, the name really isn’t any sillier than the Justice League or the Avengers, or Teen Titans, or any other group, really. If these sceptics looked at Robotman, Crazy Jane, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, etc., they might find them significantly goofier than all most other live-action heroes, but that doesn’t matter, because DC Universe isn’t really trying to bring the Doom Patrol to mass audiences—which is why their eventual TV series, as well as their upcoming guest appearance on Titans, is on the DC Universe streaming service.

Look, if you’re paying the exorbitant monthly subscription fee of $US7.99 ($11) for the content on DC Universe, you are most likely a pretty big DC fan already. If you aren’t a huge comics fan but have signed up, then you’re almost certainly doing so primarily to watch its live-action superhero series like Titans anyway, as that’s the service’s biggest draw by far. Bottom line, if you’re interested enough to be paying $US8 ($11), chances are you’re going to give a Doom Patrol show a chance, no matter how goofy or weird it may look, if only to try to get your money’s worth out of DC Universe.

While Titans may be trying to capitalise on Teen Titans’ pop culture prevalence thanks to its cartoons, it, like Doom Patrol, is being made to attract DC fans into coughing up the cash. That’s why Titans has been such a treasure trove of DC characters. I mean, there have only been four episodes and we’ve already gotten Hawk, Dove, and the Nuclear Family, and we know the Doom Patrol, Jason Todd, Donna Troy, the Acolyte, and more are all on the way.

Regardless of what you think about the show’s style, this deep dive in the DC universe of characters is definitely meant to attract fans—just like shows on fan-favourite but little-known-to-the-world-at-large characters like Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Stargirl. I know the Harley Quinn animated series, and the third season of the beloved Young Justice, are both attempts to cast a wider net than just hardcore DC fans, but I’m sure WB knows if it can’t lock in the people who should be most excited to pony up $US8 ($11) a month for the service, it’s going to be doomed no matter what.


This sums something up, to be sure. (Image: Lucasfilm/Disney)

The Phantom Morons

Lucas W.:

In the prequels why were Obi-wan and the rest of the Jedi Order so shocked that Anakin turned to the dark side? The prophecy stated that the Chosen One would bring “balance to the force.” But if the Jedi Order had been in control for a thousand years while the Sith laid low, surely to “balance” things out it was time for the Sith to rise? Was Yoda and Mace and the rest that arrogant and blind to the obvious??

Well, there’s one thing you need to remember, and that’s this: Jedi are idiots. I once made a list of their many stupidities, and honestly went a bit easy on them. But of course the Jedi of the prequels are the biggest nitwits of all for letting the Republic get destroyed, getting themselves almost completely wiped out, and yes, essentially making sure the Chosen One joined the forces of evil.

Even if we give the Jedi Council the benefit of the doubt on the first two screw-ups, and that Palpatine was just so smart than the Jedi couldn’t have possibly figured out his plan, the last is still inexcusable. You make a good argument about the true meaning of bringing “balance,” but the Jedi Council could have easily improved Anakin’s disposition by not constantly shitting on him. Telling Anakin he can’t marry the woman he loves? Refusing him guidance so he knows he’s not accepted, then letting the completely-untrained-as-a-mentor Obi-Wan give it a try? Spuriously deciding not to free his mum from slavery, meaning Anakin would always be part of a group that chose to leave his mum behind on Tatooine to suffer? (Don’t give me that crap about Watto not falling for mind tricks and somehow deeming Shmi too valuable to make another bet on; any Jedi could have come back and bought her freedom later, had they given a shit about taking preventative measures to keep the most powerful Jedi in eons from turning evil, or had they been such a noble order as to actually put “combat slavery” somewhere on their to-do list.)

When I was watching the prequels for the first time, I actually thought the Jedi’s stupidity and awfulness was a plot point, that they were meant to be oblivious jackasses. This was where they were heading—that in Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi would say, “Oh, man. We’ve blown it. We’ve become so focused on rules and regulations instead of the Force that we’ve been losing our connection. That’s the reason we couldn’t detect Palpatine, and it’s how we let ourselves get wiped out. The Force is about life and compassion and love, and had we shown it to Anakin, he would have been our greatest champion.”

But nope. And then Obi-Wan and Yoda messed up by failing to tell Luke the truth about his dad, making sure that experience went as traumatically as possible, and later, even Luke peaced out from the entire galaxy the minute his Jedi Academy went under, abandoning his sister and the entire fight against evil, and letting his nephew fall further and further to the Dark Side. By Episode VIII, even Yoda had figured out the truth: The Jedi are terrible. Time for something new.

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