In his blog post of May 12, 2009, Neil Gaiman writes about entitlement issues. In case you’re wondering, I talk about this now because it has only now been brought to my attention. I don’t usually read Neil Gaiman’s blog.
In this one, he talks about how creators do what they want because the readers are not the creators’s employers and therefore have no right to expect anything but what the creators deign to give them. Which includes a completed story.
I’m sure that Neil is very happy with the Red Riding Hood movie novelization. You might have heard of it: the one that is published without an ending; the ending will be revealed online after the movie has been released. You still get to pay full price for the novelization, though.
I’m also not going to linger on the irony of that blog post: on the one hand, Neil condemns reader entitlement, while complaining about how American Airlines doesn’t provide the kind of power outlet to which he feels entitled.
Frankly, I can understand both sides in this ongoing debate. I can understand that for a creator, life sometimes gets in the way of doing your job: creating stories. It has happened to me too. Frak it, it’s happening to me right now. The only difference is that I’m not in the middle of a major saga of which half the books have already been published. You know, like A Song of Fire And Ice. So yes, I can understand the side of the creators, who don’t want to feel bossed around by their readers.
The problem with that is that the creators fail to see what they do as work, as a job. They see themselves as artists. I mean, imagine if you, the regular joe, showed up at work with that attitude. How long would you keep your job?
On the other hand, the readers aren’t entitled to tell the creators what the creators should be doing. Yet I am a reader too, and as such I do believe that if I invest my time and money into a story, the creator of said story owes me an ending. If I as a creator don’t want to spend several years working of multi-volume sagas, then perhaps I shouldn’t launch multi-volume sagas.
In short, I think that while readers should exercise more patience while waiting for the next chapter of the multi-volume epic they invest themselves in, the creators should remember that it without those readers, they would have to go to a day job every morning, where the “I do what I want when I feel like it” attitude would only get them a pink slip.
Until then, I suggest that the readers apply the same solution to the problem that I do: if something is billed as “Book X of Y,” leave it on the shelf until the creator has actually finished the series. That way, the creators can indulge themselves and only work on their multi-volume epic when they feel like it, and the readers don’t need to worry that the multi-volume epic they enjoy will never be completed, because it’s already complete.