The OF Blog: Unreasonable Expectations

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unreasonable Expectations

This is going to be a rant. I usually refrain from doing these sorts of things out of a preference for decorum and also because it has been beaten into my poor head so many times that expressing strong opinions in such a forceful way generally wounds one's position at work, relationships, etc. But screw that. It's something that's been building for a long time, both professionally and personally, and I thought I'd entertain perhaps a few dozen of you with this.

There is this growing sentiment in American (perhaps Western or even global for all I know) society that one is somehow privileged to have something delivered to them ASAP, clap two hands and they hop to it. Whether it be people bitching and moaning that the service is "horrible" because it takes an extra two minutes at the drive-in window for the fries to be cooked due to the regular ebb and flow of work or whether there's a delay in starting a sports program on time for whatever reason, etc., more and more on message boards and at the usual work gossip corners, people have just become so damn demanding and bitching.

I resigned my teaching position earlier this year in part due to the constant whining and bitching and yelling and demanding. I'm not anybody's servant and when I faced virtual daily beratement from some spoiled kids because it wasn't done their way, it just becomes a daily battle not to tell them to go pleasure themselves with a rusty piece of barbed wire up a certain orifice. A couple of times I came perilously close to crossing that line before I realized that it just wasn't worth putting up with all that shit.

But that's now part and parcel of the working conditions of my former (and perhaps future - I'm a glutton for punishment and time off makes me miss those ever shrinking moments where I actually was permitted to *gasp* teach and the kids didn't throw a fit because I wouldn't let them use their review sheets on their exams) profession. It's just something that's going to be stress-filled and full of burnout moments as long as those privileged attitudes persist.

However, it is saddening to see such demanding and spoiled brat-like attitudes seeping into our hobbies, into purported means of entertainment. Sometimes, it's those who've been bitched at who in turn end up being the worst complainers of them all, I know. I've seen it too many times with sports teams, with demands for someone to lose their job/livelihood because one group of so-called "fans" doesn't like how things are being run, regardless of the conditions that affect performance.

And now it's seeped all the way into internet book "fandom." Into that fairly small but yet rabid (emphasis on the rabid part) "fanbase" of people who seem happiest when they get to nitpick and bemoan authorial choices and especially if, heaven forbid, there are any delays in the book product reaching them. Customer is always right and all that shit, you know.

It's a bit old, you know. Those so-called "fans" who feel like because they want something that it has to be provided ASAP, no exceptions, no justifications for delayed gratification. Heaven forbid that there be more than a year's delay between authors writing/revising books. Damn those authors who are overly optimistic and believe that they could move mountains for these demanding assholes and get things done in a 9-12 month period. Sometimes, it just isn't worth putting up with the "fan's" shit, it seems.

If the average secondary-world fantasy novel contains about 200,000 words and if on average it takes about 3-6 months for the editing process before another 3-12 months goes before it can be "slotted" into a publication run that outside of maybe a few hundred books out of the tens of thousands published each year (doubtless with their own demanding assh...err, fans) will be no more than 20 thousand books....what sort of insane writing schedule would one have to be on in order to get a quality work done in that amount of time? Considering that the average royalty rate is only 10-15% on hardcovers and considering that having a print run of higher than 20K is rare, it's hard to imagine how writers could be expected to write full-time on less than $20K/book.

So most writers work other jobs, higher-paying jobs that doubtless are stressful and time-consuming as well. It always fascinates me to read Jeff VanderMeer's blog and see the number of freelancing/tie-in/editorial jobs he does while still laboring on his own original fictions. Or to read about the college teaching positions that a Jeffrey Ford or a David Anthony Durham do to support themselves while they continue to write. I cannot begin to imagine how they manage to write even hundreds of words a day while doing such positions. I know I wouldn't have the energy to do that.

But yet there are quite a few assholes out there who seem to think otherwise. Perhaps they believe that authors can crap out thousands of words a daily in their sleep. If that were possible, I wish I could have possessed that ability when I was in grad school. I was lucky if I could throw a 7,000 word researched paper together over a semester's time around my other grad school responsibilities. So I have quite a bit of admiration for those writers who can finish a 200K word novel in their lifetime, much less within a year's span.

Editing/revising is also a bitch, having been through that process on said 7,000 word (which ended up being almost 9,000 with the revisions) essay. Took me weeks to get that revised paper polished enough to get the A I desired. I can only guess that it would take at least 10 times as long, perhaps 50 times depending upon the complexity of the writing, for a revised novel to be brought up to snuff. Especially if that writer has other responsibilities that pay more.

But I suppose these are just facile justifications for someone to be "lazy" or to "break their promises" to the fans. It's almost funny reading the comments here about one particular author's book being delayed one year until April 2009. Note the outrage just oozing out of some comments there. The belief that they had been "lied" to, the belief that it "shouldn't take that long" for the writing/revising/editing of a 200K+ novel. That there's "greed" involved, somehow.

Now imagine being that poor schmuck (in general terms, not in the particular case of Patrick Rothfuss, the author referred to in that link) making at best around an entry-level sales position from the book royalties, if that. If said comments were made face-to-face, chances would run high that such a low-paid worker would just say "fuck it" and leave. It's just not worth dealing with that. And heaven forbid if anyone were to tell those asshats where they could go.

Sometimes, I think we just give too much importance to what we want and not enough consideration for the difficulties that others face. But then again, I'm not a "fan." I just read and enjoy what is available and leave the fantasies of speculation and the almost inevitable bitching and moaning about unfinished stories to others.

Maybe one day they'll remember what it's like to be on the receiving end of unreasonable expectations. But I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

All I have to say to this post is a huge "WORD" -- I sort of see this behavior in my fandoms (mostly video games, because the wait between game releases is 2+ years these days). It confuses me, although I guess I can understand the bottom line frustration, although I can't see to grasp why people get so greedy. Maybe because I'm a fanfiction author and I know how long it takes me to write a story using derived characters and locations. Just imagining doing it from scratch on a time limit makes me want to run for the hills screaming.

I just think it's people not realizing how much work goes into the process -- that if they were writing and understanding that everything, everything, has a first draft and reading it is much less rewarding than waiting for the polished copy, they would understand just how difficult it can be.

So basically: I agree!

Lsrry said...

That's my take on it as well. I remember thinking that I could get things done 2-3 times faster than what it ended up taking, so I guess I have a lot more patience and sympathy for the authors (and for other workers) than many others do. I've been on the receiving end of so many complaints about so many relatively tiny matters that after a while the temptation to smack them silly becomes hard to resist. Thus this vent :P

Neth said...

I love the rant and agree - I refer to this generation that is not too much youger than us as the 'Entitlement Generation'. In broad and general terms, they feel entitle to pretty much everything and have next to no work ethic to get it. My brief experience teaching said generation in college lab classes was very frustrating - but since it was college, I didn't have to take any shit from them. And what was one of the most frustrating parts - the professor overseeing all the labs suggested that I curve my grades upward when I was already convinced that many of my students were getting grades that they didn't earn (apparently I was the second lowest average grade). I ended up ignoring that request.

Lsrry said...

Ken, I feel your pain. I grew up in the South and I think there's a few years' lag period on some of these trends reaching my native region. I got the tail end of the "traditional" methods of instruction in school and I never, ever dared to call an adult by their first name (or else my parents would have worn me out, to say the least ;)). Nowadays, the level of disrespect and the demands that were placed upon me by the students, it's as if they've come to believe that they know what it means to be "in charge," without ever really coming to grasps what it means to become an adult.

This sort of rude behavior is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to societal changes and I think the next 20-30 years will be interesting. I know I'm in no rush to get married and to have children in large part because of the children I have worked with and I certainly wouldn't want any child of mine to grow up in that sort of behavioral climate.

But I guess the further people are from having to interact with the persons on the other side, the harder it has become to be considerate and sympathetic towards others. I wonder if the naggers will end up forcing authors to become less open and public again. I suspect it's already beginning to occur with many.

Neth said...

In terms of authors I anticipate a trend to develop.

-New author. Very active on-line getting their name out. Interacts with fans often.

-As new author becomes established, they slowly reduce their public presence on-line and direct fan interaction.

-Established author. Mixed, by now they can do whatever pleases them, but their public interaction with fans is probably somewhat low.

-Well-established/best seller, etc author - These guys will and can do whatever the hell they want. If fans wine too much, they just might say something like 'well then, fuck off' (see GRRM).

I suspect that this generation will mellow and come to some hard realizations as they age in the work force (especially if the US's internation standing continues in its current trend). Though it's very intersting hearing about what some coorporations are doing to deal with this generation as they enter the work force - apparently it's gotten to a 'employee of the day' level of validation.

Lsrry said...

Yeah, I think I've seen that happen already with Scott Bakker and to an extent Scott Lynch (or maybe it's a Scott thing for those with longish hair ;)). I think others will do that, well those who write secondary-world fantasies at least, since that brand typically sells more. But I have noticed that the blogger/writers more typically associated with the "New Weird" seem to have created their own circles of acquaintances, using LJ in many cases. They might be a different case.

As for the kids now entering the workplace, I figure if I were to decide that I wanted to leave the school environment for the cubicle one that I might have an easier time getting a job by the sheer fact that I grew up just a bit before their time.

And heaven forbid if I were to ever be placed in a managerial role. I might tell them to go fuck themselves with a rusty piece of barbed wire if the mood struck me. My dad was a great believer in negative reinforcement ;)

Anonymous said...

Larry, why do you hate freedom/America?

Lsrry said...

Because I'm a (Democratic) Socialist at heart? ;)

Anonymous said...


I was about to really disagree with you on this issue, I honestly think you're flat out wrong in your defense of Rothuss, but when I read this opening line:

" I usually refrain from doing these sorts of things out of a preference for decorum and also because it has been beaten into my poor head so many times that expressing strong opinions in such a forceful way generally wounds one's position at work, relationships, etc"

I thought to myself, this guy has been experiencing the exact same stuff as I. That is something I run into a lot lately, and I guess that on this topic I'll just agree to disagree.


Lsrry said...

Yeah, I wrote this as a sort of vent/release due to dealing with some very hostile/vulgar students that I used to work with before the level of confrontations grew too much for me to deal with, so when I came across that one particular bit, I used it as a means of getting rid of the pent-up frustration that I had in dealing with younger (14-22) people. It was much more of a general "people" rant than anything really specific, even if I used the Rothfuss bit as a way of justifying posting it here rather than on my personal blog :P

Add to Technorati Favorites