What authors owe their readers

There’s been much debate about what authors owe their readers out there in bloggyland. I think the whole thing is really rather simple:

When I’ve got my writing hat on then it’s very clear that authors owe their readers absolutely nothing. Do you hear me readers? I owe you nothing!

I can write about what I want, when I want, and how I want. If I want to set fire to your favourite character’s hair, push them off a cliff, and then jump on them, I can and I will, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. So nyer!

When I’ve got my reading hat on, then it’s very very clear that authors owe me exactly the book I was expecting. And Mr Pullman in particular owes me big time for the rubbish third book in the Dark Materials trilogy.1 Do you hear me writers? You owe me everything!

You owe me more books in my favourite series even if you’re bored with them. You owe me unharmed favourite characters, or at least not in a fatal way. And if you do kill them then you have to bring them back as a zombie or a ghost and they have to be sexy zombie-ghosts. Also you have to make sure you visit wherever I happen to be, and sign my books, and read to me when I want you to. You are my slave. Get cracking! I want more books and I want them NOW!

There, I’m glad that one’s sorted.

  1. Mr Pullman, sir? I didn’t mean it. Honest. The first two books are so unbelievably good that I forgive you for the, um, less than brilliance of the third. Okay, not less than brilliant. It’s more like it’s differently brilliant. You are a genius and I am not worthy. I tug my forelock.

    Okay, shutting up now . . . []


  1. Maggie on #

    “And Mr Pullman in particular owes me big time for the rubbish third book in the Dark Materials trilogy.*”

    Ha! I feel *exactly* the same way!

  2. jennifer, aka literaticat on #

    when philip pullman dies and comes back from the grave as a sexy zombie ghost who wants to have a word with you, you’ll regret you opened this can of worms…

  3. Diana on #

    And don’t forget that we expect writers to provide exactly the romantic relationship for the characters that we most desire and no other.

  4. John Scalzi on #

    Actually, justine, you as an author, owe me a pony.

    Pay up.

  5. Justine on #

    Maggie & Rebecca: Not that I truly feel that way. (In case you’re reading, Mr Pullman, the whole thing was a joke.) These two are the ones you should be cranky with.

    Jennifer: Well now you’ve said it, I’m doomed aren’t I? Thanks a bunch!

    Diana: Absolutely as a reader I strongly agree. As a writer I tell you to bugger off.

    John Scalzi: And I as a writer tell you to bugger off and all. But you as a writer owe me life extensions and a whole new fabby body.

    Ponies, indeed. Did you even read my books? There are no ponies. You need pony therapy. You’re obsessed.

  6. Rebecca on #

    ditto maggie. hehehe!

  7. John Scalzi on #

    Justine, obviously I know there are no ponies in your books! Which is precisely why you owe me one. And make it a dappled one. With ribbons in her sweet, sweet mane.

  8. adam on #

    But what if the characters they kill are ALREADY sexy ghost-zombies? What happens then?

  9. Katerate on #

    Then the author should have the ghost zombie character bite the healthy character before they die in order to create yet another sexy ghost zombie to take it’s place, of course.
    And I just finished the Amber Spyglass like, an hour ago! I feel a little put out by the end.

  10. Justine on #

    John Scalzi: The pony thing is deeply disturbing. I think you should stop now.

    Plus where are my life extensions?

    Katerate: Thank you for correctly answering Adam’s question.

  11. A.R.Yngve on #

    I just knew it! 😉
    At some point in a writer’s career, typically the point where he/she becomes really successful, tensions start to emerge between author and reader.

    I wonder if any writer ever gave away a “franchise” to the fans. Now THAT would be a spectacle:

    “I give up! Here, I give up all rights to the ‘PERDITA CLOUDWALKER, ABOMINABLE SNOW-WOMAN DETECTIVE’ to the readers. Let them fanfic their favorite characters into oblivion. I’m outta here!”


  12. liliya on #

    so why don’t you like the third philip pullman book? I don’t either and thought I was the only person in the (multiple) world(s) who didn’t.

    I guess the only thing a writer owes the reader is a book that’s interesting enough to read all the way through. Otherwise no one will bother unless it’s your mum.

  13. Justine on #

    Who said I don’t like the third book in that trilogy? Not me. As I’ve explained, Mr Pullman, I was only joshing.

    But I’ve heard from other people who don’t like Amber Spyglass that they are annoyed by its preachiness, by Lyra’s becoming a lot less interesting, and the excessively long time spent with the really really dull as dishwater wheel people.

    But that’s not my opinion, mind.

  14. adam on #

    holy damn now i’m compelled to write perdita cloudwalker abominable snow-woman detective fanfic!

    “Perdita brushed the fresh snow from her pelt. The trenchcoated figure that sat on the bench outside her office door looked up, resting the back issue of 21C on his lap. ‘Ms. Cloudwalker?’ he asked, setting the magazine back on the pile. Perdita ruffled her albino-white hair and frowned at the Mongolian accent. Outer steppes, she thought. Long way from home. ‘Who’s asking?’ she growled.”

Comments are closed.