Where's the Chapter, Pat?
Patrick Rothfuss' fans recently paid a MILLION dollars to have him read a chapter from Doors of Stone. Rothfuss says he hasn't written it. That's inexcusable.
Patrick Rothfuss, by many accounts is a nice guy. A talented writer, too. On his website, his Reviews page is littered with excerpts from the most well-known names and publications praising his two novels, particularly the debut that put him on the map, The Name of the Wind. The Onion AV Club called it “the best fantasy novel of the past ten years.” Orson Scott Card said of him, “He's the great new fantasy writer we've been waiting for, and this is an astonishing book.” The page even includes a plug from none other than George R. R. Martin himself, calling Rothfuss “bloody good.”
Rothfuss’ would-be magnum opus, which, like Martin’s, remains as yet unfinished, began life around a similar time as Martin’s Game of Thrones epic, even sporting a similar original title at one time, A Song of Flame and Thunder. The first draft of the trilogy would be completed in 2000. After winning the Writers of the Future competition in 2002, Rothfuss would meet Tim Powers’ agent, who would eventually help shape the first third of it into Rothfuss’ bestselling The Name of the Wind.
Amazingly, Rothfuss trapped lightning in a bottle a second time with a phenomenally successful follow-up in 2011, The Wise Man’s Fear, and its popularity has garnered him an incredibly loyal (and patient) fan base. Fans have had only these two novels and a couple of short stories and novellas to nurse while they waited for the promised finale to the trilogy, Doors of Stone for the past ELEVEN YEARS. Finally, late in 2021, something came down the pipe.
Last December, Rothfuss announced during a livestream that he’d read a chapter from Doors of Stone if fans hit a staggeringly high donation goal of $300,000 for his charity Worldbuilders—an amount I’m half convinced he didn’t expect to be met, but it was crossed with ease. In January, Rothfuss treated his livestream audience to the prologue—which consisted of a roughly page-long description of a tavern in the middle of the night— and almost nothing else of substance since. His Twitch streams and YouTube channel seem to highlight him gaming and doing Q&As about almost anything but his progress on DoS.
The most recent update was given in May, where he briefly addressed it, saying, “There’s a lot of things in process, things are moving more slowly than I would like, and a lot of the reason for that is that I am moving more slowly than I would like. There’s just kind of a lot. There’s a lot I’m doing, in general, in a bunch of ways, and just some stuff with my life, and some stuff with COViD, and with my kids, and it’s a lot. And I feel bad that I haven’t been as communicative on the blog and giving people updates and stuff like that.”
He also said, “It is coming, it is in process, I kinda wish it was done already . . . but I don’t wanna rush through it and half-ass it.”
Rush through it? Rush through it? The second oldest video on the man’s Twitch page is a Book 3 Q&A video from five years ago. The December livestream shenanigans seem to be only the latest instance in a long tradition of Pat dangling the carrot of a preview in front of his fans, and they, at long last, seem to be getting restless.
A Reddit post in r/books from August 1 that’s been getting a lot of attention details Rothfuss’ history of exploiting fan interest for fundraising. The post, which at the time of this writing has garnered over 18,000 upvotes, claims in its headline that “In December readers donated over $700,000 to Patrick Rothfuss' charity for him to read a chapter from Doors of Stone with the expectation of ‘February at the latest’. He has made no formal update in 8 months”, and goes on to detail a long list of the author promising a preview of a book he first teased on google+ nine years ago. A few notable bullet points from the post include:
Each year Rothfuss does a fundraiser through his charity. He has used Book 3-related rewards as an incentive several times before.
This goal was demolished and he added a second stretch goal to read another chapter. This second goal was again demolished and he attempted to backtrack on the promise demanding there be a third stretch goal that was essentially "all or nothing" (specifically saying, "I never said when I would release the chapter")
This goal was also met and the final amount raised was roughly $1.25 million
He stated in December we would receive the new chapter by "February at the latest"
The vast majority of the comments (of which there are nearly three thousand), are excoriating, with fans and former fans referring to him as “former author Patrick Rothfuss” and “A Twitch streamer who wrote a couple of books a few years ago.” One user said, “if GRRM dies, I think Rothfuss is the perfect guy to not finish his books.”
The fan ire is both understandable and frankly overdue; Rothfuss has managed to somehow maintain the goodwill of his readers while enjoying a decade or more of celebrity status at the top of the mainstream corpogeek scene. Having recently published a novel myself, I can more than understand the struggles of an author dealing with the realities of life, family and frustratingly long stretches of sheer lack of inspiration; but even I eventually managed to get a full draft out within eighteen months; for a man who regularly finds time to stream for hours on end, there is no excuse—none—not to have a single chapter written, polished and ready to show your fans, especially when they’ve just handed over a million goddamned dollars to help your charity in exchange for it.
I did a brief tally of his Twitch uploads from the past month, just out of curiosity; Rothfuss found just a shade over nineteen hours to devote to streaming on Twitch. In my estimation, he doesn’t deserve the fan loyalty he’s been gifted with for the past decade plus, and the latest laundry list of excuses seems to be the straw threatening to break the camel’s back.
Pat: get off Twitch and get off the pot. You owe your fans.
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Rothfuss lacks a little thing us professional writers call "PUT YOUR ASS IN THE CHAIR AND WRITE WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT." Another aphorism to live by is "you can't edit a blank page." While I sympathize with his difficulties, It seems he lacks even an ounce of willpower. He deserves no one's patience or goodwill anymore. The only thing keeping me from calling him an utter scumbag is that the money he raised was for charity and he, in theory, did not profit from it himself.
I sympathise with unforeseen delays, but too many Readers have been left dangling by Authors who make their advance and quit mid series. This spoils it for Author and Readers alike. This is the primary reason I've set my goal to FINISH my entire WATCHER of the DAMNED series within the next 3 years. That's 3 arcs and 6-12 books in the next 36 months... not counting the first 6 book WOTD series I ALREADY finished, the associated Audible episodes, illustrations and the TTRPG.
If I can do all this without an advance, the least Rothfuss can do is take that million and buy a lovely studio, sit down and finish his book for his devoted fans.
I may not be Rothfuss, but I'll have an epic series - and if people like it well enough, it will stand as a finished work.