On burnout and fan culture

Terry Brooks, a fantasy writer I grew up reading, talks about wanting to finish his epic Shannara series before dying, but also how this rush and his burnout made it not his best work.

(This is really just an excuse for me to rant about nerd culture for a bit, so buckle up.)

I post this here so you can point to it when self-entitled manchild-nerds start carping about Martin or Rothfuss finishing their stories, or about how the latest Star Wars didn’t reflect their tiny white male hero fantasies. Do you want a good book/movie or do you just want any old thing? Do you want to listen to a story or do you want to make one? Art takes time and isn’t ready until the artist is ready. Plus, if your theory about midichlorians and Admiral Thrawn didn’t pan out, it’s probably because you’re not a fucking artist making movies — you’re just life-support unit for minutiae and factoids about a fantasy story meant to entertain. You’re like a PhD in Uselessness.

(In summary, my old fall back rant: At what point did audiences start thinking they were investors who got a say in a product rather than consumers paying for the chance to view it? Get a life.)

If you’d been thinking about wrapping up the series and writing an end, why did it take you 20-something years to write it?

[Laughs.] Time. There’s really no point in doing it without a strong reason for doing it; and the strong reason was, I was burnt out. I didn’t really have anything more to say about the Shannara world. Number two, I wanted to do some other projects. I had other stories I wanted to tell. Finally, and this is something you can’t identify with, but when you get into your seventies, you start thinking about how much time you have left. I thought, “I’m going to be really pissed if I die and don’t get this written.” The concept that I’d had earlier in life — that I would live forever — might not turn out to be true. [Laughs.]

You wanted to make sure that you wrote the ending.

I tell everybody, I didn’t want Brandon Sanderson writing it! Brandon’s my friend so I can say that. [Laughs.] He’s the famous example of somebody who finished off Robert Jordan’s [work] — and did so better than I thought Robert Jordan. I didn’t want somebody to think he was better than I was. [Laughs.] 

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