Just when I thought Damon Lindelof had made some peace with the fact that a bunch of people didn’t like the ending of Lost, it turns out that he’s still got a lot of issues about it. His Twitter feed will sometimes fill up with bitching about people who didn’t like the ending, or more often with some kind of self-deprecation about people not liking the ending. But over the last two days he’s started a semi-mock feud with author George RR Martin, who said in an interview that he’s afraid he’ll fuck up the ending of Song of Ice and Fire the way Lindelof fucked up Lost.
“What if I fuck it up at the end? What if I do a Lost? They they’ll come after me with pitchforks and torches.” That’s from a New Yorker profile of George RR Martin; the they he’s talking about are the weird, rabid fans who hate him for not churning out his next novel quickly enough.*
Lindelof got sort of mad about that. He semi-played it off as a joke, starting a ‘comedic’ feud with Martin, who isn’t even on Twitter, but this statement reads as basic truth:
I don’t know that Martin has replied, or will reply.
It’s interesting that both are coming at fan interaction from different perspectives. For Martin it’s the demands of the fans to work faster; the New Yorker profile notes that his fans seem more like consumers and less like appreciators of art. They don’t seem to understand that doing art isn’t a 9 to 5, clock in and clock out job. And it’s exacerbated by the fact that Martin himself seems to have become a hyper perfectionist about this latest book, placing him exactly at odds with the readers who just want him to keep typing, whether it’s good or not.
Lindelof, meanwhile, is dealing with the fallout of the ending of Lost. Poorly, in my opinion. Where Martin has fans braying for him to hurry it up, Lindelof has fans braying at him that he fucked it all up. To be fair, I’m one of those people - I think the final season of Lost is an actual disaster of storytelling, and that it’s a case of the creators losing sight of their story and characters and dealing with their creation like fanfic.
But that’s just like, my opinion, man. And while Lindelof may call foul on ‘pulling a Lost’ as the term for fucking up the ending, Fred Fox Jr, the guy who wrote the ‘Fonzie jumping the shark’ episode of Happy Days, doesn’t think ‘jumping the shark’ is a fair term for a show in decline, and he wrote a defense of his episode in the LA Times last year. But whether Fred likes it or not, we’re all discussing when Lost jumped the shark. It’s time for Lindelof to understand that he had his say, and now it will be interpreted and digested by other people.
Once the work is out there it’s out there. The feedback of fans isn’t new, it’s just amplified in the digital age. Damon Lindelof would have probably gotten hate mail in the 70s if that’s when Lost was on, but Twitter simply makes it easier for people to say mean things to him. And readers would have likely grumbled had Martin taken six years between books way back in the 80s, but they wouldn’t have been able to reach him directly.
The question becomes how this stuff impacts the creative process. Is Lindelof now more gunshy when it comes to his next idea? Will he be neutered by his fear that the fans won’t like the ending? Will Martin become more and more perfectionist the more and more aware he is that people are breathing down his neck for book six? Again and again I come to the conclusion that the worst thing for art is fans.
* To be fair to Lindelof, I think it’s wrong for Martin to drag Lost into this. Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t have central mysteries or hinge on metaphysical questions. It’s building towards a standard narrative conclusion of some type - people will die, people will live, Westeros will be conquered or divided or whatever ends up happening. It’s a very different kind of bad ending than Lost; a straight narrative can have a letdown of an ending, but a mystery show like Lost can be all but retroactively ruined by a terrible ending.
ADDENDUM: Here’s a Damon Lindelof quote from 2005. Seems like he didn’t mind running down other shows a few years ago!
“As a member of the community who loved ‘The X-Files’ for all those years and felt bummed out by the end of it, all I can say is, we’re cognitive of trying not to go down the same path,” says Lindelof.