Once upon a time there was a trilogy. There were many trilogies, actually, but they were all old and had been argued over for many decades. The elder geeks had become complacent and set in their ways, firm in their arguments and their interpretations of canon. Then a young and beardy upstart wallowed into the fray with his new and exciting tales of honor, love, family, music, and a quest for vengeance via knowledge. And all of geekdom did rejoice. Buried deep in the fiddly folds of this new story was a girl, a beautiful and weird creature who wanted nothing to do with civilization. She provided an objective viewpoint, what with being batshit crazy and all. She changed everything by doing very little.
Alright, sorry. I’ll be straight with you. As you all know, I’ve been waiting about a thousand years for the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. It’s torture, this particular fandom. However, Patrick Rothfuss has put out a new book set in our beloved universe. If you haven’t read Rothfuss’s other two books, this post makes absolutely zero sense right now. Just go read them and then come back. Because what the fuck are you doing with your life if you haven’t read these books? I’ll wait here.
Good? Okay. Moving on.
So you know Auri, the weird girl who shows up on the roof with occasional pearls of random wisdom? This newest book (The Slow Regard of Silent Things) is all about her. Sort of. It’s about her life in the Underthing, how she gets around and spends her days and sees the world. The structure of it is strange. There’s only one character, no dialogue, and, really, very few plot points, aside from a ticking clock element that isn’t ever fully explained. It reads like a treatise on OCD and agoraphobia, which makes it claustrophobic as hell, almost Hitchcockian. It’s crazy, and adds nothing whatsoever to the ongoing Kingkiller story.
Well, except that it makes me really happy. I always wanted to know what Auri’s deal is. And, honestly, my biggest questions remain unanswered. Where did all the shit in the Underthing come from? Why hasn’t it all rotted away or been rediscovered? Where are all the vandals? Does the Underthing have suburbs where University schmucks do dare to tread? How is Auri healthy, living with no light and only what food she can steal? How did she get there? And exactly how crazy is she? These aren’t exactly important questions, their being unanswered neither helps nor hinders either the new book or the existing trilogy. But, oh, how they bother me.
On the other hand, obviously, the story you know and love is never the only thing going on in any of our imaginary worlds, is it? Cain and Abel were the only children in the universe until one of them suddenly wandered into Nod and found other people, right? What the hell, Bible? Auri is in our story, therefore her story is in our story, whether we ever got to read it or not. We can assume that she has to eat and sleep and does not exist solely to provide philosophical, albeit bugnuts, insight into Kvothe’s problems. She’s a person, not a plot device. This book may not do a lot for pushing our trilogy towards its thrilling conclusion, but it was a part of it from the beginning. Had to be.
Think it through. We all have that not-quite-tertiary character in our lives, don’t we? That person who wasn’t quite a friend, or maybe was but wasn’t in our inner circle. That one who helped with some catharsis or epiphany you wouldn’t have gotten to on your own? That one you don’t feel like you really need anymore after you turned that corner, and haven’t kept up with since then? Auri is that person for Kvothe. She’s crazy and seemingly out of place in his world. But I think that in these kinds of stories nothing is ever really out of place. We just may not realize which pieces are supposed to fit into our story, or when or how. That sounds weird, but allow me just a moment of writery blah blah here: a story isn’t just two sides, the one you read and the behind the scenes machinations offstage. At the very least, even with the laziest writer in the world, it’s those two sides plus the writer’s secret stash of insider information. They always know all the answers. Occasionally a bit of backstory or sidestory pokes its head into our on-the-page dimension, and there are always many sides to those tidbits, as well. Fragments upon fragments upon fragments, and that’s how the world is built. It is, and I say this with no hyperbole intended, infinite.
I respect Rothfuss so much for putting out this book. Largely because he catches a lot of shit for taking a million and a half fucking years between Kingkiller novels, and some asshats with no appreciation for craft saw this as merely a way to stave off the starving lions with an insignificant nibble. Personally, I don’t think it was just to hold us over. I honestly think he’s a writer with enough wherewithal to do something beautiful and odd and against expectations. A rarity, that. Although I would argue that the rage-trolls only felt slighted because it’s set the same world as the trilogy. Nobody was bitching about either of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle books because they didn’t step on the Kingkiller’s turf. But, as always, those idiots can fuck right off, I say. To invoke and paraphrase a well-worn Gaiman-ism: Rothfuss is not your bitch. None of the writers/creators of the things you like are machines built for your pleasure. You have to go to a very special electronics store in Tokyo for that sort of thing. And perhaps you should take that trip and get yourself a pleasurebot. It would be time better spent, rather than wasting your life making slobbery, agro “hurry up and finish book three!” comments on every single thing Rothfuss posts on the interwebs, you inconsiderate, childish, selfish, entitled fuckers. Suck it up and cultivate some patience. This is art. You’re not allowed instant gratification. But your new robot friend can help you out with that while you wait.
The point is, I dig that the man had an inescapable story in his head and did something with it, instead of just writing it down and locking it away. I’m sure there are so many brilliant (not to mention lucrative) things locked away in file cabinets and mildewy basements and forgotten computer folders all over the world, and probably a lot of them wouldn’t make sense if published separately from their brother pieces. Some of them might. A few could change the world, I’m sure. But they’ll never see the light of day because one asshole behind one desk couldn’t come up with a way to market them in the flyover states. That guy? Fuck that guy. We need to eliminate that guy from our culture. More importantly, we need to eliminate even the idea of that guy from our thinking when we create. Screw him and everything he stands for. Just do the thing. Do the weird shit you think no one will understand. Do it even if it’s just for yourself. As hard as you can, as loudly as possible. Someone will hear you. Someone will love it. I promise. We all have an Auri. She just needs a voice.