What does an author owe to readers?

There's been a lot written about George R.R. Martin lately, but most of it isn't about his books.

For instance, fans of Martin's planned seven-part fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, have reacted favorably to the news that Sean Bean was cast to play the lead, Ned Stark, in an HBO pilot based on the first book.


What they haven't been so favorable toward is how long it's taking Martin to finish the series, which began in 1996 with A Game of ThronesSince then, Martin's written and published three more in the series; the last one, A Feast for Crows, was published in 2005.

Four books in nine years isn't too shabby. But with three more projected before the series ends, and four years since the last one was published, fans are getting antsy.

In other words, what exactly are Martin's fans entitled to, anyway?

As Gaiman puts it, not much. While I won't repeat his exact phrase (this is a family blog, after all) I can say that I agree to a certain extent.

You're paying for a book, and that's what you get. If you want to know more about a character, a world or a subject, feel free to wait for the author to write more, or become a fanfic writer and make yourself happy.

However, I've been known not to start a critically acclaimed series for fear that I wouldn't live to see its end. For instance, I've still not started Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which spanned from 1982 to 2004. Twenty-two years is a long time to sweat over a fictional world, from a reader's perspective.

And can you imagine the ruckus if J.K. Rowling had abandoned Harry Potter, five books in? There would have been riots in the middle schools.

So what's your stance on unfinished series? Do you wait until the author's completed his entire work, or roll the dice and hope for the best? Do authors owe their fans a timeline, or should they be happy for any bit of writing they can get?