Monday, April 27, 2015

Read Before You Recommend

An Open Letter to TIME Magazine

Dear Editor,

I recently came across an article from your Entertainment section, entitled "Five Fantasy Epics That Would Have Made for Better TV Than Game of Thrones", by Chris Wilson. While I agree with his assessment that the books he recommends would probably do well as high-budget cable TV shows, I'm curious as to how he can make such a recommendation in the first place, since he admits in the article that he hasn't actually read most of the material he's "recommending".

He begins by stating that he never actually finished reading the first installment of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire; in fact, he gave up completely, less than a third of the way into the first book. He's admitted he never read the books, and it's not even clear whether he's watched the show they were adapted into, so how can Mr. Wilson seriously suggest that these other properties would make for better television than Game of Thrones?

When Roger Ebert posted a review of the film Tru Loved without actually finishing it, his readership were so outraged at his lack of professionalism that he was forced to re-watch the entire film, review it again, and issue an apology. I'm not so cruel as to suggest that Mr. Wilson be made to read all of books in all the series he's recommending (since this would likely amount to a life-sentence for the poor man), but he certainly shouldn't be recommending books he hasn't read, and doesn't even seem to respect.

Not only has he not done his research, he also confesses that virtually every series he "recommends" has a dramatic drop-off in quality later on, or that he simply got bored with them after a few volumes. I came away from this article with a strong impression that Mr. Wilson doesn't actually enjoy reading fantasy novels in the first place. In fact, he seems to have nothing but disdain for the genre. Of the eight fantasy series which he mentions by name in his article, he tells us that he never finished reading five of them. Some of them, he never even started reading: he prefaces his recommendation of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time by saying "I never actually got into these books".

TV shows cost a lot of money to produce, so if Mr. Wilson is going to recommend a property to be developed into a full-fledged television program, he had better make sure it's a cracking good read, not just something that someone else told him was probably alright.

Why is this guy recommending that people make TV shows out of books he hasn't finished reading, and didn't enjoy in the first place? And more importantly, why are you guys paying him to do it?

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