When you ask people why they don’t read fantasy, they usually say something along the lines of, ‘because elves don’t exist’. This makes no sense as an objection. Huge swathes of imaginative literature concern things that don’t exist, and as it happens, things that don’t exist feature particularly prominently in the English literary tradition. We’re very good at things that don’t exist. The fantastic is central not just to the English canon – Spenser, Shakespeare, even Dickens – but also to our amazing parallel tradition of para-literary works, from Carroll to Conan Doyle to Stoker to Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, Pullman. There’s no other body of literature quite like it: just consider the comparative absence of fantasy from the French and Russian traditions. And yet it’s perfectly normal for widely literate general readers to admit that they read no fantasy at all. I know, because I often ask. It’s as if there is some mysterious fantasy-reading switch that in many people is set to ‘off’. And it’s this that leads to the mayor of Des Moines syndrome, because part of the point of Stephenson’s remark isn’t just that people who don’t live there don’t know who the mayor is, they couldn’t care less. The information is of no use to them.
He also describes his own activities as a 'drug pusher' with regard to Martin's fabulous series of books (which I've read through twice, now):
This sense of unsafety and instability is at the heart of the books. I’ve been acting as a kind of low level pusher or drug dealer for the series, shoving recommendations and occasionally box sets in the direction of friends. I tell them to forge past their elves-don’t-exist resistance at least until the end of the first episode. And that, generally, is all it takes. After that initial act of drug-pushing, I follow up on my new clients to ask how they have got on with the series. Everyone is addicted, and everyone reports the same moment as being the one that got them hooked.
I have to admit that I've played this role myself a couple of times.
And like the other addicts, I'm pretty eagerly waiting for The Winds of Winter.
I need a fix, man.