Are there spoilers at this point? No! Read away!
On New Year’s Day, George R.R. Martin dropped this literary bomb on his readers (here). Boom! And you can still feel the aftereffects of the explosion reverberating over the comments and fansites even today.
Yes, the next novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series will not be out before the next season of Game of Thrones. Which means the show will pass the book, spoiling what George had planned to do in the rest of the series. Jon Snow, your death secret is about to come out!
Let me get this out of the way… I never saw the book series as perfect. I know, I know, heresy! Blasphemy! String this guy up and call in the silent sisters to take away the corpse! But the fact is that while I found the first two books very solid, things started to come apart for me during the third book and then came the mess that was the fourth book (let’s not talk about it… okay, we probably will in a bit). The fifth book tried to recover the problems, and it was fun to read the first time, but when you finish the giant tome, you realize how little went on for so, so, so many pages.
Okay, I got that out of the way.
Now, I’ve read all the books, including his giant history about the world of Westeros. AND I’ve given people copies of the books and DVDs of the show for presents. Heck, just this Christmas I gave my dad an Iron Throne Christmas ornament. (Thank you Target for finding such a unique way to celebrate the holidays!) So it’s a love-hate relationship. I truly respect the creativity behind the series, and his surprises get me each time, but I also question a lot of the storytelling decisions he takes, especially as he continues to expand his world beyond the lands actually threatened by the terrors behind the Wall.
Since George’s post a lot more enthusiastic fans have voiced their opinions about his delay. Everyone seems very clear in their opinion- either Martin let us down (and let’s not watch the show) to we love Martin and he can take all the time he wants.
Me, I’m a little conflicted.
Recently, Neil Gaiman reshared a post he wrote in 2009 about Martin and his series. Here is the link. He discussed the idea of entitlement and what does an author owe their reader. The fact is while I agree with much of what he says, I do think an author when they start a story has a commitment to finish it.
Think of it this way- You go see a theater show, the cast goes up, performs just the first two acts, skipping the third, and leaves. How would the audience react? The audience that stayed for those two acts are looking for an ending. And the readers of Martin have been waiting since the 90s for closure to this story. That is a long time to sit in any audience, no matter how comfy the seats are.
Should we have been surprised?
When I first read A Feast for Crows, I was concerned.
So much of the book doesn’t include the main cast, very little happens, and he takes us far outside the main stories. Why spend so much time away from the plot and characters the readers felt connected to?
It’s like as if Tolkien during the middle of The Two Towers decided to jump back to Hobbiton for three hundred pages and tell you what is going on with a Hobbit trying to open a bar and an Orc is trying to open one next door and they are worried about their customers getting into fights and…
Okay, I lost my train of thought. Sorry, but you get the drift. So much was not part of the main story.
See, with those weird diversions and unnecessary new additions, A Feast for Crows gave me the first inkling that maybe Martin didn’t want to write the series anymore. He wanted to explore other tales and other adventures. And when you consider how creative a writer he is is it that surprising?
A Dance of Dragons sadly confirmed this theory, not just because both books took far more years to complete than the first three books, but because so very little happens. For most of both books it is about characters traveling to another destination. Everyone is planning and preparing and that is… sorry, I had to yawn. Of course, the TV series could cover both those book in a year and have room to spare!
(It does makes you wonder where his editor was during those two books, right? The fact that the publisher told him that they could turn the new book out in three months if he delivered it, shows that they just allow him to move forward as he wants, no question. I’m not sure if that is a good thing. An editor should do more than correct grammar, they should question decisions. It might be challenging and maybe even aggravating for an author, but the end product always is better for it in my opinion.)
Now here we are, five years waiting for The Winds of Winter and the book won’t be out in time. The final nail for me in my “Martin doesn’t want to write this series anymore” argument. That is not to say he doesn’t care about the characters, it just probably feels overwhelming. And five years on any creative project, no matter how big the final product will be, is a very long time. It is longer than the first term of a President. People have started and ended college since the last book! Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel in less time! Seriously, should anything take longer than the freaking Sistine Chapel?
Have you every visited Martin’s blog? Check out how excitedly he writes about his theater, his Wild Card series, the Hugo awards (I never realized other writers cared so much about awards, it feels weird to think of art that way), the collections he edits and football (Man, he loves football). And then look at how he talks about Westeros and its citizens. It is very, very different. There is no excitement there. It is always about struggles, difficulties, and deadlines. Or, in worst-case scenarios, defending the show or decisions he made in his books.
When you put it all together, the only person who might not want to write about Westeros is the main man himself.
The Show and the Books
It’s not surprising that Martin took the money from HBO.
I think most writers would. And it’s obvious it has allowed him to live out some dreams, from owning his own theater to traveling. He seems to be doing a lot of good as well with the funds. Seize the day, Martin! You only live once! For that I totally support him.
Are the books and TV show different? Yes and no. The series is definitely a more streamlined version of the books. Which, in a way, makes it more accessible. We don’t get lost in all the side stories that make a reader want to shout like in a Monty Python show: “Get on with it!”
The creators of the show know where Martin is going with all of the main characters. They know the ending, let me clarify that, the possible first ending Martin had planned. (If he writes a different ending, would that be a breach of contract with HBO since it is not the story he sold to them? I’m curious about that.) So if we can say one thing about the TV series, it will give us the end of the series that the books might not.
I think as fans we should embrace that fact.
I also don’t think reader fans are going to be able to avoid the spoilers from the show no matter how much they try. And just waiting for Martin to finish… Eek.
Look, I would love to be proven wrong in time. I would love for Martin to finish the series, tie all the storylines together into a neat bow. Prove to me all the sidesteps and minor characters were part of the grand scheme. I want to be proven wrong. Martin has always been good at surprising me, I would love for it to happen here.
One comment on an article I read said that Martin should just say the show will finish the series, back away from the books, and support them to make the best three years possible. I think that is a great idea. It would take the gorilla off his back, allow him to work on the writing he cares about, relax, and we could all get closure together.
That sounds like a nice ending. But who gets a nice ending in Westeros?
My latest novel Permanent Spring Showers was just published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.