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An Important Discussion About ‘Game Of Thrones’ And George R.R. Martin’s Books

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George R.R. Martin recently made official what many fans had feared for months: The next book in the series that inspired HBO’s Game of Thrones, The Winds of Winter, won’t be released before the next season of the show. Martin wrote a lengthy blog post just after the new year explaining the delay and his struggle with deadlines, in general, but the upshot of it all is that we’re about to enter a bizarro reality where — after five seasons of the opposite being true — the show will be ahead of the books in some ways . He elaborated:

I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly. There were other factors too, but that was the main one. Given where we are, inevitably, there will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of GAME OF THRONES that have not yet happened in the books. For years my readers have been ahead of the viewers. This year, for some things, the reverse will be true. How you want to handle that… hey, that’s up to you. Look, I read Andy Weir’s novel THE MARTIAN before I saw the movie. But I saw the BBC production of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL before I finally got around to reading Susanna Clarke’s novel. In both cases, I loved the book and I loved the adaptation. It does not need to be one or the other. You might prefer one over the other, but you can still enjoy the hell out of both.

This will, understandably, make things a bit weird going forward, for just about everyone, but especially for the people whose attachment to the series began with Martin’s writing. So what we’re going to do here is talk through it, you and I. I think that might help. Please, if there’s anything you want to say, don’t hesita-…

WHY DIDN’T HE FINISH IT? HE SHOULD HAVE FINISHED IT. HE SHOULD HAVE JUST SAT DOWN AND FINISHED IT INSTEAD OF DOING OTHER THINGS. I SAW HIM ON A RED CARPET. AND HE KEEPS WRITING ABOUT THE JETS. HE SHOULD HAVE FINISHED IT.

Hoo boy. Coming in hot, I see.

I’M ANGRY.

I guess so. See, the thing is that writing is really h-…

DON’T TELL ME WRITING IS HARD. YOU’RE A WRITER. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO SAY THAT. YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL IMPORTANT.

But it is, though. It’s not hard in the way, say, crab fishing in icy waters is hard, because no matter how this sentence turns out I will probably not get sucked out to sea and die, but it’s still a difficult process. Case in point: I spent 30 minutes on the short intro paragraph for this post because I re-wrote it a few times trying to hit the tone I wanted, and because it’s the Monday after the holidays and I was watching TV till like 3 a.m. last night and my brain is just a big pile of sludge with a rusty hamster wheel in it today.

SO WHAT?

So, I had all that trouble with those minimal distractions and a few fact-based sentences. George R.R. Martin is writing a 1000-page book with about 7000 threads running through it and 200 characters, many of whom have names like Vaeloryiusan or Loeviarnan or some other combination of V’s and oddly-ordered vowels. Much, much higher degree of difficulty.

BUT THOSE WERE ALL HIS CHOICES.

Well yeah, but let’s also point out what’s changed since he started making them. He pumped out three books between 1996 and 2000, sure, but that’s when he was kind of just a guy with a head filled with ideas and nothing but time. Contrast that with today. Not only is he getting to the really hard part, the ending, but he’s also getting pulled in a million different directions by millions of people who all want a piece of the mind behind a critically acclaimed cultural phenomenon. And, at the risk of putting words into George R.R. Martin’s mouth here, that last part must be making the whole thing so stressful.

Think about it this way: You ever write a paper in high school or college and find yourself staring at a blinking cursor on page four of a paper that needs to get to 20 as you make ludicrous rationalizations like “Okay. Okay. It’s 2 a.m. now. If I can pound straight through and write three pages an hour between now and 7:30, and catch most of the lights on the way to school, and proofread on my laptop as I walk to the lab to print it out, I can still do this”? Okay, now imagine that, but instead of getting a C in Intro to Eastern Religion, the whole entire world is livid with you. It’s stressing me out and I don’t even have to write the things.

WELL MAYBE IF HE HADN’T BEEN RUNNING AROUND AT EVENTS AND APPEARANCES AND WASTING TIME HE WOULDN’T HAVE PUT HIMSELF IN THIS SITUATION.

I mean, sure. Maybe. But even if that was the only cause of the delay, and it happened in the frivolous way you seem to be imagining it, I still really don’t see how you can get all that angry about it. George R.R. Martin lived his entire adult life as largely unknown writer, and has very suddenly become a world famous multi-millionaire at age 67. If you showed up at your job and someone was like “Here’s $50 million dollars. Wanna fly to Cannes and be cheered on by throngs of adoring fans?,” you think you’d sweat the pile of unfinished paperwork on your desk? Maybe you would. Good for you. You schmuck.

And again, I’m not saying that’s what he’s doing here, blowing it off and such. I don’t know his schedule. What I am saying is that even if he was doing that, I’d be on-board. Live life.

BUT HE OWES IT TO ME AS A READER TO FINISH WHAT HE STARTED.

Nope.

BUT I INVESTED SO MANY HOURS INTO READ-…

Nope.

BUT I…

Nope nope nope. You aren’t owed anything here, champ. It would be nice for you if he wrapped everything up quickly and gave you the ending you wanted all along and had Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington hand-deliver it, but if he chose instead to, like, buy an island and let HBO finish telling the story for him while he starts posting short stories on his Livejournal from a cabana about a traveling youth basketball team that steals diamonds from museums in the cities they travel to for games, that’s fine, too. Dre never made Detox, either, you know?

WELL CAN I… uh, can I at least hang out in the cabana?

No.

THIS IS A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AND I DEMAND RESTITUTION.

[Sighs.]

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