A Serious Question About The Song Of Ice And Fire

A look so many of secretly wish we could pull off.
A look too many of us secretly wish we could pull off.

HBO recently released the trailer for the next season of Game of Thrones, and meanwhile George R.R. Martin’s publisher squashed rumors that the next novel in the series, The Winds of Winter, will be released this year.

Now, many fans have wondered what will happen when the TV adaptation uses up all of the published source material and has to move on.  And many others worry that Mr. Martin, an older gentleman who seems a bit thicker around the middle than most people would be comfortable with, though for a man his age probably isn’t too heavy, will not live long enough to finish the novels, of which he believes there will be two more.  I have a better question to ask.

What happens if the show passes him, finishes the story he started, and the readers no longer care what he has to say?

Martin long ago gave the series’ main producers a rough outline on how the story ends.  They’ve already deviated from the source material a bit for the sake of the story, especially for all the fans hoping to see Lady Stoneheart.  Many an obsessive geek probably mentally catalogs changes, and the less reasonable kind may go further with online complaints.

You know, someone like this guy.
You know, someone like this guy.

Ryan has posted in the recent past how he has to wait an extra eight months or so to get to the end of the Red Rising trilogy.  I am sure every Song of Ice and Fire fan who reads comments like that immediately started playing the world’s smallest violin.  Martin’s novels are about three times longer than each of the Red Rising books, and personally, I am content to let the man work at his own pace.  Rushing an artist isn’t cool, and yes, he counts as an artist.  It’s just there have been years between novels.

But consider as of the end of season four of Game of Thrones, most of the Bran and Brienne chapters have been covered.  Bran won’t be appearing this year, but Brienne certainly will be.  Daenerys’ story has moved into the fifth book.  This season, the producers are probably going to have to really add their own material.

I don’t expect Martin to finish the books before the show ends.  That would be a foolish hope given the man’s pace.  I do believe he can maybe get Winds of Winter done before season 7 of the show, and the producers believe 8 seasons will tell the whole story, while the next two will probably cover A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

Knowing as I do that Martin has given broad strokes for the ending, I am sure whatever ending the TV show comes up with will be at least close to what Martin has in mind.  The show has already expanded roles to relatively minor characters from the novels for the sake of good storytelling, and I am sure it will work out fine.

But, if the show ends and we know who sits on the Iron Throne, even if we know the path Martin has planned is very different from what we see on Game of Thrones, and the books end at the same location, how many fans will still want to read them?  Will it come across more as a movie novelization?  Or will it be something the fans believe is worth reading?

That might be something more interesting to consider than whether or not Martin lives to finish his books.

Yeah, it might not be that tragic after all...
Yeah, it might not be that tragic after all…
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4 thoughts on “A Serious Question About The Song Of Ice And Fire”

  1. Well, considering that I have not read a single word so far — I’ve listened to the audio versions of all five novels to date. I admit, it makes remembering the details a bit more difficult but I think that adds to the enjoyment of watching the TV version. Some elements are familiar and others are not.

    If Martin plans to write one or two or even three more novels, I’ll read/listen to them all because I need/want to. I rarely leave a series (book, TV, movie, etc.) unfinished unless it’s truly horrible (i.e. those damn sparkly vampires).

    I don’t mind so much that the show may surpass what Martin has planned. When worlds from books are translated to TV or movies, it’s never going to pull all the elements of the book. Never.

    It doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint nor a realistic one. Would most people really sit through two or three full seasons of TV to remain 100% faithful to each novel Martin has written? No, I don’t believe they would. Today’s TV audiences are easily distracted and those slow arcs could mean death in ratings.

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    1. Actually, what I was wondering was since the success of “Game of Thrones” has probably sold more copies of Martin’s books than anything, when the show finishes the story he started before he does, will his books still sell in the numbers they’ve been selling in? Dedicated fantasy fans will certainly finish the series. These are the folks who were probably reading the books before the show even started. I wonder more about casual readers who wouldn’t go there if not for the show. Martin has outlined the story he is telling will end in two more massive novels. How many people will read them if they know how they end long before they get published?

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      1. After all is said and done with GOT (the series)…

        I’m not sure those “newer” fans will continue to buy the books. Unless…you are one of those “completionist” types like myself and Jenny, then you probably will.

        That being said, since I’m currently caught up, I probably won’t be in a big rush to read the next volume when it comes out.

        On a side note: The Walking Dead. I picked up the trades and omnibus’ that were available when I heard they were making this show. I had gotten pretty far (just after all the Prison story lines) then I stopped reading. Now, I’m getting to a point in the show where a lot of the stories that are going on are actually new to me.

        So, I could eventually go back to the trades that are out there and pick up where I left off. I’m just not sure I want to. Not until the tv show is over anyway.

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  2. As a person who has never read any of the books, and is a huge fantasy reader, I can tell you with full confidence that I WILL be reading the books after the show is finished. There is a level of detail that I appreciate in reading, and unfortunately I missed the boat with this series. I also made the mistake of watching the show before picking up the books – and as a completionist, I need to finish the show first before starting the books (which I know can be drastically different). Anyway – I’ll be going back to the books in the end.

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