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.
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.