For the first time in history, an adaptation will eclipse its source material. This April, Game of Thrones will fully surpass the book series (A Song of Ice and Fire) it’s adapted from. All hope is lost, but at least we know now -we can finally let go.
With George R.R. Martin’s latest downtrodden and heartfelt announcement that he has missed his final deadline to get the next ASOIAF installment (Winds of Winter) in before season 6 of Game of Thrones, it’s time we all let go of the books and fully embraced the show -it’s our only real option, and it’s a good option. George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) seemed to have a massive head start on the HBO adaptation of the novels: Game of Thrones. Three months after the show premiered in April, 2011, Martin published the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. Now, nearly five years later, the show has machete’d through the subsequent four books and, in three months will be premiering a season primarily based on a novel that has yet to be published, and according to Martin, may still not be for a while.
George R.R. Martin (GRRM), by his own admission and evidenced by the frustration of his readers around the world, has never been a fast writer, nor a writer that is known for hitting deadlines. So the latest news, the news that all readers of ASOIAF had feared, is far from a surprise, but it does -and should- signal the official end to the book-first devotion many of us practiced over the last five years. This is not to say that we shouldn’t love GRRM and his work, or that we shouldn’t give the guy a break for being a slow writer, we should. Writing fiction is a strenuous and laborious exercise, and it takes time -a lot of time when it’s good. And when your books are 1,500+ pages, filled with a massive ensemble and you have a large portion of the planet anxiously and obsessively awaiting them -I am sure it’s exponentially more difficult and cerebrally taxing.
The world of Westeros and beyond would not exist without GRRM, so he deserves an unwavering level of respect and a certain amount of creative leeway. But, in the same regard, it’s time to be realistic. If we look at the timeline closely, a level of concern inevitably creeps in regarding the overall completion of the series. By all accounts, the yet to be completed Winds of Winter will be the penultimate book in the series, which leaves Martin with one more to pen after it’s published. Unless Winds of Winter is delayed again -a distinct possibility- it’s release will likely be in late 2016 or perhaps sometime in 2017. If we go by those estimates, the time between book five and six will come in right around six years. So if we extrapolate from there, the final installment -currently titled: A Dream of Spring– should hit shelves sometime in 2022 or 2023. HBO’s Game of Thrones looks like it will be all wrapped up by 2018 at the latest, so that would mean the final book may not be published for five (or more) years after the show is finished.
Many Sci-fi readers know about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which grew in length to 12 total books and was left unfinished when Jordan passed away before finishing the final piece. I do not bring this up to suggest Martin’s age (67) is a looming factor in the completion of this series -let’s hope it never is- but rather to point out that when things tend to continually grow and spaces between books lengthen with each release, it is a cause for concern. Martin has always been a master of expansion, his books tend to grow and grow continually adding more and more to the fray. He’s a world-builder. But when it comes to contraction, to gathering up the main players and heading towards the finish line, Martin has proven to be less adept thus far. The series was originally planned to only be a trilogy, and has since been doubled, plus one. And, it’s been rumored that the final book, A Dream of Spring may be split into two books due to its potential length. The show -in many ways- has improved upon some of Martin’s erroneous storylines and redundancies as well as his tendency to continually expand.
So with all of this said, my fellow ASOIAF readers, I think it’s time we let go. Not completely, we should -and I’m sure will- read the books when and if they are released, but we can now let go of the hope that the books will be leading the way -we have to. We can now sit back and be grateful that we have a phenomenal adaptation that has a finish line that will -undoubtedly- be crossed. It’s clear now that the show will be completed years before the books, so it’s time we embraced this fact. The show is very well written, acted, directed and plotted – it’s remarkably representative to the heart of the books, and although we are all disappointed that GRRM won’t be the one to finish the story directly for us – it’s OK. It’s all going to be OK.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the Editor-in-chief of The Overgrown.