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The Freakish Predicament of George RR Martin: Game of Thrones Season 6 Debuts Before Next Novel

The world in which George RR Martin began his life as a novelist bares no resemblance to the world Martin lives in now: subjected to constant scrutiny, analysis of his writerly pace (or lack thereof) and lots of public fretting about whether he will complete his magnum opus, Song of Ice and Fire, before he drops dead. Welcome to the life of George RR Martin, the man behind Game of Thrones, the television show that became the first sci-fi fantasy series to win an Emmy for Best Drama.

But to understand how Martin came to star in his own version of a Franz Kafka novel, one has to understand the ground Martin occupied before Game of Thrones was optioned by HBO. Martin started his career in virtual obscurity, attending fan conventions just like any other nerd. When he sold his first book in 1976, the internet had not even been invented yet, and the idea that one of his projects would one day be co-opted by Hollywood was but a distant dream.

Martin started A Song of Fire and Ice, which is known on TV as Game of Thrones, in the mid-1990s. The world Martin is creating encompasses decades, hundreds of characters and locations completely conjured by his author’s imagination. Such a sprawling work takes time to create, and Martin’s artistic muse moves at its own pace.

All of this would have been fine had HBO never sought to option the book into the TV series. The process of creating wildly popular show is chronicled in the media as much as the stories the show depicts. Early on, producers and media seized on the possibility that the show would essentially lap Martin, by adapting the novels so quickly that the show would carry on before the next novel was due. And that has finally happened. In January of 2016, Martin reluctantly announced that he had blown by several deadlines, meaning that the next novel, which will be called Winds of Winter, will not be released before the next season of the show.

What this means for HBO is the least of Martin’s concerns. Producers said they would rely on Martin for guideposts and suggestions about where the work was heading, but they would naturally diverge on certain story-lines, as they have done throughout the series. However, this presents an interesting conundrum for Martin. All of the plot points he suggested to HBO are subject to change in his finished artistic vision. The writer always had the prerogative to change his mind, right until the first printing. Now, however, Martin is hounded by both fans and media, who have demanded answers about why Martin is missing deadlines.

All of this prompted Martin to write a long blog post about his writing process, where he is forced to defensively explain his writing habits. “Look, I have always had problems with deadlines,” he said. Prompted to explain just how much of the novel exists, Martin said “Yes, there’s a lot written. Hundreds of pages. Dozens of chapters . . . But there’s also a lot still left to write. I am months away still… and that’s if the writing goes well.”

This seems fair enough, but Martin has been a celebrity for long enough to realize that fans and reporters were questioning his every move. If he took a vacation, he should have been writing. If he appeared at a convention, he should have been writing. If he worked on other projects, he should have been writing Winds of Winter. Enthusiastic fans of the book and the TV series have turned into a mini-version of the entertainment website TMZ, even obsessing over whether Martin might be too old to finish his book. Martin even felt prompted to address concerns about his age, admitting that yes, perhaps age also plays a role.

Meanwhile, the writers’ muse grinds on through what could be the first case of TV-induced writers’ block documented in real time.

In the end, the most fascinating question may not be what happens to the characters on Game of Thrones. The more interesting concern is whether the pressure affects Martin’s original vision for his world of Westeros, and whether fans will in the end prefer the book to the TV series after all.

One Comment

  1. Williamet says:

    I really enjoy the article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged. Eschen

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