On Jan. 2, the book-to-screen world was knocked on its ass. George R.R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire and literary wordsmith behind the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, announced that he would be unable to finish his latest book, The Winds of Winter, before its TV counterpart premieres on April 24.
Game of Thrones executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are in the unique position of writing a screenplay for a book that is not done. They are not completely in the dark, however, as Martin has divulged to them the rough outline of how the book will end. No details, mind you, but certainly a general idea of who’s dying, who’s conquering whom, and something about dragons, I imagine.
The main criticism of Martin’s perceived failure is that he allowed travelling and other projects, such as writing the occasional screenplay for HBO, to distract him from meeting his 2016 deadline. Because he was unable to meet the deadline, fans are voicing concerns about creative authorship, but mostly about spoilers. Many people do not want the TV show to ruin the experience of reading the book first.
Let us take a step back and look at this objectively. Martin began writing A Song of Ice and Fire in 1991. Just because there is a TV series that is going to spoil certain plotlines (assuming, of course, that you watch it) does not mean that Martin can magically speed up his writing process in order to cater to a couple of self-righteous internet twerps.
Besides, it is not as if Martin’s tendency to take his time while writing is a big secret. He openly admits as much in his blog:
I suppose I could just say, “Sorry, boys and girls, still writing,” and leave it at that. “It will be done when it’s done.” Which is what I have been doing, more or less, since . . . well, forever.
None of his longtime fans can feign any surprise that this novel is going to take the same amount of time as its predecessors. Considering how the HBO series has thrust Martin into the spotlight, I would be happy to see a publishing date sometime late next year. A Dance with Dragons was published five years after the initial deadline. Same with A Game of Thrones. Martin takes forever to write books. It is a crucial part of his artistic process.
[pullquote]We have no more right to demand recompense from Martin than we have to raid his pantry.[/pullquote]Hold that thought a moment. His artistic process. Not ours. We have no more right to demand recompense from Martin than we have to raid his pantry. We have no right to demand that an artist works faster because we do not want to wait. As soon as fans have any control over the creation of a book it falls into the realm of fan fiction. It becomes a product of something else. If the fans had any control in Westeros, the Red Wedding would not have happened, Ned Stark would still be alive, and Sansa would certainly not be such a whiny little twat. Those shocking moments in the narrative are the reason so many of us have such a love/hate relationship with the story.
Thankfully the internet is not completely saturated with obnoxious deadline enthusiasts. Most of us with any sense know that if we rushed Martin and forced him to keep deadlines that he has never kept in the past, Game of Thrones would cease to be Game of Thrones. It would be a result of hurried decisions and rushed editing, and I fear that it would not be any good — especially when compared to his older, more thought-out novels. Our role is as fan, not as editors. We do not get to decide when The Winds of Winter is done. Our role is to wait for the book and read it whenever it’s ready — a decision made solely by the author.
Take your time, Mr. Martin. We’ll all still be here when you are done.