The New Year kicked off with author George RR Martin admitting he’d missed the deadline for his next novel, The Winds Of Winter.
As a result, the sixth book in his A Song Of Ice And Fire series will be published after the sixth series of its TV adaptation, Game Of Thrones.
In the past, when the long-awaited book failed to materialise, he received the sort of ferocious online abuse you get in certain, poisonous corners of the internet, with some even speculating the 65-year-old might actually die before finishing the saga.
Fellow fantasy author Neil Gaiman stepped in, telling angry, entitled fans that “George RR Martin is not your bitch”, Game Of Thrones star Kit Harrington branded the vitriol “vicious, ugly and manipulative,” while Martin himself proved he might not be as cuddly as he looks, issuing a stern “Fuck you” to the complainers with an image of him sticking up his middle finger. And you thought Tyrion Lannister was the biggest badass in Westeros.
In a turn laden with festive goodwill, fans reacted to the latest news with nothing but support, meeting Martin’s blog post on the subject with a slew of heartwarming messages.
Martin has since issued another statement saying how “astonished” he is by the replies, and all is well once more as he promises to get the book finished as quickly as he can.
That, however, doesn’t change the fact the sixth series of the TV adaptation is going to appear on Sky Atlantic before the book it’s supposedly based on is published.
But does it matter? Let’s have a look at the biggest issues.
THE SHOW PRODUCERS KNOW HOW THE STORY WILL END
In 2014, when it was clear Game Of Thrones was moving faster on screen than on the page, producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss assured fans the show was in safe hands should they overtake the books. Talking to Vanity Fair, Benioff admitted Martin had told them how the saga will end. “If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it,” said Benioff. “And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character.”
GEORGE RR MARTIN DOESN’T MIND THE CHANGES.
George RR Martin has publicly stated on many occasions that far from being annoyed by the changes to some of his characters, he actually likes them. In one case, that of Osha, Martin said the TV version would impact his future writing. He’s also a noted fan of the TV take on Shae and Littlefinger. In the grand scheme of such a seven-book, eight-series epic, these are all minor deviations along the road. If it ends up the same, where’s the harm?
THE SHOW DOESN’T NEED THE BOOKS
With 60m copies of ASOIAF books sold, in 45 different languages, it’s no doubt one of the biggest-ever book series. That said, in the US, it’s HBO’s most-watched ever show with 18.6 million viewers tuning in for the series five finale. In the UK, more than three million helped that same episode become Sky’s most-watched non-sport programme ever. Take into account the rest of the world and pirate viewing – it’s the world’s most illegally downloaded show, too – along with DVD and BluRay sales, and it’s doing just fine. It’s not inconceivable to imagine a large chunk of those 60m book sales happened after the TV show had started, nor does it take a huge leap to think another large chunk of the TV audiences aren’t bothered about the books either. The two things can co-exist, and there’s a massive audience for each.
THE BOOKS AND TV SHOW NOW DIFFER SO MUCH NOW IT BARELY MATTERS ABOUT THE BOOK’S DELAY
Spoiler alert! No one expects any book to make it to TV or cinema without some changes to the plot. As we get ready for the sixth series of Game Of Thrones, however, many of the characters are unrecognisable from their print counterparts. Take Stannis Baratheon, as just one example. The last time we saw him, he was slumped against a tree, with Brienne Of Tarth sentencing him to death, before drawing her sword and, it was implied, lopping off his head. Benioff and Weiss have confirmed Stannis is dead as a doornail, while in the books, he’s definitely alive, as confirmed by George RR Martin on his website. He’s just one of many characters with a different fate on screen and on the page.
BOOK FANS NO LONGER HAVE THE UPPER HAND
Maybe one of the reasons some fans didn’t like the idea of book six being published after the TV series was that, for the first time, they won’t have the upper hand on their muggle, TV-show-only friends. If George RR Martin is going to take three or four years to write a book, they better get used to it.