You see it on social all of the time now, “When will he be done with the next book for Game of Thrones?” It is overdue on a cosmic scale from a writer’s perspective…years overdue. I don’t miss my book deadlines as an author, so the concept of being years late staggers me.
People want the books because they are different than the series, in some less-than-subtle ways, and they have invested long hours in reading the series up to this point. More importantly, they have watched the stunning HBO series which has gone far past Mr. Martin’s storyline in print thus far.
I’m not anxious about the next book being published. Why? Because George R. R. Martin has done something that I have not seen with almost any other writer – he has made his written books obsolete. His creation has eclipsed anything he might ever write again. The popularity of the HBO series is so big, so vast, so visually compelling, that whatever he writes it will be compared to the series, which is nearly impossible to top. Whatever he produces as an author will be held up against the TV series based on his books! The irony here is incredible. George R. R. Martin has actually created a situation where writing the books is not necessary.
It is hard to comprehend of an instance where an author’s success is so great because of his works, that he cannot surpass it with the written word. Perhaps Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. As good as the book is, when the title is mentioned, we all see Gregory Peck in our mind’s eye. When the sequel to the book two years ago, it was ridiculed and mocked. Her characters and story had eclipsed her own vision. People were saying that she, as the author, had not been true to the characters that she had created! The readers (and viewers) had seized her work and held onto it so dearly that no matter what was published thereafter was destined to be scorned.
Similarly, Mr. Martin doesn’t have to write the rest of the series because he will be remembered for the HBO series far beyond any words he might write. He is facing a problem that every writer dreams of, stunning success to the point where his written worlds are obsoleted by another medium – in this case, television. In fact, producing the books is bound to draw comparisons and raise scorn with fans, because that’s what people do on the internet, they get pissed. Having seen the series, the haters will whine that the coming novels don’t live up to what they have seen on HBO. If the books were released now, wrapping up the series, he would draw ire for their tardiness on top of being late, everyone will expect something miraculous. Writing the rest of the books will only serve to fragment his fan base. I have never quite seen anything like it.
The winning move for Mr. Martin is to not play the game. As a great fan of his work, I honestly don’t know if I would encourage him to publish any more in this series. His body of work, which encompasses the TV series, is stellar and little more can be done that would improve upon what we have all experienced.