The new season
Season six of Game of Thrones will be an adaptation of an unreleased book by George R. R. Martin, the sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series titled The Winds of Winter.
I can’t think of any parallels where a series or film was made before the source material had even come out. You’ve heard how they write scripts as they go these days, but this is different. Isn’t it?
The only example I can think of is Stephen King’s Storm of the Century. However in that case it was only the script that was released in bookstores at the same time as the series; it wasn’t a novel. I thought it was because I never picked it off the shelf, thinking “Damn this is corny to have the book out the same week as the show.”
It’s different from having books that are adaptations of the film or series—those can be ok, but I can’t remember what they’re called—coming out pre-release rather than films or shows that are adaptations of the source material coming out around the same time.
If I was the author it would annoy me no end, but if the money is right it’s right. Right?
Then again Martin is probably thinking that no one understands his work anyway, so it’s no skin off his teeth. And I get that. I really do.
Anyway Storm of the Century is as close a parallel as I can think of other than Shadows of the Empire—about which the less said the better.
So next spring you could hypothetically follow along with the show from week to week with your book. But the only way to make that work really would be to watch the television episode first then read the book until you came to the stopping point at the end of the last episode. Actually that very well may work. I think I just spun corporate synergy in a positive way. Now I need some whiskey.
But how about that? You have the series and the book released at essentially the same time (spring of 2016 in this case).
Apart from exceptionally corporate offerings, like Shadows of the Empire where you had a bunch of tied-in material being released at once, or a fucking sale at Best Buy, you don’t see that kind of thinking much in the book universe. Not because they wouldn’t do it if they could, but because it’s just a rare thing. The end result, however, is that it cheapens the reading experience in my opinion unless you have two products that are alike in name only like The Lost World where the book and movie were so different but equally bad (hehehe), but whatever like I said Martin probably doesn’t care about whether or not you have any access to his genius. He’s getting his beach house.
Martin came to what I call “The Kojima School” late in life, publishing the first Game of Thrones novel in 1991 after having already won many literary awards. But then he realized that if he wanted to make a ton of money he needed to find a single thing and just stick it out. That’s how you build a fan base over the years. That’s how you make money. Unless you’re Stephen King and you’re a god damn genius (even David Foster Wallace thought King wrote some of the absolute best novels of the twentieth century and he couldn’t even have a good time on a cruise ship or at the circus for crying out loud . . . he was very critical is what I mean . . . also I’m not sure how smart he was to be honest . . . ). Anyway if you’re not Stephen King and you want to make a go at it that’s just the blueprint from my perspective. It’s called good salesmanship, horse sense dammit!
I’ve spoken about this before on the Veggie Lasagna podcast, but Hideo Kojima is the model for this where you have one artist quarterback a single franchise over a period of decades and make bank bitch.
Anyway I don’t read Game of Thrones books. I did pick up the first novel a couple years ago and perused the first twenty pages or so but didn’t like it. That doesn’t mean much, however, as with many engrossing fantasy novels it can take some reading before you get into. Friends whom I respect because they have high IQs tell me it’s quite good.
That wasn’t the case with The Wheel of Time books for me. The first three books in that series really blew me away, but eventually it ran out of steam (although I would like to see HBO adapt this once Thrones concludes). I find that these really baroque fantasy series tend to exhaust their ideas after a brief period but the fan base is there so it’s like a perpetual motion machine that the author can’t get off of. It throws off money so who can blame them? But look at Game of Thrones. It’s really almost a parody of itself in that by killing off all of the characters it has to continually reset the audience’s appetite and push in different directions to find fresh territory to explore.
I can kind of sense George R. R. Martin’s writing style behind the HBO program; you can tell that none of this stuff is really planned out at all, but instead he set up the world to begin with then exploited his characters to the hilt to entertain the audience as best he could.
The problem is after you kill off Eddard—probably the only three-dimensional character in the entire universe of Westeros (think Jon Snow)—where do you go? That’s kind of Martin’s challenge I think, and it’s why after five seasons we have gone from Winterfell and the exceptionally appealing Stark family to focusing almost entirely on the least appealing people that George R. R. Martin could conceive of. Yesh the Boltons. He kills his characters not because it necessarily fits the story but instead because it’s the most entertaining, sensational, thing that he can think to do, and also maybe he can’t think of anything else to write. But he paints himself into a dismal corner, because that’s the universe that he created.
The three most interesting characters—apart from Tyrion—in the show have been Eddard, Joffrey, and Tywin, and they all died rather magnificently didn’t they?
People have raved about season five and I think it was very good, Martin is a talented writer, but it was also extremely dark and pessimistic. The only door it really opened was the escape attempt by Reek and Sansa. Apart from that it mostly just smoked with the bloody execution of fate. Hmmm.
Anyway eventually by the end of book 7 I suppose Martin will have squeezed every ounce of misery he can out of his characters and universe. It’s funny that he holds onto Tyrion though, isn’t it? What would the show be without that character? I have no idea! At this point it would be completely unwatchable.
One weird writer theory I have is that Tyrion represents Martin’s libido. Moving on . . .
The Winds of Winter
So according to Wikipedia “As of April 2015, a total of 10 chapters from The Winds of Winter have been either read publicly or published as a sample chapter.” Supposedly there will be two more books published in the Song of Ice and Fire series and they will each be around 1,500 pages in length (O.O). I’m not sure why they wouldn’t break that up into fifteen Cairo Detectives but who knows. According to some, the publishing world has become obsessed with length, with sheer volume of pages, and who am I to argue with such powerful people.
Jon Snow’s Death
That was a pretty crazy decision, but the story of the Night’s Watch had certainly been told as much as it ever could be. Therefore Jon Snow did become kind of useless at the end there. He had loved and lost, fought and led, his arc completed it was time for the chopping block. But that really does leave me scratching my head about what Martin is going to come up with to fill 3,000 pages. Jon Snow had emerged as basically the only decent human being that the show had left in a leading role. Sansa is kind of nuts. Yes we all love Tyrion, whoring, and drinking, and aw shucks isn’t he clever. But if you’ll remember the jury is kind of still out about whether his deductions about what motivated Shae to testify and sleep with Tywin justified his murdering her. To me, it seemed obvious that she had been coerced into giving the confession. Hopefully I’m wrong there. And also, I might have missed a scene or scrap of dialogue so if someone wants to clarify this point in the comment section feel free.
But Jon Snow really was the heart and soul (what was left of it) of the story after all the other good and decent characters had been snuffed out. People may then say, “What about Lord Varys? He’s a good guy?” And you’re right, he’s interesting. But what about his revenge on that sorcerer who castrated him? I don’t know. Justified? Sure. But . . . he’s not Jon Snow is what I’m saying. Jon Snow showed mercy to Ygritte and Mance Rayder. I wonder if Lord Varys would have done the same, especially in the second example with Stannis looking on. So really who do we have left that we can root for? Grey Worm? Dunno. Wait . . . is he dead too?
Thanks for reading.