This blog post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So my novel writing hasn’t quite been proceeding at the pace I would ideally like, and HBO is to blame. I am currently in a froth of excitement about Game of Thrones season 3, and have been spending a lot of precious time in re-watching the first two series on DVD to bring myself back up to speed with events – since it boasts a plot of such Byzantine complexity that even someone who has already read the books (twice) can struggle to keep up with who everyone is and what they are all doing. I have been enjoying the show more second time around, perhaps because I had forgotten a lot of the details of the books, so I am less bothered about things like the precise identity of all the members of the Kingsguard. It has some flaws, admittedly – the most distracting one being the large amount of ‘sexposition’, leaving Ros the pros the best-informed woman in Westeros. But overall it is very well scripted, acted and filmed. And I love the credit sequence showing the locations as little clockwork machines.
But, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I have to admit that the best thing about the television show is the prospect that it might plausibly catch up with the fantasy book series on which it is based. A Song of Ice and Fire has been going for about two decades now and shows no signs of ending any time soon. Author George R. R. Martin (nothing to do with The Beatles) has claimed there will be seven books in total, of which he’s currently writing the sixth, but since he previously claimed it would be a trilogy, and then revised that to a pentalogy before settling on the heptalogy, I’m not entirely convinced that it won’t end up as a dodecalogy. Given his age and corpulence, there has been a lot of fear in geekdom that he will ‘pull a Robert Jordan’ and expire before the book series is finished. Quite a few fans are worried that they will never find out who ends up ruling the Seven Kingdoms, and if Jon Snow really is the bastard son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Leaving aside the question of how pressing a concern this really is, the good news is that if HBO re-commission the show enough times, sooner or later the screenwriters will have to come up with an ending: whether it’s based on the books, based on Martin’s notes, or made up out of whole cloth.
Not only will they have to finish it off, I’m also hoping that they may speed things up a bit. The gaps between books in the real world have lengthened exponentially even as in-universe time has slowed to the pace of a dead snail. Martin seems to have great difficulty in ever tying off any of his myriad plot strands, preferring instead to just keep on weaving in new ones, until it feels like he won’t be happy until he has told the whole life story of every single person in his imaginary world. At this rate, it is going to take approximately forever for the ice zombies to reach King’s Landing, and even longer for Daenerys to show up, zap them with her dragons, then marry her own long-lost nephews*. With any luck, impatient viewers and executives will dictate a snappier pace for television. Okay, so the events of the third book, A Storm of Swords, are being told across two seasons of the show, rather than the one-season-per-book format used up to now. But if you’ve read it, you’ll know that most of the best characters get killed at various weddings. Then nothing very much happens in the fourth and fifth books, so really, the show could probably just cut straight from Joffrey’s death-rattle to the zombie-toasting (via a bit of sexposition) and everyone would be happy.
For all I complain about the tedious pacing of Martin’s more recent books, there’s no denying that he has created a compelling world, and that every aspiring fantasy writer today has to consider his legacy and influence, in the same way that a previous generation looked to J.R.R. Tolkien (note to self: need to incorporate double-R initials in pen name). I just hope we get to find out how it ends, one way or another.
*well that’s my prediction, anyway