What Happens When Game of Thrones Runs Out of Books to Adapt?
“I think the odds against that happening are very long. I still have a lead of several gigantic books. If they include everything in the books, I don’t think they’re going to catch up with me. If they do, we’ll have some interesting discussions.”- George R.R. Martin
So what happens if HBO runs out of Game of Thrones books to adapt? The simple answer is an extended hiatus. The author of A Song of Fire and Ice series (renamed Game of Thrones for television), George R.R. Martin, is notorious for taking years between installments in his fantasy series. He even went so far as to crash a concert at Comic-Con by Paul & Storm who wrote “Write Like the Wind (George R.R. Martin)”. Of course, this was not done with malicious intent, but his actions speak louder than his words, he is in no hurry to finish A Song of Fire and Ice. Other writers, such as Neil Gaiman (author of The Sandman series and much more), have come to Martin’s defense saying “He is not your bitch”. But Martin has taken more than 15 years to release five books of the A Song of Fire and Ice series.
Martin began his series in 1996 originally planning it to be a trilogy, but eventually extending it into seven books. Now 2013 and only five of these seven have been released, with a five-year period between books four and five; the latter released in 2011. Based on the television show’s current schedule we will be caught up to the book series by 2015. The show just wrapped its third season, bringing to life one half of the third book (A Storm of Swords.) This leaves the fourth season to cover the rest of the third book-with the fifth season chronicling the currently remaining two books.
HBO has announced that they will be combining book four (Feast of Crows) and five (Dance With Dragons) into one TV season because the plot of these books happen simultaneously. Additionally, there are a large number of subplots in these two books that will probably be eliminated for the television adaptation. While some fans of the books may be upset at the thought of story lines being cut, the reality is that it is not feasible for all of them to exist. Game of Thrones typically has ten episodes per season, a minuscule timeline, making it virtually impossible to include all the story lines of thirty different characters across a vast landscape. While it is plausible to change character perspectives every chapter (as Martin does in the books) it does not translate as well to television. It is already difficult for even the most avid readers to keep up with character relations (who is connected to who and in what way) so bringing the same fate down on television viewers is an unwise decision. On top of everything, straying from the main characters who the audience has developed feelings for could lose HBO many of its less-hardcore fans.
If the writers on HBO decide to turn books four and five into individual seasons, I can only foresee disaster. As mentioned, these two books introduce a huge array of new characters. This would probably discourage a lot of viewers, ruining the phenomena that Game of Thrones has created.
Martin’s statement referring to HBO having enough material to adapt before they catch up is true if they follow the book exactly, but he’s wrong in that they should follow the books exactly. The writers cannot undertake on his suggested plan; so a hiatus is our only (viable) option. I doubt that HBO would try to write its own ending, but if it did I fear what that would mean for the series. Considering other books that have been adapted into television series, such as The Walking Dead, taking liberties on the television show have in my opinion led to disastrous results. While season one of The Walking Dead started off amazingly, keeping true to Robert Kirkman’s vision, I feel that the following seasons strayed from the ideas Kirkman presented. Kirkman does admit that he wanted the show to go in a different direction from the comics, however the choices made have in my opinion hurt the television series.
The show turned the main character into one of the most boring characters on the show, while killing off one of the comic’s cooler characters (Andrea). Rick Grimes in the comic book was a character who worried over the survival of his family, but also realized that the new world they were in did not allow him to partake in the mourning habits of the past. This shaped him into a leader with a clear vision of their situation, while also pushing the limits of humanity that the reader felt comfortable with. On a similar strain, Andrea of the comics was a strong female character renowned as a sharp-shooter, getting her group out of tight-jams and developing from a scared girl to one of Rick’s closest confidantes. (TWD season 3 spoiler alert) Yet, in the television show Andrea was so disliked by the audience that the only plausible solution at the end of season 3 was to kill her off in a very anti-climatic manner (she dies in a room with a single walker, talking to this infected person for several minutes before trying to remove her restraints). The writers taking the series into their own hands, has ruined some of the comics best characters. Writers creating their own endings of adapted series can be a dangerous move.
At the same time, the idea that HBO would actually write its own ending to Martin’s epic fantasy seems preposterous. If they did, I fear that in an effort to please fans they would stray from Martin’s trend of killing off characters. Martin knows that in real stories characters die, and that has been one of the crowning glories of Game of Thrones, how grounded in “reality” (fantasy reality) it is. No one survives merely because we wish they would, so to give the series a “happy” ending would be a betrayal of everything the fans have come to love about the show.
Additionally, if a hiatus is enforced this presents the problem of the child/teen actors growing up. While there is a considerable amount of time between each book, allowing for the actors to age naturally, a hiatus would probably throw off this illusion. The harsh reality is that Game of Thrones fans will probably be left hanging for a few years. This has the downside of not only leaving viewers waiting and maybe abandoning the series, but also the actors moving on to bigger things, which may further delay the series; for example Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman of Sherlock. Following Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s high-profile movie careers (Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Hobbit, respectively) the third season of Sherlock was sent into a longer hiatus than originally planned. The same thing could happen with the actors of Game of Thrones, further delaying the series.
With an impending hiatus, this will hopefully prompt more fans to read the books; because once the remaining books are released there will be a waiting period before production on the television series can begin. Our day of reckoning draws near with little hope of Martin getting ahead of the television series.
Another option is the series waiting until all the books are released and creating one movie to wrap everything up. Personally. I am against this because there are too many characters and story arcs left hanging in Dances with Dragons for it to be wrapped up in one movie.
My fellow Game of Thrones fans should raise a goblet with me in the hopes that George R.R. Martin will have another book written by 2014, giving HBO time to adapt it for television.
What do you think? Leave a comment.