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Game of Thrones is ending. Will the books end too?

Game of Thrones is back for the last season. An incredible pop phenomenon. At least the show managed to finish somehow without, or more probably despite, Martin incapability to complete writing the book series.

For those who haven’t watched the latest episode of the tv series, no worries, this post will be absolutely spoiler-free. I’m not gonna talk about the plot or characters but on a higher level about G.R.R. Martin. Specifically about if he can, and should, finish A Song Of Ice And Fire series.

Will Martin ever finish the books?

Personal opinion: no. Not a chance anymore. I know it’s a trite topic with countless threads, discussions and articles about whether he will be ever be able to put an end to the endless plots he started in the books, or at the very least the 3-4 major ones. Anybody has a different opinion and all are as valid as anybody else’s. Only Martin knows, that’s the only truth at this point. Actually, he might not. Yes, he indeed promised the fans he will finish the books but honestly after half a decade of waiting for Winds Of Winter, the sixth and hopefully penultimate book, the doubts are justified.

George R. R. Martin in Ljubljana

I personally remember only another writer that was so slow in writing books, and with whom Martin shares the acronym-like name: J.R.R. Tolkien. There’s a huge difference though: Martin has published and planned a book series and hasn’t delivered it in full yet. Tolkien had promised to publish a sequel to The Hobbit and delivered it, in not so great speed though. He took around 12 years to write the whole Lord Of The Rings trilogy and it was not even planned to be that long, as it started just as a The Hobbit sequel involving another adventure of a few hobbits, perhaps not as far as Bilbo’s previous one.

Tolkien didn’t manage to publish its magnum opus, the Silmarillion, but he did manage to write it, albeit not in a complete form with all dialogues and scenes. Somehow the book still work and was published posthumously by his son.

Tolkien managed to publish what was asked him to while Martin is unable to since the early 90s. I remember going to high school, reading the Shannara chronicles, books about Dragonlance, the Belgariad series and finishing reading the letters of Tolkien when I first heard of this new book series, A Song Of Ice And Fire, that was a bestseller in the USA. A wholly different epoch in terms of fantasy literature. It was late 1997 when I bought the first book, it had came out the year before. I would need 2 more years to finish high school, then countless jobs, friends and life experiences later and there are still 2 books missing to complete the story. If not more. 22 years have passed since. There is a new generation of young adults that weren’t even born when the first book was out.

Does Martin care about finishing the books?

Another personal opinion: no, not anymore. The series spiraled outside of his control, in a large part due to the Game Of Thrones tv series and his involvement in it. Martin has probably a definite idea on how the books will finish but has no clue whatsoever on how to get there. And after struggling for years in approaching the end, he doesn’t care anymore. We are 8 years after the last published book, A Dance With Dragons, and other authors wrote quadrilogies in the same span of time. One of my all time favourite series, The Malazan Book Of The Fallen by Steven Erikson, was completely published already in 2011, 10 books, over 3 million words and a worldbuilding that make Westeros looks like an attempt of an amateur.

Thing is, Martin is rich, old, having lots of fun on interviews and collaborating with Game Of Thrones’ authors. He doesn’t need to finish the books anymore. He doesn’t have to. He can simply point to the tv series and tell the fans that’s how he imagined the books to end too. Simpler. Much less effort.

If he actually cared instead he would lock himself up in his house during winter times with lots of coffee, dozens of pens and a forest’s equivalent of paper sheets and at the very least connect all the plots, decide an ending for each one and have an accurate outline of the whole thing till the end. That would be the minimum. But he doesn’t care anymore.

Blurred book words
Photo by Pixabay

Does Martin have to finish the books?

There are roughly two camps in this matter. One that argues that an author is the sole owner of his/her series and can do whatever he or she wants with it, even abandoning it if there’s no more the “push” to go forward with it or if the series is not exciting anymore. The author writes for him/herself.

The other camp is of the opinion that an author has a moral duty to not let the fans, who are the ones that actually buy the books and make the series popular and worth continuing, without a proper end. An author should thus write for the fans, like a musician performs for a public. If an album was supposed to be released, there cannot be decades passing by without not even an EP out.

I’m personally not on either side. Both raise good points. It is totally true that an author owns the opera and cannot be a slave of it, nor be forced to finish it if he/she doesn’t want anymore. At the same time, it is honest with fans to finish what you started, more so as the number of them is huge, like with Game Of Thrones.

I’m more instead of the opinion that the author has to finish a series because of professionalism and inner respect for the opera. Nobody asked Martin to start writing A Song Of Ice And Fire, nor he had to because his life depended on it. He wanted to, and we are glad he did as it is a good series. We enjoyed reading it as we are enjoying watching the show that was born out of it. He didn’t have to but he did. He has to live with the consequences of that decision, of the success of the books and what followed: interviews, tv appearances, invitations, awards and lots of money. I’m not arguing whether all this is deserved or not. I’m arguing that once a writer has an idea for a series and starts writing it, more so as publishing it, he/she has a moral duty towards the series itself to bring it to a conclusion. Whatever it may be.

The Night King

For all I care Martin can decide that the Night King will kill everybody and that’s it. If it’s what he deems proper for the series, the right conclusion for the books, so be it. He has 100% of the freedom to write this ending. As a fan I can dislike it and criticize it, but that’s about it. He would deliver an ending that I won’t like but he delivered it nonetheless. That’s his only moral obligation, put an end to what he started, for the proudness of having completed the series, for the feeling of accomplishment, for the respect of the array of characters he created and for being a professional author. Here “professional” is to be taken in the meaning of being a good “worker”, that completes his tasks. He has already had plenty of time to do so, we all aren’t asking him too much.

Game Of Thrones’ authors were probably unsure how the tv shows would end at the very beginning. They hoped Martin would end it first and they would then just film it. It wasn’t so and Benioff and Weiss had to come up with an ending, helped by Martin true, but it is “their” ending, the tv show one, not Martin’s. I have thus the utmost respect for the Game Of Thrones authors because they were professional and respected the show by bringing it to a conclusion, happy, sad or unsatisfactory as it will be.

A matter of respect

Martin isn’t being so. Perhaps the end of Game Of Thrones will leave him more free to focus on the books but I doubt it will have any effect whatsoever. If he wanted he has had the time to write already. He could even had taken inspiration from the show. Nearly no author has that luck. Yet he probably won’t complete A Song Of Ice And Fire. He’s not professional enough. If he were he would at the very least admit that he is not interested anymore in the books and that he is going to abandon them. Fair. Honesty as a minimum. But he doesn’t even want others to write in his stead.

What does he want then? Who knows. The only thing I know is that if an author doesn’t show respect to the opera, I’m not going to show respect to the author. Martin doesn’t have to respect me as a fan, he has to respect his own opera. He is not.

Thus, let’s enjoy the last season of Game Of Thrones. That’s the only series we have for sure

The Iron Throne

Neapolitan programmer, traveller and metalhead, co-author of PaperSounds blog.

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