It’s been all over the news lately: this will be the season where the TV version of Game of Thrones finally laps the books, or at the very least it’s going to catch them this season and next season will have to be all-new stuff. George R.R. Martin, famous for being a slow writer (and note: I’m not complaining, at least not with an intent to be taken seriously by anyone) simply cannot keep up with the speed of broadcast TV, and there is absolutely no way that he’s going to be able to get two books written before the show hits the plotlines of the sixth and seventh books.
Those of us who had read the book when it came out fifteen goddamn years ago snickered at the poor saps who didn’t know what was coming when the Red Wedding happened. Now, it seems, the tables have turned, and the TV people get to know the ending of the saga before, or at least at the same time as, the folks who have been reading the books.
My relationship to A Song of Ice and Fire is complicated, guys. I’m almost compulsive in my need to complain every time someone mentions these books around me; I think Game of Thrones is one of the best works of fantasy literature ever written, and I think that the series has gotten asymptotically worse with every book that has been published since then. They became actively bad with the publication of A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons was execrable. At this point I may not even read The Winds of Winter. If I do, it will be a hate-read. I don’t even want to contemplate what the seventh book might be like.
Nonetheless! A suggestion:
TV people! Finish this season following the books as carefully as you always have (which is to say as carefully as you need to; the books and show, which I don’t watch regularly, have already diverged on a number of points) and then once you are clear of the published books, never speak to George R.R. Martin again about how the show should go. Send him his checks, and end the series however you want.
George R. R. Martin! Dance, naked and gleeful, upon the huge pile of money you have made off this show, and then write whatever the hell you want. Don’t watch the show anymore; you can Netflix it when you’re done with the books. Do not collaborate with these people and do not tell them your ending. (Note: I am aware he already has. He’s not listening to me anyway so I’m going to ignore this aspect of reality.)
Make the show and the books entirely separate cultural artifacts at this point. We’re big folk; we can handle it. Both of you, end the series however the hell you want, and don’t talk to each other about how you’re going to do it.
Yes, this will lead to two wildly different endings. That is the point.
As evidence that this will work, I present to you The Walking Dead. One of the show’s great strengths as a reader of the comics is the way that they gleefully remix everything that the comics do, sprinkling in a heavy dose of their own stuff, introducing brand-new characters, killing off people the books kept alive, and keeping alive folk who have been dead in the comics for years. The Walking Dead TV show is the best adaptation of a story across media that I have ever seen. Period. Point-blank. And part of the reason for that is that I never have any idea what’s coming next even if I’ve read the comics until they’ve fallen apart. It is awesome.
Listen to me, Hollywood people and writer much more famous and powerful than me. Stop talking to each other. Right now. Go do your own thing. Both stories will be better for it.