George R.R. Martin’s new book Fire & Blood tells the history of the family that ruled Westeros for generations, the Targaryens, until Robert’s Rebellion led to, well, the hot mess that we are all dealing with in the modern era of the books.
For a lot of fans, this book was a fine addition to their ASOIAF collections, but it led to the usual question of “is GRRM ever gonna finish the series?” In a B&N Blog post by Ross Johnson, titled “George R. R. Martin Might Never Finish A Song of Ice and Fire, and That’s OK” which asked what would it matter if Martin never finishes the series and HBO just creates a canon ending.
Yes, we’ve all been waiting seven years for book six, let alone the concluding seventh volume. Certainly, we want to know what happens. But does the ending define this particular saga? Does it matter at all who sits the Iron Throne, or whether a Stark rules in Winterfell?
We hunger for endings, but maybe it’s time to rethink our reliance on conclusions. Though we have confidence The Winds of Winter will eventually arrive, in the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin may still ultimately leave us without a choice in that regard. That would be a little heartbreaking, I’ll admit, but will the lands of Westeros and Essos be any less rich if we don’t find out who wins this particular round of jockeying for the throne? That world is getting bigger all the time. Maybe it’s on us to stop demanding to see the ends of it, and just see what we can see.
Oftentimes when conversations like this come up, the issue of “entitlement” does as well. Are fans entitled to anything from authors? Do authors owe their readership anything? It’s a complicated issue, especially as I feel like I come down on both sides. I do think the whole idea of locking Martin in a room to write in order to finish—which fans often joke about—sounds like torture, and as someone whose biggest issue with her own work is finishing things, I totally get that maybe Martin is blocked and trying to figure things out. Maybe working on this book helped with those blocks.
Martin is also under an enormous amount of pressure and the weight of fan expectations, while at the same time the work has grown past him in the cultural zeitgeist. He’s been working on this series for a long time and I doubt the ending he has in mind was always the same ending exactly. Especially with the popularity of the Game of Thrones TV show taking the conclusion out of his hands, he may feel less ownership of that responsibility. I get all of that from an authorial perspective.
Now, as a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, the only reason I strongly dislike the idea of allowing HBO’s ending to be “canon” is because the show is filled with things that are 100% not canon. I could rage into the long night about how characters like Stannis were completely bastardized and changed in order to fit the television show. I’ve talked about the changes for a lot of the female characters already at length, not to mention the erasure of characters like Lady Stoneheart who are huge parts of the text narrative.
If Game of Thrones was a better adaptation of the books I’d probably be happier or at least more content with where the show has gone, but alas they have done what they’ve done. This doesn’t mean I don’t accept the fact that it’s ending and storylines will be held up as canon in their own way to the books, but it does mean that as a fan I was looking to Martin’s own conclusion to satisfy the ends for characters that I enjoyed. Does that mean it’ll be perfect? No, but at least then I had options.
No matter if Martin never finishes the remaining 2-3 books in the series, I’ll be happy for what he gave us. If I could love D.N.Angel with no conclusion, I see no reason why I would suddenly hate A Song of Ice and Fire. As long as Sansa lives and Jon Snow doesn’t end up running Westeros I’ll be content to see how it plays out, no matter whose ending we ultimately see.
But I’ll continue to hold out hope that Martin will wrap up his epic one day. For all the flaws the books have (and there are many), they did create a really strong foundation which I’d love to see end on its own terms—and fundamentally that means on Martin’s terms.
(via B&N, image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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