Today George RR Martin posted an update on the progress of The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin announced that the book will not be released before season six of the HBO series Game of Thrones premiers in April. This means that the book readers and the non-book readers will be, for the most part, on equal footing. This also means that things will happen in the series before they are in the books, theoretically spoiling the books. I am one of millions of book readers and my reaction is as follows: meh.
First let me say that I am disappointed. I was introduced to the books by a friend before the TV series aired, before the TV series had been announced, when a potential TV series was just a fantasy for the readers. (Those are my bona fides.) I have enjoyed the books immensely, aside from large parts of A Feast for Crows, and I have enjoyed the TV series. As with any adaptation, Game of Thrones does not represent the Song of Ice and Fire that I have in my head, but it doesn’t have to. Some things were not as great as I imagined and some things were greater. That is the way it goes.
To be clear, I am going to watch the series as it airs and I am going to read the books when they come out. And although I am one of those jerks who often says that I liked the book better, I am not concerned that I am going to see things in the series before I read them in the books. The simple reason is that watching a movie or a TV show is different from reading a book. It is possible to enjoy both even if you know, from one or the other, what is going to happen. The Red Wedding was maybe the most intense event in the books, and yet I was not ready for the sound of Talisa being stabbed in the belly, or for Catelyn’s anguished cry just before she was killed.
Complaints about how slow Martin is writing the books are the complaints of entitled children. They are the complaints of a bunch of Pete Campbells who don’t understand why they can’t have anything good all at once. As Neil Gaiman memorably wrote in 2009 (!), “George RR Martin is not your bitch”. I am not owed anything by Martin, or by HBO, or by anybody who creates art for my consumption (and hopefully my enjoyment). I am glad that Martin has written the first five books in the series and I look forward to the last two. I wish that he wrote faster but that is what I want not what I deserve.
It is not a big deal if I learn some answers from the TV series instead of the books. (Is Jon alive? Is R + L = J true?) Not really. If the series is done with skill and craft then I will enjoy those reveals. Later, when I read the books, if they are done with skill and craft then I will enjoy those reveals again. And there will no doubt be things revealed in the TV series that are not in the books, and vice versa. That’s fine. (Plus, I understand that there is a Tower of Joy flashback in the upcoming season, so take that non-book readers.)
Maybe I can say this now because I have suspected for a long time that the TV series would overtake the books. Maybe I have had more time to sit with it than others who were taken by surprise by Martin’s announcement. I hope that I am calm about this news because it is news that does not fundamentally change my life. I am not George RR Martin. I do not work for Martin or his publishers or his agents. I am not affiliated with the TV show. I am a fan, which means that I depend on the largesse of those who create things for me to enjoy. I will enjoy Game of Thrones and I will enjoy The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring when they arrive. And if they never arrive I will be disappointed but I won’t be angry. I am not entitled to have anything good all at once.