Like Cersei Lannister with regards to her son’s true nature, George R.R. Martin has been in denial. He swore that the HBO adaptation of his bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series was not going to catch up to him. “I still have the lead of several gigantic books,” he told Entertainment Weekly last June. Fans remained unconvinced, however, knowing that it took him six years to write book five, A Dance with Dragons, and we’re currently on year three of waiting for The Winds of Winter.
Season 4 of the HBO series premiers on April 6 and will pick up halfway through book three, A Storm of Swords. However, it will likely delve into both books four and five—which run along the same timeline but with different characters featured.
While Martin spent an entire book depriving us from Daenerys, the showrunners would be smart not to take our mhysa away. In fact, they’ve admitted that taking breaks may have worked for other HBO shows (Spartacus took a hiatus to film a prequel) yet if they have any hope of continuing to keep their current cast members, they can’t be taking breaks when Arya, Bran, and co. are aging rapidly and the boys’ voices are changing.
Originally, Martin told EW, “I don’t think I’d be happy with [the show outpacing the books].” Yet time may have changed his tune. In this month’s Vanity Fair, Martin finally admitted that the show has nearly caught up to his books. This isn’t news to fans, who mainly rolled their eyes and asked, “What are you guys going to do about that?”
Well, first they had a meeting. Martin sat down with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to discuss his plans for the series—including who eventually wins the coveted Iron Throne and, in a scene out of my most secret fangirl dreams, a complete run-through of what he has planned for every single character. While this may sound like the writers have a lot of material to work off of, Martin’s “broad strokes” could easily change in his writing process. The current dynamic that’s resulting from this situation is both fascinating and unheard of.
Martin could change in his mind in the next few years that it takes to write books six and seven, by which time the series could’ve already worked in the original idea and have no opportunity to turn back. Sort of sounds like a joke: Two writers set out to write the same story…
Consider major book series like Harry Potter and The Southern Vampire Mysteries, which have successfully (and mostly faithfully) been adapted into small- and large-screen franchises. To be fair, nearly all adaptations stray from the source material—as we’ve already seen in GoT with Jeyne/Talisa. We’re prepared for minor changes, but this situation presents the opportunity for the adaptation to influence the canon. We doubt that Martin will take this route, but the mere idea of it has our minds racing with possibilities.
Another question this raises is about the well-being of the book lover. The showrunners will surely be revealing major plot points and, as anyone who tried to avoid the Red Wedding knows, spoilers are inevitable. Adaptations are usually rife with fans who boast that they read the books first (the essay is called “ Date a Girl Who Reads,” not “Date a Girl Who Watches HBO”), but once again Game of Thrones is turning those tables. Fans of the series seem to outnumber fans of the books, if Facebook likes hold any truth, and those who have been faithfully keeping up with the books are suddenly risking spoilers by watching the show. There are those who prefer to read before they watch an adaptation, but with the series outpacing the novels—what’s a fan to do? Can they help themselves?
Martin acknowledged that the show out pacing him is “alarming,” and we have to agree. Whether we’re thrilled or terrified, we can’t yet tell.