Book readers and show watchers come together; it’s time for the debate between which medium is more valid to be put to rest.
Recently it was announced that George R.R. Martin’s book of Targaryen history, “Fire and Blood,” will be released in November. With this being an announcement of something other than a release date for “The Winds of Winter,” fans participated in the typical discourse around whether or not we’ll ever be getting a sixth book or even a seventh book of “A Song of Ice and Fire” and what that means for the overall series. At this point, most have given up on believing there will be a conclusive ending to the books before the last season of the show, if at all. These concerns are valid and make sense considering fans invest a significant amount of time and dedication toward this book series, and not to get an ending to the series in its original medium would be disappointing.
On the other hand, it’s also clear Martin is working hard to finish the book series, even with the announcement that he’s just completed a hefty history book instead. Even for a best selling writer who will go down in history as one of the best fantasy author’s of our time, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is very complex. It’s only natural that the author would want to spend as much time as possible writing the exact ending he wants to his series, how he wants to write it. Especially now with such a large fandom ready to analyze every word he writes, the pressure is on now more than ever. As this Newsweek article lays out, Martin himself has addressed the critique against him not writing the books quick enough and noted that he’s come to terms with the fact that ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ may remain incomplete. In a blog post of his, he mentioned other authors of literary merit such as Tolkien, Fitzgerald, and Dickens, who all had important works they weren’t able to finish and that it didn’t make their stories any less readable.
All that said, however, this on-going debate in the fandom as to whether or not there can be a “real” ending without the books and which medium is more valid is making unprecedented grounds in the pop culture world. And it’s a debate that at this point, should be set aside.
Much like other franchises such as the MCU or Star Wars, Game of Thrones has almost become a form of transmedia storytelling too. With their now being novels, tell-tale games, comics, and of course, the television show, there are many mediums for newcomers and current fans alike to enter the series, with two being most prominent. So, while it’s important to recognize that the novels are the original format and the story we all have grown to love so much stemmed from Martin’s genius, at this point, his ending shouldn’t necessarily be the only accepted way for fans to find a conclusion to the story. Often Martin, as well as Benioff and Weiss, have made clear the show is the show and the books are the books, but since these initial distinctions, the two are a lot more intertwined now, making the situation more complicated.
Dismissing the fact that Benioff and Weiss have been a major part of shaping Game of Thrones’ impact on the world is impossible. Years ago they saw an opportunity to adapt an epic book series and did not realize then their adaptation would turn into semi-original work, in a way making them official co-authors of the narrative rather than just adapters. And what often gets lost in this debate of validity is the fact that with the show having now surpassed the books, the two mediums are basically on equal fields regarding authorship when the histories or written of this phenomenon.
When the majority of people think of Game of Thrones now, they typically think about everything from the most recent seasons of the show, and they’re basing their predictions for how it will all end from the narrative that Benioff and Weiss with some outlining by Martin have created. The show has surpassed the books, and therefore it has now become a primary lens a majority of people see the series though, even if it didn’t begin that way. Since the show is no longer simply a traditional adaptation, it has earned its right for its ending to be recognized as a valid ending, even if the show is not always a perfect translation. Benioff and Weiss have extended far beyond being the fans they used to be, and their work isn’t that of authorized fan fiction any longer if it ever was. It’s an interesting case of fans turned authors.
This is not to say the show’s ending should or could be the only ending, and whether or not its a satisfying one remains to be seen, but it an ending one nonetheless; one that is just as important now in pop culture, and holds just as much weight as the books do. After all, art is a living breathing thing as they say, and using this situation as a way to show how two mediums can coincide and build on one another rather than exist as two separate entities as they have up until this point, can actually be a very positive thing for not only the GoT/ASOIAF fandom, but for future fandoms who may find themselves in similar situations. Will the endings be very different? Probably very much so, but I would bet that at their core, the stories say the same thing. And as Martin implied in his blog, him not finishing ASOIAF will not diminish the book series or make the entire thing a waste of time.
Embracing the fact that people can enjoy the story in both mediums and find closure in both mediums is important at getting closure at all. It’s only natural that we’d desire a conclusion to a book series so many have loved and invested in long before the show ever aired, and we can sympathize with Martin who may or may not get to end his series first.
But if the show is not someone’s thing, that’s fine, and if the books aren’t someone’s only source of interacting with the series that’s fine too. If for some reason the final book isn’t published, there will be an ending out there that in some way is tied to Martin. And when “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” do release, we can celebrate that as well. No fan, book reader or show watcher, should discount the others’ GoT/ASOIAF experience and how they choose to participate in the fandom. There are indeed many ways to be a fan as this phenomenon has shown us and one way is no more real than the other. Getting into a frenzy every time Martin has a new announcement that’s not about “Winds” or “Dream” will do everyone no good in the long run. We should just enjoy what’s out there now, in however way we want to do so.
So we’ll let Martin write what he wants to write when he wants to write it. He’s given us so much so far and has created this crazy, intricate world to enjoy, and we can be very happy for that. We’ll read the heck out of that Targaryen history because that sounds fun, and we’ll know that no matter what at this point, there will be a valid ending in one format or another, even if it doesn’t come from the original author first.