Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Game of Thrones: Race to the Finish

As the acclaimed television series begins diverging from its source material, will fans of Game of Thrones be willing to embrace competing versions of the same story?  ♦ 
Ask anyone clued into American pop culture and they would probably recognize the title of the epic fantasy television series Game of Thrones. Even without watching the show, it’s almost impossible to avoid because of its large and enthusiastic fan base and presence in recent pop culture, along with the numerous accolades the show has won and its well-known controversial scenes. Game of Thrones is an adaptation of George R. R. Martin's bestselling book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. When the first season began its broadcast in 2011, Martin had five out of a planned seven books released. Now, HBO is currently airing their fifth season, which covers the narrative arc of the fourth and fifth book, and it looks like the show will finish before Martin's novels. Four years ago, this did not seem to be the case, but alas, Martin is human. He has not yet published the sixth book in his series, The Winds of Winter, and further confirmed that it would not be published anytime in 2015. This leaves the production team in a unique position . . . even more unique because Martin himself provided the ending of his tale to the creators/show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, giving rise to the question of what will happen as the series outpaces the books. Originally, there was much speculation about what direction the showrunners would decide to pursue as they continue to produce and eventually conclude their television series.
      Now we know: as reported recently in Vanity Fair, producer David Benioff confirmed that the television show will indeed follow Martin’s planned storyline for books six and seven of A Song of Ice and Fire. How closely they’ll follow Martin’s storylines, however, is still something of question, as book six is still in the editing stage. The release date for book six, The Winds of Winter, is still a point of contention; Martin has nothing set in stone, though he recently revealed his hopes to publish the sixth installment before the broadcast of HBO's sixth season in 2016. But even if Martin were to publish the book and prevent spoilers from the next season, he still has one final novel yet to write, and the chances that Martin would be able to write and publish the seventh and final novel before 2017 (the airdate for the final planned season) are slim to none. However, Martin remains hopeful and sees a recent announcement from the HBO executives as promising. Apparently, there is disagreement between the producers and the executives on just how many seasons of Game of Thrones should be produced. The showrunners have seven (possibly eight) seasons planned, but the executives want to increase the number to ten. If there were ten seasons, Martin may have additional time to finish his books ahead of the show, and the question of who will finish first is once again raised.
     The reality, of course, is that the show will finish before all of the books are published. Whether the show outpaces the book on their sixth season or seventh, the question remains: how will this affect the book sales? Would knowing the ending of the television adaption before the book is released damage the books' ability to sell the copies? Or would knowing one ending drive more readers hungry for more of the world to buy the novels?
     The television show itself, we now know, will conclude with a hybrid of Martin's original ending along with a few new creative twists on the part of production. The television team recently announced that some characters who are still alive in the novels will die in this season (as already happened in the recent episode, “Sons of the Harpy”). As more details and spoilers have emerged for the rest of the season, these suggest slight changes in plot that stay true to the original themes and ideas but have new stories developed within them. This raises what might be, for some, worrisome question about the future of literary adaptions. Have we entered a point in time where it could become common for authors to have to fight to finish their texts before the media produces it? Or will fans be willing to accept alternate versions of the same story, told in two different mediums, peacefully co-existing?
     Looking ahead at the uncertain future of the series can be frightening, but it’s also a chance to witness something brand new and groundbreaking in the realm of literature-adaption relationships. Whatever extent to which HBO uses Martin’s material, I’m confident the television show will remain true to their creative team’s unique vision and sense of duty. The same is true, undoubtedly, for Martin and his books. It is certainly an exciting time to be a fan.
  • About the Author
    Rob Johnson is currently a junior studying English Literature at Miami University. Rob enjoys reading many different genres of books, watching TV, and playing soccer.

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