Or: Why everyone needs to calm down and let George R. R. Martin finish A Song of Ice and Fire at his own pace.
With the release of George R. R. Martin’s The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, many are revisiting the gnawing fear that Martin will die before he has the chance to finish his A Song of Ice and Fire book series. After all, he is spending a great deal of time on the television show Game of Thrones, throwing first pitches, schmoozing it up with Jimmy Kimmel and now releasing a book about his books! What? Why?
Because he is a good writer who knows himself. That’s why.
I also used to hold the opinion that Martin should put more time into the books as opposed to the show and his spattering of interviews and public appearances. I wondered why he would “waste” so much time on these trivial things like T.V. and publicity when he could be spending it on the thing he will be immortalized for: his books.
Then I read about an interview where he expressed how put-off he was by people talking about him dying before finishing the series, which is perfectly understandable. There have been no reports about trips to the hospital. He has no known medical conditions (besides being a little on the chubby side), he does not seem to have any life threatening hobbies, and while he isn’t exactly a spring chicken at the age of 66, he clearly isn’t keeling over anytime soon.
In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger he said, “I find that question pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health… So fuck you to those people,” and punctuated the point with a brisk middle finger to those who spread these rumors.
Frankly, he has every right to be offended. The media, searching for any piece of scandal to attach to a scandal-free figure, is filling the web with as much speculation about his health and timeline for the book as possible in an effort to hold on to readers following an accomplished author.
We should be thankful this sort of attention hasn’t made him more like J.D. Salinger, who locked himself in a bunker for most of his natural life with instructions to withhold publishing the majority of his work until years after his death.
Thankfully Martin is much more social and, middle finger aside, a much better sport about the way he and his work is portrayed by popular media. We have a tendency to imagine public figures and celebrities as something other than human since we almost only see them in the limelight. You probably thought of many of your high school teachers as robots who went to a closet in the classroom and turned themselves off at night, but they were people and Martin is a person too. He eats, burps and poops just like the rest of us, and thankfully a tiny dose of poisonous publicity isn’t going to change that.
Most importantly, no one knows his writing habits and creative circuitry quite like he does. He does not write while he is traveling. He only writes when he is home and has a large chunk of time to devote to his writing. He keeps this pattern because he knows he does his best work under these circumstances.
Time spent on the road understandably takes time away from this routine. Now that he has a new set of public and creative responsibilities, he is going to need more time to finish the last two books in the series than he has the others. To be fair, it would be ideal if he could finish the book series before the television series came to a close. But he has been quoted saying that, as far as he is concerned, he has no deadline. He will finish the books when he has time to finish them regardless of the T.V. series or any other external pressures.
While this attitude is sure to elicit groans and complaints from readers and viewers hoping to avoid spoilers or get the story as soon as possible, this attitude shows a great deal of artistic integrity. I would much rather Martin take the time he needs to write the series to the best of his ability than do a rush job because of a bunch of grumpy fans and needy reporters.
As well executed as the television show is, I seriously doubt people will still be talking about it 50 years from now. On the other hand, I am fairly positive that even 100 years from now, people will still be talking about the books written by the man heralded by critics as the American Tolkein. As far as I’m concerned, he can take all the time he needs.