We need to stop criticizing George R.R. Martin for not finishing A Song of Ice and Fire.
Over the past decade, you’d be hard-pressed to know anyone who wasn’t invested in the epic fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire or its mega-hit tv-adaptation, Game of Thrones.
Despite airing its final season in 2019—effectively bringing the TV series to its narrative conclusion—the books haven’t been finished yet.
In fact, there are still two more books scheduled for release to close out the series.
Now here’s the rub.
The fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, was released in 2011, the same year the show first aired. For 11 long years, fans have been eagerly waiting for the sixth installment, The Winds of Winter.
In that time, fans have criticized Martin for not completing the book, especially after Martin reassured fans multiple times it was still being written.
But even as a massive ASOIAF fan myself—who has admittedly been on the critical end of Martin’s perceived complacency—I’ve realized although he deserves reproach for keeping us on the hook so long, he doesn’t actually owe us anything.
As fans, we often believe by patronizing an author’s work, we’re entitled to more of it. Especially if it’s a series.
Truth is, George R.R. Martin isn’t in a contractual relationship with his fans. He has a right to finish the book whenever he wants, simply because it’s his story to write.
When people express their frustration about Martin, one of the first things they bring up is the notion of “promise”—how he’s assured his massive fanbase for over a decade something will happen, and it hasn’t yet.
While I’m not a fan of his behaviour, empathy should play a greater factor in evaluating whether we should truly fault Martin for doing this.
Think about it: he published the first ASOIAF book in 1997, two years before I—and many other students at Queen’s today—was born. Since then, he’s published four additional novels in the series, wrote numerous spin-offs, and produced a TV adaptation which ran for the better part of a decade.
In my opinion, fans don’t properly recognize the amount of work and dedication Martin’s already given them, nor do they understand that after three decades of investment in a particular narrative, he may not be as eager to see it through as he once was.
As far as I’m concerned, George R.R. Martin has spoiled us rotten, and he’s more than earned the right to take a Westerosi winter to finish his next book.
Angus is a fifth-year History student and The Journal’s Senior Sports Editor.
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