So, what kind of obligation does a writer have to his fans?
I couldn’t help thinking of George R.R. Martin after watching a trailer of Baz Luhrmann’s production of “The Great Gatsby.”
That might seem like an unexpected leap, but it’s not a big one. Thinking about “Gatsby” made me think about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last novel, the unfinished “The Last Tycoon,” and then, “The Last Tycoon” made me think about Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” saga.
When he died in 1940, Fitzgerald left behind notes and outlines for “Tycoon.” He didn’t complete the manuscript, but he left a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do and how he planned to get there. Edmund Wilson put together Fitzgerald’s outlines and notes in an edition, and you’ll find richer insights on how to write a novel there than you will in any book or class titled “How to Write a Novel.”
That brings me to Martin. There are two more books to go in his saga, and he’s working on the sixth, “The Winds of Winter.” Plenty of his fans worry that we’re heading for a Robert Jordan situation — Jordan died before he could finish his epic “Wheels of Time,” and Brandon Sanderson finished it for him.
If something like that were to happen to St. George — God forbid! — would any outlines or notes exist like Fitzgerald’s? (For anyone who can’t believe that I’d speak of the sublime Fitzgerald and Martin in the same breath, oh, get over yourself.)
I keep thinking that Martin should do the same thing, if he hasn’t already. Even if he changes his mind on some of the details of what’s supposed to happen to Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, the poor, afflicted Starks et al., he knows where his story is supposed to end. He’s always said so to interviewers.
So, here’s what I’d suggest to George:
One afternoon, why don’t you sit down at your desk with a plate of honey-dipped walnuts baked in a cookfire, pour yourself a flagon of brown bitter ale, and sketch out the basic plot points of books 6 and 7 like Fitzgerald? Then, next time you’re running errands around downtown Santa Fe, stop by the bank and leave them in your safety deposit box in case of emergency.
Then, another writer — like Patrick Rothfuss, Daniel Abraham, or even David Benioff (producer of the HBO series and a novelist himself) — could give us the conclusion that Martin wanted, not one imagined by somebody else, even if the words aren’t entirely his.
That gets me back to my question at the top. Does Martin owe his fans anything? Probably not. Even with everyone breathing down his neck — including HBO — he should be writing the story for himself.
On the other hand, writing is one of those situations in which a special relationship develops between a writer and reader. There’s a special bond there, a contract. Any of you who have traveled to Westeros and have aligned yourself with Starks, Lannisters, the Night’s Watch, etc. know what it means to be fiercely loyal. When it comes to his fans, George probably does too.
My friends, I welcome your thoughts!
- How George R.R. Martin Envisioned the Iron Thone [Pic] (geeksaresexy.net)