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This Is the Song that Doesn’t End: A Preview of HBO’s Upcoming Series “Game of Thrones”

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HBO Game of ThronesFirst and foremost (and not to knock or belittle the fantasy-reading community), I am not an avid reader of the fantasy genre. There’s a commonality among the folks who tirelessly attend conventions and renaissance festivals, an energy and enthusiasm that I simply do not possess – not just with regard to costumes and role play, but for anything that takes that much personal investment.

Except for A Song of Ice and Fire.

Like some sort of cultist, I have personally converted a dozen non-readers of fantasy to this series by George R. R. Martin (hereafter GRRM). Just as it was passed on to me more than ten years ago, I’ve encouraged others to read this treasure, which, over time, inevitably becomes referred to as “the books.”

When I was a teenager, I’d frequent message boards to theorize about the different story arcs and where they may be headed. Sometimes, there were discussions about the impossibility of “the books” being adapted into a movie. We knew A Song of Ice and Fire was simply too large in scope to be adapted properly, and besides, GRRM was hardly halfway through the five-book series.

I got into A Song of Ice and Fire just before the third book was published in 2000.  This was horrible timing. I gobbled up the first two volumes, and then the third book, A Storm of Swords, was released. This is, in my opinion, the best book in the series. It is also the lengthiest, and after I read it, I had ample material to dissect on the boards for the next several months.

From time to time, GRRM would post updates, and it seemed as though the fourth book, A Dance with Dragons, would be released in a couple of years. That was quite some time to wait, especially since the third book had dropped in my lap just as I finished the second. I satiated myself by rereading “the books,” and continued to commiserate on the message boards.

A Song of Ice and Fire SeriesFive years passed before GRRM published again. In 2005, [amazonify]0553582038::text::::A Feast for Crows,[/amazonify] not A Dance with Dragons, was published. GRRM posted that he had written such an enormous manuscript for A Dance with Dragons that it became too long to publish in one volume. For that reason, he wrote, his publishers and he had decided to split the fourth volume into two books. They also decided to lengthen the five-book series to seven books. The titles were already chosen: after A Feast for Crows would be A Dance with Dragons, then The Winds of Winter, and finally, A Dream of Spring. In closing, his post stated that because they had split the gigantic manuscript, A Dance with Dragons was already half-finished, and he hoped it’d be out by the end of 2006.

Many readers were stymied. A Feast for Crows only featured half the characters; A Dance with Dragons would feature the other half. It just so happened that the majority of the most-favored characters did not appear in A Feast for Crows, and this caused the fourth book to be slightly disappointing. However, the anticipation of a shortened wait for the fifth book was a good remedy.

Now it is 2011, and A Dance with Dragons has still not been published.

Regardless, what had at once seemed impossible is now absolutely happening: the saga has been adapted for the screen.

A few years ago, the buzz on the web was that HBO had optioned a show based on A Song of Ice and Fire, and in its initial stages, the process seemed too good to be true. GRRM, who wrote for the show “Beauty and the Beast” twenty years ago, was familiar with the workings of television, and he didn’t want to count chickens. He understood that just because HBO had obtained rights didn’t necessarily mean the show would be made.

But it has. HBO proceeded to greenlight the project, and “Game of Thrones” is now scheduled to air in just a few months. Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the film adaptation of [amazonify]B0001VL0K2::text::::Lord of the Rings,[/amazonify] is set to play the role of Eddard Stark, the patriarch of the Stark family, and Lord of the North. His recognizable face will be a welcome sight to fans of Lord of the Rings, and will hopefully attract viewers to “Game of Thrones.”

HBO Game of ThronesTrailers for the show are difficult for a fan to critique. They consist of many quick shots of different characters, most of whom I can recognize from their literary descriptions.  I wonder how a non-fan would receive them. Without knowing any of the characters, I can imagine the preview isn’t too intriguing. Luckily, HBO has dubbed the show as being “’The Sopranos’ in Middle-Earth,” which is a wonderfully attractive way to describe the raw, ruthless, almost Deadwoodian way the characters interact.

It was surreal when that first trailer aired after [amazonify]B001FB4W0W::text::::True Blood.[/amazonify] I instantly knew what it was, though there was little more than the images of a white wolf, a snowy, barren forest, and a rider on a horse. Then, the title, and the date, 2011.

Any serious fan is obsessed with the timeline, and upon inspection, it is a cause for worry. Here’s why.

The first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, [amazonify]0553381687::text::::A Game of Thrones,[/amazonify] was published in 1996. Then came [amazonify]0553381695::text::::A Clash of Kings[/amazonify] in 1997. [amazonify]055357342X::text::::A Storm of Swords[/amazonify] was published in 2000.  In 2005, GRRM published [amazonify]0553582038::text::::A Feast for Crows,[/amazonify] claiming the next volume, A Dance with Dragons, was already halfway done.

Five years between volumes three and four; six years and counting between volumes four and five (saying that GRRM is in his sixth year of writing A Dance with Dragons is actually a generous tally, since he claimed to be halfway done at the end of 2005).

Now, take into account the HBO series, starting this spring. Best case scenario, GRRM publishes A Dance with Dragons this calendar year, so that both the television show and the fifth book are released in 2011. That means the second season would air in 2012, the third in 2013, and so on. GRRM would have to publish The Winds of Winter, book six, in time for the television show to produce the sixth season, which will air five years from now.

The seventh season will air the year after that, presumably, so GRRM actually has to write books six and seven within the next six years. Basically, he’ll need to write them in less time than it has taken him to not finish the second half of book five.

All this calculating is dependent on two things.  First, that the show is successful and even makes it into its fifth, sixth, seventh seasons (“The Sopranos” and “OZ” both ran for six seasons; no hour-long HBO drama has run for seven). Secondly, and more importantly, that GRRM survives to finish writing the series (he’s 62). Readers of the fantasy genre suffered a great loss when Robert Jordan, author of [amazonify]0812538366::text::::The Wheel of Time,[/amazonify] passed away in 2007. Since then, his notes have been compiled and sifted through, and two more volumes of his series have been literally ghostwritten. Personally, I’ve waited too long, have devoted far too much time and energy and anxiety into A Song of Ice and Fire, to read a version that was written by anyone other than GRRM himself.

And ultimately, I couldn’t care less about the television show.

It’s nothing without “the books.”

–Richard Kornak is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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