Tue
Nov 12 2013 4:45pm

George R.R. Martin: No More Song of Ice and Fire Once I’m Gone

George R. R. Martin No More Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin has spoken at length about his complicated feelings towards fanfiction. He doesn’t much like the name, and he also feels that in the age of the internet there is too much public attention on fans writing about their favorite characters. He doesn’t approve of people playing in the ASOIAF sandbox particularly, because as he puts it: “No one gets to abuse the people of Westeros but me.” 

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he also took the time to talk about the future of Westeros—as in, the future after he’s no longer around to write the books himself. He as decided that he doesn’t want anyone continuing the story in his absence, in the style of Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum, because he’s too concerned about the quality of the stories. As he said:

“…history has shown us is eventually these literary rights pass to grandchildren or collateral descendants, or people who didn’t actually know the writer and don’t care about his wishes. It’s just a cash cow to them. And then we get abominations, to my mind, like Scarlett, the Gone with the Wind sequel.”

He specifically praised the Tolkien estate for taking care of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, as he assumes that there are people hungry to use those worlds, and he feels it would diminish Tolkien’s legacy. “I hope I never see Sauron Strikes Back written by some third rate writer who leaps at the opportunity.”

His answers to the interviewer’s questions are very much in line with what he’s said in the past—that he thinks writers need to create their own worlds and characters—and with the possibility that HBO may reveal how Game of Thrones ends before the books can do so, it would seem that there is a very real possibility of his worlds striving to exist beyond their author.

39 comments
Kerwin Miller
1. tamyrlink
I didn't think the Gone With The Wind sequel was bad. I actually enjoyed it.
Mordicai Knode
2. mordicai
If, by some sad chance, Mister Martin was to pass away before the series was complete? I for one would enjoy having a constant debate over "how it would have ended."

I hope that doesn't come to pass but I personally approve. Which is not to say that I disapprove of cases where someone else picks up a series, or a setting, or a character, either.
Scott Silver
3. hihosilver28
I understand where he's coming from, but I do think it's a little odd for him to be as harsh as he is considering he got his start by doing fan fiction and continuation of existing comic series. "Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark" a "Dr. Weird" story. Granted he quickly moved on to creating his own work. But I think that's the same for some fan fiction authors too.
Anthony Pero
4. anthonypero
Although, in this article, he was specificly reffering to shared world stories, not finishing the main arch if he were to die before it was completed.
Scott Silver
7. hihosilver28
anthonypero, that's how I read it, which I thought kind of weird considering how he got started, and Wild Cards...
vjj
8. vjj
I really hope he reveals more about the Alchemists Guild in "World of Ice and Fire".

Also, I hope the Alchemists take revenge on the lousy Maesters.
vjj
9. Jake3295
He's said that in case he dies he's given the people making the show all the information they need to conclude the story, but wouldn't want anyone to try to pick up where he left off on the books.
Alicia Dodson
10. LynMars
I believe GRRM and Neil Gaiman were friends of Roger Zelazny, asked Zelazny about writing more Amber, and he said bluntly he didn't want anyone else doing so (Gaiman has often re-iterated this conversation on his blog and tumblr). Unfortunately, Zelazny didn't make sure that the rights to Amber were handled that way in preparation for his passing, and so we got the Betancourt "prequels".

Hopefully, GRRM has learned from that, and the people in his life who will hold his rights are more respectful of his wishes than Zelazny's.

As far as "how does the story end?" if he dies before the novels are over, Benioff and Weiss know the broad strokes of the plot and how it all ends, just for that eventuality. The TV show, being its own thing, can finish, but the novels will be GRRM alone.
Jennifer B
11. JennB
Wait... Is he sick? Or is this just some hypothetical death that no one saw coming?
Shelly wb
12. shellywb
If he doesn't want anyone else finishing it if he dies, he'd best sit down and start typing then. Otherwise fan fic writers will do it whether he likes if or not.
vjj
13. Kasiki
@11. Don't think he is sick, but notoriously slow to deliver the next instalment in the series. So depending on how long the arc is suposed to go, even a couple books could take 10 or more years by his time table.Not exactly a short amount of time.
Gerd K
14. Kah-thurak
@11
Martin is not getting younger and he is taking a long time to write books that dont exactly push his main plot forwards in great leaps. The question whether or not he will be able to finish this series is quite real I guess.
Rafael
15. Ryamano
Considering the legal battles Marion Zimmer Bradley had to go through due to fanfiction, I understand most of the sf/fantasy author's positions on fanfiction.
vjj
16. Ragnarredbeard
I don't want the series to continue if Martin passes before its finished. The Wheel of Time books suffered after Robert Jordan died, and I don't want to see that happen to Thrones.

The history of successful - in terms of quality - series continuing after the death of the author is rather poor.
Anthony Pero
17. anthonypero
Once again, and I'm not trying to refute @9, because I have ALSO seen interviews where he said that, THIS interview was specifically referring to turning Westeros into a shared world after his passing. Like Star Wars, or Wild Cards, etc, where authors are telling NEW stories set in his world with his characters.
vjj
18. Efrost
@16 I assume by "suffering" you are referring to Brandon Sanderson and I couldn't disagree more. The Sanderson penned books are not only some of my favorites, but I think he tightened up the books and helped the pacing of the narrative enormously.
vjj
19. BlacksmithButNotEmo
@18 Would agree that Sanderson tightened up the books. I would agree with the notion that the flavor changed from Jordan to Sanderson, but the only reason the series got done in three books is because of Sanderson's increased pacing. There were definitely bumps in the narrative that jarred me a little, made me aware again that this was a different hand, but the story itself carried everything.

At the end of it all, I'm very glad Sanderson finished the WOT series; I think that was an incredible challange to be handed and that Sanderson did an overall very good job. I would hope that someone would bring this series to GRRM's planned conclusion, if (God forbid) the unthinkable were to happen. This isn't disagreeing with the author's stated views on fanfic - just finish the saga.
vjj
20. Gregor Lewis
The quality of this Ice & Fire series has suffered already.

GRRM's too good a writer not to have some bits worth remembering in AFFC & ADWD, but they were bits isolated in the flood of directionless meandering he has indulged in since 2000/1 when ASOS was being finished up/delayed/eventually released.

From 1996 to 2001 GRRM went through a remarkable purple patch, including the first Dunk & Egg story. Since then he's been running on fumes he created then and generated by others - notably Bennioff & Weiss and the HBO Hype machine.

Thankfully his earlier works are getting the coverage and readership they long deserved, but didn't have, while everything he's done after 2001 gets to ride that wave. ADWD was particularly undeserving.

I've read and appreciate his reasons for being wary of fan-fiction, but find his possessive prospective post-mortem musings curious. He was quite open about how he lost his way on Ice&Fire leading up to the release of AFFC. It's a pity the commercial success of ADWD - his biggest artistic failure IMO - has caused him to lose that perspective.

Or maybe he's just afraid he'll never recover that mojo & anything written in his world through a fresh lens will just magnify what his multimedia breakout since 2011 has effectively covered up.

I don't know. I just wish GRRM well in all aspects of his life - not that he needs it ... Well maybe just a little perspective to return.

grl
Jennifer B
21. JennB
I thought that ADWD was so slow to come out because he had written himself into a corner. He called it some sort of knot. I had been under the impression that things would pick up after he cut the "knot" and completed ADWD.
Grace McDermott
22. Stormy
I'm a writer. I got my start doing fanfic, and I love pretty much everything about fanworks (even the weird stuff, sometimes especially the weird stuff).

I know well enough that for all the characters and stories I want to write, there's things I would never think of, that would jump to the mind of someone else when looking at the same world.

Therefore, it's going to be my goal as I write to bring other authors on board and give them small patches to play with. (And I'm also running an RP with fans who want to dip their toes into the sandbox).

And when I'm getting to the GRRM point of my life, I intend on releasing it all to public domain, so that I have at least a few years of seeing what will happen with it when its set free into the world.
Gerd K
23. Kah-thurak
@20 Gregor Lewis
I couldnt agree more. Martin has, in my opinion, lost control of the story he wanted to tell somewhere in Storm of Swords and has not really managed to regain it in ADwD. This is in fact the same thing that made Jordan's WoT meander around for book after book until Jordan was unable to finnish the story himself...
vjj
24. Gregor Lewis
@21 JennB & @23 Kah-thurak ...
The ironic thing about Martin getting entangled in his 'Meereenese Knot' after years of creative desert wandering, along with Jordan's tragic inability to finish his opus, is both these men had clearly stated ideas & expectations about how their epic series would progress to a conclusion, after they had reached a zenith (in story & book length both).

Martin - quite publically on his website - & Jordan - in various longform letters to some generous fans, who shared them in the early days of internet fandom - make clear, unambiguous statements about how they expect the story to evolve going forward.

Events since have shown us 180° about-faces having catastrophic creative consequences, for decisions that had they been followed up on, could well have allowed, especially Jordan, to escape the tragic footnote of incompletion to the terribly sad circumstances of his illness and eventual passing.

Jordan was adamant every book post Lord of Chaos needed to be just as long and detail dense to maintain the rhythm of the story and ascendance of the characters into ultimate positions of power that would lead to the Last Battle. What did he do though? Books 7-10 were shorter (as much as 40%), abruptly truncated, full of unnatural breaks in narrative and buried in the minutae of the itinerant wanderer who is too comfortable in his latest place to wander any further forward, when sideways and backwards will do.

Martin was adamant that after the crescendo of how ASoS ended for multiple characters, he needed to give them time & room to breathe. AFFC did not exist in his plans at all. Martin was sure that what he saw happening to the protagonists in the gap years he planned to leave in the narrative originally, before he rejoined them in Book 4, six years later, was dross, the juicy bits best told in flashback.

Given what he has produced in the 12/13 years since, I'd say his original thoughts were spot on, but you have to take the man at his word, in that he wasn't happy with what he produced and couldn't make the flashbacks work to his satisfaction.

Given how disappointing what he has actually published has been, I can only imagine the horror of what he considered unpublishable. As I said before, this delay in release schedule has created a rich timing boon for ALL of Martin's work on multiple media platforms.

It's a credit to the strength of GRRM's earlier work and perhaps a sad commentary on the 'en vogue' consumer nature of weaker, adulterated & compromised art being a lightning rod & conduit to the gems long hidden.

More power to GRRM, but for mine a sad case for both Martin & Jordan, of what might have been had they persevered with their original strongly held beliefs, instead of compromising.

grl
Anthony Pero
25. anthonypero
I'd like to take a moment to point out post @20 and @24, by Gregor Lewis. THIS is how you write a hard CRITIQUE of someone's work. I don't agree with a LOT of this, but it is well spoken, well thought out, and doesn't exist to TRASH the creator of the work. Its simply a hard critique. Kudos.
vjj
26. Ivan T.W.
Personally I quite liked the last two books, though I would say that the decision to split them by location was a poor one. If they were published as one 2000something-page book (with the chapter 'The Merchant's Man' moved forward in the narrative so to not spoil the reveal) it would probably have been my favorite book in the whole series, absolutely dense and rich with detail. I guess a lot of people don't like the Martells or Greyjoys, but I love 'em (Martells especially) and could do with a lot less of the Dany/Jon duology myself. Perhaps one day we'll get the story as one monolith, but with enough time on one's hands it can be spliced together as-is.
Stephen Ogden
27. azrael
The copyright will eventually expire and anyone will be able to write anything they want about it.

That's how it should be. Just a shame it will take so long for the copyright to expire.
vjj
29. levellersteve
I thin GRRM should do something like Steven Erikson did with his Malazan world & allow a friend to take a minor character & write a novel using his world. I would read, for example, the Melisandre backstory written by someone else. It bugs me that people can not add to the Middle Earth story.
vjj
30. missallen
I think GRRM needs to quit screwing around with his side projects and get his last two books of ASOIAF done. He's 65 years old and won't live forever. He can do his estate planning AFTER he gets the series done.
vjj
31. Qwert
I would love to read, "Sauron Strikes Back"
Anthony Pero
32. anthonypero
@27:

I don't think 75 years is too long, personally, as a content creator.
Thomas Canty
33. Thomas Canty
I didn't think that I could possibly respect the man any more than I already do . . . now I do ! !

Very saddened to think of his ever passing, but heartened by his sentiments and his words.

TC
vjj
34. R. Stewart
I'm not so much worried about Martin dying before he finishes the series as I am worried about MYSELF dying before he finishes. I'm a diabetic old man, George... Have mercy on me!
vjj
35. Wels
I understand his feelings, but would wish for the sequence of the work if they are needed and if theres some base material to draw from like letter s or notes. Personally I enjoyed the Dune sequels and prequels done by other authorised authors.
Anthony Pero
36. anthonypero
I enjoyed the Dune Prequels. I did NOT enjoy the finished saga as done by KJA. I wish I had never read it. It makes total sense, don't get me wrong... and this is not a critique of KJA, whose work I adore... but NO ONE is as subtle, deep and thought provoking as Frank Hebert.
vjj
37. krull
@31
I knew there would be a comment like that... You can get that in fan speculations and boring fanfiction that is read by up to a few hundred likeminded people. But it's not worth publishing, and not worth "loving" as it is often so lightly put. There exist some alternate history versions, sometimes under different names, but they are declared as such and are aware of their different stance rather than having presumptions about continuing or improving (what a petty idea anyway, if it isn't your own to begin with) etc.
Rachael
38. gypsy1127
I spent this latter half of my life wrapped up in and swept away by WoT. I think Jordan was fantastic, and that the series was perfect. For me. I did not find myself "muddling" through those books in the middle that everyone so much (and avidly!) criticizes. It was a grand series on a grand scale. I can see HOW people felt it moved slowly, but I disagree, I devoured #7-11 with the same fervor I did 1-6. The series had such a massive scope; we saw how the appearance of Rand and the approach of Tarmon Gaidon affected everyone and everything, from small to devastating ways. We witnessed every intricate detail and complexity, how each thread of the story affected the others. Looking at each book and POV separately, it may seem slow-paced, lumbering, and perhaps disjointed at times. But when you step back to view the epic as a whole, all those parts that were complained about nevertheless fit beautifully into the whole. He created his epic in such an apt metaphor of a tapestry. Look at such, especially an old example from the middle ages, and it's beautiful. Look closely at a small section by itself, cut away from the whole: it becomes simply a collection of differently colored threads, with little pattern or beauty of its own. Look at the tapestry minus that small portion, and the tapestry has lost a portion of its beauty. It's incomplete without that seemingly meaningless, lackluster portion that was cut away. So with RJ's masterpiece (for that's truly what is). The slow yet inexorable pace was his own style, and to me emulated that of approaching potential doom and the confrontation with the Dark One. But fiction is subjective, and everyone's opinion, likes and dislikes, differ.

Sanderson did an amazing job finishing it, despite differences in style, and struggling with voices and characterization of certain characters. The only person who could have done it perfectly was Robert Jordan. However, he's not RJ. But with what he was given and the monumental task of it, he rose to the challenge and met it gloriously.

I digress. ASOIAF is nowhere near the scope of WoT, and GRRM is not such a wonderfully brilliant author that he's irreplaceable. Should worse come to worst, it could certainly be done, I think. I do hope he finishes it himself though. Also, for me, I find it selfish and arrogant for an author to deny his/her devoted fans the ability to read an ending. (I was thrilled when RJ relented and reneged on his statement that no one would finish WoT if he died before its completion, and was happily satisfied with Sanderson's results on the whole.) I realize the show will finish, but the show is not the books and the books are far better.

However, all that said, I would still understand if GRRM does deny us that final boon. Should that happen, though, I'll be throwing a temper tantrum on what I'm sure will be a large scale. Feel free to join me when said circumstances arise. ;)
Boquaz
39. boquaz
I'm a scientist. The ideas, concepts and "characters" I publish are protected far less than fiction. This is all done because we all understand that having multiple people working on an idea increases our chances of seeing something great.

Just like many authors, I was far too willing to sign away my rights early in my career. I would love to maintain control over my ideas now, but that's difficult. You use it, or lose it. The idea that I could maintain control after death is... absurd and immoral.

I don't understand at all why anyone would imagine they have a right to make a statement like GRRM is making here. I understand that artists do consider their work fundamentally different than mine, but that's another set of logic I don't understand. Your ideas are your own, for a time; inevitably someone will come along who can improve upon them.
Kerly Luige
40. Celebrinnen
I see GRRM's point in not wanting anybody else to take over ASOIAF, and personally I agree - fanfic can exist in the world wide web, but I do not believe I would like if anybody just took over some characters I love and used them to make profit. I am extremely glad that Tolkien's legacy is taken so good care of.

But finishing the story, bringing it to completion is another thing. I cannot agree more with all those who praise Brandon for finishing WoT - yes, he's not RJ, but he not only gave us all the ending we were dying for, but he made a heck of a good job of it (thanks to it I discovered him and he has risen to be one of my favourite authors :) )
vjj
41. Beezo
I can understand him not wanting anyone to taint the image of what he created but we as fans need closure. We've invested a lot of time into reading these books and we're emotionally attached. I would have been pissed if I never got a chance to read about Tarmon Gai'don and getting the closure I needed. The same goes for SOFAI. We have to see this thing end at some point.
vjj
42. Drew23
I hope he still allows people to make film and TV adaptions! He has many works revolving around the GoT universe that could make great mini-series I would guess

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