Editor's note: SPOILERS! This is an article about the Game of Thrones books and HBO adaptation, if you're not on the GoT train, it technically left station in 1996, so you've had plenty of time for these to not be surprising to you. Season 5 begins Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Game of Thrones was a contributing factor in my decision to break up with my boyfriend of five years. (Read: viciously dump on the way to a college town Starbucks like Ned Stark's head being chopped off by Ser Ilyn Payne.)
Hang with me while I explain my commitment to this series and then we can address how fans can handle the show's return on Sunday.
Everything was great in our own Winterfell. I was looking for books to read that would be engaging, but not in the way of the political theory books I'd been spending my hours reading for school. He suggested the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.
His pitch: HBO would be airing a television version the following spring and the show would be more interesting if I'd read the books as well and knew the characters' deeper stories. (I'll admit, he did know how I liked to handle the book vs. movie issues - I am a firm believer in reading the book first, sorry Hunger Games and Fifty Shades, I doubt I'll be indulging.)
I took the bait. It was a slow go at first adjusting to Martin's writing style, but when the first episode of the HBO adaptation aired on April 17, 2011, I knew I was hooked. The visuals cleared up some of the character mixups I'd been having. My reading was unstoppable.
Long story short: I finished the first four books that were already published shortly before the most recent addition to the canon, A Dance with Dragons, published in July 2011. We had pre-ordered our books together on Amazon.
Now, I am no Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, but if you're in a relationship with someone and you buy books together with the intention of reading and discussing them, then keep pace. Otherwise, call up Ser Ilyn and hope for a clean break.
Clearly, I like these books an awful lot, which brings us to the crux of the matter: what is one to do when they feel a deep connection to original canon, but know that the show literally must go on?
Let's address a few things in order to get to an answer:
Why are we still waiting on the next book?
George R.R. Martin is in no particular hurry to finish writing the next book in the seven-book series. Rumors fly. Fans anxiously watch Martin's "Not a Blog" for clues. The good people over at FiveThirtyEight.com have taken a particular interest in studying Martin's writing pace. Here is a quick round-up of some of what the Internet has to offer:
- In "Predicting When 'Game of Thrones' Author George R. R. Martin Will Come Out With His Next Book," Walt Hickey makes an attempt at "Martinology" and analyzes as much data as he could pull from the "Not a Blog" and apply statistical models to predict when we'll finally get an update from Westeros. Result: He still has no idea.
- For an almost academic-style look at the issue, I recommend reading "A Scientific Guess at George R.R. Martin's Progress on 'The Winds of Winter.'" It comes from Watchers on the Wall, an online community for all things Game of Thrones. Seriously, this is about as in-depth as you are going to get.
Accept now that the books are not done. Accept it now.
What does this mean for the HBO adaptation?
The show will continue. As I wrote above, the HBO adaptation returns for season five on Sunday at 9 p.m.
Allegedly, and I consider my sources pretty reputable, this season will diverge greatly from A Dance with Dragons. To be perfectly honest though, this was coming. It was inevitable as you can see from the evidence presented above.
The New York Times culture desk put together a "where are they now" post that also supports the idea that based on where the characters are at the end of Season 4, the books had created a straight line while the HBO adaptation is a line that dips in and out of the literary canon's line.
We already know that show runners Dan Weiss and David Benioff have been working closely with Martin and saw the issue of them running out Martin-created material. Here is their address at Oxford Union about it:
Okay, are you still breathing, book readers? Good.
The guys need jobs. They need this show to keep going — even if that means killing off characters who are still alive in the books. (For a full listing of who has died in the TV show so far, please see this handy-dandy graphic from The Washington Post.)
The question for all of us book readers is how we are going to handle the split from the literary canon.
Will the split between books and TV show ruin my life?
As per usual, Tyrion has something grim, yet insightful for us. Bottom line: No, your life is not going to end with the split. However, you may want to guard your relationships from your feelings during the season — one never knows how they will react when they play the game of thrones...
What I recommend, is that we choose, we actively choose as fans to respect both the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV adaptation Game of Thrones as two individual pieces of Game of Thrones canon.
This is not that radical.
To my fellow book readers: don't be pretentious and snobby about how the books are different than the show. Don't say they are "better." They are not "better." They are an entirely different medium in which Martin's publisher lets him write at length and in great detail. An hour television show, even withe the budget that HBO provides, cannot cover all of that.
To the TV watchers: be sensitive to your book-reading friends. This is a hard time for us. We love these books. We love the show. We want to keep loving you. Help us get through all of the stages of grief.
In summation: I wish you luck readers as we enter this season. I hope that you play the game of thrones well and always remember...