‘What is dead may never die’…except George R R Martin

Published: July 19, 2014

George Martin's publisher should insert a death clause in his contract that prevents him from dying before revealing who gets to sit on the Iron Throne in the end. PHOTO: PINTEREST

George Martin's publisher should insert a death clause in his contract that prevents him from dying before revealing who gets to sit on the Iron Throne in the end. PHOTO: REUTERS George Martin's publisher should insert a death clause in his contract that prevents him from dying before revealing who gets to sit on the Iron Throne in the end. PHOTO: PINTEREST

There is a rumour afloat that strikes fear in the hearts of millions. It’s not the reports of the brain eating amoeba or SARS or an exotic epidemic. No, this is much more critical, infinitely more blood-curdling horrifying. The rumour is that (hold on to your dear ones. If you are a misanthropic loner then a pillow will do) George R R Martin may not be able to finish the last installation of his ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ books which form the plot of the wildly popular TV show, Game of Thrones (GOT).

There, it’s off my chest.

The news has caused wide-spread consternation among the fans of the show, many who were barely over their grief from the Red Wedding. Others are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms after the end of season four and are only kept sated by reruns and podcasts about the characters biographies on YouTube.

Is GOT the most popular show of all time? One can debate about it but would be hard pressed to name a show that has gripped the public in this way. For instance, one of my friends has given up his MBA programme and says he can learn all about the business world from his new mentor, one Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger. Another speaks as if he was part of the plot with dialogues from the show. The last message that I received from him was that he is crossing the Narrow Sea and something about seeking the children. Since he’s not married, I hope it works out for him. Then there is one who goes by name ‘KP’ and plans to have a Westeros style wedding. We are trying to make sure the drinks are tested thoroughly and no one goes home purple and wheezing.

Given Martin’s predilection of pizza over the pen, the books have taken a while in coming and caused him to be approached by no less than four sumo wrestling managers. There was a six year gap between the fourth and fifth books and the series is supposed to end at seven. If he keeps up this pace, that’s 12 years total time and even though he started the sixth in 2012, we still have a decade till completion. At age 65, he’s not exactly the picture of health and fitness and the fans are very, very concerned. Unfortunately, this deep felt agony, this heart-breaking concern is for the books and does not extend to the author. Poor Georgie has gotten a tad miffed at the constant queries the fans directed his way about his completion deadlines and corpulence. I can imagine his irritation given that he experiences something like the following on a daily basis:

Fan: Hello George!

Martin: Why hello there! Top of the morning to ye! (In my musings he talks like a Leprechaun)

Fan: So you aren’t dying right? I mean it’s alright if you pop off after you deliver the seventh book and I get my fix of the show.

Martin: You (insert expletive of choice)!

A version of this conversation took place when an interviewer for the Swiss Daily Tages-Anzeiger questioned him about the possibility of his death. George’s response was,

“I find that question pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health, so £#@$ you to those people.”

In case the message wasn’t entirely clear, he then gave those people the finger. You cannot blame the guy for being bearish.

Annoying fans have been the bane of popular writers since time immemorial. I am sure Homer had his issues with the Achilles fan boys who would pester him about the end of the Iliad as he daydreamed about Helen. A wag told me that when writer Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, he was hounded by Dr Watson lookalikes who had invested heavily in moustache wax, and he had to bring Sherlock back through a contrived series of events.

Some people have suggested that his publisher should insert a death clause in his contract that prevents him from dying before revealing who gets to sit on the Iron Throne in the end. One of the fans said,

“In my opinion, the contract forcing him to stay alive should have been made a long time ago.”

Literary critics agree that the penalties Martin would have to pay if he died before finishing the story could be ‘just too expensive for him to try and break the contract’.

The majority though are truly worried and afraid they will never know who Daenerys Targaryen will marry. In the event of Martin’s death, I expect their reactions to range from ludicrous to downright crazy. Here are some of them:

1. Return junkies

Some fans will simply refuse to believe that he will end his time in this world, and in case of death, will come back as a White Walker. They are relaxed and unconcerned about piddly issues of life and death.

2. Tech-trappers

There is a group saying that in the unfortunate event of his death, Martin will be frozen or cryopreserved so that future generations can revive him, thus insuring the plot end. TV executives tend to be a parsimonious lot and have countered the need to preserve his brain, saying they don’t want to put money into the body.

3. Grievers

These are the sentimentalists and their grief shall have no bounds. Shakespeare had them in mind when he wrote,

“Oft have I heard that grief softens the mind,  And makes it fearful and degenerate”

They will lie comatose in a fetal position, only getting up to scarf down some junk food and watch the Battle of Castle Black.

4. Lifers

They don’t watch the show, they live it and at Martin’s death, they will revert to their natural forms as denizens of Westeros. The costume industry will see a boom as we see a craze for long tunics and fake Valerian Steel products shall flood the market.

5. Pedants

These fans will watch and re-watch the episodes looking for hidden clues and treat anyone who cannot remember all the houses and their vassals with disdain. The texts shall be treated as sacred and the search for the missing texts will lead to the 21st century version of the Grail quest.

6. Hodorists

They will claim Hodor as the messiah and form a religion around his personality. Anthropologists claim that ‘Hodorism’ will have a natural edge over other religions since all the prayers are essentially one word.

Being an occultist and naturally lazy, I am leaning towards the Hodorists and can see them claiming the Web Throne. So while Martin lives, let’s enjoy the books and the TV show. After that…Hodor!

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (twitter.com/Sibtain_N)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    every good series makes its fans go into withdrawal :P
    I remember that when friends ended there was widespread panic/grief/anxiety . Same happened with Prison Break, and game of thrones is also likely to leave its fans with the same symptoms .
    And ofc we all know that house stark is gonna get the throne in the end :DRecommend

  • Mount Lavinia

    We live in time where pop culture is available at a fingers click, But that easy access has made people selfish.

    GOT is one of the most watched/pirated/discussed shows on the internet, and its all of the tv show viewers have turned book fans like myself, as opposed to book fans prior to the show airing

    But with fanboy fanatiscm worship eventually comes the anger:

    Sibtain i 100% agree with you, i will quote a line from “the dark knight rises” which i will address to George r.r Martin:

    “You dont owe these people anymore, you’ve given them everything!”

    i strongly believe authors such as George R.R. Martin doesn’t owe us anything. its great enough that they decided to share with us their stories. whenever i read something so wonderful i keep thinking how their minds would really work that they could come up with such awe inspiring stories. i will wait for it even if it takes 10 more years. and if he couldn’t complete the books then i will just accept it as one of those things that are meant to be uncomplete, something for me to figure out myself.Recommend

  • Ali HMB

    I’m still reading the books, so it might be hard for me to empathize with all of these angry people right now, but I couldnt agree with you more.

    And regarding the rampant piracy of the show:
    I would happily pay to watch Game of Thrones if it had an uncensored/unaltered distribution method in Pakistan that was anywhere near as good as HBO has for USA/Canada.

    The only way i watch an episode be it an HBO or some random chick friendly show on a network like The CW, i either download it, stream it if i want to watch it within the same day it aired in the United States, or if i want to binge watch on Orphan Black or True Blood I’ll buy the pirated blu ray boxed set version with subtitles from Laraib.

    You have to be very careful because “stealing” is a loaded word. Stealing is taking the property of another person but when that property is infinitely, and easily, replicable then the issue becomes somewhat more murky.

    Sharing is a positive thing, the fact that millions of people are illegally downloading Game of Thrones doesn’t necessarily mean that those millions of people would (or even could) pay for it if they wanted to, yet the cultural impact of the show has increased dramatically as a result. Of course the people who make the show need to eat, I’m not trying to defend actions which could potentially take away from their livelihood, I am just trying to suggest that prosecution and accusations are a dumb way to solve what is clearly a problem.

    In the case of all these people wining that George R.R. Martin isn’t writing fast enough. They’re just mean…Recommend

  • Akoo Canada

    A writer owes the reader nothing. The consumers came to the author because they like his or her work, the author didn’t create the story because he liked consumers. Some writers manufacture novels on a yearly basis, very few do it well. Y

    Yes, I understand that a reader is invested, but never more than the author is.

    Quality over quantity, and patience is an investment as well.Recommend


    As a reader, I’ve always assumed that all the fanboy critiques telling GRRM to write faster were just jokes. I’ve never taken them all that seriously, or met anyone who honestly wished GRRM harm. He’s not the fastest writer on the block, but he’s well worth the wait!Recommend

  • Nazia ABN

    Sibs, you said it all: I’ve spent the last 2 months reading a Song of Fire and ice, completely immersed in the world that George RR Martin created, delighted with characters, events and plot.

    Even if you spend some weeks (re)watching the series and another couple of days reading blogs and FB pages dedicated to the subject, it won’t be long until you start to see the situation from another point of view and be a little pissed.

    The fans are what made Game of Thrones what it is, and Martin should have a more diplomatic approach to the subject, because the truth is that he’s taking his own sweet time to finish the series and the recent books are pretty lame.

    I’ve read the books and I made that investment in reading a 1000 page fiction book never thinking that would take this long to finish the series and passed the books through my friends hoping they would enjoy the books as much as I did… and now we’re all waiting for the series to end, many years after.

    We’ve read a lot of books and authors since, but A song of Fire and Ice has definitely left its mark, so although I’m not a violent or pushy person, I think I have the right as a fan to say to Martin: finish the series already! If a more educated request would have other result, I’d do it, but the truth i that he knows he’s stalling and that the expectations go up with every month and year he chooses to stay put.Recommend

  • Canaan

    65 isn’t really old, Nawaza is the same age.Recommend

  • Andrew DiNanno

    I think the media has blown this whole thing out of proportion. I am not a fan of Game of Thrones or the books it is based on but I’m sure the majority of it’s fans are NOT pushy, demanding or speculating the George RR Martin will die before finishing the series. The real person he should’ve flicked to was that reporter who asked him the offensive question. Now, to the writer of this article, I and many others do NOT appreciate you making fun of geek stereotypes. Many of us find it as offensive as say an American calling you a terrorist or suicide bomber due to your middle eastern heritage. Think about that the next time you decide to poke fun at geek culture okay?Recommend

  • Ali Q London

    Your above blog on George R.R. Martinss A song of Fire and Ice—provides us with the first,overdue account of one of the most controversial and reviled of all American authors. A brave undertaking that goes against the received wisdom of much academic and middle-brow literary criticism, this blog offers many surprising insights through close, lucid, frequently ingenious, and always astute encounters with Martins’s work. Despite—or perhaps better because of—the broad scope of approaches featured, this piece presented me with a remarkably coherent critical conversation; no doubt to the chagrin of the Martins’s many detractors, your piece ultimately puts forth a convincing counter-canonical argument by positioning George R.R Martin as one of the major American writers of the last thirty years. As such, Martin proves to be not only an indispensable, and immensely teachable, resource for anyone interested in his work but also provocative for the study of contemporary literary culture in general.Recommend

  • Manoo Millenium

    The Game of Thrones series are an accomplished and challenging story arc that,
    through a close reading of GRRM’s oeuvre to date, attempts to correlate
    political and literary value in order to extract a new politics of literature.
    It is a timely and serious work on a very important author whose reputation is
    overshadowed by the celebrity of the infamous HBO show.

    Mr.Naqvi provides a path-breaking reading and re-situation of GRRM’s work,
    elegantly written and attentive to the rich paradoxes of his authorial persona
    and literary stance.

    With his elaboration of the ‘underwritten’ as double-voiced critique, he moves us
    away from the clichés of the binging/pop cultural/Net Flix-HBOGo streaming
    GENERATION and gives us tools for an understanding of the slippery politics of
    contemporary fiction.In the context of this blog Martin eventually emerges as a
    better and more dangerous writer than we know.Recommend

  • Sebastian Nicollini

    Watching a television show or a film is easy, you go by the reviews, the word of mouth, the box office numbers or Television Nielsen Ratings.

    But truly immersing and dedicating your time to a 1000 page novel in a series of books is something else! Martin has definitely captured a huge fan base investing weeks of their precious time to his alternate fantastical world of Westeros.

    It seems fitting that when a reader has spent so much time reading George R.R. Martin’s hefty voluminous novels and has spent endless fanboy discussions with fellow book readers face to face and on internet forums that he/she may obviously be a bit impatient as to when their latest dosage of THRONES entertainment reaches the bookshelves.

    We must realize that we have spent the better part of the last 15 or so odd years heavily invested in the storyline, as loyal diehard fan we are still customers, the most loyal and fanatical to say the least. I don’t think the author should undermine and catcall our fanboy enthusiasm for the release of the latest Thrones novel.Recommend