Whether you sympathize with the guy for being a victim of his own ambition or whether you’re enraged that Game of Thrones Season 6 will now definitely spoil Martin’s novel (Jon Snow Lives!) one thing is clear: the Song of Ice and Fire series has become too big for one man to handle. But there’s a clear solution, here — George R.R. Martin needs to James Patterson that shit and enlist some help.
Before you climb aboard your moral high horse Stranger, hear me out. This is the way, guys.
The Song of Ice and Fire series is huge not only in the way the Mountain is huge — although, in Martin’s own words, “GAME OF THRONES is the most popular television series in the world right now. The most pirated as well. It just won a record number of Emmy Awards, including the ultimate prize, for the best drama on television.” Um, humblebrag much?
The series likewise sprawls in its sheer scope, with hundreds of named characters, thousands of pages, and wandering plot lines with no resolution in sight. Tyrion and Jaime Lannister’s subplots both make that 300-page forest-wandering stretch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows look like the third act of Crank in comparison.
Martin’s plight has sparked debate about what artists owe fans, and perhaps things would be different if he were an obscure fantasy author with a niche fanbase. But the fact of the matter is, Martin is a millionaire because he has millions of fans. And if those fans knew they were dropping money on a story that had no ending in sight, they would have thought twice about investing in the first place. Martin would not be able to live the life he lives without that implied agreement with his fans.
And sure, most of us don’t know what it’s like to live under that much creative pressure: Other authors of sprawling epics like J.K. Rowling have confessed to near-misses with rash decisions out of sheer spite. But Rowling, Stephen King, and Brandon Sanderson manage to meet deadlines. Hell, if this series were in Stephen King’s hands, he’d have the whole thing done by the end of the month, and it would be good.
It’s not Martin’s fault he’s a slower-pace worker than Stephen King or J.K. Rowling — every writer has a different process. But unlike his popular fantasy compatriots, Martin is clearly not in the driver’s seat anymore; he’s admitted to letting his story ensnare him in a Meereenese knot. Ghostwriters could help him untangle it in a timely manner. He could still do the majority of the writing, maintain creative control, and have the last word. There’s nothing wrong with admitting it’s too much for one man to handle.
James Patterson has controversial creative methods but they work. They shouldn’t be used by everyone, but in this particular instance, with a man clearly drowning in his own too-big-to-fail story, it’s time to enlist a Small Council. After all, Martin should learn from his own work that reigning over Westeros with absolute power never ends well.