Is Jon Snow the secret son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, the third head of the Dragon, destined to sing the song of Ice and Fire, and rule Westeros and half the known world in a Pharaoh-like marriage with his aunt Daenerys Stormborn? George R R Martin, author of the A Song Of Ice And Fire book series, producer, consultant, script writer and advisor on the HBO TV series, A Game Of Thrones, based on the books, has a very firm policy of not letting slip the slightest hint of what may happen in future volumes or episodes. Indeed he threatens to kill another Stark if anyone even asks him what’s going to happen, a threat he repeated during his recent author tour of Australia. Accordingly there will be no great revelations here. Well actually, while there may not be any great revelations, there were perhaps one or two fascinating insights that George did inadvertently let slip.
Both the books and the TV series have attracted a vast, and perhaps more remarkably, a diverse audience. With a few notable exceptions, J R R Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings and C S Lewis’s Narnia books, epic high fantasy fiction, the type with dragons, warriors, magic and magical creatures and swordplay, has remained very much a genre restricted to devotees.
At various events during George R R Martin’s recent author tour of Australia, and most especially at the Dymock’s Literary Luncheon in Sydney, a causal glance at the audience revealed an audience ranging in age from 16 to 70 was there to show their appreciation, and while a great many were the traditional SF & Fantasy geeks and fans, the kind one might encounter at conventions and comic-cons, there were also a great many regular folk, there to gain a closer insight, and perhaps a hint of what is to come in Martin’s extraordinary world.
With an audience of dedicated (and perhaps also desiccated) septuagenarian and octogenarian fans, for whom winter really is coming, the question often arises, only half in jest, is George R R Martin going to finish these books before I die? He began the books in the early 90s, the first was published in 1996, the next in 1998, the third in 2000, there was a five year wait for A Feast For Crows, and another six years for A Dance With Dragons. The Winds Of Winter and A Dream Of Spring are forthcoming. Indeed, we were asked by several older readers, who knew we would be attending these events, in earnest, to put exactly that question. We considered putting the question to him as to why he wasn’t home writing, but feared if we did that he might threaten to kill another Stark. Winter, it seems, has been coming for an awfully long time, and still hasn’t arrived yet. And there was talk of it potentially growing to 8 books. After A Dance With Dragons was published in 2011, Martin stated that it was his plan to wrap everything up in two more books, “But at this point, I know better than to promise anything and write it out in blood.” Given that he has allowed 3 years for each book, the tendency for his characters to lead him into sub-plots, asides and intricacies, the potential is there for the series to extend to 8 or 9 books and remain unfinished until 2020. In that light the question from older readers is a valid one.
Given that at 65 he is hardly in the bloom of youth, the question as to whether George R R Martin will be around to finish the books has also been raised. D B Weiss and David Benioff, producers of the TV series, got an outline of where the story is headed from Martin in February, 2013, so they could plan ahead, and perhaps also so they would be able to finish the series, just in case. After the death of fellow fantasy author, Robert Jordan (who was, coincidentally, the same age as George), in 2007, with his epic Wheel Of Time fantasy series as yet unfinished, it was announced that Brandon Sanderson would finish the work based on Jordan’s outlines and notes. Similarly, Todd McCaffrey has continued stories of the Dragonriders Of Pern, the classic fantasy series first penned by his mother Anne McCaffrey in 1968. In a revelation that you would perhaps rather not know, when asked who would be his Brian Sanderson, who would continue the work if he died, George’s reply was, “I don’t plan on dying, so if I do die you guys are all out of luck.”
Finally, in a stunning revelation, when an audience member put the ridiculous question, “JRR Tolkien strenuously denied that his books were in any way an allegory for World War II, have you ever been accused of writing about climate change by proxy? You know, it being a bit of a thing in your works, the long Winter?” George replied, “No, I haven’t, not until now,” and continued, “Like Tolkien I do not write allegory, at least not intentionally. Obviously you live in the world and you’re affected by the world around you, so some things sink in on some level, but, if I really wanted to write about climate change in the 21st century I’d write a novel about climate change in the 21st century. Sometimes things happen that are hard to believe. You have to remember I’ve been writing these since 1991, in a couple of the recent books Daenerys Targaryen wielding the massive military superiority offered to her by three dragons has taken over a part of the world where the culture and ethos, and the very people are completely alien to her, and she’s having difficulty ruling this land once she conquered it. It did dawn on me when George W Bush started doing the same thing that some people might say, ‘Hmmm, George is commenting on the Iraq War’, but I swear to you I planned Dany’s thing long before George Bush planned the Iraq War, but I think both military adventures may come to the same end, but it’s not allegory.”
Clearly George is implying that Daenerys’s campaign will end in an intractable military disaster. This may not be the startling and massive revelation it first appears. George has also cautioned audiences about not reading too much into his off the cuff statements, and the tendency for minor comments to be blown out of all proportion by the time they propagated through the internet. Still. Is Jon Snow the last heir of the Targaryens? Who knows? Will Daenerys’s military campaigns in Essos end in blood and chaos? Actually, you don’t even need a statement from George to predict the answer to that.