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'Game Of Thrones': When The TV Show Outpaces The Books


The sixth season of "Game Of Thrones" returns this April. Winter is coming. But not coming, at least not anytime soon, is the next book in George R.R. Martin's series "A Song Of Ice And Fire," from which the show is adapted.

Martin wrote on his blog that "The Winds Of Winter" won't be finished before "Game Of Thrones" returns this spring. It will be done when it's done, he wrote. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it.

Here to talk about it are two members of The Atlantic's "Game Of Thrones" roundtable, Amy Sullivan and Spencer Kornhaber. Thanks for coming in, you guys.


AMY SULLIVAN: Of course.

MARTIN: At the end of season five, we saw the show finally catch up to the books. But now the show seems like it's in a position to pull ahead. Has this ever happened before, where a show has moved faster than its source material?

SULLIVAN: I can't think of another example of when that's happened. We've certainly seen examples of cases where, whether it's "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" or some of the comic book universes, you've had the canon and then you've had offshoots. But this is the first time I can think of that the material overtakes the original and that they're developing on parallel tracks because it's not like he's not still working on another book.

MARTIN: Do you think not having a book to refer to makes it harder for the show creators? Or will it sort of free them up?

KORNHABER: Well, one thing about "Game Of Thrones" from the start that's been so extraordinary is that it's fantasy show, but it feels real in these weird ways. It's like there's a cause-and-effect universe. And I kind of think that can only happen if you have an author who's really paying a lot of attention and working in a methodical way, which, you know, would explain why George R.R. Martin takes so long to write these books.

So I have a little bit of nervousness about the idea of it being totally taken over by a TV show. My understanding is that the earlier seasons adhered pretty closely to the books and later ones have gone off a little bit. And I think you see more kind of typical TV writing in these later season, and you see more coincidences happening that you wouldn't see in the earlier seasons. So I'm a little bit nervous about what happens when they don't have a kind of rock solid story to build on.

MARTIN: Do you think that's going to happen more, Amy, the more of a divergence from the book?

SULLIVAN: I think there will also be more of a temptation for them to create storylines in response to people that the audience likes as characters and people that they like as actors.

When there's a character who's not slated to die and yet isn't really part of the action, on the shows, they have tended to create a new storyline just to keep those characters around. I'm thinking of Brienne and Podrick. And then last season, Sir Jaime and Bronn went off on this completely nonsensical road trip because the fans love them, but it wasn't really useful to the story. And as Spencer says, the books and the world are so meticulously plotted by Martin that it can be frustrating when the showrunners kind of give in to that temptation.

MARTIN: Spencer Kornhaber and Amy Sullivan of The Atlantic's "Game Of Thrones" roundtable.

Thanks much for talking to us.

KORNHABER: Thank you.

SULLIVAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.