Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Shaggydog Theory, part II: George RR Martin really does not want to write A Song of Ice and Fire

Recently I was at the grocery store.  I live in the southeast, and this was some small local grocery store chain that only exists in my state, and largely only has locations in rural areas.  I was buying something late at night, don't remember which, when I ran across this Bargain Bin for books.  They were up to 80% off!

Of course, this isn't much excitement, as grocery stores pretty much exclusively sell crappy books no one would want to read.  The kind of book often reviled as an airplane novel.  The kind of book that still had some sort of purpose in the era before they wired up wifi into the last remaining place on earth where humans couldn't stare at their phones all day, but that now serves basically no purpose.

And this is what I saw inside the bin:

I want to explain.  The lady on the book cover looks kind of like she might pass for a discount-version Emilia Clarke, so the cover looks kind of like it might be related to A Song of Ice and Fire.  But it's not.  It's one of the books in Martin's ongoing series about... dragons playing poker, or something equally stupid.  I think I frequently confuse Martin's current series with "Dragon's Wild" by Robert Aspirin.  And that's probably as much as the series deserves.

It might look like Emilia Clarke, but this book is entirely unrelated to anything to do with the book series which got its last installment over a decade ago.  It has nothing to do with the book series that has generated all of the fans, all of the critical acclaim, all of the imitating authors, all of the far-flung websites dedicated purely to speculation.  Nothing to do with the book series that generated all of the sales, all of the merchandise, all of the HBO royalties.  Nothing to do with the fantasy series that artistically, creatively, and financially has been an enormous success.

This book is part of a different series.  It's what Martin prefers to write about.  He has had over a decade, and continues preferring to write updates to this series, rather than finish the book he said he had already finished anyway sometime around 2005.

This series he would rather write for, is the kind of series that gets sold in bargain book bins in rural supermarkets in some state in the South.  It's the kind of book that can't even get sold with a NYT bestselling author's name attached.

If Martin prefers to shrink away from his greatest literary and financial accomplishment, to focus on literal discount schlock, then there has to be a reason.

And I think I know what the reason is.  I've written about how A Song of Ice and Fire will likely end before, and am only going to re-touch the theory in light of events since the HBO series' conclusion.  I call my theory the Shaggydog theory, that the name of Rickon's wolf is foreshadowing of the entire series as a whole.  It's all a big shaggy dog, meant to waste our time with a go-nowhere ending.

I had speculated on this before the HBO series concluded its final episode.

Here's what happened with the ending.  What was the most sensational, fan beloved, critically-acclaimed show ever on television, suddenly lost every single fan overnight.  No one wants to rewatch it, even though it's still available for streaming with HBO.  No one even talks about it very much anymore.  No one even makes cultural reference to it anymore.  Unlike shows like Friends or the Office, or (maybe more favorably) Breaking Bad, which people continue re-watching years later, or movies which become classics, no one proposes re-binging Game of Thrones.  Because the ending sucked.  The ending sucked and was infuriating.  It sucked so much so some fans started petitions to force the directors to re-film it with better writing.  It's the kind of ending that sucks so much, the suckiness creeps back into all of the earlier episodes, infects them with its suckiness, so that not even season 1 can be fully enjoyed anymore.

The ending was so bad it ruined the entirety of the franchise, almost overnight.

I assert that the actual ending to A Song of Ice and Fire that Martin has had planned from the beginning, is that bad or worse.

A Song of Ice and Fire was experimental for Martin.  It was his first foray into fantasy.  He began by largely copying someone else, and his main intention was to subvert reader expectation.  He wanted to turn a lot of tropes on their heads, and he did.  When he started, I don't think he expected it to become such a sensation.  He had an ending planned that was supposed to be a massive middle finger to the audience, and he'd get a laugh out of it, and that would be it.  

Since that initial plan, I imagine today almost the entirety of Martin's income is related to ASOIAF.  In order to keep fans placated, since the third book he has been slowly releasing updates, promising there is progress.  But he has no heart to actually make the progress, because he knows and has always known that he will eventually have to write the horrible ending that will piss off all of his fans.  And that the pissed-off fans are probably going to react very poorly.

When he was approached about adapting it as a TV series, this gave him a chance to use the series as a trial balloon for his ending.  He'd try running something like his ending there, and observe how fans react.

Fans reacted in the manner he have observed, and have every right to react this way.  The ending sucked, it made the entire show a waste of time, and in the end was a giant middle finger to everyone who cared or was paying attention.

Now that he knows the reception he could expect for his planned ending to ASOIAF, Martin absolutely is not going to do anything with the books.  He will keep writing the same bargain bin drivel until he dies, insisting on his right as a creative to write unsellable crap novels no one reads if he really wants to.  And of course it is his right to do that, but if he really prefers to write the bargain bin schlock, it must be because he knows the rest of ASOIAF is not going to be any better than what he's writing now.

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