What Happens to HBO’s 'Game of Thrones' If George R. R. Martin Dies?

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It may be sad to think about, but "Game of Thrones" author George R. R. Martin is getting older. Born in 1948, Martin is 63 and, well, not as thin as he could be. His age, his weight, and his penchant for taking years to create a new book have devoted fans of his books and HBO's TV adaptation concerned that Martin might pass away before he has time to finish the projected seven-book fantasy cycle "A Song of Ice and Fire."

While "A Dance with Dragons," the fifth book in the series, came out this summer, recent reports indicate that Martin won't even begin writing the sixth until January 2012. He has about 100 pages of leftover material from Book 5 he plans to use in Book 6, but if the next book is around 1,000 pages, he hasn't made much of a dent at all...and let's not forget that there was a six-year wait between publication of Book 4 and Book 5. At that rate, we might not see Book 7 hit shelves until 2023, when Martin is 75. The books might come out sooner if Martin's workload on other projects, including writing for HBO's "Game of Thrones," slows down, but Martin enjoys working on multiple projects at once. Hopefully the work of writing the last two books in the series will go more smoothly and take less time than his previous efforts.

Fantasy and sci-fi fans are no strangers to the heartbreak caused by the deaths of beloved authors before they have a chance to finish their story cycles. For example, Douglas Adams died before he could write the next story in his "Hitchhiker's Guide" series, and Robert Jordan died before he could complete his 12-volume "Wheel of Time" fantasy series. Even J. R. R. Tolkien died with work unfinished, leaving his son Christopher to edit the fragments of "The Silmarillion" into a coherent work.

But Martin does not have detailed notes, or a designated successor to tell the story if he should die. In an interview with EW, Martin explained, "I know the ending in broad strokes. I don't know every little twist and turn that will get me there, and I don't know the ending of every secondary character. But the ending and the main characters, yeah. And ["Game of Thrones" producers] David Benioff and Dan Weiss know some of that too, which the fans are very worried about in case I get hit by a truck."

That's comforting to fans of the HBO show, of course, but fans might still be bothered by not basing the show entirely on the complete published works of Martin. Complicating matters is the idea that because TV production is moving at a faster pace than Martin's writing, the show might overtake the plot of the published novels. In the same EW interview, Martin stated, "What is HBO going to do if we get a third season and beyond?...I don't know how they'll get everything in. But there's no way they can get 'Storm' into 10 or even 12 [episodes]. My hope is they'll split that into two seasons...[but even then] they could catch up with me before [Book 7 is published.]"

We wish all the best for Martin's health and his artistic output, and hope he is around for decades to come. The tales from Westeros just wouldn't be as good coming from the pen of anyone else.

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