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George R.R. Martin Has Some Problems with HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Series

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | June 11, 2014 | Comments ()


George R.R. Martin, in an interview with NYTimes, opened up about some of the issues he’s had with the HBO series, and while most of it is in the small details, he is seriously bummed by the fact that — with only 10 episodes a season — the showrunners necessarily have to leave out scenes he considers key.

“I wish we had more episodes,” he said, speaking from his home in Santa Fe, N.M. “I’d love to have 13 episodes. With 13 episodes, we could include smaller scenes that we had to cut, scenes that make the story deeper and richer.”

Specifically, he cited an argument Arya and Sansa had in season one, after they’d been invited for tea and lemon cakes with Queen Cersei, a scene that he thought added texture and deepened the relationship between Sansa and Arya.

He also expressed some consternation between writing the book and putting together a TV series, noting that he doesn’t have to take his editor’s suggestions, but that the networks force them onto him (and the showrunners).

He is, however, careful to put some distance between himself and the series, saying that he’s only a co-exec producer, writes only one episode a year, and doesn’t have too much say in how the season is written. That said, he does have one major bone to pick, which he’s written about on his blog: The Iron Throne on the show is nothing like the one he describes in the book.

“The HBO throne has become iconic,” he has written on his blog. “And well it might. It’s a terrific design, and it has served the show very well. There are replicas and paperweights of it in three different sizes. Everyone knows it. I love it. I have all those replicas right here, sitting on my shelves.”

But, he continued: “It’s not the Iron Throne I see when I’m working on ‘THE WINDS OF WINTER.’ It’s not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see. The way the throne is described in the books … HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court … my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and asymmetric … The HBO throne is none of those things.”

Yeah, but the ugly and asymmetric throne wouldn’t have looked nearly as good on the set of Parks and Recreation.


Source: NYTimes

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Valar

    Maybe if he listened to his editor more, he wouldn't have produced two books that went nowhere, and would be close to finishing the series now. Seriously this is a common problem among successful authors whose editors become afraid to cut down their work, and bloat develops - Robert Jordan is perhaps an overused comparison, but an apt one nonetheless.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    I'm glad the shows cut out a lot of stuff. GRRM needs to be a little more "Kill your darlings" and a little less "Kill your characters".

  • Nathan Convey

    The books are too long to begin with so thank god they have to cut a lot out. And yet they manage to have episodes where it feels like fuck all is happening. It's a conundrum.

  • Halbs

    Say what you will about Joffrey, he knew how to sit on the iron throne. He had a real, cool guy lean. Even if he didn't earn it.

  • luthien26

    You're absolutely right. I'm not sure if Jack Gleeson was instructed to sit like that or if that was just an instinct, but dayum he had that lean down just right!

  • zorlan

    "[A]ccording to the author it looks exactly like THIS painting by Marc Simonetti."


  • lingli

    I like the HBO throne very much but that is seriously impressive!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Now *that's* a scary-ass throne.;

  • lowercase_ryan


  • lowercase_ryan

    Why don't they have 13 episodes?

  • Budget. Time it takes to plan, shoot, edit, and post-production work.

  • lingli

    Didn't The Wire have 13 episodes a season? Apart from season 5, which had 10 (and was generally considered a bit rushed and not quite as good, I think). Maybe 13 is the magic number :)

  • zorlan

    The thing is that The Wire had a much lower budget overall. GOT is by far the most expensive show on television with over 6 mil $ per episode at the beginning and it only became more expensive in recent seasons: http://www.policymic.com/artic...

    The Wires most expensive season (3) "only" cost 50 mil.

    GOT: 60 / 10 = 6 mil per episode
    The Wire: 50 / 12 = 4,1 mil per episode

  • I'm just basing that on what everyone involved in the show has said, with the exception of GRRM. I don't see why they'd lie about that.

  • Question is not so much episodes as it's one of budget. We've already seen much of what's on the show scaled back -- less of the direwolves, scaled down settings like The Eyrie, tighter battle sequences or battles removed out all together, condensed characters and so on. But when you have a cast as big, a setting as detailed and as many locations, there's only so much you can do. I think the 10 episodes are the best they can do. Hell, given the difficulties, I'm thrilled they get as much out and so much right!

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I've had a lot of show viewers ask me why Dany just doesn't use her dragons to conquer people. Book answer: she has no idea how to train them and they're kind of terrifying even to her. Real answer: CGI budgets only stretch so far.

  • meh

    Also, I think in the last episode we're going to see a *redacted* show up, with a *redacted* causing *redacted* to *redacted* the dragons.

    Redactions mine. Book readers, you feel me.

  • foolsage

    "The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same."
    - Stendahl

  • fracas

    And then nobody will dance with them at all! Worst title ever.

  • There's no "How to train your dragon" guide for Dany. No one remembers what they are like or how to tame them. End result: wild dragyns.

    I mean dragons.

  • TK

    My impression of the dragons in the books is that it's akin to being the mother of absolutely wild, psychotic children. They love her and respond to her affections, but don't really respond to direction, and she's scared to try for fear of them rebelling and killing her.

  • JJ

    I remember back when Targaryens could control their dragon children with actual dragon parenting. Nowadays dragon mothers stick a tablet in front of their dragon children's faces and pray to the gods it will keep them distracted enough to make the trip across the Narrow Sea without burning down the entire fleet.

  • TK

    And don't get me started on what they're naming them.

  • JJ

    Breaker of Chains? How about trying a little discipline and adding a "Spanker of Dragons"?

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I will say it says a lot that a woman who walked into a burning funeral pyre is afraid of her dragons. Like, there's trusting your instincts in a clearly dangerous and insane situation and then there's fucking dragons.

  • lingli

    I always wondered how she knew to do that (I admit here to not having read the first book, although I've read the others). Did she know what was going to happen or was she just hoping to follow Drogo to the Nightlands (is that what they're called?)?

  • Genevieve Burgess

    They'd kind of hinted at her heat-resistant qualities the whole season; her walking into a scalding hot bath to no ill effects, being able to pick up blisteringly hot dragon eggs from the brazier, saying that her brother was no dragon because "fire cannot kill a dragon." So, I think it was 50% "I'm pretty certain I'm fire-resistant" and 50% "well, I'm already stuck in the middle of the desert with no future. Things can't get much worse."

  • TK


  • Belladonna Took

    All I took from this is that he lives in Santa Fe, where I will be roadtripping too next weekend. Let the stalking commence!

  • lowercase_ryan

    just yell at him constantly to get writing.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    writers love yelling. They seek it out. That's why so many of them base themselves in ground floor Manhattan apartments, so people can just walk by and yell at them for not working enough.

  • This season has been ~500 minutes of television, and they've covered about 300 pages of one of the books. There are many issues with the show. Length is not one of them.

  • Jim Johnson

    Actually, they're well into books 4&5 with some characters now. They basically fast forwarded to the end of Sansa's book 4 stuff in one episode. Meanwhile, it's looking like we might still be in book 3 territory at the Wall next season.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Neither the show or the books are perfect. The show has a problem pacing certain storylines over the season, and leaves out a lot of history and backstory that could add to a viewer's understanding of the world. There's also issues with just how many damn characters there are, and it being harder to keep track of all of them on TV instead of in print. Some of the added scenes are great (Arya and Tywin) and others are just baffling (the assault on Craster's).

    The books are long, get bogged down in storylines that seem to exist as holding patterns for characters he needs to keep around for the future but who don't have anything to do right then, the language can be very repetitive, and I'm 100% certain that no one needs a detailed description of every coat of arms in the realm, particularly the ones carried by hedge knights.

  • Wigamer

    Bwaha! I forgot about the in-depth description of every frickin' flag and suit of armor.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Let's not forget the dinners. I wouldn't be surprised to see a cookbook in the appendices one of these days.

  • luthien26

    There actually IS an official cookbook on the market!

  • Sean Van Damme

    There is already a stand alone Cookbook of Ice and Fire that you can buy.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Of course there is.

  • TK

    Which is in and of itself symptomatic of the problem. I enjoy descriptive authors, but when you spend so much time describing food that someone can actually write a fucking cookbook, then we need to start talking about brevity.

    I enjoy the books, but mother of god, so much fucking filler.

  • lowercase_ryan

    jesus christ the food descriptions drove me up the wall

  • David_C

    I think the moment I gave up on the books was when I saw the word ''capon'' AGAIN.

  • fracas

    Or lamprey pie. Ew.

  • Bert_McGurt

    You know, it sounds gross but so does barbequed eel, which is delicious.

  • David_C

    Haha. That one always made me feel faintly ill.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Consider yourself lucky that you didn't encounter the great neeps invasion of books 4 & 5.

  • Yeah, that's when I cried nuncle.

  • Uh, it's "moops"

  • ecuamerican

    If you remember, this is what he envisioned for the Iron Throne


  • VonnegutSlut

    Can you imagine a drunken/hung over Robert Baratheon trying to climb that steep ass staircase to the throne without busting his balls wide open?

  • cox

    i believe its mentioned in the books that the kings used to cut themselves while sitting on it, robert specifically.

  • Zen

    Local folk hokum (folkum?) dictated that pretenders would cut themselves on the throne.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Actually, it's Aerys II specifically, to the point he was disparagingly known as King Scab.

  • ecuamerican

    It was designed so as to make the king never feel at ease

  • logan

    Ok that is cooler. Damn HBO for saving a few bucks.

  • "Specifically, he cited an argument Arya and Sansa had in season one, after they’d been invited for tea and lemon cakes with Queen Cersei, a scene that he thought added texture and deepened the relationship between Sansa and Arya."

    This right here is why the show will have no choice but to leave the novels behind.

    Edit: I don't blame the guy, though. I'd want all my scenes brought to life, too. But he has to understand this is a different medium.

  • Wigamer

    I'm a book reader and that scene added very little to the book, and would've added exactly nothing to the show.

  • emmalita

    I think that scene was a bad example, but as noted in the discussion of the battle at the wall, the show had very little build up to the battle and I think a lot of the importance of what's happening at the Wall has been lost this season.

  • Keith Ballard

    I don't agree on the lack of buildup. I feel like they've been building up to this battle ever since (various spoilers for the show up to this point) Jon was captured in season 2. You see the massive population of the wildling people, you see the giants, and Mance explains exactly what he's going to do. He sends Jon with a group to climb the wall, they slaughter people, and Jon breaks free. All season the wildlings have continued killing people south of the wall while Jon attempts to warn the Night's Watch. They disregard his advice and as a result are overwhelmed.

    For two seasons Jon Snow's storyline was nothing but building up to this episode.

  • Stephen Baltz

    not trying to start anything but what more build up were u looking for? Jon has been telling them that Mace has 100s of thousands of troupes, that he has united the clans and that giants are working with them. Did u want time spent on the army approaching the wall?

  • Mance, is who you are looking for. I don't think Mace is going to sally forth to the Wall any time soon.

  • Yes, but that's not the fault of not having enough time. They've spent plenty of time at the Wall this season, but it's all been spent on the pointless Craster's Keep addition or on a weekly scene showing everyone complaining.

  • VonnegutSlut

    My first thought, exactly.

  • logan

    IDK maybe if he did less interviews, talk show appearances, convention appearances he could finish the series before HBO does it for him? Just a wild thought.

  • JJ

    Reaffirming GRR's Law by only the third comment? Brava!

  • logan

    Hey I'm a law abiding commenter. I think Mrs. J will vouch for me.

  • Laurelai

    After many months of figuratively tearing out my hair every time I hear that GRR is seemingly doing everything in the world except work on Winds of Winter, I have come to the following conclusion: GRR has no intention of finishing the books.

    I think he's a little overwhelmed at how large his creation has become and has lost some direction, and I also think that he is bored with the series, and is looking for excuses not to finish the books. HBO finishing the series for him is the perfect excuse. His story still gets told (with some modifications and changes), but he doesn't have to do the hard work anymore. I want to be wrong about this, but that's my pessimistic book reader interpretation of the situation.

  • lowercase_ryan
  • Jim Johnson

    As much as I wish it was TWOW, I'm still hype as hell for this. One of the most interesting things about the series for me has always been the rich history of the world he created and I'm really looking forward to learning more about it.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I hate that I agree with you. Nothing against you, it's just....it pisses me off that we don't have TWOW but I'm going to eat this shit up when it comes out.

  • logan

    A lot of us are saying that he wont ever finish them. Writing is a lot harder than cashing checks from personal appearances.
    Not to mention at this point the pressure is huge to finish this series in a way that most of his fans will like. That may be impossible given how rabid his fan base is.

  • Valar

    The pressure must indeed be enormous. His hardcore fans are the most insane fan base that I have ever encountered - more than Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter, anyone. Incredible superiority complexes too, especially in their long tirades about how his 'morally ambiguous characters' and 'realism' make him a literary genius and above criticism.

  • Jericho Smith

    He's like a kickstarter that more than funded and now they're realizing just how much they promised backers and how much work that really is, and they already have the money....

  • Art3mis

    I think you're partially right. I think he wants to finish them and that he honestly intends to finish them, but that they're probably not much fun to write at the moment (given how big they've gotten, how many storylines he let spiral out without a solid plan for bringing them all back together, how much pressure there is to finish them, etc.). So he distracts himself with things like the World of Ice and Fire and short stories and going to events, and then feels like he's dragging himself back to the grind to crank out a few more pages of WoW. That's certainly understandable, but given how obviously difficult it's been for him to write WoW , I have real concerns about what the finished product will be.

    We all know how much he struggled with book 5, and I think it really showed in how unfocused and frankly boring a lot of it was. Some writers struggle with every word they write, but others find that when they're writing well, it comes easily. GRRM seems like the latter to me -- he'll sign up to write a short piece and then produce something literally 5 times longer than it was supposed to be because it was just flowing for him. The first three books in the series went a lot faster than the last two, and I think there's a noticeable difference in quality as a result. So in addition to just being impatient for the rest of the story, I really wonder whether the delay means we're going to get kind of a disastrous end to the series.

  • lingli

    That sounds like a pretty accurate assessment. I keep thinking of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and the way that it started out as just a little story that only a few people had read and then became so popular that he literally had people writing to him saying, "I have a terminal illness, please tell me how it ends so I know before I die, I promise I won't tell anyone!" And SK is like GRRM too in that they both usually write a lot more than they need to (which is fine when you want to spend as much time as possible with the characters but not so good if you want to know what happens next). Of course, SK finished his series but a lot of his readers hated the ending, and a lot hated the last two - or even three - books, so ... yeah, I can see why GRRM might be spinning his wheels a bit.

  • JenVegas

    Ohmygod I was just about to shout this to the rafters. Everyone leave him alone and let him finish the damn series. No more interviews until you're done, GRR!

  • logan

    Well i dont think he's being interviewed at gun point so....

  • JenVegas

    Look, I'm just sayin...he's old, these books are long, he's wasting precious plot device time giving interviews to The NYT. Go back to your writing desk, raven....er, crow...?

  • Sarah

    The show is not his art. When you shift something from page to screen, certain things will inevitably be added, removed, or changed to suit the medium. The show doesn't require the extravagance of the Iron Throne because it aims to ground the visual in something naturalistic. Can you imagine if the show had kept Martin's details intact? What Daario Naharis would wear, for instance? And the extent of story in the books is just far too excessive for television.

  • Stephen Baltz

    I do agree that things need to get cut to made the change from book to Tv one thing that needs to be considered is that they are running out of books while waiting for George RR to write the next book. Seem like some of the cut items could help stave off the gap. Also i dont like how some things from book 4 and 5 have been expressed when their are whole groups of people from book three that have not been addressed.

  • That's what I didn't really understand. There were some things that were shortened or eliminated or consolidated into one thing, and the stories were good. It could have stretched things out a bit.

    Although I do understand things like the child actors growing like weeds; it's just a difficult call to make.

  • emmalita

    While that's true, I do regret some of the stuff that's been cut out. Yes, the storytelling needed to change to fit the medium, but I think some depth has been lost.

  • Sarah

    The question is, do you think other scenes could have been taken out to make room? Because showrunners have a responsibility to keep the pacing tight, that's very important. At the end of the day, the discretion of those who convert books will always leave some people in the cold. I'm still upset about vital Harry Potter scenes that were completely neglected.

  • The fact that the movies never properly explain the Mssrs. Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs is the only thing that still bothers me years later. It's just so powerful in the book, knowing that Harry's patronus is the animagus form of his father. I get choked up just thinking about it.

  • StartlePixie

    I agree... Also: Tonks and Lupin, the hospital scene. That was the highlight of book 6.

  • The biggest problem the showrunners have is keeping each season to one book (or half a book). There was some unnecessary padding this year while the narrative will likely slow to a crawl next year.

  • emmalita

    I'm still mad at the movies for some of the stuff they left out. >:(

  • Wigamer

    I would have liked to have seen less sexposition, honestly, and more time developing characters. There has been waste in the show, too.

  • Sarah

    Without sexposition we could've fit in another season!

  • emmalita

    So I was responding to you, much as Wigamer has when my computer started doing weird shit. Basically, what she said.

  • Wigamer

    But fewer boobies and wangs!

  • Sarah

    Boobie to wang ratio is like death to survival ratio. Enough with the nudity double standard, HBO!

  • fracas

    But even if you try to keep things fair the boobie to wang ratio will be two to one.

  • ed newman

    But the boobie to niblet ratio stays 1:1. Oh wait, maybe not on this show...

  • janeite1900

    So, the guy who can't write a book with less than 1000 pages thinks each season needs more episodes. Not too surprising. If he had 13 episodes, he would ask for 18, until every stable boy had 15 minutes of exposition monologue.

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