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George R. R. Martin on 'Game of Thrones' and what might have been: 'In some alternate world, maybe I became Joss Whedon or J. J. Abrams.'

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In a freewheeling interview with the New York Times, Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin talks a little bit about the impending debut of the HBO series based on the first book in his Song of Ice and Fire septet. He hasn’t seen very much of the series — security-conscious HBO won’t send a DVD to his Santa Fe home, and he’s currently under pressure to wrap up the last few chapters of the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. But he did see the original version of the series’ pilot, and he was “quite pleased. It’s my story. Yes, there are changes, there are alterations. I think that’s inevitable when you move from a novel to television show or film. But there were no unnecessary changes.”

Martin doesn’t spill too much about the future plans for the TV series should it prove a success. He does mention one thing that’s no doubt been on the minds of his readers: “Minor characters in the first book become very major characters three books later on, which is a challenge for any producer, because how do you deal with that in the series?” (SPOILER ALERT: Seriously, what do you do with someone like Jaime Lannister? He’s a vaguely villainous minor character in Game of Thrones, then is basically absent from Clash of Kings, and suddenly he becomes a tragic hero in Storm of Swords. END SPOILER ALERT)

Martin has more to say about his own personal history, particularly his decade spent as a journeyman TV writer in Hollywood: “I was on staff on The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast as a writer-producer, and then I did about five years of development, doing pilots for shows of my own and some feature film scripts.” As Ice and Fire devotees know, the frustrations of working on a TV budget eventually led Martin to focus on the private epic canvas of novel-writing: “[In a novel,] I can have all the special effects I want. I can have a cast of characters that numbers in the hundreds.”

While in Hollywood, Martin worked on six TV pilots, none of which came into being. “The one that came closest to being produced was a pilot called Doorways that I developed for ABC, which was an alternate-world show.” The series almost made it to air, but executive reshuffling at the network ruined that dream. (A couple years later, the alternate-world series Sliders debuted on Fox, although Martin has generally denied any claims of plagiarism, so this is probably just an example of “Computer-Animated Ant Cartoon Syndrome.”) With all his failed pilots, Martin notes wryly, “In some alternate world, maybe I became Joss Whedon or J. J. Abrams.” Which is probably true — and I’m as sad as anyone that we never got to see Starport — but hopefully having a highly-anticipated TV series and a novel coming out in the same year is a decent consolation prize.

Shelf Lifers, is Martin getting you excited for the new book and the new TV show? Are you dreaming of a world where the alternate-reality TV show of the ’90s didn’t star Jerry O’Connell?

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