Ohhhh, it’s on.
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin says in the recent edition of The New Yorker that he doesn’t want the ending of his epic Song of Ice and Fire series to conclude like Lost. Below we have the public war of words, followed by an exclusive Q&A with Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof about Martin’s comments (he was actually reading Game of Thrones when all this went down!) and a look back at his feelings about the Lost ending.
First, here’s Martin in the profile: “We watched [Lost] every week trying to figure it out, and as it got deeper and deeper I kept saying, ‘They better have something good in mind for the end. This better pay off here.’ And then I felt so cheated when we got to the conclusion.” Martin also cites the Lost ending as the type of mistake he fears making with his own show, saying, “I want to give them something terrific. What if I f— it up at the end? What if I do a Lost? Then they’ll come after me with pitchforks and torches.”
Well, Lindelof had something to say about that. Quite a few things. And they were rather hilarious as well. Here are some of his tweets from over the last 19 hours: “In related news, my therapist just hit the jackpot … George? You got yourself a feud, motherf–ker … Winter IS coming, bitch … I don’t take issue with his opinion, I take issue with the fact that he coined “Pulling a LOST” as empirically “f–king up the ending” … I’ve just been informed George is working on his feud response. I’ll have it in FIVE YEARS! … Two final thoughts, George. A. They weren’t dead the whole time. B. 1997 called. It wants its web design back … I stand by the ending of the show and defend it accordingly. Until I am worthy of the New Yorker, this is the platform I’ve got.”
Now, let’s hand things over to EW’s Darren Franich, who spoke to Lindelof in depth earlier today about the impending Great Geek War of 2011:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: On the scale of epic literary feuds in history, how serious is this? Is this approaching Norman-Mailer-punches-Gore-Vidal kind of thing?
DAMON LINDELOF: I’m not entirely even sure that George Martin knows that he’s in a feud. When someone says something in an interview, the beauty of Twitter is that it’s a platform for instantaneous response. Unfortunately, he’s not on Twitter, and therefore, it’s not entirely a fair fight. But over the course of today, apparently he gave some other interviews — he’s sort of on an anti-Lost tour. So I think that qualifies as a feud.
We have calls out to his people. I’ll try to pass the word along if he ever emerges out of his Dance with Dragons bunker. Are you a fan of his books?
I’m actually a massive fan of his. I’ve only just begun Game of Thrones, because over the time that we were working on Lost, I didn’t read any books. I’ve spent the last year basically catching up on all the amazing television that I missed, like Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Breaking Bad. I’ve just completely marathoned those shows. I was about 300 pages into Game of Thrones when this started. I was lying in bed last night with my iPad ready to continue sort of quietly seething at how much I love it. The stuff of his that I grew up on was this series that he wrote/edited called Wild Cards. My dad and I used to read it. It was sci-fi superhero mash-up, where these aliens release this virus into the atmosphere around the period of World War II and humans have one of three reactions. One is nothing happens. One is they become horrible deformed, and they call those people Jokers. And the other is they get superpowers, and they call those people Aces. And it’s sort of like this huge sprawling multi-character [story].
Was the Wild Cards series an influence on Lost?
Consciously or unconsciously, I’ve always been very upfront about saying that Lost was very much a mash-up of all the stuff I loved as a kid, and I’ve always gravitated towards multi-character storytelling.
In regards to what Martin did say about the ending of Lost, it seems like in the article there’s a fear of finishing off his series in a way that angers fans. Is that something that you can relate to?
Sure, although I think it’s not a foregone conclusion. The cynic in me says that there’s nothing that you can do to avoid that. [Fellow exec producer] Carlton [Cuse] and I were certainly aware of that. When we announced the end-date of the show, about two days or three days later the Sopranos finale came on, and we both thought it was, like, completely and totally, empirically brilliant. We were shocked to learn that there were a lot of people who thought it was a cop-out. At that moment in time, we had just negotiated the ending of Lost, we kind of looked at each other and said, “We’re screwed.” But the Ice and Fire saga doesn’t really have a mystery at its core. It’s more of a sprawling sort of epic. You’re talking about a resolution that’s going to be more dependent on who lives, who dies, who’s in charge, who’s good, who’s bad. When you take a show like Battlestar Galactica or Lost, which do have mysteries built in, and deep and dense backstory mythologies, it’s a very different landing to stick.
Are there any long fantasy stories that, to you, really nailed the landing?
I think The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a very satisfying ending, and there’s not really that deep of a mythological construct. The idea of these guys have a quest and the quest is to get this ring, throw it into a volcano, and that’s the end! That’s what they do. That is the story. I feel Return of the Jedi, which was the end to the trilogy that defined me as a storyteller, was satisfying. The fact that Luke gets to redeem his father, I thought, was beautiful, and I have no bones to pick whatsoever with that ending. There comes a point when, if something isn’t mentally popular, some of the fans aren’t necessarily reading what you are writing. It doesn’t mean that your version of the events is the empirical version, because it’s just a subjective art. That being said, you just have to tell the story that you want to tell, and I hope he doesn’t allow the chatter to change his mind about his ending. My understanding is that he already knows what the ending is going to be. That being said, something tells me I’m probably the last guy he’s looking to for advice right now.
Almost a year later, has it gotten easier to hear from fans who feel betrayed? Have your views changed at all?
I think of myself first and foremost as a fanboy. When I’ve always dealt with the issue of the show — when it was on and now — I try to think, “If I were a fanboy of Lost, what would I want the co-creators of the show to be saying?” The first thing I decided on was that it would be a mistake for me to completely ignore this controversy or polarization that’s surrounding the finale, because that’s what I would want me to be talking about. The idea that I would just be pretending that it wasn’t out there would be ridiculous. More importantly, I’m trying to speak honestly about how it affects me. You want [viewers] to be satisfied, and it hurts them hear say things like, “You betrayed me,” or “You made me waste six years of my life.” All I was doing was writing the story, in conjunction with a lot of other people. But I think [with] the emergence of social media, I put myself out there, because I genuinely care about what people think. I cannot say, “I don’t care what you think. What I wrote was true to me. Go eff yourselves.” I know that there are some people out there like that, and I find it to be an enormously admirable trait.
That always struck me as David Chase’s Sopranos mentality. “Deal with it!”
And it’s incredible admirable. I think that, in a lot of ways, Lost was portrayed as an open-sourced show. Even while it was on, Carlton and I made ourselves enormously accessible. Our “brand” was that we really cared what the fans had to say about the show. In the wake of the show, it would be disingenuous to not acknowledge the fact that people are still saying that. What’s fascinating is that, even on my Twitter feed, there’s still this polarization that occurs. People will say, “Martin’s got it right! You wasted six years of my life!” Yet they’re following me on Twitter! [Laughs]
A nice back-and-forth, sometimes with pitchforks and torches.
I’ll never be immune to criticism, and that’s okay, and I’m very comfortable with that. One of the things that I think I’ve evolved on is, I started from a very petulant place of, “If you didn’t like/get the Lost ending, then you’re not a true fan of the show.” And I began to realize, “Hey, wait a minute, there’s [other] stuff that I took issue with, but I still consider myself a fan of that.” Wasn’t crazy about the last Harry Potter movie, but I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and a fan of most of the other movies, and I would be bummed if J.K. Rowling tried to strip me of my fandom. I’ve come around to saying, everybody has a right to saying that they didn’t like the finale, or even if the finale retroactively destroyed the entire series that they loved. And I have a right to say, “Well, we stand by the ending we wrote, and we make no apologies for it.” That being said, for your prototypical fan of the show to say that, it’s sort of like someone throwing a pebble at you. But when George R. R. Martin says it, it’s a boulder! Because he’s someone whose writing I admire, and the fact of the matter is I’m going to watch Game of Thrones, and I’m probably going to love Game of Thrones, and these comments that he made have no effect whatsoever on my ability to process and love his stuff. There’s not even a small part of me that wants him to screw up his ending, so he will understand my pain. I want him to stick the landing.
We’ve ended on a very diplomatic note. I imagined there would be more fire-breathing.
You can’t take it too seriously. We’re talking about TV shows, it’s not foreign policy. But when he uses phrases like “f—ing up the ending” or “I felt like someone dropped a turd on my doorstep,” you know: Look, Lost is my baby, and you don’t put baby in a corner. I feel duty-bound, just for my own sense of integrity, to respond publicly.
Out of interest, purely theorizing here, if you’d written Lost as a book series, how long would you have taken in between books? Would you have beaten his pace?
Not only would I have not beaten his pace, I simply am not capable of writing a novel. That is a skill set that I don’t have. Lost was written by a whole roomful of people.
I will see what his response is.
Good lord, don’t antagonize him! And please let him know I’m a fan.