If winter came to George R.R. Martin, what next?

George R.R. Martin in 2010. Credit: Julle So, what kind of obligation does a writer have to his fans?

I couldn’t help thinking of George R.R. Martin after watching a trailer of Baz Luhrmann’s production of “The Great Gatsby.”

That might seem like an unexpected leap, but it’s not a big one. Thinking about “Gatsby” made me think about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last novel, the unfinished “The Last Tycoon,” and then, “The Last Tycoon” made me think about Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” saga.

When he died in 1940, Fitzgerald left behind notes and outlines for “Tycoon.” He didn’t complete the manuscript, but he left a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do and how he planned to get there. Edmund Wilson put together Fitzgerald’s outlines and notes in an edition, and you’ll find richer insights on how to write a novel there than you will in any book or class titled “How to Write a Novel.”

That brings me to Martin. There are two more books to go in his saga, and he’s working on the sixth, “The Winds of Winter.” Plenty of his fans worry that we’re heading for a Robert Jordan situation — Jordan died before he could finish his epic “Wheels of Time,” and Brandon Sanderson finished it for him.

If something like that were to happen to St. George — God forbid! -- would any outlines or notes exist like Fitzgerald’s? (For anyone who can’t believe that I’d speak of the sublime Fitzgerald and Martin in the same breath, oh, get over yourself.)

I keep thinking that Martin should do the same thing, if he hasn’t already. Even if he changes his mind on some of the details of what’s supposed to happen to Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys  Targaryen, the poor, afflicted Starks et al., he knows where his story is supposed to end. He’s always said so to interviewers.

So, here's what I'd suggest to George:

One afternoon, why don’t you sit down at your desk with a plate of honey-dipped walnuts baked in a cookfire, pour yourself a flagon of brown bitter ale, and sketch out the basic plot points of  books 6 and 7 like Fitzgerald? Then, next time you’re running errands around downtown Santa Fe, stop by the bank and leave them in your safety deposit box in case of emergency.

Then, another writer — like Patrick Rothfuss, Daniel Abraham, or even David Benioff (producer of the HBO series and a novelist himself) -- could give us the conclusion that Martin wanted, not one imagined by somebody else, even if the words aren't entirely his.

That gets me back to my question at the top. Does Martin owe his fans anything?  Probably not. Even with everyone breathing down his neck — including HBO — he should be writing the story for himself.

On the other hand, writing is one of those situations in which a special relationship develops between a writer and reader. There’s a special bond there, a contract. Any of you who have traveled to Westeros and have aligned yourself with Starks, Lannisters, the Night’s Watch, etc. know what it means to be fiercely loyal. When it comes to his fans, George probably does too.

My friends, I welcome your thoughts!

Spoiling George R.R. Martin: some cautionary advice

No spoilers here: The land north of the Wall, from "The Lands of Ice and Fire" (Bantam) I'm well into "A Feast for Crows" -- book 4 of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" epic -- and I've lost my breath and had my heart broken countless times by this series. Oh, I know, there's plenty more to come, but I need to be careful: The surprises can be ruined if you don't watch out.

If you relish this series, you'll find it difficult not to buy everything else connected to the series, and that can only mean one thing: Read related works at your own risk for spoilers abound. Here are a few Martinesque items to consider for your bookshelves ... along with my advice:

"The Lands of Ice and Fire" (Bantam):  Even imaginary landscapes need to be treated like real places -- J.R.R. Tolkien demonstrated that with his sketches of scenes and maps for "The Hobbit." The same is also true of George R.R. Martin's tale. Until now, the only maps of Martin's heroic world have been mostly simple: black-and-white sketches included in the volumes of the series. Or else you might check out images of Norway -- kindly supplied at Ajaytao's blog -- to get some idea of what the frozen country located to the north of the Wall is really like for Jon Snow and the rest of the Night's Watch

This is  a lovely collection of maps that gives us Westeros along with the rest of the surrounding continents in vivid, topographical detail. I'll admit that I picked up one of the maps, "Beyond the Wall," hoping for some additional clues about The Others. No luck. While this map doesn't reveal any of Martin's secrets, one thing is certainly true: It's too bad Lord Snow didn't have this one in his pocket when he went out in search of Wildlings!

Verdict: Dig up every gold dragon that you can find and buy this!

"Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' " (BenBella Books): I wish I could say the same thing about "Beyond the Wall," but I can't.  It has nothing to do with the quality of this book: Editor James Lowder has assembled a great collection of essays by a variety of authors who celebrate Martin's saga.  But this book is the dessert once the main meal has been eaten -- if you're not finished with Book 5, this book is liable to ruin your experience of getting there.  I grabbed a copy of this book, opened to its table of contents and felt my heart skip a beat.

Verdict: Ok, buy this book, but shelve it ... and be patient!

"A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official 'Game of Thrones' Companion" (Bantam): I love this book because it shows us how to make all those wildly strange dishes digested by kings and queens, bannermen, maesters and simple folk. The authors present us with a superb collection of recipes so that you can bring the meals of Westeros into your own home.

Verdict: A great book, but be careful -- each recipe is accompanied by a quotation selected from books 1 - 5.  These aren't lethal spoilers, but they can sometimes drop hints that you wish you hadn't seen.

"Epic: Legends of Fantasy" (Tachyon): This collection of stories by epic novelists -- including Rothfuss, Le Guin, etc. -- includes a story by George R.R. Martin called "The Mystery Knight."  Martin gives us an extended story of Westeros that precedes our introduction to Lord Eddard Stark and his wolf clan.

Verdict: No spoilers here, but a great tale to occupy your time as you await Book 6.

Any other books that we should know about? All you citizens of Westeros -- please, let me know!