‘House of the Dragon’ Writer Reveals Thoughts on ‘Book Canon’ vs. ‘Show Canon’

Author George RR Martin answered some canon questions in a new interview this week and he has the game of thrones fandom in an uproar. Martin has acknowledged that his series of books A song of ice and fire is going to have a very different set of canonical events than the game of thrones The TV show did – perhaps more differently than he had previously anticipated. He was less sure of the version of events Dragon House aligns with.

Martin was interviewed on The History of Westeros podcast in an episode released on Thursday, and he said canon issues have prevailed ever since game of thrones Season 1. He said “a small change in a long story can have big changes later”, referring to the TV show’s removal of certain characters from the books. However, he said those “butterfly effect” moments weren’t the only reason for the changes in the show. Sometimes the writers or network executives wanted to make changes as well.

“We have two canons. We have the show canon, the game of thrones cannon. And we have the Song of Ice and Fire canon,” Martin said simply. “And in the canon book, of course, still writing The Winds of Winter, I’m sure you all know that, and then there’s another book beyond that. And as I write them, and I said this in a previous blog post, I always knew things were going to be different, but as I write, as the stories come to life and the characters come to life, taking me further and further away from the show. So there will be very considerable differences, and the book canon will be quite different from the series canon as we go deeper.”

He continued, “There are two different canons. Now, because most of these shows that we’re developing, almost all of them are prequels. I think it’s one canon. Because all of these prequels can lead to game of thrones at first.” Martin seemed to imply that TV shows generally adhere to the canon of the TV show, not the canon of the book, but his real concern was to avoid further discrepancies.

“But what I want to avoid – and I don’t know how many shows will [on the air] – hopefully more than one. But, as I said, we have the book canon and we have the show canon. What I don’t want to happen is that we have 17 show guns. Each different showrunner decides to take it in a different direction. And nothing makes sense because there’s no consistency.”

In terms of Dragon HouseMartin pointed out that the question of “canon” was at the heart of the book on which it is based, Fire & Blood. It’s an “imaginary history book” written from the perspective of a Westerosi scholar, and it often cites conflicting sources around the world for its own events, leaving readers unsure of what to believe. However, the TV show lacks this unreliable narrator.

“At one point it hit me, ‘why don’t I give all the versions?’ Because the story is uncertain. I will give all versions and it will be fun for me,” Martin said. “…but [showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik]when they adapted it, they had to largely make up their minds.”

Sure, game of thrones had one of the most controversial endings in television history, and many fans can’t wait to read the books’ endings and see how Martin’s ending will be different. Some hoped that Dragon House will ignore the canonical events of the series, but Martin still seemed to leave that question up in the air in this interview. It could be that the “end of the book” is similar enough that these prequel shows could be grafted onto it without too much work of the imagination.

Dragon House airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max. Martin’s books are now available in print, digital and audiobook formats.

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