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George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman Agree: Be Faithful to the Source Material

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Authors George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman have both stepped into the TV industry to produce adaptations of their own novels, and they can agree on one thing: it’s good for creators of adaptations to remain faithful to the source material.

On Thursday night, the two held a conversation about their work at New York City’s Symphony Space, speaking about their careers and Martin’s new book, The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One.

“How faithful do you have to be? Some people don’t feel that they have to be faithful at all,” Martin said, according to Variety’s recap of the event. “There’s this phrase that goes around: ‘I’m going to make it my own.’ I hate that phrase. And I think Neil probably hates that phrase, too.”

“I do,” Gaiman said. “I spent 30 years watching people make ‘Sandman’ their own. And some of those people hadn’t even read ‘Sandman’ to make it their own, they’d just flipped through a few comics or something.”

While the duo agreed that the people behind adaptations often dishonor their source materials, Martin later clarified that it’s impossible for adaptations to stay fully faithful.

“There are changes that you have to make — or that you’re called upon to make — that I think are legitimate,” Martin said. “And there are other ones that are not legitimate.”

“Why is the Iron Throne in ‘Game of Thrones’ not the Iron Throne as described in the books? Why is it not 15 feet high and made of 10,000 swords? Because the ceiling in our soundstage was not 15 feet high,” Martin added. “We couldn’t fit in in there, and they weren’t willing to give us St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey to shoot our little show in.”

Martin recalled working on an adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s The Last Defender of Camelot, and that he was given a choice between including horses or a more elaborate set. Martin’s solution was to call up Zelazny, who suggested the show scrap the horses.

Changes to the original source material have long been a major point of contention for fans of Game of Thrones, who have debated everything from the absence of Lady Stoneheart to a particularly controversial moment at the end of House of the Dragon’s eighth episode.

The Sandman, by comparison, has been quite a bit more faithful to the original comics. This is in part because Gaiman took on a direct role in developing The Sandman, which we gave a 9 in our review. Martin, for his part, also continues to have an active role in House of the Dragon, which we also gave a 9.


Amelia Zollner is a freelance writer at who loves all things indie and Nintendo. Outside of , they’ve contributed to sites like Polygon and Rock Paper Shotgun. Find them on Twitter: @ameliazollner.

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