Game Of Thrones: A Soul-Crushing History Of George R.R. Martin Promising To Finish The Next Book
By Kevin Wong on
Winter is coming. Eventually.
"The Winds of Winter is not finished. It'll be done when it's done." That's what 70-year-old author George R.R. Martin has been telling his legions of patient fans, in numerous ways, for going on eight years. Martin, of course, is the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy book series that HBO adapted into Game of Thrones. He is, needless to say, a notoriously slow writer.
When Game of Thrones debuted on HBO in April 2011, four out of seven planned books were already on shelves. Fans hoped Martin would finish writing all seven books before the TV show caught up to him, and the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, was released in July 2011. But since then, there have been no new novels in the core series. We're still waiting on the sixth book, The Winds of Winter, not to mention the seventh book after that, A Dream of Spring. And meanwhile, the show not only caught up with the books--it passed them. And the show's final season is set to air in 2019.
Martin says that he's constantly working on The Winds of Winter. But progress is slow; the TV show overtook the book series in 2016, and it's been sailing through uncharted waters ever since. When it concludes in 2019, fans will get an ending to a book saga begun over 20 years ago--but the show's ending, not the one envisioned by this world's creator. And that stings.
Martin has been writing The Winds of Winter for nearly as long as the entire HBO series has been airing. And as he continues delaying its publication and signing on to other various projects, the possibility of seeing this magnum opus in print grows smaller. Here, for your dark-humored amusement and chagrin, is a history of George R.R. Martin promising to finish The Winds of Winter.
Winter is coming. Eventually. When it's ready. But not this year. Maybe next.
1. 100 Pages Done (2010)
Technically speaking, Martin started writing The Winds of Winter before A Dance with Dragons was finished; he decided to move a chapter about Aeron Greyjoy from the end of the fifth book to the beginning of the sixth book. So it wasn't technically meant for The Winds of Winter, but we'll take what we can get, especially considering what follows from here.
2. Assorted Sample Chapters (2011)
2011 was a busy year for Martin. Game of Thrones premiered on HBO. A Dance of Dragons released in bookstores. And as a Christmas present to his fans, Martin released a preview chapter of The Winds of Winter online. This would be the start of an on-again, off-again habit, where Martin would read a chapter of his incomplete book at a convention, or release teaser passages of it on his website. More snippets followed each consecutive year, from 2012 to 2016.
By 2018, it had been two years since Martin had shared a new chapter, and he confirmed on his blog that he would probably no longer do so. He blamed the reactionary responses of critics, who complain, once the actual book is released, that it is composed of "old" material:
"I have always been happy to release sample chapters, and to read other chapters at cons. But in this age of the internet, no good deed goes unpunished."
3. Dedicated Work Commences (2012)
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly from 2011, Martin said that he had already started The Winds of Winter, and he would throw himself into writing the book full time at the beginning of 2012.
To be fair to Martin, he has never teased fans with a specific estimate as to when The Winds of Winter will be published. In the same interview with EW, Martin stated, "I’ve gotten in constant trouble for that. There’s an element of fans who don’t seem to realize I’m making estimates. I’ve repeatedly been guilty of an excess of optimism.”
4. A Quarter of the Way Done? (2013)
In an interview with A Slice of Sci Fi, Martin made a guess as to how far along he was in writing The Winds of Winter: about a quarter of the way through, by his approximation. Given what we know about the book (Martin believes it will end up at about 1500 pages, and he only includes edited pages in his count) that works out to approximately 375 pages thus far.
5. "F*** You To Those People." (2014)
George R.R. Martin is neither a svelte man nor a young man. As of this article, he's 70 years old, which leads some fans to speculate about his health, and what would happen if he were to die before finishing the books. Other authors have developed contingency plans for this sort of dilemma; when Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan grew fatally ill, he compiled extensive notes of his future plans; author Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series.
Martin, however, sees speculation about his death as rude and offensive, and in a sit-down discussion where the interviewer had the nerve to ask the question, Martin flipped him the bird and said "F*** you to those people."
6. The Winter of Hell (2015)
In this blog from early 2016, George R.R. Martin, in a rare self-flagellating mood, roasted himself and his inability to respond to deadlines. It turns out that in 2015, his publisher set two separate dates for him to finish The Winds of Winter. He blew both deadlines, which meant, definitively, that the TV series would outpace the books beginning with Season 6.
"You're disappointed, and you're not alone," Martin wrote. "My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed. But no one could possibly be more disappointed than me… As the suspicion grew that I would not make it after all, a gloom set in, and I found myself struggling even more. The fewer the days, the greater the stress, and the slower the pace of my writing became."
7. He's Dropping Everything Else! (2016)
Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, Martin stated in his blog that he would not be taking on any other writing projects--no forewords, no short stories, no articles--until The Winds of Winter was completed. This did not, however, include his editing projects, such as anthology series Wild Cards.
This promise didn't last anyway. More on that later.
8. Deadspin Trolls Martin Into A Response (2016)
Sports blog Deadspin has made it a casual pastime to troll George R.R. Martin and his lack of pages, most infamously in an editorial titled, "GRRM Has No Pages." Tim Marchman advanced the theory that, as a result of enjoying his fame and spending his remaining hours watching the New York Giants, Martin hasn't done any writing at all. When Marchman emailed Martin to ask him directly, the author got pissed:
"Of course I have pages. I had pages five years ago. How anyone can believe I don’t defies belief. I’ve posted three different sample chapters on my website over the past few years, and read another four or five chapters at cons."
9. Maybe In 2017?
In early 2017, Martin made his first public statement about The Winds of Winter since a year prior. A fan requested an update on the book's progress, and Martin obliged, though his response was not particularly encouraging:
"Not done yet, but I've made progress. But not as much as I hoped a year ago, when I thought to be done by now. I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year)."
10. George RR Martin Responds to Blog Commenters (2017)
Martin made a blog post about the artwork for Wild Cards, but it quickly devolved into a discussion about "The Winds of Winter"--specifically, whether he should post regular updates on his progress, or lack thereof.
"Do you really want or need weekly WoW posts all saying, “Still working on it, not done yet?” Martin wrote. "I know some writers make posts like, 'Wrote three pages today,' but that’s never been my way. And when I tried doing posts like that, back when I was working on Dance with Dragons, that just seemed to make people angry as well."
Martin also addressed (again) the fans who speculate about his age, health, and possible death:
"I don't see speculation about the possibility of my death as any sort of compliment, no. My own hope is to live another thirty years and write thirty more books."
11. Still Working! (2017)
Martin gave fans another update, with a healthy dose of optimism. He announced the first volume of Fire and Blood, a history of the Targaryen lineage, and dropped this gem:
"Whether Winds or the first volume of Fire and Blood will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018... and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream…"
Part of the reason for these delays is that Martin is famously set in his ways. It's well known that he doesn't write on the road, or in hotel rooms, or on a modern laptop. He writes at home on a DOS word processor. So every time we see him on a red carpet, or at a comic convention, or sitting down for a talk show appearance, that's time that he's not working on The Winds of Winter.
12. Nope, Not This Year Either (2018)
And that brings us up to the present day. Maybe 2019 will be the lucky year. If not 2019, maybe 2020. And don't forget, there's still one more book left after The Winds of Winter. We get to do this all over again for A Dream of Spring.
When The Winds of Winter does finally come out, we have faith it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, godspeed you, Maester Martin.