Each new year brings with it hopes and dreams for what the days ahead will offer - and in our case that's mostly the return of our favorite TV shows and the release of our most anticipated movies. But for literary fans, specifically those desperately waiting for A Song of Ice and Fire's sixth novel - The Winds of Winter - there is no joy this new year.
By now, the popularity of HBO's Game of Thrones has eclipsed that of George R.R. Martin's novels, but that isn't the only way the show will surpass the novels. Season 5 of Game of Thrones brought the TV series roughly up to date with the books, even revealing a few unpublished developments along the way, and season 6 is expected to progress even further. We knew The Winds of Winter wasn't releasing last year, but there was still the chance it might release before season 6 premieres. Now, however, Martin himself has confirmed that's no longer possible.
In an update early this morning on his blog, Martin shared the news ASOIAF fans have been dreading: "The Winds of Winter is not finished." Obviously, the news is a big let down to those hoping the release of book 6 and the premiere of season 6 would coincide, forming some perfect dovetail of promotion and allowing those who'd prefer to read the novels first a chance to power through The Winds of Winter before watching season 6.
"Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You're disappointed, and you're not alone. 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. For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, 'I have completed and delivered THE WINDS OF WINTER' on or before the last day of 2015.
But the book's not done.
Nor is it likely to be finished tomorrow, or next week. Yes, there's a lot written. Hundreds of pages. Dozens of chapters. (Those 'no pages done' reports were insane, the usual garbage internet journalism that I have learned to despise). But there's also a lot still left to write. I am months away still... and that's if the writing goes well. (Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.) Chapters still to write, of course... but also rewriting. I always do a lot of rewriting, sometimes just polishing, sometimes pretty major restructures."
No one could have predicted how insanely popular Game of Thrones was going to become, least of all Martin. Later on in his blog post - which is, unsurprisingly, lengthy but full of insight - Martin admits he never imagined the show would catch up with his books. But the television series is produced at breakneck speeds like a well-oiled machine, while Martin is a writer who doesn't work well with distractions - of which he's had many.
Still, there aren't many creators who'd be as open and forthright about their failures, and Martin doesn't make any excuses or try to pass the blame. "It will be done when it's done," Martin writes. "And it will be as good as I can possibly make it." Which, frankly, is what's most important. But there is concern from fans who've read all the novels, then watched the show as it aired, and are worried about continuing with the show knowing it'll spoil the forthcoming novels.
Martin is aware of that, too, addressing whether the show will spoil the books he writes:
"Given where we are, inevitably, there will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of Game of Thrones that have not yet happened in the books. For years my readers have been ahead of the viewers. This year, for some things, the reverse will be true. How you want to handle that... hey, that's up to you. ...
... The case of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire is perhaps unique. I can't think of any other instance where the movie or TV show came out as the source material was still being written. So when you ask me, "will the show spoil the books," all I can do is say, "yes and no," and mumble once again about the butterfly effect. Those pretty little butterflies have grown into mighty dragons. Some of the 'spoilers' you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all... because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so."
That "the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so" is the silver lining in of all this. Last season included several changes from the source material, and season 6 will presumably have even more. In his post, Martin lists the many, many characters who've died on the show yet live on in the books, as well as those characters the show skipped over altogether and the impact their inclusion (or exclusion) will have on the story. The point being, that once all episodes have aired and all books published, Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire will be two different experiences - and neither should necessarily limit the enjoyment of the other.
Still, it's disappointing news and the wait for The Winds of Winter continues for the inevitable future. Book readers, will you attempt the herculean feat of avoiding Game of Thrones until Martin finishes writing book 6? TV viewers, how do you feel about being on equal standing as those who've read the books?
Game of Thrones season 6 begins airing on HBO in April 2016. The Winds of Winter will release at some point in the future.
Source: George R.R. Martin