According to a January 2 post on author George R.R. Martin’s LiveJournal page, the sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, titled The Winds of Winter, will not be published before the HBO series based upon the novels airs its season six premier in April.
What’s the big deal? The first five seasons of the HBO series have adapted storylines from the first five novels in the series, averaging roughly one novel’s worth of content a season, give or take. As with any project like this, the producers of the TV program take liberties in adapting from page to screen (with varying degrees of success), but with no sixth novel –according to Martin, the first draft of the novel does not even exist in full yet– the producers of the HBO series have no book to serve as a foundation for the season.
Fans of the novel who have been following the next book’s progress aren’t too surprised. In his LiveJournal post, Martin calls out a few of the rumors that have been circulating about The Winds of Winter since the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, was released mid-2011. The long time between publishings (the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996; the greatest length of time without a new novel in the series was the five years and eight months prior to A Dance with Dragons‘ release in 2011) coupled with the fact that A Dance with Dragons ends on a cliffhanger, with many fan-favorite characters in peril or on the verge of greatness/calamity, has led to frustration for many fans. Potentially most disconcerting is the possibility that the television series will contain spoilers that will ruin the rest of the novels for readers, some of which began reading the books nearly a decade and a half before the HBO series even existed.
What’s a fan to do? Relax. Don’t rush the author.
Easier said than done, right? While certainly a different scenario (there was no TV series to serve up potential spoilers), readers have seen and survived this sort of thing before. Stephen King’s seven-book magnum opus, The Dark Tower series, took 22 years from publication start to publication complete (assuming one doesn’t count The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is considered book 4.5 in the series and was published in 2012, making it an even 30 years for the 8 books in the series).
While I could pull up pages of quotes from King’s On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft and use them to try and figure out why Martin’s taking so long to get us the next title in the series (bored? distracted? not enjoying the work? not doing the work?), none of it would really matter. The book isn’t ready. Martin is an excellent writer –there’s a reason these books are so popular and the fans so ravenous for more new chapters. No work of art is ever completed (paraphrasing here from King as well), but at some point Martin is going to hand in his manuscript and the publisher is going to be working day and night to get The Winds of Winter online and on bookshelves as soon as they can.
And that is the book I want to read. The one the author is comfortable giving us. Not one slapped together in order to meet an artificial deadline posed by fans who think they want a new book sooner rather than later, nor one imposed by an adaptation of the books in another medium. If it takes a little longer to get that book, then I’m fine with that. In the meantime, there’s another season of Game of Thrones firing back up in April to get me through.