4 Reasons They're Never Finishing The 'Game Of Thrones' Books (Deal With It)
Good news: George R.R. Martin has said that the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga will be done within a year! The bad news is that he said that in 2015. And 2017. And 2019. And so on until the end of time, probably. Oh, and there's another book to go after that which, if our projections are correct, he should start writing around 2082. Is it time at last for Game of Thrones fans to make peace with the fact that the closest thing they'll get to a proper ending for the series is ... you know, that?
We believe it is, for the following reasons:
George R.R. Martin Keeps Pretty Busy
It's clear by now that the biggest reason Martin hasn't finished A Song of Ice and Fire is ... A Song of Ice and Fire. Or Game of Thrones, to be more precise, since the HBO adaptation was what propelled the series from a popular book franchise to a massive cultural phenomenon that has doomed thousands of girls to carry the name "Khaleesi" for the rest of their lives. It has also resulted in a plethora of related products like card games, board games, RPG games, video games, toys, comic books, reference books, cookbooks, fancy coffee table books, etc. Martin himself has some degree of involvement with all of these spin-offs except, presumably, the babies (but we can't swear to that).
And then you have the multiple GoT-related shows, both live-action and animated, that he's been developing with HBO, a process he has called long and time-consuming. House of the Dragon is the first but definitely not the last -- an adaptation of his Tales of Dunk and Egg novella series seems to be pretty far into development, though we regret to inform you it's about knights or something and not a Winning Time-type show about a fantasy version of basketball where you dunk with dragon eggs.
On top of that, Martin's fame has given him the chance to produce non-GoT-related shows like Roadmarks for HBO, Dark Winds for AMC, and Wild Cards for Peacock (based on the novel series he edits), plus other side projects like writing text pieces for Elden Ring or having the honor of getting killed by flying sharks in Sharknado 3.
The point is: even if he weren't writing a 1,200+ page novel (plus another one after that, plus the Fire & Blood sequel, plus more Dunk and Egg novellas ...), the man's plate would still be pretty full. And even if this book was all he was doing, there's a STILL a big chance he wouldn't be able to finish it because ...
George R.R. Martin May Have Written Himself Into A Corner
The first A Song of Ice and Fire book had nine point-of-view characters. The fifth one had 31. At this rate, the last one will be told from the point of view of every single soldier, peasant, and ice zombie in the series.
Further complicating matters is the fact that most of these characters have dangling plot threads that need to be brought to something resembling a satisfying conclusion. This would be hard enough to do if they were all, say, staying in the same summer house over a weekend filled with erotic misunderstandings. In Martin's case, his characters happen to be spread out across space and time, which makes everything much, much harder (not in the erotic sense).
For instance, Martin has talked about how he originally planned for his characters to grow up as the story advanced (that's why some of them were so young to begin with), only to realize he'd written hundreds of pages and only like a week had gone by. He came up with the idea of having a 5 year jump between books to let all those kids and baby dragons grow into something more useful -- but after struggling with the logistics of the time jump for over a year, he realized that the practical reality of having so many plotlines made it impossible. He can't just say, "And then nothing happened to this guy for five years. BOOM, DRAGONS!"
There's also the infamous "Meereenese knot," which is what happened when Martin needed several characters to converge in the same place, turning the exact timeline of their individual stories into a logistical nightmare he spent years untangling. He has blamed the fact that the fifth book took him 6 years to write mainly on that problem. If that one sequence was such a headache, then bringing every character and every storyline to a climax for the final book should be orders of magnitude worse. You know, the one he presumably hasn't even writing started yet?
Being realistic, sorting out all of these issues plus balancing Martin's various other projects might be more than one writer can do. Okay, what about multiple writers, then? Nope, not on Martin's watch ...
George R.R. Martin Won't Let Anyone Else Finish The Books
Martin has a message for anyone who speculates about what will happen if he dies before finishing the series: f@#% you.
So let's talk about what won't happen in that case: someone else finishing the books. Or at least it wouldn't be someone of Martin's choosing, since he has been clear about not wanting other writers to play with his literary toys. On a comment in his not-a-blog, he said he doesn't "see anyone else writing (legally) in that universe." He's also on the record as not being a fan of fan fiction, which he compares to riding a bike with training wheels -- basically, he thinks it's cheating and makes you look silly. That might explain why some authors fans have cited as potential heirs to the saga have already ruled themselves out.
While noting that his wife wouldn't allow anyone else to take over the series if she survives him, Martin did admit that at some point in the future someone else might. The question is ... do we really want that? The Game of Thrones seasons aired after they ran out of books to adapt showed us what happens when other writers tried to continue Martin's work with only some general ideas from him as guidance. Novel writers would find themselves in a similar situation, since Martin has said that he keeps most of the story "in his head" and that if he dies before writing everything down, fans are "$#!% out of luck."
Even if someone did manage to telepathically steal his future plans for the series and write them down, the books would still be dramatically different from what Martin would have written. Why? Because he has described his style of writing as "gardening," in that he plants a seed without really knowing how the tree will turn out, and "nothing is actually canon until it appears in the novel." In other words: he's making it up as he goes along.
In short, other writers probably won't continue the series after Martin is gone, and if they do, they shouldn't. In that case, wouldn't it better if he simply abandoned all other projects and focused on finishing A Song of Ice and Fire at last? If that's your opinion, please consider the small fact that ...
George R.R. Martin Doesn't Really Owe Us Anything
Or, as fellow fantasy author Neil Gaiman famously put it: "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch." Mind you, that was in 2009, when it had been merely four years since the latest book. In the intervening time, Martin has become even less of your bitch. Also in 2009, Martin addressed fans who were annoyed to see him not-blogging about other projects when he still "owed" them a book, saying:
Some of you are angry about the miniatures, the swords, the resin busts, the games. You don’t want me "wasting time" on those, or talking about them here.
Some of you are angry that I watch football during the fall. You don’t want me "wasting time" on the NFL, or talking about it here. (...)
After all, as some of you like to point out in your emails, I am sixty years old and fat, and you don’t want me to “pull a Robert Jordan” on you and deny you your book.
Okay, I’ve got the message. You don’t want me doing anything except A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Ever. (Well, maybe it’s okay if I take a leak once in a while?)
Here's my reply:
Ironically, the "fans" who like to point out Martin's age and physical condition provide the greatest argument for why he shouldn't just drop everything and don't leave that ancient DOS computer he writes on until the books are done: if his time on this Earth is as limited as they seem to think, why would he spend it doing what you want him to do, as opposed to what he wants to do? Which is not writing these books, apparently (or not writing them exclusively, anyway).
Martin grew up poor, toiled in obscurity for decades, found limited success in Hollywood, and only published the first book of his signature series at age 48. Why shouldn't he spend the rest of his life enjoying his money and, as the song goes, "pleasing himself"? A Song of Ice and Fire was born out of Martin's frustrations in the film industry, where everything he wrote was considered unfilmable. He wrote the first book for the specific purpose of creating something that could be as epic as he wanted without having to worry about budgets (because no one would be crazy enough to adapt this anyway). Clearly, that itch has been scratched by now.
Martin may miss out on some posthumous recognition if he just leaves the series just hanging there, true, but posterity means nothing to a box of bones. Yes, reading a book series only to find out the author never finished it is annoying, but it's nothing compared to being forced to spend the rest of your life doing nothing but untying Meereenese knots and such when you really don't wanna anymore. In fact, we're of the opinion that writers should be allowed to just quit writing any project whenever they w
Top image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution, Bantam Spectra