Winter is here. I was hoping I’d seen the last of it without having to clear too much snow off my driveway, but we got some more snow today, so winter is still here. But you know what’s not here? The Winds of Winter.
For people like me who only know Game of Thrones through the HBO series, the story is over, and as you may have heard, the ending was a bit of a disappointment. But for fans of the original novels by George R. R. Martin, the story is only five sevenths complete. There are two more books to go.
Martin had previously promised the sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series would be out in 2020, but given the lead time for book publication, we probably would have heard something by now if it was coming out before the end of the year. It’s not impossible there will be a release — Martin has even hinted it would be out in time for Worldcon at the end of July — but given Martin’s history with this book, it seems less likely with every passing week. And even when (if) Winds of Winter is published, that will just start the wait for the final book of the series.
I know fans of the series would like to think that Martin is taking so long with Winds of Winter because quality takes time. They’d like to believe he’s carefully building a finely crafted story, one piece at a time, and polishing every turn of phrase until it shines. They’d like to believe that Martin is taking so long to write the sixth book because it’s going to be so damned good.
I don’t buy it. I don’t think Martin’s is handling Winds of Winter like someone who’s polishing a story. I think he’s lost interest in finishing the Song of Ice and Fire. It’s been 26 years since he first proposed the idea of an epic fantasy series to his agent. That’s an awful long time to be working on any project, and he’s probably not as much in love with the series as he was when he started.
I’m not saying he hates it. I’m sure he still wants to finish it, but… I’ve got 70 unfinished draft posts on this blog. There are several interesting software projects I’d like to work on (including my Model Justice simulation). I have a bunch of DIY projects I want to do around the house. I really do want to do all these things, but I don’t have time for all of them, so I have to prioritize, and a lot of interesting stuff is still waiting.
I think Martin is going through the same process. He really does want to finish Song of Ice and Fire for the fans, but he’s got so many other things he’d like to do more. We know this, because he’s been doing those other things. He’s been involved in TV projects, he’s released a separate book on the history of the Targaryens, he’s worked on several variations of Game of Thrones spin-offs, there’s a video game…
These are all things he’s been working on instead of Winds of Winter. This is not the behavior of someone who is trying diligently to finish a series for the fans. I think he’s just slowly pushing himself through it whenever he works up the willpower. And I hate to say it, but even if he gets Winds of Winter out the door, I don’t believe he’ll ever pull it together enough to publish the final novel of the series. A Dream of Spring is just a dream.
There’s a lot to criticize about the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss concluded the Game of Thrones series. But at least they gave fans an ending. That’s more than George R. R. Martin has been able to do.