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It is unlikely we will ever see the completion of A Song of Ice and Fire

Konstantin Sheiko
February 6, 2018

We all know the pain when our favorite television show is canceled after only a season or two, but this is something that is even worse in the literary world. George R. R. Martin fans are very anxious for the author to finish his A Song of Ice and Fire series (ASOIAF), as there have been authors who died before they could complete their work. Sometimes their children or other authors were able to eventually finish what the original authors started, but other times fans were left hanging.

There are also way too many examples where the authors of the unfinished series are alive and doing well, but they have simply lost the momentum of writing, got depressed or bored, or have simply moved on to other, newer and more exciting projects, leaving their disappointed fans hanging. Unfortunately, when it comes to George R. R. Martin, we have a complex combination of all of the aforementioned factors.

Martin has been writing (or not writing) the A Song Of Ice And Fire series for 21 years now. Looking at his body of work prior to ASOIAF, which consists of an eclectic, lively mix of short stories, novellas and novels in every genre under the speculative fiction umbrella, it would hardly be a big surprise if Martin is, frankly, bored with the epic fantasy series. After all, it took an eternity for Martin to complete and publish the last book in the series, A Dance With Dragons. The book was supposed to come out in late 2006, but instead, it was published in 2011 only.

In addition, it did not receive the usual high-praise reviews written by hard-core fans of the series. On the contrary, it seems like Martin is kind of lost in his own multi-layered, highly complex narrative. The world and story of ASOIAF are huge and complicated. Definitely, that is a part of its appeal, but it also makes it a bitch to write. Martin has lost track of his own world to the extent where he has to consult the A Song Of Ice and Fire fan wiki to keep continuity. The fans today are prickly and sensitive, so if you show flashes of genius early on, you better be prepared to top yourself each time out from that point on. To paraphrase a line from a popular film, “you either outdo yourself or you live long enough to see yourself disemboweled”.

With all the time they have been left to ponder, those same fans have (probably) worked out most of the twists that are yet to come in the books. Now the same fans desperately want to know The Winds of Winter release date. It has been nearly seven years since the most recent book in series, numerous deadlines have been missed and the public is rabidly awaiting news of when book six will finally hit the shelves. Some sources cautiously speculate that the release date will be September 2018, but these speculations have been around since 2016, and nothing has materialized so far. Maybe Martin is itching to move on to something new, or back to an older story? 

In fact, Martin also continues to write a prequel to the main story. Dubbed as Tales of Dunk and Egg, this series covers the events taking place in Westeros about 90 years before ASOIAF. A collection of three of these stories was published in 2015, under the title A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Martin said that he would like to write a number of these stories, varying from six to twelve from interview to interview, covering the entire lives of these two characters. He has talked about an unfinished fourth novella with the working title The She-Wolves of Winterfell, which was, originally, to be included in the 2013 anthology Dangerous Women.

As of late 2013, work on the story has been postponed while Martin is trying to complete The Winds of Winter. In April 2014, Martin also announced that he had roughed out another Dunk and Egg story with the working title The Village Hero, which would be set in the Riverlands. He noted that he was not sure which of these two would be completed first. In 2015, Martin noted that in addition to She-Wolves and The Village Hero he had notes and fairly specific ideas for a number of further installments, including The Sellsword, The Champion, The Kingsguard, and The Lord Commander, taking the planned series total to as many as nine novellas. 

It is not surprising that Martin, being beset with his gargantuan plans, has not been very productive. The writer is also notoriously prickly on this issue and is quick to tell people what he thinks when they question if he should be writing faster. He has also spoken a little about his working habits, saying that he cannot write on the run and will only be making progress if he is at home in his office. And considering how many conventions and events he seems to go to, that does not happen often. While the fans are all for George to work the way he works best and to write at the speed he wants, it is entirely plausible that maybe we should stop expecting more ASOIAF books soon - or at all. 

Besides, George R. R. Martin has even confessed that he is terrible at finishing things. The first line of the forward to his Dreamsongs anthology starts, “My career is littered with the corpses of dead series”. Then he goes on to recount how he has never actually finished a single series, with most ending up as single books that were intended to be a stepping stone to something more, but just never got continued. 

Unless GRRM changes his mind, there are two remaining: book six, The Winds of Winter, and book seven, A Dream of Spring. Some fans have optimistically speculated that the reason The Winds of Winter is taking so long is that George R.R. Martin is planning to release both TWOW and its follow-up, ADOS, at the same time. This is probably wishful thinking. And while Martin is determined to write out the epic in full, with his convoluted storylines he may have written himself into a corner. 

Not to mention, the story is so huge there is absolutely no guarantee the series will finish up in just two books, even if those two books get written. It was originally meant to be a trilogy, after all. Besides, Martin’s narratives are so long, the author splits some of them in two. Both book three, A Storm of Swords, and book five A Dance with Dragons were turned into two volumes because they were so bloody long. Talking about the forthcoming final two books in the series, Martin said, ”they’re “enormous” and has called book seven, A Dream of Spring, “another 1500 page monster where I try to wrap things up.” 

This means we can presume TWOW and ADOS may well get the two-volume treatment. One thing for sure, this is not going to speed things up. It is also a known fact that Martin likes his “mead and meat” diet. So there is more than one reason for the fans to be wary when it comes to discussing the possible deadlines for ASOIAF. And if the series will never get to their logical conclusion, it won’t be the first time when the fans were left hanging. The best example that comes to mind is Robert Jordan with the Wheel of Time series. The author died in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the twelfth and final volume in the series. Jordan prepared extensive notes so another author could complete the book according to his wishes. According to the fan base reviews, the new book is nowhere as good as the originals.

Rumors are, Martin has envisioned the same outcome for ASOIAF as a possibility, entrusting Dan Weiss and David Benioff, the co-producers of the hugely successful Game of Thrones series to complete his work if he fails to do so. However, the GOT show and its overwhelming popularity might be the last straw that crashes the ASOIAF back – although there are important differences between the novel’s narrative and the show’s storyline, it has been confirmed that Weiss and Benioff will be indeed be spoiling the ASOIAF storyline from still unpublished, and probably un-written TWOW and ADOS in the upcoming final seasons. “Now I don’t have to write the final book at all if I don’t feel like it!” Martin chuckled darkly when commenting on the news. 

Photo by Kigsz / Wikipedia Commons