Those of us who have read the entire A Song of Ice and Fire book series up until now have had to face the uncomfortable fact that with the new season of the show we’re not going to know what’s coming. There was a slim hope, a very slim one, that The Winds of Winter might come out at about the same time as the next season of Game of Thrones. In a long blog post written late last night, Martin stated unequivocally that this would not be the case and gave some reasons why. Originally his deadline, set in early 2015, was for Halloween, which he was optimistic about for a while. As Martin puts it:
“Unfortunately, the writing did not go as fast or as well as I would have liked. You can blame my travels or my blog posts or the distractions of other projects and the Cocteau and whatever, but maybe all that had an impact… you can blame my age, and maybe that had an impact too…but if truth be told, sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t, and that was true for me even when I was in my 20s. And as spring turned to summer, I was having more bad days than good ones. Around about August, I had to face facts: I was not going to be done by Halloween. I cannot tell you how deeply that realization depressed me.”
I’m not surprised that the writing is taking longer than anticipated. By the end of A Dance With Dragons the story had grown massive, with a truly enormous cast of characters, at least a dozen active locations, and connections and histories that could probably form their own shelf full of encyclopedia volumes at this point. It’s going to be a difficult beast to reign in. Which is why some of his post seems to me like he’s not been as aware of this as his readers were:
“Having said all that, I know what the next question will be, because hundreds of you have already asked it of me. Will the show ‘spoil’ the novels?
Maybe. Yes and no. Look, I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly. There were other factors too, but that was the main one. 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.”
All of that has been pretty general, so here we will begin the discussion of SPOILERS up through the end of season 5 of Game of Thrones and the end of A Dance With Dragons. If you’re not caught up, you will want to stop reading here, and avoid the comments.
Given that Martin’s deadline was Halloween, it seems likely that season 5 of the show was finished with the hope that Winds of Winter would be out before season 6. Our friend Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair wonders if this is why Jon Snow’s final scene was left as a cliffhanger; they wanted to give Martin the chance to tell the story himself. Unfortunately that meant a lot of lies, half truths, and trusting the internet to not dig as far and as hard as they could to find out “the truth.”
Martin points out that there are still many differences between the show and the books, different characters, different stories, different paths, etc. There are still surprises to be found in the books even if the show gets to make some reveals first. And while I am very anxious to get my hands on Winds of Winter as a reader (and as someone who was writing about the show from a reader perspective) I will still be excited to read the book even if I’ve seen the show first.